What spans back across parts of three centuries while moving into the future?
A new page of Cannon Courier history, which goes back to 1886, is about to turn as Publisher Ron Fryar and staff professionals prepare to move the newspaper plant offices from the north side of Woodbury Public Square to the south side.
"To follow the locations of the Cannon Courier is to keep in step with Woodbury Courthouse Square's history dating back to the 1800s," confirmed 95-year-old legendary (retired) banker Bill Smith, owner of the Smith Funeral Home.
Mr. Smith should know, since he and his family have been involved in Woodbury Square business/commerce dating back to the early 1900s. He helped pinpoint several locations the Courier has occupied around Woodbury's Square.
"We're honored to take another progressive step of Courier history," noted Fryar, one of the most widely-known newspapermen today in Tennessee who was recently named president of the Cannon County Chamber of Commerce. "To help ensure a continued successful future of serving our great community, we're preparing to move the Courier from 210 West Water Street, across the Square, to our future location at 113 West Main."
Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick described the importance of having a community newspaper.
"The Cannon Courier is very important to our community. For 125-plus years, the Courier has kept our citizens informed of accurate, vital information," noted Patrick. "The people have depended on our weekly newspaper, because it's always been a very good publication, dating back in my lifetime to Mel Bryson, Minor Bragg, Andy Bryson and to present-day Publisher Fryar.
"As a public official for more than 40 years, the Courier has served to inform me and the public about important issues, such as the current debate about the new highway is going in or around our historic downtown," Patrick added. "On Tuesdays, we all know that's the day to catch up on latest news, ranging from the good feature stories, to coverage of school athletics, and crime news when it's necessary."
Not only is it Cannon County's "oldest business," as recognized by Cannon County Chamber of Commerce, it's Woodbury's longest-continually -operating business, an achievement that's not likely to be duplicated in the future.
Chamber Coordinator Carolyn Motley described the role the weekly newspaper plays in Woodbury: "Like many folks, I read it from front to back, and have done so for more than 40 years. It's very important to help keep people informed on issues, such as the current debate about where the new road is going. The Courier does an excellent job of covering our schools' sports, and we have very good sports teams here."
Industrial Development Board Chairman Randall Reid echoed the newspapers' importance.
"It's extremely important, whether giving out information about the new road to covering County Commission meetings," Reid added. "It's hard to make good decisions, without accurate information, and the Courier provides that."
Research verifies that the Courier, during various phases of publication, has been at multiple locations around the Square, including west, east, north and south sides.
The newspaper's longest location was on North Tatum Street, across the street from the old Good Samaritan Hospital and next door to the Bryson & Bryson law offices.
"That's where I started work as a boy, when we still had a two-page-at-a-time, flat-bed press. We went to off-set printing in 1969, when we moved printing to the newspaper in Murfreesboro," confirmed former Courier Publisher Andy Bryson, who sold the Courier to Fryar in July 2008. "The paper was in that location from 1950 to 1980, when (Murfreesboro Mayor) Tommy Bragg and (Circuit Judge) David Bragg bought the newspaper."
The Braggs are grandsons to the late Minor Bragg, who published the Courier in the 1930s.
Minor sold the Courier to the late Hayden Smith, uncle of former Courier Editor Andy Bryson in the mid 1930’s.
In 1934 a fire destroyed all the printing facilities and files of the Courier in a location that today is the site of Rite Aid Pharmacy.
The youngest known Editor of the Courier was Hayden Smith.
"Hayden Smith was the youngest owner/publisher in history of the Courier," Fryar shared.
It was at the North Tatum location that the former State Rep. John Bragg lost part of his hand as a boy while working for his father, Minor Bragg, on a job press on the building's second floor.
The Braggs, as publishers, moved the newspaper to the north side of the square in the 1980s, while Andy Bryson served as editor. It stayed in that location until 1995, when editor Bryson purchased the newspaper from the Bragg brothers and moved the newspaper to 210 West Water Street beside the bank.
At the paper's new location, marks the second time the Courier has been on Main Street of Public Square. The newspaper once operated on Main Street across from Woodbury's First Baptist Church where Rite-Aid Pharmacy sits today.