The adventures of George Putnam, human bullseye.
Friday councilman [Ferdinand] Osenbrugge and G. Putnam, editor of the Tribune, had a personal altercation over the publication by Putnam of an item stating that Mr. Osenbrugge was having a petition circulated for the nomination of himself for mayor. This Mr. Osenbrugge vigorously denied, and after a short exchange of words lost his temper and struck the editor. Mr. Putnam made no attempt to resent [sic] the blow, and Mr. Osenbrugge did not follow it up. The latter went before [City] Recorder Collins and contributed $10 to the city funds.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, January 3, 1908, page 5
W. S. Barnum, left, Mayor J. F. Reddy, right. Medford Daily Tribune, January 16, 1908.
The Putnam Case.G. Putnam of the Medford Tribune, on trial last week at Jacksonville for alleged criminal libel in having criticized the grand jury and deputy district attorney Reames for their failure to indict W. S. Barnum for an alleged attack on Dr. Reddy with an ax, was found guilty by the jury and fined $150 by Judge Hanna. Putnam endeavored to show by witnesses that the assault alleged in the complaint against Barnum was actually committed and that the grand jury should in justice have indicted him and that therefore the Tribune article was not libelous. This, under a plain provision of the statute, he claimed a perfect right to do, but Judge Hanna practically set aside the statute and would not permit any evidence from the defense.
Under this decision, any newspaper having the temerity to attack, expose and criticize wrongdoing of any kind will be liable to arrest and punishment, because it will not be permitted to prove the truth of the charges.
Putnam's trouble probably dates back from the time he criticized the sheriff and district attorney last summer when they closed the saloons on Sunday and put the slot machines out of business, and while he was no doubt in the wrong at that time, his being railroaded to jail and denied apparent statutory rights since then savors something of petty spite and peanut politics.
Has Jackson County a political dynasty which no newspaper dare question? The Putnam case is an attempt to throttle the freedom of the press, but, if we are to judge from comment from all parts of the state, the people of Oregon will not "stand for it."
Central Point Herald, January 16, 1908, page 1
Putnam Found Guilty.
The jury in the Putnam libel case, after being out three hours Saturday evening, returned a verdict of guilty. Judge Hanna imposed a fine of $150, and a notice of appeal to the supreme court was immediately filed.
The jury consisted of George Hoffman, A. B. Chapman, W. A. Patrick, J. C. Wilson, S. F. Hathaway, F. M. Amy, Geo. L. Davis, S. L. Bennett, T. A. Merriman, John H. Bellinger and N. W. Kime.
Medford Mail, January 17, 1908, page 1
Editor Putnam Assaulted.
While walking down West Seventh Street in front of Hussey's cash store, near the Moore Hotel, George Putnam, editor of The Medford Tribune, was Tuesday morning assaulted by Earl Jackson, son of ex-sheriff Jackson, and a former deputy under his father.
Young Jackson has a reputation as a thug and a bruiser, and won fame for himself while deputy sheriff by stringing one of the prisoners up by his wrists in a cell of the county jail until his shrieks for mercy caused outsiders to break into the jail and release the tortured man. It was the publication of this story some months ago in The Tribune which evidently aroused young Jackson to revenge.
Putnam's account of the assault is as follows:
"I left the office of the Condor Water and Power Company about 10 o'clock on my way downtown when, opposite Hussey's cash store, I was accosted by a young man, who asked me if my name was Putnam. I told him that it was. He asked if I was the editor of The Tribune. I replied yes. He said I had printed some stories about him, and I asked him what his name was, for I had never seen him before. With that he struck me in the face and the blow dazed me. Evidently a rain of blows followed, for I only remember staggering into Hussey's store and asking for a basin to wash the blood from my face.
"The assault took me by surprise. I had never seen young Jackson and would not know him if I saw him again. I printed the news regarding his inhuman treatment of a prisoner while he was a deputy sheriff last spring and had been on apparently friendly terms with his father since election.
