Among the veteran newspapermen of Southern California is numbered Henry Kuchel, who for forty-six years has been editor and publisher of the Anaheim Gazette, a pioneer weekly with a record of nearly sixty-four years of usefulness. Mr. Kuchel was born in San Francisco June 11, 1859, and has always resided in California, devoting his energies to journalistic work, which he has found both congenial and profitable.
Conrad Kuchel, the father of Henry Kuchel, was a native of Frankfurt-on-the-Main, Germany, which country he left prior to the revolution of 1848, and came to the United States with the hope of bettering his fortunes. He was a mechanical engineer and located in Lawrence County, Indiana, where he remained for about eight years. In 1856 he started for the Pacific coast, proceeding down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, and after crossing the Isthmus of Panama, journeyed up the Pacific coast to San Francisco where he established his home. The colony of Anaheim was formed in 1857 and three years later Mr. Kuchel came with his family and others to the present site of the village of Anaheim. By purchase he acquired a tract of twenty acres, comprising a part of the old Anaheim colony, where the Gazette building stands today. On this land he planted vineyards, and was also engaged in merchandising, conducting the first meat market in the settlement. Here he lived until his death in 1870, prospering in his undertakings and taking an important part in the work of development and progress. Fraternally he was a Mason and became a charter member of Anaheim Lodge, F. & A. M.
In 1855 at Bedford, Indiana, Conrad Kuchel was married to Miss Samantha Quackenbush, who was a native of that state and whose life was guided by the teachings of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which she had membership. For thirty-two years Mrs. Kuchel survived her husband, passing away July 29, 1902. They were the parents of two sons and three daughters: Mary Melrose, now deceased; Henry; Nellie Meiggs; Elizabeth, deceased; and Charles. By a previous marriage Conrad Kuchel had three children: George, Robert and Augusta, all deceased.
When but a year old Henry Kuchel was brought by his parents to Anaheim and his educational advantages were those afforded by the village schools. His first money was earned by working in a humble capacity for the Anaheim Gazette and his early experiences in that connection are best told in his own words, as follows: “The writer occupied the responsible position of roller boy and we carried around the paper, going by foot about town and on horseback in the outlying sections. Manuel Garfias was foreman of the office. He was a cousin of Fred Rimpau and Miss Sophie Rimpau of this city. On a Friday evening, as the first forms were about to go to press, we hid under our bed in the old household across the way, for we had tired of the job and told Mr. Barter (the proprietor) so, because the last forms were never on the press until about midnight. It was our duty to fetch several pails of water from a well in the back yard with which to wash the forms. We were afraid of the dark and whistled like sixty while going to and coming back from the well. We told the publisher that our career as a great newspaperman would terminate right there. Manuel came over to our house and was told by the good mother where we were hiding. He picked us up and carried us back to the office upstairs in the building across the street. Mr. Barter expostulated, declaring the Gazette could not be issued without us, and believing this to be true, we continued on the job. We have continued on the job all these years, since purchasing the paper with our brother, Judge Charles Kuchel, in October, 1887. Ten years later we became sole proprietor.
After leaving school (at the age of sixteen), much against the wishes of our beloved teacher, we learned to set type, wash rollers and sweep out the office. In 1879 we left for our native town, San Francisco, where we found employment on the city newspapers.”
Mr. Kuchel remained in San Francisco until 1887, when he returned to Anaheim, and has since given his best efforts to the conduct of the Gazette, which is issued every Thursday. He has made his paper an able and effective exponent of local interests and gained for it a large and ever increasing circulation.
The Gazette enjoys the distinction of being the oldest newspaper but one in Southern California. It was established October 29, 1870, by George W. Barter, who bought the plant of the defunct Wilmington Journal, and the press which he acquired had been brought around the Horn in 1851 and had been in use on the Los Angeles Star. In 1871 Mr. Barter sold out to Charles A. Gardiner, who is now living in South Pasadena. He issued the paper until 1872, when it was taken over by Richard Melrose and George C. Knox. The latter retired in 1876 and at that time Frederick W. Athearn joined Mr. Melrose in the conduct of the Gazette, an association that was terminated at the end of a year. Mr. Melrose became sole owner in 1877 and published the paper until 1887 when it was acquired by Henry Kuchel and his brother, Judge Charles Kuchel. Together they published the Gazette until 1897 and its destiny has since been controlled by Henry Kuchel, a newspaperman of marked ability and ripe experience.
