Upland Chronicles: Preston Love established first newspaper in Sevier County

Sep. 21, 2013 @ 11:36 PM

The first newspaper published in Sevierville was named Sevierville Enterprise. The first copy rolled off the press on June 1, 1882.The publication of a newspaper was a momentous occasion since Sevier County had always relied on days-old Knoxville papers to receive news.

Preston Blount Love established the weekly newspaper and served as the first editor. Written in the eloquent style of the times, Love wrote the following column in the first edition titled “Salutory.”

“Today we present in this, the initial number of the Sevierville Enterprise. The first newspaper ever printed in Sevier County, and in view of the fact that it is a new enterprise and that hardships often attend the efforts to build up such a business, more especially in a community when there has never been a newspaper published, we appeal to our personal friends and to the generous public to give us their hearty cooperation that we may be fully equipped for the conflict and thus enabled to present to the world a paper that will do credit to the good old county of Sevier and to the enterprising citizens who may have already given it their patronage.

We wish it clearly understood that we have no ax to grind, that we are no adventurer, no carpetbagger, no tramp, but have returned to the land of our nativity, to the place where we were born and raised – home — and where we shall be found laboring to build up every interest circulated to benefit the public and bring about general prosperity.

We will be plain in regard to local matters. It is not presumed that an editor can be all over the county at the same time, during the same week. Hence, we shall expect the patrons of the Enterprise to bring us, or send us, all matters of local intelligence – such as marriages, removals, arrivals, improvements, the prospects of growing crops, deaths, ect. – in fact – we want the people to make our paper their paper!

As personal bickering is unworthy of the profession and somewhat degrading, our editorial interchanges shall be dignified and gross or offensive personality avoided. No communication of the personal nature, circulated to stir up strife, shall find a place in these columns. We assume all responsibilities in the publication of the Enterprise.”

Although he moved to Sevier County from Blount County, Preston B. Love had deep roots in Sevier County and he was familiar to many Sevier County citizens. Born January 28, 1840, he was a son of Mordecai Lewis Love and Mary M. ‘Polly” Rambo Love. His paternal grandmother was a daughter of Mordecai Lewis, a Revolutionary War veteran and one of the first settlers of Sevier County.

His grandfather Isaac Love served on the board of Nancy Academy, was postmaster, and built the forge on the west prong of the Little Pigeon River from which Pigeon Forge took its name.

Soon after the birth of Preston Love, his parents moved to Missouri where their daughters, Margaret and Tennessee, were born. After Mordecai Love and his 9-month-old daughter died within two months of each other in 1845, his father-in-law, Peter Rambo, traveled from Sevier County to Missouri by wagon to bring Polly and the other two children back home.

Preston Love attended Middle Creek Academy before his mother married James Rowan of Blount County and the family moved to Maryville. At the age of 16, Love began to serve an apprenticeship with the East Tennessean, a weekly newspaper published in Maryville.

He married Mary Melissa Howell on December 1, 1859, in Blount County. They were the parents of twelve children: Andrew, Mollie, Ida, Samuel, Tennessee, John, Maude, Josie and four who died in infancy.

Love enlisted in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. In the Battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi, a minnie ball hit his gun and split it, causing a part of the gun to hit the top of his head with such force that the skin and flesh were opened to the bone. The other part of the gun struck his left shoulder and arm, resulting in a permanent impairment of circulation.

He was captured in the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, surrendered, and was paroled to return home to recover from his wounds. In letters he wrote in his Civil War pension application Love stated, “I arrived at home bareheaded, barefooted, and hungry. The Yankees stopped me, ransacked my clothing for letters and finding none turned me loose and picked me up later while venturing to see my wife who was destitute.

I was taken before a Provost Marshall and sentenced to Camp Chase. Rebel friends, Andrew McClain and Preacher Vest and others interfered in my behalf, in fact, going on my bond to save me from that hell on earth. The only way I could reach the Confederate Army would be through the Smoky Mountains then infested with bushwhackers from both sides.

C.T. Cate’s grandfather, William Kidd, is the man who furnished me with a horse to carry a dispatch to Longstreet when Sherman’s Army invaded Maryville. If the old man could speak from his tomb he could establish every word I have written.”

After the Civil War, Preston Love began his career as a newspaperman. In 1878, he published a paper named The Blount County Democrat. It was printed on Wednesdays and Saturdays by Preston Love and several editors. In 1882 he returned to Sevier County to prepare for the publication of the Sevierville Enterprise.

In 1884, he sold the Enterprise to the Republican Publishing Company. Love had also been the editor of the Republican, owned by the Knoxville Republican. Both papers continued to be printed after the sale of the Sevierville Enterprise, and he continued to work for both.

Preston Love and his family lived in the Catlettsburg Community. His health began to fail in 1905. Later, though partially disabled, he celebrated his 70th birthday working at the Montgomery Vindicator in 1910.

He died May 27, 1913, at age 73 and is buried in the Alder Branch Cemetery. As far as is known, only the first copy of the Sevierville Enterprise exists. It was republished by W.R. ‘Bill “Montgomery, editor of the Montgomery Vindicator in 1915. However, Preston B. Love holds an elite place in the annals of Sevier County history as the editor of the first newspaper published in the county.

Carroll McMahan is the Special Projects Facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and serves as Sevier County Historian.

The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments; please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to cmcmahan@scoc.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to ron@ronraderproperties.com