Cobb County’s two earliest newspapers: the Marietta Advocate and the Marietta Helicon

An image of the front page of the Marietta Helicon, a 19th Century Cobb County newspaper

by Larry Felton Johnson

[This is an updated and expanded version of an article we published last December]

I have a fascination with old newspapers. As a journalist, examining the changes in form and substance of newspapers through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries papers fascinates me.

So when I visit the Georgia Historic Newspapers website, I’m like a 72-year-old kid in a candy store. The site is a part of the GALILEO project and is housed at the University of Georgia. It’s an amazing resource for anyone with an interest in the history of Georgia and its regions.

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The site frequently adds additional newspapers, and its collection currently spans the years 1763 to 2023.

The earliest newspapers are from coastal Georgia since prior to the 1820s, the rest of what became Georgia was part of the Native American nations.

I did a general search for Cobb County newspapers to see what I could find besides the obvious paper, the Marietta Daily Journal (which operated under various versions of that name after its founding shortly after the end of the Civil War).

I found two newspapers that began publication shortly after Cobb County was created out of what had been Indian lands. Cobb was one of the nine counties formed when the much larger Cherokee County was broken up.

The first newspaper in Cobb was the Marietta Advocate, which began publishing in 1843.

Its first issues were printed in 1843, only a month before the second-oldest paper, the Marietta Helicon, began publication.

The Advocate, owned by Nathaniel Calder, was associated with the Democratic Party, whereas the Helicon supported the Whig Party. In the 19th Century, newspapers were often openly and officially aligned with political parties.

According to the Advocate’s page on the Georgia Historic Newspaper site:

It isn’t clear why Calder originally chose to call his paper the Cherokee Advocate,since Marietta was located in the relatively new Cobb County, but Cobb County was one of ten counties formed out of seized Cherokee Native American land.

Between 1843 and 1847, the paper was retitled as the Marietta Advocate, perhaps due to another contemporaneous Cherokee Advocate published by the Cherokee Nation. In 1845, Ralph McAlpin Goodman, the editor-in-chief at the Augusta Constitutionalist since 1844, purchased land near Marietta and moved to the town in 1847.

The same year as his arrival, Goodman took over the editorial helm of the Marietta Advocate while Calder remained as publisher.

Goodman was not associated with the Advocate for long, however, and resigned his position in the spring of 1848 due to disagreements with the area’s leading Democrats on the issue of secession; Goodman held strong unionist beliefs and would not retract his stance despite pressure from local party leaders.

Goodman became the first editor of the newly formed Constitutional Union in Marietta, a newspaper associated with the Constitutional Union party, a party staunchly loyal to the United States and opposed to secession.

Goodman’s company later took ownership of the Advocate during its final days.

The Marietta Advocate was published until 1864 when it was forced to shut down by the occupying U.S. troops.

Goodman went on to found the Marietta Journal, the earliest name of what is today’s Marietta Daily Journal.

The earliest issue Georgia Historic Newspapers was able to find and digitize published under the name Marietta Advocate was from January of 1861, although the collection has an issue published under the name Cherokee Advocate from 1848.

To browse copies of the Marietta Advocate follow this link.

Marietta Helicon

As a newspaper affiliated with the Whig Party, the early collapse of that party in Georgia meant that the Helicon also had a relatively short history, and only one issue of the paper is available on the Georgia Historic Newspapers, from July 17 of 1847.

There was only one Whig governor of Georgia, George W. Crawford, who served two terms from 1843 to 1847. That was also roughly the lifespan of the Marietta Helicon.

The Georgia Historic Newspapers’ page for the Helicon has this brief description:

The Marietta Helicon began circulation around 1843. Charles W. Hancock published the weekly paper and J. B. Randall served as its editor. The paper aligned politically with the Whig Party and circulated in Marietta on Thursday mornings. The Helicon retitled itself the Constitutional Union in 1850 before merging with the Marietta Advocate. The two papers became the Cherokee Georgian in October 1854. Simeon A. Atkinson ceased printing the Cherokee Georgian in 1856 and established the Augusta Evening Dispatch later that year.

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