Medford Daily Tribune, May 25, 1908, page 1
"Sheriff Jackson had me thrown in jail at Roseburg on a trumped-up charge last winter in the evident hope of forcing me to leave the country. The son's vicious assault is along the same lines as his father's actions in throwing me in jail.
"People ought to know by this time, for this makes several times that I have been assaulted, that other than gratifying the innate brutal lust of the thug, there is nothing gained by physical violence. The assault will not affect the police of The Tribune one way or the other. When officials are delinquent in their duties to the public The Tribune will print the news. It is not afraid to tell the truth."--Tribune.
Central Point Herald, September 24, 1908, page 1
EDITOR PUTNAM ASSAULTED
George Putnam, publisher of the Tribune, was assaulted on the streets of Medford about 10 o'clock yesterday forenoon by E. E. Jackson, son of ex-Sheriff Jackson. The assault took place in front of Hussey's cash store, on West Seventh Street, and was witnessed by a number of persons.
The trouble was the result of articles published in the Tribune during the recent campaign. Jackson struck Putnam two or three times in the face with his fists and inflicted injuries which, while not serious, will require several days to heal.
A complaint was sworn out against Jackson by Chief of Police Shearer, and he was arrested, charged with assault and battery, and upon being brought before Recorder Collins he pleaded guilty and was fined $20, which he paid.
The Morning Mail does not believe there is an occasion which will justify a street assault such as this one, and we do not believe our people approve of this method of settling differences.
Medford Mail, September 25, 1908, page 1
EDITOR PUTNAM ASSAULTED AGAIN
On Seventh Street in Medford, Tuesday morning, George Putnam was assaulted and given an "editorial thrashing" at the hands of E. E. Jackson, ex-deputy sheriff. Evidently the fighting editor was off on a vacation, and Mr. Putnam was not able to defend his campaign editorials in the fistic argument before Mr. Jackson.
Chief of Police Shearer arrested Mr. Jackson and placed a charge of assault and battery on the docket. Mr. Jackson pleaded guilty before Recorder Collins, who placed the fine at $20.
The trouble started over an article published in the Medford Tribune during the recent campaign, when the Tribune accused the deputy with inhuman treatment to the inmates of the county bastille. A jailbreak occurred, and Mr. Jackson captured one of the prisoners and fastened him to one of the grates in the jail while he went in pursuit of the rest of the gang. This scene was pictured in the Tribune and commented on editorially which irritated Mr. Jackson, hence the assault.
The Post does not uphold this system of justice, nor do we uphold the vicious attacks made by the Tribune against the sheriff's office.
Jacksonville Post, September 26, 1908, page 1
Putnam Case Reversed;
Editor Will Not Hang for Criticizing Grand Jury
The case of George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, appealed from the circuit court, was reversed by that body at Salem Tuesday morning. Mr. Putnam was charged with criminal libel because of criticisms of the grand jury in the procedure of that body in the case in which [Rogue River Valley Railway] president Barnum was charged with an assault with a dangerous weapon against J. F. Reddy. Mr. Putnam was a witness in the case, and while the grand jury was still in session he charged in his paper that the body refused to hear witnesses who, it was expected, would testify against Barnum.
Later Mr. Putnam took the train from Medford for Portland to spend Christmas with his mother, not knowing that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. It is alleged that an officer was in Medford when he left there, armed with the warrant, but allowed the editor to leave town and then had him hauled from his berth in the sleeper at midnight and thrown in the county jail at Roseburg, where he was held 24 hours without an opportunity to secure bail.
Later his trial came on and he was promptly convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $150. Before appealing the case Mr. Putnam was offered a pardon by Governor Chamberlain, who was convinced that his prosecution was more in the nature of persecution than it was in the interests of real justice. He refused to accept the pardon, however, and in that enjoys the distinction of being the only man who declined a pardon from the governor during Governor Chamberlain's incumbency in office, if not in the entire history of Oregon.
Central Point Herald, March 11, 1909, page 1
NEW PRESIDENT OF OREGON EDITORS
WELL-KNOWN NEWSPAPER MAN.
