Churchill Standard, Fallon Standard, Churchill County Standard
The future site of Fallon Nevada was a rest stop on the California Trail near where it crossed the Carson River. Its open grazing land eventually attracted cattle rancher Michael Fallon and his wife Eliza in the early 1890’s who established an extensive ranch. In 1896 Fallon established a post office in a small wooden structure which was soon joined by a small store which became a gathering point for the local farmers and ranchers. In 1901, Fallon & Son sold the ranch to Warren Williams, the state senator from Churchill County, for $18,000, and moved, with his cattle, to Smith Valley in neighboring Lyon County. The Wadsworth Dispatch which reported this sale of what it called the finest ranch in Churchill County and center of the county’s (admittedly sparse) population, noted that Senator Williams intended to make it his home, and so he did. In 1902 the Senator introduced a bill in the State Senate to move the county seat from Stillwater to Fallon, supported by a petition of a majority of the county’s property owners. The bill, referred to the Churchill county delegation, easily passed and Senator William’s graciously donated a lot 150feet x 150 feet for a new courthouse. A subsequent bill authorizing the county to issue $8,000 bonds for the construction of the courthouse was also duly passed, enabling not only the construction of an $8,000 Court House but prompting a building boom in Fallon. The boom was chronicled in other local newspapers measured by the number of saloons that had been built, and the notices of local people re-locating to the new town. As the Carson City Appeal noted in the story “A Booming Section”. “The farms all the way down the river and at the Sink are in a flourishing condition. New houses are going up and new ground is being broken. At the town of Fallon which is principally owned by Senator Williams, a scene of activity is encountered, Store, saloons, and blacksmith shops are in the course of construction. It is assuming the appearance of Gardnerville and in a short time it will boast a population that will boost the Churchill County onto the map with a vengeance.” Fred Fairbanks, the editor of the Lyon County Times wrote in June 1903 “Arriving at Fallon which is to be the new county seat . . ., the writer found a bright little town composed of about 20 or 30 new buildings, nearly all of which have been constructed in the past year or year and a half. . . . In Fallon, at the present time, there are two excellent stores (one owned by Sen. Williams). . a hotel of the first class. . two saloons (one owned by the hotel owner), a meat market, another small store, a blacksmith shop, and a corral and feed yard, a substantial schoolhouse and a two-story town hall, also the central telephone office in which Miss Austin acts as “hello girl.” . . . by the first of the next year there will be another store, saloon, and hotel in Fallon, and from that time on the town will no doubt grow rapidly.”
Among the people flocking to Fallon to try their luck in this new boom town were a trio of newspapermen, Bert Hansen from the Tonopah Bonanza, Fred Fairbanks from the Yerington Times (who wrote so glowingly of the prosperity of Fallon) and Leslie Smaill, a young reporter from Carson City whose resume included work on newspapers in San Francisco, Tonopah and Reno. Rumors of a new newspaper starting in Fallon started circulating in July of 1903 but it was not until December that it was reported in Carson City that Fred Fairbanks of the Yerington Times was starting the paper. The first issue of the Churchill County Standard was issued on December 19, 1903 under the aegis of the Standard Publishing Company, with the salutation, “Nobody is behind the paper as a political or financial backer, and if it succeeds to grow and prosper, as we hope it will, it will because our faith in the enterprise and the future of the country will lead us to do some good hard work to bring about the desired results.” Nevada newspaper editors formed a small and close confraternity and a new newspaper was an event usually welcomed by them. When the various editors received their first issue it was hailed as a boon to the Churchill County. The Tonopah Bonanza saluted their former colleague Bert Hanson, “The Churchill Standard, a five-column paper, published at Fallon, Churchill county, is upon our table. It is published by the Standard Publishing Company, with Bert E, Hanson as manager and editor. It is a newsy and neat paper and the BONANZA hopes the good people of Churchill County will give the Standard liberal financial support. Its editor, Bert Hansen, was employed at this office for over a year and has thorough knowledge of the printing business. Success to you, Bert, old boy.”
