Mountain Signal (Newspaper)
In 1875, William A. J. Beauchamp moved to Rich Mountain (Polk County) from Bonham, Texas, and had a printing press brought to the mountain, where he later published, with the help of his daughters, the Mountain Signal, Polk County’s first newspaper. The first issue was published in 1877, and the paper ran for seven years, printing new editions only when sufficient news justified an issue. Interestingly, the Mountain Signal, which had been out of print under that name for over 100 years, was revived as a magazine published intermittently from 1989 to 2001, named in honor of Polk County’s first newspaper.
William Beauchamp left Rich Mountain in 1884 after printing the story of a local murder, as the people named in the article threatened to kill Beauchamp and his entire family. He deeded his real and personal property to his son, E. Louis E. Beauchamp, and returned to Texas, where he operated a sawmill on the Neches River. Some of his property became the site of the Queen Wilhelmina Hotel in 1896. That same year, A. W. St. John moved to Mena (Polk County)—at the request of Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (KCP&G) executive Arthur Stilwell and established the Mena Star.
What happened to the printing press and to the Mountain Signal after Beauchamp left town is unclear. Some local sources indicate that the outfit was moved to Blansett (Scott County) and later to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) by Beauchamp’s son. From there, it was reportedly shipped back to its original owner in Orange, Texas. Other sources indicate that Beauchamp’s family, rather than the printing press, moved to Scott County and that the paper continued to be published under other names, including the Dallas Pioneer, the Bethesda Springs Herald, the Dallas Courier, the Referendum, the New Era, and eventually the Mena Star.
An article from an 1897 edition of the Mena Weekly Star claimed that the New Era, established in 1883, was the oldest paper in the county. However, in 1908, the same paper stated that it had a copy of an 1884 edition of Mountain Signal. The article cited the editor as W. T. McAuley and the printing location as Bethesda Springs. It also listed a later editor, a minor, W. M. Pipkin. Ten years later, the Mena Weekly Star reported that the county’s first newspaper, first published in 1881, was the Dallas Pioneer. It was sold in 1882, moved to Bethesda Springs, and renamed the Bethesda Springs Herald. It changed hands again and reportedly began printing as the Mountain Signal. References to the Mountain Signal—and its various editors—appeared in issues of the Fort Smith Elevator from April 1884 to January 1886.
A 1918 article also outlined a sale to W. M. Matheny, who changed the name to the Dallas Courier in 1886 and began printing the paper in Dallas, just one mile away. Here, Pipkin was credited with improving the paper’s appearance and taking charge of the paper for a year when Matheny returned to Baxter Springs. Between 1890 and 1896, the paper was bought and sold a few times, each time by Pipkin and a partner. Eventually, it consolidated with a rival paper—the Referendum—before returning to its previous name—the Dallas Courier—in 1896. Just before the arrival of the KCP&G, the paper was relocated to Mena, where it became the New Era. The first issue under this name ran on August 6, 1896. Around this time, Pipkin partnered with M. W. Lindsay, who later became the sole owner of the paper. Lindsay quickly sold the plant, his stock, and the paper to St. John of the Mena Star.
The Mountain Signal, out of print under this title for more than a century, was revived in July 1989 when Shirley Shewmake Goodner (later Shirley Manning) began publishing a magazine of that name in honor of Polk County’s first newspaper. The magazine covered Polk County and its history and published ten to twelve issues a year from 1989 to 1992. The magazine—with its staff of one—ceased printing until 1998. The magazine then ran for another three years, publishing ten issues a year, with no issues printed in December or January. The final issue of the magazine ran in June 2001.
For additional information:
“Announcement.” Mena Weekly Star, June 9, 1897, p. 1. Online at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85032996/1897-06-09/ed-1/seq-1/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
Goodner, Shirley Shewmake. “Mena—The City A Railroad Built.” Mountain Signal 2, no. 7 (January 1991): 7–11.
“An Historical Old Newspaper.” Mena Weekly Star, February 13, 1908, p. 5. https://newspaperarchive.com/mena-weekly-star-feb-13-1908-p-5/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
Holleman, Bradley H. Mountain Memories: The History of Rich Mountain. Arkansas State Parks, n.d.
McWilliam, Aileen. Historical Sites: Talimena Scenic Drive. Mena, AR: United States Forest Service, 1974.
“Our Namesake.” The Mountain Signal 1, no. 1 (July 1989): 28.
“Some Polk County Newspaper History.” Mena Weekly Star, January 17, 1918, p. 4. Online at https://newspaperarchive.com/mena-weekly-star-jan-17-1918-p-4/ (accessed April 12, 2023).
Mysti L. Gates
University of Arkansas Rich Mountain
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