Newspapers are one of the alternative sources for coping with a county whose courthouse has been burned. Legal notices of deeds, granting of probates, settling of estates, marriage licenses issued, divorces granted, and lawsuits were regular features of a county’s weekly newspapers. In some states, the clerk of the court had to maintain back files of the newspapers in order to be able to prove that proper legal notices had been published. This requirement may account for better survival of runs of local newspapers in the south than in the north.
Researchers accustomed to relying on newspapers in southern communities face different challenges in undertaking the same type of research in the Midwest above the Mason-Dixon Line. In that part of the nation, there were two political parties, and each one had its own organ supporting its tenets. Editors were careful to offer no coverage of citizens of the opposite political persuasion unless they could portray them in embarrassing or compromising situations.
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