Mitchell Lee Shipman (1866-1944), a teacher in Brevard, North Carolina, purchased a struggling newspaper to which he had contributed and began publishing the Transylvania Hustler in 1891. Shipman changed the paper’s name to the Brevard Hustler before finally settling on the French Broad Hustler, a nod to the French Broad River, which runs through western North Carolina.
In 1896 Shipman, an ardent Democrat in a mostly Republican region of the state, moved the Hustler to Hendersonville, a town about 30 miles from Brevard. With the relocation, he sought to counter the Republican-leaning Hendersonville Times. In addition to serving as editor and publisher of the Hustler, Shipman also served as superintendent of public instruction in Transylvania County from 1892 through 1895 and chaired the Henderson County Democratic Party from 1898 through 1906.
In 1908 Shipman hired Noah Hollowell (1886-1973) to help him with the Hustler. Shipman retained his title as editor. But Hollowell’s hiring freed him up to pursue elective political office, which he did that same year. By dint of his experience as a journalist and printer, Shipman was elected the state’s Commissioner of Labor and Printing, a post he held until 1925. In that position Shipman’s chief objective was to promote industrial growth.
The pages of the French Broad Hustler over time moved from providing scant local coverage to more intense coverage of news important to western North Carolina readers, particularly transportation and industrial improvements. Numerous issues note the construction of new roads and the expansion of rail service. Advertising and paid notices also reflect efforts to boost the region’s economic standing. The Hendersonville Merchants Association in March 1916 offered “Free Factory Sites,” adding “Hendersonville Wants You the Year Round,” likely a reference to the town’s desire to expand its economy beyond the seasonal tourist trade. That same month, Lucius Morse, the developer of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure resorts, advertised the need for men to engage in road work.
During his 28-year involvement with the Hustler, Shipman shared ownership with various individuals. Between 1913 and 1919, the paper published with varied frequency and under several different titles–the Western Carolina Democrat and French Broad Hustler, the French Broad Hustler and Western Carolina Democrat, and French Broad Hustler.
“The Hustler has always kept the faith,” M. L. Shipman wrote in the paper’s final issue, published on July 31, 1919. He recalled that Hendersonville had no cars when he started publishing but that the town had since become a bustling place. “The Hustler has always been telling everyone just how fine a town the home town was and just how proud it was to live in such a town,” he wrote. Noah Hollowell, Shipman’s one-time associate and the owner and editor of the News of Henderson County, purchased the Hustler and consolidated it with his paper under a new title, the Hendersonville News.