The History Center’s current exhibit, Breaking the News, couldn’t hold all the stories of Monroe County newspapers. So here is a Breaking the News EXTRA: Marcus Deal, a Whig editor in Indiana. Blog post by Rod Spaw.
Frontier editors bounced around from town to town, rarely staying in any one place long. Such was the career of Marcus Lafayette Deal, the editor of Whig Party newspapers in Monroe and surrounding counties in the years before the Civil War.
Born in Kentucky, Deal first appeared in the region as editor of the Bedford Spy for a brief period in 1831. The next year, he started the Literary Register, which was devoted to academic news of the State College, which would become Indiana University.
Deal next partnered with Jesse Brandon in the Far West from 1832 to 1834, followed by a short-lived humor sheet called Budget of Fun. His longest-running Monroe County newspaper was the Bloomington Post, which he published from 1835 to 1843.
With the motto “An intelligent people want no dictators,” the Post was pro-Whig and anti-Jacksonian Democrat from the beginning.
“Some of the Van Burenites say our editorial remarks in relation to the original Jackson men are enough to puke a dog,” a Post editorial of November 1835 began. “If this be true we fear they have suffered with something like Cholera Morbus themselves.”
The Post had an erratic publishing history, due to problems with an aging press, as well as the difficulty of finding skilled workers to operate it.
In an editorial published Nov. 9, 1836, Deal advertised for a “person of good morale character who has a small (amount of) capital to invest” to be a partner in the business. “None but a practical printer, or a person qualified to take charge, in part, of the editorial department will be taken,” he wrote.
Deal married twice while living in Monroe County. He married Nancy Morrison in 1832, but little is recorded about her except that she was born in Kentucky. No family named Morrison is found in the 1830 Census of Monroe County. The Deals had one child, a son, before Nancy died in 1844. She is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.
The following year, Deal married Mahala Morrison, presumably a younger sister of Nancy, and who likewise was born in Kentucky.
Deal left Bloomington around 1845 for Salem, where he published the Salem Weekly News for seven years. In 1853, he moved to Worthington to edit that town’s first newspaper, the Advertiser. It lasted about a year.
The 1870 Census of Greene County lists Deal as a farmer, still married to Mahala and raising two young children. He died in 1878 and was buried in Clay County, Ill. Mahala lived until 1908, when she died at age 82 in Sonoma, Calif.
SOURCES: Published histories of Monroe, Brown, Jackson and Greene Counties, U.S, Census records for 1850, 1860 and 1870; Ancestry.com records; and Bloomington Post editorials of Nov. 27, 1835, April 1, 1836, and Nov. 9, 1838.