History can be tough enough to report in the
best of circumstances.
While reporting the Cow Creek Chronicles series
that appeared in the most recent issues of this
magazine, I was fortunate to rely on newspaper
accounts dating back to the early 1900s for much
of my research. The subjects of my reporting, the
Raulerson and Sloan families, were well-known
and I was able to create my narrative with the help
of what appeared in the newspapers back then.
The Raulersons and Sloans were involved in
many activities and much of what they were doing
was documented in the newspapers. From the
articles, I knew what clubs they belonged to, where
they went to church, what they were accomplishing
and what their children were involved in.
Long before Facebook, the local newspaper was the social media of the
day. If you were well-positioned in the community, you could give the editor
— and later the society columnist — a ring on the phone and let them know
what you were doing and it would appear in the next edition. A simple drive
to Miami might turn out as: “John Smith motored to Miami yesterday.’’
Local newspapers up to the 1980s were full of these fillers, some in the
early decades often appearing on the front pages of the newspapers.
But we found things starkly different when researching historical stories
on the African-American community. Little could be found in the local
archives of the Fort Pierce News-Tribune while writer Bernie Woodall was
researching a story that appeared in the most recent issue of Fort Pierce
Magazine on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln Park Academy, one of the
first high schools in the state of Florida for black students. The same was
true during research for Pattie Durham’s story appearing in this issue on
Blessed Martin de Porres Catholic School for Colored Children that operated
C.E. Bolen owned
The Chronicle from
1957 to 1992.
in Fort Pierce from 1940 to 1962.
Fortunately, we were able to find primary resources — preferred in all
cases — of people who actually lived during those times — students who attended LPA and
Blessed Martin. Our reporting also brought back to mind Fort Pierce’s black newspaper, The
Chronicle, and we wondered whether we might find more news clippings about LPA or Blessed
Martin from it.
The Chronicle was founded in 1957 by Charles E. Bolen, a former teacher and basketball and
football coach at LPA who also had a column for the News-Tribune from 1951 to 1957 called the
Colored Community News. As he started The Chronicle, Bolen recruited Zora Neale Hurston to
move to Fort Pierce and work for him as a reporter. Hurston had been in a career decline and
would only be celebrated as a significant 20th century writer after her death in 1960.
Bolen performed nearly all the functions of the paper — publisher, editor, reporter, photographer,
ad salesman and deliverer — and I remember him at news conferences, almost always in a
coat and tie, brandishing an old box camera like the one you’d seen Jimmy Olsen with in the old
Superman television series.
The Chronicle was a labor of love that Bolen ran until his health forced him to fold the newspaper
in 1992. He died in 1994.
Our search for Chronicle clippings from online sources and the St. Lucie County Library and
the library at Indian River State College was unsuccessful.
“We have 100 years of newspapers but we do not have The Chronicle,” said Mia Tignor, dean of
learning resources at IRSC. “We would love to get it.’’
Finding copies of The Chronicle, especially those from the days of Hurston, would add to the
body of work of a significant 20th century American author.
Harry Quatraro of the St. Lucie County Regional History Center says the museum has two
boxes of The Chronicle from the 1970s that the museum would like to get digitized, and Tignor
said the college would be happy to work with the museum to make that happen.
So at least we’ll have a few years of The Chronicle for
historians and genealogists to research. Another source for
The Chronicle might be Franklin Crumpler, a former sheriff’s
deputy and self-described pack rat who says he has old sections
of the newspaper and is trying to locate them.
Finding and saving The Chronicle archives, an important
part of Treasure Coast history, may take one page at a time.
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