George W. Putnam, newly elected president of the Oregon State Editorial Association, is a well-known Oregon newspaper man. After having been engaged actively in the business in different parts of the state for several years, he came to Portland four years ago and accepted the position of assistant telegraph editor of a local paper. Later he was promoted to the position of telegraph editor, from which he resigned about two years ago and went to Medford, where he established the Medford Tribune, a daily publication.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, April 12, 1909, page 8
PUTNAM LIBEL CASE ENDSMEDFORD, Or., Sept. 8.--(Special.)--Upon motion of District Attorney B. F. Mulkey, Judge H. K. Hanna Wednesday dismissed the case of the State vs. George Putnam, editor of the Medford Tribune, who was charged with criminal libel. The Supreme Court ordered a new trial on appeal, but owing to the lapse of time between the return of the indictment and the probability of securing a conviction, the District Attorney offered a motion to dismiss. Putnam's case aroused much interest throughout the state two years ago on account of his sensational arrest on the indictment for libel returned by a Jackson County jury Christmas eve a year ago. He was pulled from his berth in a Pullman at Roseburg while on his way to Portland to spend the holidays, denied the privilege of communicating with his friends either by telephone or telegraph, refused all courtesies and thrown into a cell in the Douglas County Jail and confined until the afternoon of the next day. He was released upon his friends hearing of his condition.
Case Against Medford Editor Is Dismissed by Prosecutor.
Putnam was tried and convicted of libel a week later and fined $160. From the judgment and sentence he appealed, claiming that the court erred at the trial in receiving and refusing certain instructions.
Oregonian, Portland, September 9, 1909, page 2
EARL JACKSON WORSTED WITH FISTS USES GUNG. W. Mathes of Ashland was shot three days ago by Earl Jackson on the former Mathes ranch, near Phoenix, now owned by Campbell & Jackson. The shooting followed a quarrel between young Jackson and Mathes, in which Jackson was worsted in a fistic encounter.
Mathes had been acting as foreman during the haying operations. A quarrel ensued, and he was attacked by young Jackson. After the fight Mathes returned to get his blankets. Jackson went into the house and secured a revolver, shooting Mathes through the thigh. The wound is not a serious one.
No complaint has been filed as yet against Jackson, and it is understood that a truce has been patched up with Mathes.
Jackson won considerable notoriety while deputy sheriff two years ago by cruelty to prisoners and afterwards by brutally assaulting an editor who printed an account of the affair.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 14, 1910, page 1
Old George Put was a slick old nut;
A slick old nut was he.
He fixed a machine that was worked by his team
To wreck the treasury.
So he proposed to build good roads,
And a third really went that way;
But the balance, I fear, for four long year,
Went to Put and his gang for their fee, he, he;
Went to Put and his gang for their fee.
Said Old George Put, the slick old nut,
"Just give us four years more.
I have pledged my crew who are tried and true,
They'll finish the job with a roar.
When the county's cash has gone to smash,
And we've fixed ourselves right well,
If the voters kick we'll give them the stick,
And tell them to go to--well, well, well,
We'll tell them to go to--well."
"So, bring out the shovel, fill up the sack;
Trot out the jimmy and the old blackjack;
Kill off credit and blow up the vault
Strangle the voters that dares call a halt--
Defy the taxpayer as never before,
For we are the pirates of modern lore,
Then, be up and doing, let none of us lag,
For we are the gentry that are needing the swag."
Ashland Tidings, April 15, 1912, page 1
Mr. George Putnam, take the stand.
During the past four years you have dominated the county court [of commissioners] of Jackson County.
Five hundred thousand dollars besides the tax moneys collected during that time has been expended.
Most of that has been squandered under your administration.
George Dunn built more roads and better roads within thirty-five thousand dollars a year than the Neil-Davis regime, under your control, built with two hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars, during the past year.
Now you have picked out one Merrick, a banker and orchard speculator, as your special representative in Jackson County affairs.
