With the publication of its first issue on November 9th, 1793, William Maxwell began his guardian call, from a roughly hewned log cabin on the Ohio River, surrounded by a deciduous forest occasionally populated by Indians moving quietly through the trees. It was the first newspaper in Cincinnati and the first in the entire North-Western Territory. In 4 years the town had grown to a few hundred residents and with so many threats not so very far away it needed a voice to help protect and guide the way. Opening the first issue he wrote, "This country is in its infancy and the inhabitants are daily exploited by an enemy who, not content with taking away the lives of men in the field, have swept away whole families and burned their habitations." William charged 7 cents a copy or $2.50 for a one year weekly subscription, delivered every Saturday.
The depth and breadth of the content from day one was full and far-reaching. Not only reporting on life in Cincinnati, with a wide variety of topics including lengthy stories, editorial opinion, poetry and classified ads for those trying to find anything from a lost cow to a parchment pocket-book, he published about the fantastic goings-on in great cities like Philadelphia and New York, too. He also regularly reported on the French Revolution, a governmental struggle against rebels, and often juxtaposed that situation, remarkably, with the life of frontier people and their struggle with Indians. At the end of the revolution in 1795, he printed the new French Constitution in its entirety and after the signing of the Treaty of Greenville, the peace agreement with the Indians that same year, published the new rules that governed the territory and Governor St. Clair's demand that the Indians be treated fairly, repeatedly so, in several editions.
The war fever had broken, calm had come and shortly thereafter the paper released it's final issue, June 11, 1796.
Here's the Centinel's first issue in its entirety.
Additional information: 'Of great utility to the people of Cincinnati': The Centinel of the North-Western Territory reports the French Revolution by Lee Baker, Jr., International Social Science Review, Vol. 83, pg. 47-59, March 2008.
Edmund Freeman purchased the Centinel of the North-Western Territory from William Maxwell in 1796 and renamed it Freeman's Journal. The first issue appeared on June 18th, one week after Maxwell's last.
When the North-Western Territory government in Cincinnati relocated to Chillicothe, Ohio, around 1800, the paper may have decamped there, becoming the Scioto Gazette, Chillicothe Advertiser and the Chillicothe Gazette. The paper still prints today and proudly claims the title of Ohio's oldest running newspaper and the oldest newspaper west of the Alleghenies.
The last known issue of the Jouranl was offered for sale on October 1st, 1799.
Special thanks to the Cincinnati Museum Center for making copies of these issues available to this site.