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Town and Country News
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2024-03-27

 Celebrating 125 Years

 

          April 1st, 2024 marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of The Town and Country newspaper.  Taking a look back at the founding of the newspaper and a walk through its 125-year history begins with the man who started it.

Dr. Charles Q. Hillegass

          A well-known and respected gentleman by the name of Dr. Charles Quinton Hillegass started the Town and Country newspaper in 1899, and for the next 30 years, he echoed his love of the community in his publication.

          Hillegass was born on June 29, 1870, in Upper Hanover Township and educated in the humble schools there.  He was a graduate of the Perkiomen Seminary and graduated from the Philadelphia Dental College in 1889.

          After completing his education, he began a successful dental practice that grew to include offices in Pennsburg, Harleysville, Schwenksville, and Telford. 

          He married Ella H. Siegfried, of near Monteray, Berks County.  They had a son, Foster C., and an adopted daughter, Ethel D.

The original home of the Town and Country

newspaper on Fourth St. in Pennsburg.

Hillegass.

          While he was a young dentist, Charles took a keen interest in journalism.  From time to time, he would write short stories for local newspapers. 

          In the late 1890s, Dr. Hillegass studied the possibility of starting a newspaper.  At the time, two other weekly newspapers were being published in Pennsburg and East Greenville.  Hillegass' intent was to purchase The Perkiomen Press, which was published in Pennsburg, and the Perkiomen Ledger, which was published in East Greenville.

          When he found the price of the newspapers prohibitive, he persuaded Pennsburg druggist Robert Singer (his brother-in-law) to form a partnership in publishing a new newspaper.  Singer also had a little experience in writing for the local papers.

Foster Hillegass, working at his desk in the office

of the Town and Country.  Foster also served for

20 years as a Montgomery County Commissioner

and was instrumental in starting the County's

Park System.

          He also enlisted the help of his brother, Howard Hillegass, then a journalist at the New York Herald, who assumed general management of the operation for the first few months until the first issue was released on April 1, 1899.  The paper was named Town and Country. 

          The Town and Country newspaper began publishing from a small building on Fourth Street in Pennsburg.  In the beginning years of the paper, subscriptions grew steadily.  Dr. Hillegass bought out Singer's share of the business in 1902, and shortly after that, he left his dental practice to devote all of his time to the publication.

          In 1913, Hillegass bought a triangular lot between Fourth Street and Pottstown Avenue.  On that lot he built a modern publishing plant, designed in the image of the New York Herald building in Manhattan.  This would be the home of the newspaper for the next 73 years. 

          Dr. Charles Q. Hillegass died in 1929, but the Hillegass spirit in the local newspaper lived on through his son.

In 1913, Dr. Hillegass bought a triangular lot bet-

ween Fourth Street and Pottstown Avenue.  On that

lot he built a modern publishing plant, designed in

the image of the New York Herald building in Man-

hattan.  This would be the home of the newspaper

for the next 73 years

          Foster Hillegass was also a graduate of the Perkiomen Seminary.  He received his college education at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.  As a boy, he worked as an apprentice at his father's newspaper, and after graduating from college he became editor of the publication.

          Like his father, Foster was a newspaperman, businessman, and civil servant.  In addition to his many local responsibilities, he served as a Montgomery County commissioner for 20 years. 

          Foster served the Town and Country newspaper for more than 50 years.  Even with all his other commitments, he kept the newspaper close to his heart and maintained the journalistic intent, purpose, and integrity that his father did.

          After his death, the newspaper continued to be published by the Foster C. Hillegass Estate.  At the helm was Foster's wife of 46 years, Florence Moll Hillegass.  She was described as a "warm and gracious lady" who "maintained a devoted interest in the pages that make up each issue."

          Florence was born in Palm, where her father ran the general store.  She was a graduate of East Greenville High School and Perkiomen Seminary.  She was also a graduate of the National School of Elocution and Oratory in Philadelphia. 

          During much of the time that the newspaper was published by the Foster C.

The Linotype machine was the mainstay for news-

paper typesetting from the late 19th century until

well in to the 1980's.  In the photo, two Town and 

Country typesetters work to prepare the weekly

edition.

Hillegass Estate, the day-to-day operation was left to an able staff that continued to help the newspaper live up to the expectations of the Hillegass vision.

          The Town and Country newspaper was sold to the Equitable Publishing Company in 1977.  In time, large corporate ownership of the small-town ledger would lead to some uncertainties and a questionable future.

          Ricky Coyne-Smith served as publisher until 1987, with a break in 1984-85 when William KcKinney was calling the shots.  Christoper Dix who was the publisher until 1989 followed her.  Gannett Publishing obtained the Town and Country in 1990, and immediately rumors started to spread in the community that the demise of The Town and Country was imminent.  During Gannett's ownership, Larry Corvi, and Suzanne Bush served as publishers.

          In 1995, Roderick and Wendy Wood started a newspaper to try and keep hometown communications on a local level.  They operated out of their Upper Hanover Township home and called the newspaper The Hearthstone Press.  They worked hard, and the paper grew.  The Hearthstone Press eventually out-grew their home, and the business was moved to Pennsburg.

          In 1997, wishing to disband itself from the weekly newspaper, Gannett sold the publishing rights for The Town and Country to the Woods.  By 1998, Rod and Wendy had combined the two newspapers one under the masthead The Hearthstone Town and Country newspaper with Rod serving as publisher and Wendy as editor.

          This writer purchased the publishing rights for The Hearthstone Town and Country on January 1, 2006, and changed the name back to the Town and Country a year later.

          Since that time, the newspaper has gone on to add eight additional municipalities to its coverage area and added many new retail sales locations in addition to a growing subscription base.  The newspaper also added an online presence with a website, UPVNews.com.  The dedicated journalists of the Town and Country have received scores of prestigious Keystone Awards for Journalism Excellence from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association in the last 18 years.

          The Town and Country is a proud member of the Newspaper Association of America, the NewsMedia Association of Pennsylvania, and the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

          We are privileged to continue to bring local news to our communities.


 

 

 

 

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