You prate about your progressiveness. Do you and Mr. Merrick propose to give such another "progressive" administration as you have just handed Jackson County through Neil and Davis?
The people of Jackson County now have their pockets bulging with worthless county warrants floated at your dictation.
Last year you built tin bridges without specifications. You built roads without plans. You constructed a jail out of tissue paper and paid for it at the rate of steel cages.
You entrenched Harmon within the law and shoveled out county warrants to him to be cashed and expended in his own sweet way.
County road accounts have been padded. Straw men have been paid. And all of this during an administration dictated and absolutely dominated by you.
Now you want to do it again, do you?
Which shall it be, Putnam's man Merrick, or the true representative of the taxpayer, Dunn?
Editorial, Ashland Tidings, April 18, 1912, page 2
'IMMUNITY FOR THE GANG'
SUCH FOUL SLANDER IN THE MAIL TRIBUNE.
THIS COMES FROM MEDFORD TOO.
The Mail Tribune Lays Itself Wide Open to the Charge of "Criminal Libel"
Against the Dignity of the State.
Horrors! Horrors! The Mail Tribune, full of peace and virtue--the backer of TouVelle for county judge; he who is making a gumshoe campaign without slinging mud--has fallen. Possibly Putnam was out of town when it happened, for certainly he never would have permitted such vile slander--criminal libel, if you please--to have appeared in the Mail Tribune. This is what it said: "Immunity for gang is given--," and how it happened that such foul slander slipped into that pious, metropolitan periodical is beyond comprehension. "Immunity for GANG is given." Whe-oh! Somebody gram Put for criminal libel, for he printed it in big headline type and published it to the world, "all against the peace and dignity of the state." TouVelle, Put ought to go to jail for it, and as you already have your hand in, we suggest that you swear to the complaint. Be sure to make it CRIMINAL libel, for then if you lose the COUNTY COURT will have to pay the costs. Don't forget the CRIMINAL, or the COSTS, for Put is as slippery as an eel and may wiggle out. If you make it CRIMINAL LIBEL, and he does, what's the old dif? Jackson County collects some quarter million dollars each year in taxes, and she will have plenty of coin--she will have to pay the bill. Sic 'em, Brother TOWOEYVELLE! Go after him; get his goat.
Let us suggest: If it doesn't look strong enough the way he printed it, just take the words "Immunity for the gang" and place them in that other article printed in the same issue headed "Listen to the Truth." For instance: Where you say in your "Listen to the Truth" tale, "I pledge myself to give the people of Jackson County a business administration," strike out all that part of the sentence after the words "I pledge myself," and add in their stead "Immunity for the gang." That will make it good, strong "criminal libel" against the peace and dignity of the state, and you may be able to grab Put; if you fail, why, the county will have to pay the costs. Anyhow, what's the dif? Let 'er go. Put has certainly strained the "dignity," etc.
Ashland Tidings, October 21, 1912, page 8 The complete headline referred to was "Immunity for Gang Is Given by Whitman," on page one of the issue of October 19, 1912. It referred to an offer by New York District Attorney Charles S. Whitman to the murderers of one Herman Rosenthal. The headline had nothing to do with Jackson County politics.
An Answer to Ananias
Because a lie travels faster and further than the truth, I answer slanderous and libelous accusations that have been repeatedly printed and industriously circulated for months past. The charges in themselves are so absurd and ridiculous that they do not merit a reply.
It has been charged that I am the "ringleader" in "the Medford gang," that I have dominated the county court for the past four years and helped to "loot" half a million dollars of the taxpayers' money. Cartoons have been printed depicting "the gang" shoveling out the shekels and doggerel rhymes that conveyed the same idea, while editorials so heavy that they dropped of their own weight spilled the spleen of the snarling scribbler over the community.
My life record is an open book. Neither in the five years that I have lived in Medford, nor in the years previous, has it been tainted with dishonor or corruption.