On October 29, 1932, the Anaheim Gazette celebrated its sixty-third birthday, and in the editorial columns of the paper appeared the following announcement: “We are issuing a special edition today covering the entire community and the rural delivery routes in honor of the Diamond Jubilee of the colony. The historical spirit has seized all of us and our citizens will soon be engaged in commemorating one of the most important events in our history. The colony is seventy-five years old. Its beginning goes back almost half the way to the time of the Revolution, when the beleaguered farmers, standing by the bridge which spanned the flood, fired the shot which rang round the world. This historical memory has taken hold of us and we live again in those stirring times when the pioneers first came here to establish the colony three-quarters of a century ago.”
In the same editorial Mr. Kuchel continued as follows: “To be frank with our readers, it is nothing more than the truth to say that the Gazette engaged in many a bitter newspaper fight. One of the first was against a cooperative undertaking which endeavored to place six hundred thousand dollars in bonds as a blanket mortgage upon farms surrounding the city. These bonds were to be sold in the New York market at eighty-five and a good commission was to be paid for their disposal. It did not look good to the publisher, who lost no time in saying so. These occurrences are well within the recollection of many of our people. Opposition arose to the disposal of the bonds and the whole blooming thing collapsed.
A fight against the Twilight Patent Syndicate was next in order. This patent was secured from the government and placed a royalty upon fumigating orange trees. Growers were notified that before fumigating they must obtain permission from the Syndicate at so much per. Growers throughout this district were up in arms against it and this newspaper fought it tooth and nail. We were offered money to desist from our warfare and when this was refused, were threatened with a criminal prosecution for libel. We called in a number of growers and placed the case plainly before them. They were indignant at the outrageous proposition and promised to stand by the paper through thick and thin. One of them, William M. McFadden, father of Thomas L. McFadden and Ralph McFadden, who owned a fine orchard at Placentia, said the grove was valueless to him if this patent was upheld in the courts, and said that every dollar that he could raise would go to defend this paper. Other gentlemen expressed similar sentiments. They were assured the paper would continue in the fight. A case was carried to the United States Supreme Court attacking the validity of the patent and it was set aside as null and void. A jollification meeting came on; the church bells rang in joyous announcement of the glorious news. We walked down the street arm in arm with one of these gentlemen. It was about the happiest day of our life. He took his straight and we had a bit of lemon in ours.
Other fights occurred over disputes about water, over the boundaries of county division and about unfit men seeking public office. But all came happily to an end, and for years we have been proceeding quietly on our way, minding our business and meeting all issues as they have presented themselves. We have tried to print a newspaper which would be interesting to our readers, to protect the citizens in every way in our power and shall continue to do so until we lay down the editorial pen. That we have made mistakes, we do not deny, but in the words of a certain colored gentleman who used to live here, we hope they have been pretty dog-gone few and at that forgiven. Others papers have come to Orange County during the past forty-five years, while we have been here, and have passed into oblivion for guessing wrong. Two papers at the county seat which supported the so-called twilight patent, passed out quickly, while one which fought it survived. We have found plenty of hard work to do, have always striven to hold the goodwill of the public, and we trust we have succeeded. We shall strive to continue in this endeavor, and with capable gentlemen associated with us shall meet all issues adequately as they appear. We thank our many friends and supporters for their patronage. This has been sufficient compensation for our labors. We have tried to do the right, have shunned the wrong and shall continue to do so to the end.”
On the 29th of January, 1896, Mr. Kuchel was married to Miss Lutitia C. Bailey, a native of Texas, and they became the parents of two sons. Theodore B., the elder, who was born in Anaheim August 30, 1900, graduated from the Fullerton high school in 1918 and from the University of Southern California in 1924, on the completion of a pre-legal course. He is now associated with his father in the newspaper business as the enterprising and capable manager of the Gazette. He belongs to the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Kiwanis Club of Anaheim, the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Elks, Phi Kappa Psi and the Inter-Fraternity Association of Orange County. At Oak Park, Illinois, June 30, 1931, he was married to Miss Genevieve Ulvestad, a daughter of Dr. and Mrs. O. M. Ulvestad. Thomas Henry Kuchel, the second son, is also a graduate of the University of Southern California and is now finishing a law course at that institution. While pursuing his studies there he was made president of the Liberal Arts College and admitted to membership in the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 357-362, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.
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