The Standard, like most papers, promoted the interests of the town. As Fallon grew it became increasingly apparent that there needed a better connection to the Southern Pacific Railroad line thirteen miles north of the town, so the county’s property owners raised a subscription to induce the railroad officials to construct a branch line down to Fallon from its mainline station at Massie. “The benefits a railroad would confer upon Fallon, the Standard boomed, are incalculable, Aside from the big canal, no other one thing would or could do more toward making a great big city out of this place. As a shipping point, it would easily be among the leaders.” With the inducements provided by the county, the railroad was subsequently built, guaranteeing the town’s position as the county’s central transportation and market hub. And for a rural western county, the US Government and its Department of the Interior provided yet another windfall, in the extensive Truckee – Carson Irrigation Project, which was being extended into Churchill County. “Leslie Smail, editor of Churchill Standard is in town,” reported his hometown paper the Carson City Appeal, “Leslie is certainly a boomer, to hear him spiel on the virtues of his new heath, surveyors are as thick along the line as Senator Williams’ sheep on the range.” The construction of the irrigation canals brought hundreds of laborers into the region and filling the newly saloon-festooned streets of Fallon.
Bert Hansen and Fred Fairbanks left the initial Standard Publishing Company partnership, Fairbanks to return to the Yerington Times. The remaining partner, Leslie Smaill struggled on. Despite its opening disclaimer of being tied to no political party Smaill and the Standard were consistently Democratic in politics, Smaill himself won the nomination to the Assembly on the “Fusion” ticket (a coalition of Democrats and Republican “silverites”) defeating Fallon bank owner George Ernst. The Carson City Appeal noted, “He edits the party organ in Churchill county.” Smaill struggled to keep the paper going until 1905 when he sold it to William C. Black “a newspaperman of experience and ability and a gentleman of worth” as Smaill reported in his florid official notice of the sale and his departure, “it is a tearful task . . . However the ambitions of youth are sometimes costly, and teach a lesson that remains clearly printed in memory’s book.” Smaill continued his peripatetic newspaper career in the mining camps in Silver Bow, Manhattan, and Goldfield until he settled in Yerington, taking over the Times from his erstwhile partner, Fred Fairbanks.
William Black, an abrasive and opinionated editor, also struggled to keep the Standard afloat; in 1907 he publically denied rumors that the paper was bankrupt and going into receivership. Later that year he announced that he had bought out “outside interests” and was now sole proprietor and editor. According to the Carson City Appeal, “In his editorial announcement of the same he [Black] gives a few of the residents of the town of Fallon and some of the officials a small sized curtain lecture and on which they will be pleased to forget, and have others forget as soon as possible. He says there is no muzzle of his editorial page and we agree with him.”
In 1908 Black sold the Standard to A.P. Bettersworth, of the rival Fallon Eagle, who changed name to the Churchill Standard and increased it to a semi-weekly but after only a few months Bettersworth sold out to J. Otto Lee and C.J. Kinnear who cut it back to a weekly. In 1909 Kinnear, now sole proprietor sold the Standard back to William Black, who returned from California to resume control of the paper. In no wise mellowed and still a strident Democrat, Black attacked the editors of the Democratic Elko Independent in the run-up to the November 1914 elections, for accepting money from Democratic candidates for their newspaper’s support. The Elko Independent fired back, “If brother Black wishes to criticize the honest efforts of any newspaper along the lines of good journalism, let him remember that the Independent has never been a wishy-washy sheet like the so-called newspaper he edits, but has always had one policy and has adhered to it in spite of criticism of a few embryo sheets like the Standard.”
Black ran the Standard until his retirement in 1915 when he sold it to Ernest L. Bingham, late supervisor of the insane asylum. Members of the Bingham family ran the paper until 1926 (changing the paper’s name to the shorter Fallon Standard in 1920) when Claude H. Smith bought a half-interest and took over as editor and ran the paper until his death in 1957. In 1958 William J. Carey of the Fallon Eagle purchased the Standard merging the two paper s as the Eagle-Standard under which names it continues to be published.