About The Sentinel-Progress – A Historical Perspective

The Pickens Sentinel was founded in July 1871 by D. F. Bradley and J. R. Holcombe as “a newspaper with a conscience.” It is the oldest continuous business in Pickens County.

“Once, when the newsprint did not arrive by train for the March 6, 1873 issue, due to heavy shipments of fertilizer,” former owner Jerry Alexander said, “The newspaper was condensed and printed on old timey Blue Horse notebook paper. This issue is unique in the annals of South Carolina Journalism.”

By 1873, Bradley was editor and proprietor, and by 1875, J. H. Carlisle was in charge of the editorial department. J. C. Thompson was printer. The newspaper was sold August 26, 1886, to J. E. Boggs, who told subscribers that “a sheep is just as current at this office to pay subscriptions as greenbacks.” Boggs sold the newspaper to J. L. O. Thompson, a newspaperman from Oconee County, and H. A. Richey, Thompson’s father-in-law.

A new newspaper, People’s Journal, was founded in 1903 by T. C. Robinson, and in 1903, the two newspapers merged to form the Sentinel-Journal.

“During this time, the newspaper was printed on a press turned by hand,” Alexander said. “A strong man named Bill Brown and his son, Hovey, turned the flywheel on the old-timey press. The first automatic typesetting machines were installed by Mr. Thompson, and the work was speeded up considerably by the Simplex, a forerunner to the modern day Linotype.”

The Sentinel-Journal suffered a severe setback after the turn of the century, and the owner was forced to sell the paper in 1912. The Editor severely blasted a school teacher for a whipping given a lad which the Editor felt was too severe and for expelling the Editor’s son from school. The quarrel developed into such proportions a boycott by local merchants was called, forcing the Editor to get advertising from Greenville and other area towns. Advertising dwindled, and the paper was sold to a stock company headed by J. McD. Bruce. The newspaper resumed its original name, The Pickens Sentinel.

The Rev. D. W. Hiott and his two sons, Gary and Whitsitt, who had learned the printing trade in Greenville and Athens, operated the paper for several years before Gary Hiott went to The Greenville News, and Whitsitt began his own print shop in West Greenville, Hiott Printing Co.

W. Lesley Mattheney operated The Sentinel for a while. Gary Hiott went back to the newspaper, and he sold The Sentinel to F. V. Clayton and continued writing for The Greenville News and the Abbeville Medium. In 1927, Gary Hiott came home again and bought the newspaper from Clayton.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Gary Hiott’s quips and paragraphs were published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including The Literary Digest. After Gary Hiott died in 1950, The Sentinel was published by his wife and sons, Gary Jr. and David.

During the Depression, Mrs. Gary Hiott almost lost the newspaper, but after she became Pickens postmaster, she used her income to finance the newspaper operations. She accepted eggs or firewood for a year’s worth of the four-page newspaper with a payroll of $27 a week: $25 a week to the Linotype operator and $2 for the printer. During the 1940s, Robert Hiott worked on the paper at night.

The newspaper was sold in 1978 to Ben Bagwell who had been an Editor of the Sentinel and had worked for other newspapers including The Greenville News for six years, and Jerry Alexander, a veteran newspaperman with the Anderson Independent, as advertising manager. The Hiott family, which had operated The Sentinel for over 50 years, continued to operate Hiott Printing Company on Johnson Street in Pickens.

After a few years, Bagwell sold his interest to Alexander. Michael Schuver became General Manager in 1987, and Don Hunt served as General Manager from September 1988 to May 2002. In January 2002, Alexander sold The Sentinel to Andrew Babb, owner of Crescent Media Group of Spartanburg, and a third-generation newspaper publisher. Rocky Nimmons became General Manager in June 2002. He was later named the publisher of The Sentinel, and the Easley Progress and the Powdersville Post, which Babb bought a short-time later.

In June 2007, Heartland Publications bought The Pickens Sentinel. Sandy Foster was named general manager in July 2008. Lonnie Adamson was named general manager of The Sentinel, Progress and Post in March 2011. In late 2012, Versa Capital Management LLC, a private equity investment firm, announced the creation of Civitas Media LLC, a new community news media company that combined four media entities owned by Versa: Freedom Central, Heartland Publications, Impressions Media and Ohio Community Media.

In late 2015, The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel were merged into one publication — The Sentinel-Progress — and the publication days changed from Wednesday and Friday to Wednesday and Saturday. In June 2017, Champion Media LLC purchased The Sentinel-Progress along with The Newberry Observer and The Union Times.