The casual observer might conclude that the Cherokee Scout is affiliated with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. This is not the case. Rather, the newspaper serves readers in Cherokee County, from its seat at Murphy, described in its pages as “this pretty town of ours- a city in miniature- situated most delightfully amid the mountains of North Carolina.”
Eugene F. Case (1844-1915), editor and co-owner of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, Wisconsin, bought the Murphy Advance in 1890 and changed its name to the Cherokee Scout. Case sold the paper six months later to Dr. John William Patton (1828-1902) and John Stanley Meroney (1832-1909), Patton’s brother-in-law, and returned to the Midwest, where he eventually became the longtime editor and publisher of the Watervliet Record in Michigan. Early issues of the Cherokee Scout are few and scattered, and the only one marking Case’s ownership of the paper lists his name as F.E. Case.
Patton, the first doctor in Cherokee County, appears to have served as co-publisher only briefly. His name had disappeared from the masthead by November 10, 1891. By contrast with Patton, Meroney had little formal education. His family was among the first non-Indian settlers in the town. They had arrived in 1839, shortly after the federal government’s forced removal of the Cherokee Indians from the area. Meroney shared the masthead with Alonzo Don Towns (1866-1913), a native of Albany, Georgia, who had worked at the Daily News and Advertiser in his hometown and the Murphy Bulletin prior to joining the Cherokee Scout under Case’s ownership.
The early days of the partnership between Meroney and Towns may have proved tumultuous. Towns’s wife died in November 1891 and left him with a baby. Six months later Towns married Meroney’s daughter, Alice. As reported in several newspapers, including the Atlanta Constitution and the Asheville Daily Citizen, Meroney had refused to consent to his daughter’s marriage and ordered Towns to keep away from her. Towns, in turn, returned to Albany, Georgia, where he resumed his duties with the News and Advertiser. But, in April 1892, he headed back to Murphy, visited Alice Meroney, and the two eloped. Towns’s death proved equally noteworthy. He was found dead in his office on December 13, 1913, having killed himself by drinking carbolic acid.
On January 16, 1914, the Jackson County Journal, in Sylva, North Carolina, announced that Tate Powell had assumed editorship of the Cherokee Scout. Powell served as editor and publisher of the paper until November 1917, when he sold the Scout to George Otto Mercer, a resident of Asheville, who had previously edited the Mebane Leader in North Carolina and the Camas Post in Washington.
Crop reports, sermons, humor, and poetry could be found regularly in the Scout. Unusual among North Carolina newspapers, but reflecting the paper’s proximity to the “Peach State,” was the presence of news from Georgia, including market prices in Atlanta. The social notes common in newspapers of the era, indicating who was visiting or sick or out of town, appeared under the heading “Some Scoutlets.” In a typical issue of the Scout, business cards occupied the left column on the front page; advertisements for patent medicines such as “Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound” and railroad excursions via Southern Railway to exotic points in the western United States filled the remainder of the pages. In 1917, schools, including Brevard Institute, the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering, and the University of North Carolina Law School, took out ads in the Scout.
Today the Cherokee Scout is owned by Community Newspapers, Inc., and remains a weekly, published on Wednesdays. Its readership is 9,600.