Licking Valley Courier


Licking Valley Courier


In February 1910, the Morgan County seat of West Liberty was a growing hub of Kentucky’s Eastern Mountain Coalfields region which needed a newspaper after the cessation of the county’s only broadside, the Morgan County News. That same month, the Licking Valley Courier was started by a local citizen stock company of 17 men known as Morgan County Publishing Co. The four-page weekly was first edited by stockholder and county attorney Sidney M.R. Hurt. The job immediately passed to fellow stockholder Henry Gardner Cottle who swiftly bought out the other shareholders to become sole owner.

During his tenure as editor, the paper garnered statewide recognition for Cottle’s “strong, virile, and versatile writings…He made the Courier a power for good in the community” and had a reputation for honesty. Cottle remained editor for nearly a decade, but sold the Courier to lawyer-turned-newspaperman Lon Timothy Hovermale in 1911.

Attorney Hovermale had always dabbled in journalism, establishing papers in Menifee, Wolfe, and Breathitt counties before buying the Courier. In 1919, he left the legal profession to run the Courier full time. His son, Allie Young Hovermale, was his linotype operator. Hovermale used his background in law to steer the Courier, touting its politics as “Progressive Democracy” and its religion “The Golden Rule.” The Courier became Hovermale’s bully pulpit for the “moral cleanup of the town,” as he was determined to rid the community of drunkenness and prostitution. Hovermale’s efforts earned both praise and criticism, yet he doubled the paper’s circulation. By 1920, Hovermale had taken the paper’s manager, Willie Elam Jr., as his publishing partner. It was around this time that editor Cottle left the paper.

In 1926, with Prohibition securely in place--and still the law in Morgan County today-- Hovermale and Elam sold the Courier to Pennsylvanian Francis Samuel Brong. With his son Roscoe, Brong ran the paper for nearly 18 years, his son rising from printer’s devil to manager and editor within a decade. The junior Brong also worked for newspapers in Pikeville, Lancaster, Georgetown, Frankfort, and Lexington. Yet, his passions lay elsewhere as he was also an ordained Baptist minister and educator. The elder Brong died at age 76 in January 1944, leaving full control to his son which quickly proved too much. By September, Roscoe Brong Jr. sold the Courier to Earl W. Kinner Sr. Brong went on to become Dean of Lexington Baptist College in 1954.

Kinner worked for the Lawrence County Recorder in Louisa, Kentucky, by age 17. Later, he became editor of the Big Sandy News, then took over the reins of management after the two papers merged in 1929 to become the Big Sandy News-Recorder. Kinner retained financial interest in the paperafter he bought the Courier and moved to West Liberty in 1944. In January 1945, Kinner and four local businessmen created the Courier Publishing Co., Inc., that, in addition to the Courier, would go on to publish the Wolfe County News and the Elliot County News.

Apart from its finances, though, the Courier was run as a family business. Kinner’s brother, Frederick B. Kinner was his assistant, and his son, Earl Jr., began his newspaper career as printer’s devil. Upon Kinner Sr.’s death in 1980, Kinner Jr., who studied journalism at the University of Kentucky, became editor with his mother, Delia, as associate editor. Over 60 years later, the Courier remains in the Kinner family.

In 1985, most of the Courier printing office was destroyed by fire. Despite the near total loss, help from the Mt. Sterling Advocate ensured the Courier did not miss an issue. The F-3 tornado that leveled West Liberty in March 2012 annihilated the printing office and the Kinner home entirely. Again, thanks to the Mt. Sterling Advocate, the Licking Valley Courier never missed an issue.


Earl and Greg Kinner, Licking Valley Courier





See more of West Liberty in the Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection in ExploreUK.
For more on Appalachia, see Louis Edward Nollau F Series Photographic Print Collection in ExploreUK.
Read Morgan County Court Records from 1867 in ExploreUK.
Official Morgan County, Kentucky entry at


Kentucky, Morgan, West Liberty


microfilm & print-ready PDF


Copyright Licking Valley Courier; KDNP access provided courtesy Licking Valley Courier




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Licking Valley Courier & University of Kentucky Libraries, “Licking Valley Courier,” KDNP Feature Library, accessed July 21, 2024,

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