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The Hampton County Guardian
P.O. Box 625, Hampton, S.C., 29924
306 Lee Avenue, Hampton, S.C., 29924
Phone: (803) 943-4645
Fax: (803) 943-9365
Newsroom Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Hampton County Guardian is one of Hampton County's oldest traditions. The Hampton County Guardian was founded by a then-24-year-old Charleston newspaperman, Miles Benjamin McSweeney on August 22, 1879.
For 125 years, The Hampton County Guardian has been publishing today's news and tomorrow's history of our community.
The newspaper has reported events in the growth and progress of Hampton County. Standing as a sentry of sorts, it has served the public's right to know, boosted business, aided worthy causes and always endeavoured to protect the public interest.
The Guardian and Hampton County have grown up together.
Miles B. McSweeney was a young printer who mixed newspapering and politics. He later became lieutenant governor and then governor of South Carolina.
McSweeney made his first appearance in Hampton within the first year in which Hampton County became the state's 33rd county. This was a full four months before the Town of Hampton was incorporated as the new county seast of the state's newest county on Dec. 23, 1879.
At age 24, McSweeney left Ninety-six in the Upstate, where he had been publishing the Ninety-Six Guardian, to move to this new county. He chose the name Guardian for his new Hampton County weekly.
The story is told that McSweeney got newspaper blood in his system at the early age of 10, when he was selling newspapers in the streets of Charleston. His father had died and to help his widowed mother, he became a paper boy, thus starting his long and valuable career in newspapering in South Carolina.
McSweeney became the first governor (and only one since) from Hampton County in 1899.
The place where The Guardian first saw the light of day was a small wooden building on Lee Avenue in downtown Hampton, across the street from where the newspaper office is now housed. According to members of the McSweeney family, the newspaper and printing shop actually opened in Hampton in February, before the first run of The Guardian in August 1879.
Hampton County had been carved out of the old Beaufort District. The act of the General Assembly was signed into law February 18, 1878, by then Governor Wade Hampton, for whom the new county was named.
The genesis of both the county and The Guardian was a troubled time in South Carolina's history - Reconstruction. Those were bitter years and hard times for defeated Southern forces returning from the Civil War to rebuild their homes, their lives, their churches, businesses and farms and everything else.
The Guardian played a key role in trying to help shape a new county government and build a new life for the people out of the ruins of an old one.
It was a new era in which a young county and a young editor began to go places together. McSweeney built a solid reputation for himself and his newspaper on service and constructive action for the betterment of the community.
Eventually his good name and effectiveness as a leader and successful printer and newspaperman led to the political arena - a natural in those days.
Miles Benjamin McSweeney started right at home, being elected first by the citizens of Hampton County in 1894, to become their representative in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He held the chairmanship of the Hampton County Democratic Party at the same time also.
In 1896, the editor from Hampton won statewide support at the polls, to wind up a victorious campaign for lieutenant governor of South Carolina.
Upon the death of Governor W.H. Ellerbe in office in 1899, McSweeney was catapulted to the state's highest office.
In 1900, he was elected by the people of the state to a full term, which at the time was for only two years, not four as is currently the case. The Hampton editor served until 1903.
In the meantime, his printing and newspaper business had grown and was thriving as the county and county seat were being developed.
An outstanding new home for The Guardian and print shop was built for McSweeney, but unfortunately is was not completed until 1910, after his death in 1909. The architect was B. Lloyd Preacher and building contractor H.B. Patillo, according to the cornerstone visible today on the three-story brick building on Lee Avenue. The former “Guardian Building” was Hampton's first would-be skyscraper. It later housed the Hampton Post office, and in 1945 was the home of Parker Brothers Department Store. Today it is known as The McSweeney Building and houses government offices.
In 1967-68, after purchase of the building from Mrs. Josephine McGowan, former owner, Parker Brothers completely modernized the three floors, the renovation including installation of the only elevator in Hampton County. For a number of years, the name “Guardian” was preserved atop the facade at the thrid floor level roofline. It was demolished in a storm and not replaced.
Governor McSweeney died in 1909 and was buried in the Hampton Cemetery. The State of South Carolina erected a monument at his grave site, as a former govenor.
State political history records that when McSweeney entered the race for a full term as governor in 1900, he became embroiled in a hot campaign made more intense by the state dispensary (liquor) system. Opposition to that system had been generated by public sentiment statewide. McSweeney ran on a platform favoring state-operated dispensaries.
This created quite a conflict in Hampton County because some of McSweeney's best personal and business friends in Hampton County were strong prohibitionists. Candidacy of their friend, The Guardian editor, put many of them on the hot seat that election year, losing McSweeney some advertising and printing accounts in the process, it seems.
After the death of the founder, The Guardian remained in family ownership and was edited and published by his son, Eugene McSweeney.
The Allendale County Citizen was added by Eugene McSweeney, who moved the newspaper operation from Hampton to Allendale around 1919.
From 1936, after the death of Eugene, his widow, Florence Humphries McSweeney continued as editor and publisher of The Citizen and The Guardian.
Selling to Caldwell-Maner Publishing Company in 1944, Mrs. McSweeney retired, ending the long family ownership of the newspapers.
The new owners were William Lawton Manor of Allendale and Erskine Caldwell and his father, R. Sylvester Caldwell. Caldwell was the noted Augusta author and playwright who wrote the controversial novel “Tobacco Road.” Maner served as editor. In 1947, The Jasper Record was added by the company.
The three papers were purchased in 1947 by a group of newspapermen who had been connected with The Augusta Chronicle. They incorporated as Weeklies Publisher and Tom O'Conner became editor and publisher. After his death in 1969, his wife, Martha Young O'Conner, continued publication of The Citizen and The Guardian in Allendale, having dropped publication of the Jasper weekly.
Banner Publishers, Inc. of Camden bought the papers from Mrs. O'Conner in January 1974, separating them and once more bringing The Guardian back home to downtown Hampton.
Patrick Tyler, who went on the serve on the news staff of The Washington Post, became editor of both papers. Mrs. O'Connor remained on the staff as director for a couple of years, and after retirement was designated “Editor Emeritus” of The Citizen.
At the time of purchase, Banner was owned by a corporation in which former S.C. Governor John Carl West of Camden was principal stockholder, thus repeating a bit of history of a governor at the helm of The Guardian.
David Cowan served a short time as the editor of the two newspapers in 1975, and Wayne Zurenda later served as interim editor.
Martha Bee Anderson, reporter and columnist for The Guardian from 1946, became editor in April 1975.
Today, The Guardian is owned by Gatehouse Media and is part of its Barnwell region.
The newspaper has a staff of six people, directed by editor and publisher Michael M. Dewitt Jr.