The Monroe New Moon Newspaper Editor

I found this in an Arkansas paper (Weekly Arkansas Gazette, May 1, 1839, Page 2) which shows the uproar over a newspaper editor in Monroe. This guy isn’t the first newspaper editor to get run out of town. Back in 1824, the local sheriff did not like what the editor of the first Monroe newspaper (the Louisianian) wrote about him, so he forcefully shut the paper down! Kind of dangerous to be a newspaper man in the early days of Ouachita!

A Printer in trouble. – A journeyman printer in Tennessee, named Smith Harpending, a native of New York, has started a claim to property now in the possession of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, in the city of New York, worth about twenty-five millions of dollars. He has employed the best counsel in the city to process his claim. This gentleman was formerly editor of a paper at Monroe, La., called the New Moon, and gave the people in that neighborhood some trouble, for which they put him in jail, and kept him there till they got tired of keeping him, when they told him to go. But he liked his quarters too well, and told them he’d “see them d – -d first.” They finally tore the jail down to get rid of him, when he left, and came through Little Rock, on his way east, to get cured of chills and fever. He’s a perfect case, and if he should recover the property, would spend it in six months.

A Monroe News-Star article on October 31, 1933 states he had insulted a politician. Smith was arrested and thrown in jail for libel. His printer was confiscated to pay his debts. That was the end of the New Moon!

Further articles about the New York Property issue involve Aaron Burr himself! The News (St. Augustine, FL), May 25, 1839, page 3:

Smith Harpending. – we published, a few days since, a simple statement that this individual, a poor journeyman printer, was claimant of a large amount of property in the city of New York, valued at some twenty-five millions. His claim comprises sixteen acres, bounded by Broadway, Nassau, Fulton, Maiden Lane, and John streets. The following particulars relating to Harpending and his claim, are from the Connersville (Ind.) Watchman:

About two years ago, in the State of Louisiana, we became acquainted with the Smith Harpending spoken of in the above article. At that time he called himself Neville, a name he had assumed some years previous, for what purpose we did not learn. he was as destitute of sorts as we ever knew a jour printer to be, though no worse off than most of them generally are. He received enough from our humble self, then a journeyman in the Louisiana Journal office, to supply his wants for a few days. While there he frequently spoke of his claims to property of great value in the city of New York, and upon our expressing some doubts of the truth of what he stated, and asking him what evidence of his claims he had to show, he handed us a bundle of papers, comprising letters from several attorneys in New York, among which were several from Aaron Burr, who appears to have first discovered that the property held by the Church was about reverting, or, perhaps, had reverted to the Harpending family. We learned from the papers that the land now occupied by the church was, we think, in the year 1731, leased to it for the period of one hundred years by one Harpending, the grandfather, or, perhaps, the great grandfather of the claimant. The ground was not, at that time, within the limits of the city, and was used as a corn field, and was of little value. Burr, upon learning from the records of the city, the situation of the property, made efforts to find some of the descendants of Harpending, and, after several years, three of them, a brother and two sisters, were found, all three residing in Kentucky, near the Tennessee river. We understood from Smith, the other and younger brother, that his brothers and sisters had received from the church the sum of $400,000 for a relinquishment of their claims on the property. Smith, at the time, was in Louisiana, where he had been for fifteen or twenty years, and was, by his friends, supposed to be dead, they having heard nothing of him during all that time. A gentleman from New York came across Smith in the town of Monroe, and informed him of the matter. A correspondence with Aaron Burr, and other legal gentlemen of New York, satisfied him of the justness of his claims, but his poverty, as he said, had prevented him from taking any decisive steps towards the recovery of the property. His brother, a short time previous, had offered him $20,000 to relinquish his claims, but he would not accept the offer; all, or nothing, he said. Should he succeed in his suit he will be one of the wealthiest men in all the country.

The case made it all the way to the Supreme court and took several years. In 1852, it was finally decided in the Church’s favor. The next year in Virginia, Smith died of consumption (TB).

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