I have never been consulted by the county court regarding policy or work. I have never proffered any suggestions to the county court. I am not responsible in any way for its actions. I am not, and never have been, directly or indirectly, interested in any contract, nor do I own any property that has been benefited by work done--except as all property in the county has been benefited. No one has ever been given employment upon my request, for I never made such request.
In five years, I have been before the court about half a dozen times. These appearances were as a public-spirited citizen, nearly all in connection with the Crater Lake Highway, with the turning over to the county for completion the Flounce Rock grade built by public subscription (for which I helped raise the money) and with the establishment of the [Westville] convict camp (which I was instrumental in securing). One appearance was in behalf of the Ashland armory. I did not appear in behalf of the Medford bridge.
The Mail Tribune's relations with the county consist in being the official paper and printing the court proceedings and delinquent tax list, as provided by law for the paper of largest circulation. The delinquent tax list was also published in 1911 in the Ashland Tidings and in 1912 in the Medford Sun. No matter who comprised the county court, the Mail Tribune would have had to have the work, as the paper of largest circulation.
Full detailed account of county expenditures was printed this year--the first time the law has been complied with. Whether the money was wisely spent is a matter of opinion. It shows that all parts of the county have been benefited. However, I had nothing to do with it.
As a newspaper man, I ran down every rumor of graft, without being able to find any. The contractor who built the Rogue River bridges became bankrupt constructing them. An expert examined the county books and found them straight. Could this have been the case if half a million dollars had been looted?
Two grand juries, one with Ira Shoudy of Ashland as foreman and one with R. J. Edwards of Ashland foreman, inspected the expenditures and found vouchers for everything questioned, spent time in running down complaints and reported affairs O.K. If the treasury had been looted, wouldn't they have reported it?
None of the money spent was spent in Medford. None of the public-spirited citizens assigned to membership in this mythical "gang" got any of it.
I have been maligned as the archenemy of Ashland. I have given freely time, energy, money and newspaper space in Ashland's behalf whenever called upon.
When through the inefficiency and helplessness of State Senator L. L. Mulit of Ashland, who was supposed to look after local interests in the legislature, Ben Selling and others were needlessly permitted to kill the Ashland Normal School, at the request of the Ashland Commercial Club, I and other Medford citizens spent a week at Portland and Salem at the special session of 1909, paying our own expense, lobbying and working for the resuscitation of the normal school. That we were not successful was no fault of ours--the damage had been done when Senator Mulit was asleep at the switch. In recognition, the Ashland Commercial Club passed the following:
"Resolved, that the thanks of the Ashland Commercial Club be and hereby are tendered to those who assisted us in our efforts to induce the legislature to make appropriation to maintain the normal school of the state and that we are especially grateful to George Putnam, Dr. J. M. Keene and J. D. Heard of Medford, who so willfully gave their services in behalf of the schools. (signed)
E. T. STAPLES,When the initiative bill to re-establish the Ashland Normal was before the people, I championed the measure vigorously in the editorial columns of the Mail Tribune and did what I could for the bill's success.The almost unanimous vote of Medford and this portion of the county showed the effect.
President, Ashland Commercial Club.
H. F. POHLAND, Secretary."
When Ashland wanted a county appropriation for its armory, I signed the petition, championed it editorially, and as a member of the executive committee of the Medford Commercial Club endorsed it and appeared before the county court in its behalf.
I also signed the petition, and gave editorial support to the request that the county purchase or acquire by condemnation and abolish the toll road over the Siskiyous above Ashland.
Does this look as if I was an enemy of Ashland?
This "looting" of the county treasury of half a million dollars is alleged to have been done during the past four years. Four years ago the county court was composed of Judge G. W. Dunn, Joshua Patterson and the late George Brown. These men, then, must have been parties to the "looting."
In January 1909, Judge Dunn and Mr. Brown retired and were succeeded by Judge Neil and James Owen. For the next two years, or until January 1911, the court was dominated by Joshua Patterson, with whom Mr. Owens always voted. These men must then have also been parties to the "looting."
