Rockcastle County’s First Newspaper

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From the Library of Congress:

The publication of the Mountain Signal on November 3, 1887, brought the first newspaper to the small town of Mount Vernon in Rockcastle County at the junction of Kentucky’s Bluegrass, Pennyrile, and Eastern Coal Field regions. A four-page Democratic weekly, the Signal was one of several accomplishments of its first editor and co-owner, “Colonel” James Maret (1855-1936). Born in neighboring Garrard County, Maret had lived in Texas before returning to Kentucky in 1876. The following year he worked as a telegrapher in Mount Vernon, where he later owned a furniture factory and operated a sawmill. Maret’s fascination with innovation led him to press for civic, regional, and state development throughout his life, and to own the county’s first telephone and typewriter. He gained statewide fame as the irrepressible force behind creation of the Boone Way Highway, a 96-mile route joining Crab Orchard in Lincoln County and Cumberland Gap in Bell County, later to become U.S. 25.

Maret edited the Mountain Signal for three years before selling his stake to Edward Smith. Smith, who apparently kept a caged eagle in his office, renamed the newspaper the Mountain Eagle. In October 1896, however, Maret repurchased Smith’s share, and became the paper’s sole owner. The paper again became known as the Mount Vernon Signal. Maret’s second tenure as owner ended two years later when Edward S. Albright assumed ownership; however, Maret continued his “Notes & Clips” column until his death in 1936, providing an invaluable source for town, county, and regional history. The weekly newspaper that Maret founded continues in publication today.

Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY