Extra! Extra! Read all about the Bloss Brothers founding the Titusville Herald in the prime of their whirlwind lives of adventure, the Wild West, and war!
The founders of the Titusville Herald were not Titusville natives. Both William and Henry Bloss hailed from Rochester, New York. But they did not stay there long.
William Wirt Bloss was born March 25, 1831 and his brother, Henry Culver Bloss, was born there on July 16, 1833. William was the oldest of five (their other siblings were Joseph, Caroline, and Elizabeth) in a staunch abolitionist family. He quickly became known as an excellent and fast typesetter and worked at newspapers in Rochester.
Despite the high pay, William desired travel and adventure and ventured to the Kansas Territory, established in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Act stipulated that new settlers to the area would vote on whether slavery would be legal there, so people from across the nation flocked to the territory to be part of the vote. William was one of those people.
It truly was the Wild West and William was in the thick of it. Bleeding Kansas, and the many battles it entailed, occurred during his time there. William helped rescue and free fugitive slaves at great peril to his own life. He was shot and wounded multiple times. Finally, in 1859 when Kansas became an anti-slavery state, he returned to Rochester to recover. Shortly after his return, despite his age, he signed up to serve at the outbreak of the Civil War.
William Bloss became a Major in the 108th New York Volunteers. At the Battle of Antietam, he was hoisting the flag on the front lines when he was shot in the face and
arm. Bloss sustained serious injuries and was taken from the battle. Before he was fully recovered, he returned to action and became sick, leading to an honorable discharge.
After the war, William Bloss landed in Titusville with many other former soldiers who wanted to get involved in the booming town. He bought out the current weekly paper, the Titusville Gazette and Oil Creek Reporter. Henry Culver Bloss, the less adventurous but more fiery of the two, joined his brother in Titusville and bought the remainder of the paper. The Bloss Brothers formally began publishing The Titusville Herald on June 14, 1865 with the help of a third partner and former soldier, Joseph H. Cogswell. The first 74 issues of the paper were arduously printed on a hand press.
It was well known that the brothers did not always get along. Henry was a staunch Republican, owing to the family’s abolitionist views, and thus, so was the newspaper. Sometimes, William was known to sneak into the Herald office early in the morning to insert his own editorials unbeknownst to, and much to the chagrin of, his brother.
The early Herald took on many social causes, pushing for the end of prostitution in
Titusville and advocating for better roads, fire service, and a hospital. William left the
Herald in 1872 when Henry bought him out for $8,000. William tried to publish his own
paper, failed, and then moved back to Kansas and finally Chicago.
Henry was known for his “salty” writing and barbed words. He refused to be intimidated
by political candidates and wrote whatever he felt about them. He was known as “Nibsy” to his friends and also practiced as a lawyer.
An engaging and eccentric personality, Henry was famous for carrying a yellow parasol everywhere he went because of his extreme sensitivity to the sun. He was a short man, and was notoriously sensitive about it, so wore lifts in his shoes and would measure his children often.
Henry married Sarah A. Mackie of Massachusetts in 1867. They had three children, Joseph Mackie Bloss, Edward Buell Bloss, and Mary Frances Bloss (later Fertig).
Over time, he bought out several other competing newspapers in the area including The
Evening Courier, The Evening Club, The Evening Journal, The Morning Star, The Evening Press, The Evening News, and The Daily Courier.
On September 3, 1892, William Bloss died in Chicago, leaving his wife, Louise Kate Skinner Bloss, and three children, William, Harry, and Violet. Henry wrote him a beautiful obituary in The Titusville Herald. A few months prior that same year, Titusville was struck with a terrible fire and flood. Henry Bloss was impacted greatly. He was a civic-minded man and cared deeply about the community. The losses the fire and flood struck were too much for him, and on February 15, 1893 he died at his home on Oak Street.
After his death, Henry’s wife Sarah took over the newspaper and ran it until 1916 when their son, Joseph, took it over and ran it until 1922. The Blosses then sold it to the Stevenson family with whom it remained for generations.
The Bloss Brothers were popular personalities during the heyday of Titusville. Still today, if you gaze down the streets of downtown Titusville you may be able to conjure the image of a short man with a yellow parasol and his bearded brother walking together and verbally sparring over the next day’s news.
Sources: Samuel Bates’s The History of Crawford County, Titusville Herald 6/14/1965, 6/14/1955, 6/13/1925, 6/22/1983, 2/16/1893, 9/5/1892
Header Image: “Citizens Bank (Flatiron Building), Spring and Diamond Streets, Titusville, Crawford County, 1873,” Drake Well Museum. DW 1380.