“Extra, Extra, Read All About It…”

Although the title phrase originated in the 1890s, the history of the newspaper in Hardeman County goes back much further.  As early as 1829, the Bolivar Palladium -owned by Ezekiel Polk – was distributing news in Hardeman County and throughout Tennessee as excerpts of it are found in the Southern Statesman(Jackson), National Banner and Nashville Whig (Nashville) and The Spartonian and Mountain District Advertiser (Sparta).  It was in publication at least until 1834.

Other papers from Hardeman County in the years to follow include The Bolivar Free Press and Farmer’s Herald (January 1835), The Sentinel (1839), the Bolivar Free Press and Farmer’s Herald, which was edited by James B. Walker (1845); and The West Tennessee Democrat edited by John J. Neely (c. 1854-1855) which was published until the start of the Civil War.  These papers were all forerunners to The Bolivar Bulletin Times which was started by Moses R. Parrish and J.B. Miller in 1865 and is the oldest rural newspaper in West Tennessee still in operation.

It was described to be a “weekly news and literary journal, devoted to the interests of the people.” Parrish was also editor of the Bulletin for nearly a decade until his death in 1874.  Parrish was realistic about both Hardeman County and his writing endeavors with The Bolivar Bulletin stating “We do not propose, here in Bolivar, to print a London Times, a New York Sun, or a Littell’s Living Age, but we do propose to print a decent, respectable country journal, and ask for it the support of the people.” – The Bolivar Bulletin – January 9, 1874

He and his partner at the time, John Milton Hubbard strived to serve the local community, showing no delusions of grandeur (from the Library of Congress – Chronicling America). The Bulletin would include news from the local area as well as foreign and domestic news, market reports, poetry and a Ladies’ Column, as well as home and garden advice.  Many advertisements for nearby Memphis frequented the pages.  When Parrish died after an illness in 1874, it was noted in his obituary that his death “produced profound sorrow in this community, in which he had many friends whose attachment for him was based upon his sterling qualities of mind and heart.”  His church called him an “earnest and devoted Christian…cut down in what seemed to be almost the beginning of a career of usefulness and in devotion to the cause of Christ and his Church.”

Parrish’s passion for the community and The Bolivar Bulletin would be demonstrated by future owners/publishers such as Alan Sexton, whose dedication of a Sesquicentennial edition of the paper would recount the indomitable spirit of the pioneers and every generation thereafter.
“To the pioneer men and women of Hardeman County, strong, brave, true, empire builders, who conquered a wilderness under adverse circumstances, who established homes, churches and schools, who reared families of stalwart upright citizens, who feared God and loved liberty, this issue of the Bolivar Bulletin is respectfully dedicated.
Those wide-visioned pioneers looked into the future and laid the groundwork on which has been built Hardeman County, and the thriving communities within its borders.
It behooves us to dedicate ourselves to the task of continuing to build that foundation, preserving the rich heritage left us, and increasing it for posterity.”

In the same issue, an article titled “Little Old Ugly Paper” (author unknown) gives the same sense of love for this local paper and its mission to serve the people of this community.
“A little old country newspaper comes to this desk every week. It is rather a miserable bit of newspaper making, if you compare it with big dailies – impression poor, letters upside down. One wonders if there will be country newspapers when our children are as old as we are. This is a moving world. The city paper reaches the farmhouse while it is still new. With rural delivery and all that, the farm gate opens in effect, on the city’s teeming street. What need for country papers?
And then you look at the little old sheet – so ugly that it is almost pretty. Once though, it didn’t seem so ugly. Once, when the snow was deep everywhere and the winds were cold, you would trudge a mile to the post office for it and sit, afterward in the night, but a blazing log fire and read its dim and irregular pages with eagerness. Yes, it is the same little old paper.  Long time ago, told of a baby’s birthday, that baby was you.  It spoke of a curly-haired boy with his first day of school – that boy, who was yourself so long before the you that now are was yourself. It called you a brilliant youth when you were graduated from the high school. It gave you Godspeed when you went away to college. When you came home, it welcomed you and when you found employment, said that you would one day be among the town’s most influential citizens. And when you went away to bigger things, it regretted your going but wished you well. It smiled upon you when you came back home at lengthening intervals to see the Mother. From the day you were born, it sympathized with your sorrows and laughed with you in your joy. When you die, it will give you clear credentials to the pearly gates.Oh little old ugly paper, false prophet, sayer of undeserved nice things! Turn all your lines upside down if you will. Let the impression be as bad as it may. But the weeks will never be quite right again if you shall cease to come.”

In the years since the Civil War and at times alongside the Bolivar Bulletin Times, other newspapers were published in the County including The Union Banner (1862), The West Tennessee Star – a one-year name change for The Bolivar Bulletin prior to it being purchased and published by R.H. Green and Hugh Williams in 1888; The Whiteville Telegram (1897-1918), and The Hardeman Free Press operated by J.R. Reaves (1895-1918). Following these was The Hardeman County Times which was owned and published by Bert Hodge.  In 1946, Alan and Estelle Sexton purchased the Bolivar Bulletin and combined it with the Hardeman County Times, which they had bought in 1940 from Bert Hodge, who established it in 1936.

In September 1974, the Sextons sold the newspaper to Delphos Herald, Inc. of Delphos Ohio. The Bolivar Bulletin Times was purchased in 2016 by The County Journal, Inc., and merged with The County Journal newspaper which had been in operation since 2010.

Other publications include annual The Hardeman County Guide. The magazine-style publication is used for newcomers, industrial recruiting and in the classroom as a resource guide to Hardeman County

The Bolivar Bulletin Times also publishes special sections or programs on high school and community sports, high school graduation and other topics of special interest.