Early area settler Lamoni Call, who did everything from carpentry and printing to running his own general store, had just begun a small, four page newsletter called “The Little Clipper.” Designed to advertise items sold in Call’s general store, it also included short news bits about area events, and was printed on a hand-cranked press that Call put in the back of a wagon. As it traveled around Bountiful, fresh issues were printed and tossed to people on the street.
The original woodcut of the Yankee Clipper ship on the paper’s masthead was done by a well-known Salt Lake artist, but some misspellings and jumbled pages in early issues led Call to seek someone to help edit his creation. In 1892, he found John Stahle at a Bountiful public meeting and asked him to review some manuscripts. Soon after, an official partnership was born between the two men. On April 29, 1892, the paper changed its name to the “Davis County Clipper.”
The early editions of the paper were printed on hand-cranked presses, which were then replaced by a steam engine-run press that required a 10 ft. tall cistern as a secure water source for the press. Rather than simply being available on the counter at Call’s general store, the duo also started mailing the paper out and accepting advertisements from other community businesses. As a public service, however, lost-and-found advertisements remained free.
The news offered inside the paper expanded, focusing mainly on deaths, marriages, births, illnesses, people’s trips, church news, social events, birthdays, and items discussed in city council meetings. Stahle faithfully attended every city meeting and rode throughout the area on his bicycle to collect the news, sometimes riding all the way up to Morgan to find out what was happening. The title of the local news column was changed each issue to reflect the area it was focused on, from “Farmington Factions” and “East Bountiful Items” to “Layton Lines.”
Once, Stahle thought he had been shot at while riding his news-gathering rounds, and rode a considerable distance to escape. Later, he discovered that his tire had simply gone flat.
Stahle also wrote editorials on local issues, including the feeling at the time that the number of bachelors in the area were seen as being dangerous to the community (Stahle himself was a bachelor). He also included observational notes, such as the one in this March 25, 1892 article: “Jesse Simpson, of South Hooper, won the $2.50 bicycle prize. Parley Bybee would have won, if he had not punctured his wheel.”
Call and Stahle remained partners until 1898, when the two parted amicably and divided the business. Call kept printing operations, and Stahle took full charge of the Clipper. He moved the paper to a lot at the corner of Main and 300 N. in Bountiful, and built the new offices to look like a house so it could be rented out if things didn’t go well. He also built the foundation two feet off the ground in order to discourage curious passers-by looking in from the street.
Stahle used that building until 1906, when the office was moved to its long-standing location on 100 S. and Main in Bountiful. Later, the paper moved to its current home on 1370 S. 500 W.
Operations inside the Clipper changed as well. After the move and the loss of the cistern, Stahle was back to hand-cranked presses, because he was told that gas engines couldn’t work at altitudes higher than 4,000 ft. After a physics professor from Utah State Agricultural College (the precursor to Utah State University) disagreed, however, Stahle moved on to a gas-powered press. A staff of three young women set the type, while others folded the paper so that it could be sent out to customers.
In its 120 years of publication, the paper has been a steady part of Davis County life. The longest gap experienced by the paper was four consecutive issues, which were missed in 1904 due to a smallpox epidemic in the area that had also hit John Stahle.
Over the decades, the paper has undergone several changes to reflect the times and the community it serves. The reins were passed down from John Stahle to his son, John Stahle, Jr., and onto R. Gail Stahle, grandson of original publisher John Stahle. Editors have included Dean Stahle, who also served as Bountiful’s mayor, Gary Blodgett, Carrick Leavitt, Judy Jensen, Rolf Koecher, and Tom Busselberg.
Through it all, however, the newspaper now known as the Davis Clipper has worked toward the constant goal of keeping in touch with the people whose name it represents.