Hondo Anvil Herald

By: Doug Johnson

Type: General Entry

Published: February 1, 1995

The Hondo Anvil Herald, a weekly newspaper serving Medina County since 1886, owes its origins to a nineteenth-century county seat dispute that divided the Southwest Texas towns of Castroville and Hondo City and to a man who later bought the principal papers from each town and put them together. The Castroville Anvil was established in July 1886, not long after Castroville defeated a move to make Hondo the county seat. Castroville supporters staged a large celebration of their hard-won victory. One of the features of the event was the firing of anvils, a process by which anvils are blown into the air by charges of gunpowder. The loud, cannon-like reports set the nearby hills ringing with echoes. The newspaper was named Anvil to suggest a metaphorical parallel. Two previous papers had operated in Castroville, the Era (1876–79) and the Quill (1879–82). With total capital of $2,500 the Castroville Printing and Publishing Company formed on May 24, 1886. Circulation was more than 500 within a year and 750 by 1888. W. B. Stephens, the first Anvil editor and printer, was succeeded after two years by P. J. Stephenson. In 1889 the paper was sold to the state Farmers' Alliance, which sought $5,000 in stock from members. John G. Hall served as editor. In 1892 Castroville lost to Hondo City in another county seat election.

In 1891 Herman E. Haass, who as a boy had worked as an Era printer's devil, became the Anvil's editor and business manager. He bought out the paper in 1893 but sold his interest in 1894, when he was elected county judge. Hall returned as editor and major owner, though the Anvil Printing Company was held by Haass's father, Valentin, a native of Bavaria. J. O. Holzhaus replaced Hall as editor in 1898. In 1900 Valentin Haass sold the Anvil for $275 to twenty-six-year-old Fletcher Davis of Marshall County, Mississippi, a partner of another of Haass's sons, Henry. In August that year Davis married Roberta Octavia Hopp, who became lifelong assistant editor.

The Hondo Herald, established in March 1891 by H. S. Kirby with editors Sam and Jeff Jones, was Hondo's third paper. It was preceded by the short-lived Medina County News (1882–88) and the Hondo City Quill (1890). Louis J. Brucks became editor in 1893, left in 1895, and returned in 1897. Herald circulation was 470 by 1894 and 520 by 1896. Brucks, who became sole owner by 1897, later served as county and district attorney. The Herald's only competition was the short-lived Hondo News (1900). Davis bought the Hondo Herald and consolidated it with the Anvil and named the paper the Hondo Anvil Herald. The first edition appeared on October 17, 1903.

In July 1911 Texas citizens voted narrowly against a statewide constitutional amendment for prohibition. Beginning the previous September, in 1910, Davis's antiprohibitionist Anvil Herald saw local competition from a new weekly, the Hondo Times, edited by W. R. and J. H. Hardy. The new paper, financed by local prohibition supporters, took a strong dry stance and pushed for the amendment. The two papers warred through their editorial pages for eleven months. Shortly after the election vindicated Davis in majorities both statewide and in Medina County, the Hardys sold the Times to Edward J. Brucks. By 1914 Davis had bought out the Times and also acquired the Star in nearby D'Hanis. In addition to newspapers, Davis's office also handled job printing. In the 1930s and up to the mid-1940s Davis's daughter, Anne, ran the paper as managing editor. In 1946 the Davises sold the Anvil Herald to William E. Berger, an Illinois native who had worked for the Gonzales Daily Inquirer. Berger bought the Anvil Herald with backing from his Gonzales employers but like Davis soon became sole owner. Anvil Herald circulation, about 1,800 when the paper changed hands in 1946, grew to 3,600 by the late 1980s. In 1986 the paper celebrated its 100th anniversary with a ninety-four-page commemorative edition.

Carl Dean Howard, A Study of Medina County Newspapers and Newspapermen (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1960).
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Doug Johnson, “Hondo Anvil Herald,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hondo-anvil-herald.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995