In January 1911, Mr. Patterson retired. George L. Davis, the first Medford man ever on the board, took his place. In the "looting" that occurred in that year, Judge Neil and Commissioners Owen and Davis must have been parties.
In January 1912, Mr. Davis was succeeded by Frank Brown of Eagle Point, who is also thereby made a party to the "looting." This year, with no Medford representation on the board, the first appropriation voted in ten years for Medford, the bridge, was allowed and [subsequently] enjoined by Benton Bowers.
The truth is that all this talk of the "Medford gang" and "treasury loot" and all this outrageous slander is campaign claptrap, sounding brass and tinkling cymbal to arouse prejudice and enable the coterie of Ashland politicians--who for so many years controlled county politics and did nothing for Ashland or any other section--to sit around the pie counter and vegetate. To this end, men who have labored unselfishly for the progress of the valley, and who are in no small degree responsible for the rapid growth and development of the past few years, are sacrificed to slander.
The billingsgate is sluiced through an Ashland paper [the Ashland Tidings], whose editor [Bert Greer] had not been a month in the valley before he began the appeal to prejudice and discord. Upon his arrest for criminal libel he brags of having been arrested 23 times for libeling people, and the admission stamps him as a mere scandal monger--a professional purveyor of slander--fit instrument to accomplish the purification of Jackson County by attempted assassination of character.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 23, 1912, page 4
Another of Medford's dauntless sons is George Putnam. Mr. Putnam has established a metropolitan paper that is a credit to the town. When George was young he went to Ireland, where he kissed the Blarney Stone, first indulging freely in Tabasco sauce, hence the pungent quality of his editorials.
Minnie (Mrs. Harry C.) Stoddard, "Medford's Hall of Fame," Medford Mail Tribune, December 18, 1912, page 4
Editor Putnam of the Medford Mail Tribune has severed his connection with that publication after a service of about eleven years. Mr. Putnam was a ready writer who was not afraid to speak his mind on any subject. His editorials were widely read and given more attention by the readers than those of any other paper in the valley. Robert Ruhl will succeed Mr. Putnam as editor of the Tribune, and we hope that he will give us as good a paper as Mr. Putnam did. In this connection, the writer desires to publicly express his appreciation of the many courtesies extended to the Post by Mr. Putnam during the past ten years.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, April 5, 1919, page 3
G. PUTNAM BUYS SALEM JOURNAL
SALEM, Sept. 8.--(Special to Mail Tribune). George Putnam, formerly editor of the Medford Mail Tribune, today purchased the Capital Journal from Chas. H. Fisher, who has been editor and publisher for the past five years. The Capital Journal has the largest circulation and business of any Oregon newspaper outside of Portland. Mr. Putnam, who has been in Salem for several days, formally took charge of the paper today.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 8, 1919, page 4
George Putnam, formerly editor of the Mail Tribune, has purchased the control of the Salem Capital Journal.
"Local News," Jacksonville Post, September 13, 1919, page 3
Editor Putnam Dies in Fire
SALEM, Ore., Aug. 18--(UPI)--The body of George Putnam, 88-year-old editor emeritus of the Salem Capital Journal and onetime editor of the old Scripps-MacRae Press Association, was found early today in the burning ruins of his home on fashionable Fairmont Hill here.
Firemen said Putnam apparently died of smoke poisoning in the blaze. His sister, Elizabeth Putnam, about 85, escaped the flames.
Putnam at one time was personal secretary to E. W. Scripps, and published Scripps' papers before World War I.
The career of the Oregon editor and publisher began in California in the late 1800s with the San Diego Tribune.
In Medford, where he established the Medford Mail Tribune in 1910, a crusade for freedom of the press landed him in jail. [Putnam merged his Medford Tribune with the Mail in 1909.] The case went to the Oregon Supreme Court and he was upheld.
Next came a successful attack on the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s when the KKK made a bid for political control of Oregon.
Later, in Salem, he put editorial pressure on labor "goons" following burning of a Salem box factory.
Oakland Tribune, August 18, 1961, page 28
Last revised March 9, 2013