When the news came that there would be no more Wellsville Daily Reporter office, my heart sank.
My family has a strong connection to the roots dug deep within the walls of that old building on Main Street.
It was my grandmother, Verna Jean Willis, who once stepped foot in those doors as a young teen who wanted to make a difference in the world of journalism. She recalled what it was like to work with the last Enos W. Barnes, who owned the newspaper until 1964.
Enos Whittlesey Barnes was the founder of Wellsville Daily Reporter on Nov. 1, 1880. Enos learned the arts of the paper business in Bath at a young age, and progressed to editor of the Bath Courier in 1859. He became a partner in the Steuben Farmers’ Advocate in 1864. He first got his independence as a sole publisher of the Allegany County Reporter in 1875, before his legacy brought him to Wellsville Daily Reporter.
“The Wellsville Daily Reporter was far more than a publishing effort, a journalistic success, and a dependable resource for news and editorial excellence. It was an institution; a builder community, strength, prosperity, and wisdom. Hence, it is a great loss now,” Verna Jean said. “It was an unofficial developer of talent. A sort of school for young reporters through its association with and support of the Wellsville High School Owl. It was published monthly during the academic year, and was a state-wide award winning school newspaper. The Wellsville Daily Reporter was also a training ground in entrepreneurship for young boys who delivered papers each day, and collected payments for the paper. They earned payment from the Reporter for their reliability and integrity. I had two sons, Gary and Monty, who delivered in all kinds of weather for the Reporter.”
My grandmother began her journey into the world of journalism in the 1940s. She had a strong respect for Enos Willard Barnes, grandson of the founder. He was editor and owner at the time she was working there.
“Down in the print room of the Wellsville Daily Reporter in the 1940s the following wisdom was very clear; if you like to write, and you ever have the opportunity to get printers ink under your fingernails at an actual newspaper in a real press room; then you are in the newspaper business for the rest of your life,” Verna Jean said. “I worked a summer there and was to proof-read columns of text as a linotypist. We looked for mistakes in stories line by line with letters all in reverse with how they would come out in print. Another job I did full time was write headlines. Each letter of every headline had a numerical effect, and had to fit into a given space. I worked there between freshman and sophomore year at college in Alfred University in 1945. I was trusted since I had experience with the Wellsville High School Owl. I was acting editor for one week while the man holding that job was on vacation, and that was a big deal for me.”
Enos W. Barnes was known as Bill to those who worked for him. My grandma said he was the “big boss man” when she was 18 years old. He was a mature and handsome 38-year-old at the time, according to my grandmother. He had authorized a dozen red roses for her at graduation night, and it is something she never forgot.
My mother, Lisa Willis, worked delivering the Wellsville Daily Reporter to the Cuba and Friendship areas when I was a child in all kinds of weather. We had nice customers on the route that would smile as my little brother, Liam, and I would bring the paper up to their door. Some of them would give us things. It really was a simpler time.
When I graduated from Buffalo State College in 2013, the very first place I applied to was Wellsville Daily Reporter. I would go on to apply for that position at least three more times. I had lived in Wellsville as a child, and I saw so much of it disappear over the years. It breaks my heart every time I go home, and more and more of my childhood is gone.
Now the Wellsville Daily Reporter's home on Main Street is gone too, and my childhood hometown has lost yet another piece of its legacy.
Wellsville Daily Reporter had a legacy that withstood almost 140 years, and I really wanted to be a part of it. That is one of the reasons I became a reporter. Now I am carrying on that legacy in other small-town community newspapers, because community news still needs to be shared with those who remember there is still a little magic left in the world.