The Cannon Courier celebrated its 129th birthday in May, 2013 as Cannon County’s oldest business.
Over the course of it’s long history, the Courier has had many Editors-Publishers, even the late State Rep. James H. (Mr. Jim) Cummings, served as the Editor from 1915 to 1918.
According the “History of Cannon County” the county’s first newspaper was the Woodbury Press, it was published from 1871 to 1874 by Bennett and Hight. From 1874 to 1876, the paper was published by W.C. Houston and John C. Cook. The paper ceased publication in 1881 and did not resume until 1883 and then under the name, Cannon Courier.
The Courier was published under the editorship of W.T. Mingle until 1886, when Sterling Brown published the paper for one year under another name, The Woodbury Herald. After that year, the paper resumed under the name, Cannon Courier and was published under that name until 1897 when Jack Henderson published under the name of the Times.
By 1900, the paper was called the Woodbury Press again under the editorship of W.T. Mingle. By 1906 the paper was again called the Cannon Courier.
In the early 1920’s the Cannon Courier Editor was the late Minor Bragg, father of the late State Rep. John Bragg and grandfather of Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg and Circuit Judge David Bragg. 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. He purchased the Cannon Courier in 1933 when he was a freshman in High School from the owner at that time, Minor Bragg. Smith served as Editor until 1950 when he sold the paper to Austin Jennings. Smith later returned as Editor when he purchased the paper back from Jennings for a brief time until his death.
From 1950 until 1980 the Courier was owned and operated by R. Mel Bryson, another uncle of Andy Bryson. In 1980 the Courier was sold to State Rep. John Bragg’s two sons, David and Tommy Bragg. The Bragg’s sold the Courier in 1995 to Andy Bryson and his sister, Susan Sain.
In 1996 Bryson purchased the other half interest of the paper from his sister to become sole owner.
Over the course of the 129-year history the Courier has occupied many located around the town. From 1950 until 1980 the paper was located on South Tatum Street across from Good Samaritan Hospital in the building once owned by Dr. J.F. Adams and used as a hospital.
In 1981 the Courier moved to the north side of the public square in a building owned by the late Jean Blankenship, former wife of the late Fred Adams (son of Dr. J.F. Adams). The building was shared by Charlie J. Higgins Furniture Co, prior to that it was known as Lehning’s Market & Lockers.
In 1995 the paper moved two doors up the street, next door to the old Cannon County Jail on West Water Street in the former bookkeeping section of Bank of Commerce. In 2014 the Cannon Courier moved to its own building at 113 Main St.
The Courier was printed in house in an old flat-bed 2-page press until 1969. That year the paper switched the newest method of newspaper technology, offset printing.
The paper was printed at the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro with the help of the late Publisher Richard (Dick) Bell and Production Manager Roy Eakes. What once took a week to print and produce, the high speed presses at the DNJ were able to do in 20 minutes.
Previously the paper was produced using Linotype machines that cast hot metal in the type which were locked in two-page forms. The offset method eliminated this type of printing. In the depths of the Depression Courier Editor Hayden Smith many times would swap advertising for produce, eggs, white oak baskets or other item to survive.
In January 2007 the Daily News Journal was sold to Gannett, who closed down the production department of the paper which meant the Cannon Courier had to look for another location to print each week. For several months the Courier was printed at Gallatin, a sister publication of Gannett. After 38 years with the DNJ the Courier decided it was time to find another printing partner.
In April 2007 an agreement was entered with the Southern Standard in McMinnville to print the Courier. The paper also entered a new era in newspaper publication, switching from “paste-up” to computer software whereby the paper was laid out on a template and the page would be e-mailed to McMinnville via the Internet. That agreement between the Southern Standard and the Cannon Courier was very beneficial to both parties.
The Courier is now printed in Tullahoma.
In August 2009, Andy Bryson, who had been owner and publisher since September of 1995, sold the Courier to Ron Fryar. Since age 10, Bryson “witnessed life events” of Cannon County up close and personal, dating back to when his Cannon Courier-publishing Uncle Hayden Smith stacked three soft drink cases to help his nephew see and reach the stacks of new-printed newspapers
“It’s been an honor and privilege to cover the news of my beloved home town and county, virtually all my life,” admitted Bryson. “There’s no higher honor than to have the trust of your neighbors…”
As a recognized leader of Tennessee professional journalism, Fryar forecasts “a strong future,” especially for newspapers in Americas’ smaller markets. “Newspapering is alive and well in Tennessee, as evidenced here at the Courier,” Fryar continued. “Admittedly, the distribution of news is more fragmented today, with radio, TV, magazines and the internet, but if we do our jobs, communities will continue supporting their locally-owned independent hometown newspapers.”