LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — My plan for these columns to reflect the (more or less) sequential history of Laurel County’s early days brings us to an event that surely changed the dynamics of the community in much the same way that television did almost a century later.
While the story of London’s first newspaper may be familiar to many old-timers around the county I’m sure not everyone who reads this column will know it. In writing about it I will rely heavily on Russell Dyche’s “Laurel County History” (1954). After all, who knew more about this paper’s history than Dyche?
It was started as The Mountain Echo in Barbourville (Knox County) in 1873 by W.E. Word and J.H. Wilson. Dyche calls it “a panic baby” since the country was in one of its most severe money panics at the time. The paper did not thrive. Wilson bought Word’s interest in 1875 and took on as partner London’s Vincent Boreing. The newspaper was soon moved to London, where it was purchased by Russell Dyche’s father, A. R. Dyche, in 1878.
Dyche writes: “At that time there were no papers published in Kentucky south and east of Richmond and Stanford except The Mountain Echo and a newly established paper in Somerset.”
The Mountain Echo represented the outlying counties of Bell, Breathitt, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Garrard, Harlan, Knott, Knox, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Pike, Rockcastle and Wayne by publishing news releases from these counties in The Mountain Echo. These old columns make for interesting reading but, of course, as other counties established newspapers of their own, these columns were phased out and replaced by news about who had been born, who had died, or who had married in various small communities within Laurel County.
Dyche goes on to say: “A.R. Dyche made frequent trips in the interest of the Echo to many counties in Eastern Kentucky and was a familiar figure in court day crowds in the county seats.” The Mountain Echo had a wide circulation, according to Dyche, along with a great amount of influence on politics and community advancement.