Information is vitally important to social engagement and a feeling of belonging in a community. Community newspapers have served an important role in communicating town activities, publishing legal information and records, and providing information about marriages, deaths, births, and illnesses. Town businesses also utilize newspapers to advertise their products and attract customers to their businesses.
Typically, rural newspapers were published only once per week, which was the case in Sweet Springs. Oftentimes rural newspaper owners and publishers copied national news or news from other local sources to augment the local news. Two key reasons for this included limited staff, which was often only one or two people, and the limited news that might be generated weekly in a small town. It was not unusual for small town newspapers to have a single person acting as a local reporter, editor, publisher, and even the printer of the paper.
The newspaper in Sweet Springs started under a different town name; it was known originally as the Brownsville Herald, as the town was named Brownsville from 1838 to 1887, when it changed its name to Sweet Springs to celebrate the healthful natural springs known in the region. The Herald is the oldest newspaper in Saline County and celebrated its 149th anniversary in 2023. The Brownsville Herald operated from 1874 through 1887 and continues to publish the weekly paper today. Currently, the Herald operates from its Main Street location in Sweet Springs, directly across from the historic First Christian Church, which is located on the corner of Main Street and Bridge Street. The paper is still published once per week on Thursdays, as it has since its inception in 1874. Its first paper, Volume 1, Number 1, was published on Thursday, August 20, 1874, under the Brownsville name. George W. Tuthill was the publisher and W. M. Prottman served as editor. In 1874, subscriptions were $2.00 annually or $1.25 semi-annually.
The Herald was an important part of the community fabric of Sweet Springs and covered important events that impacted the lives of its residents. For example, the newspaper covered the development of the Sweet Springs Resort, which opend in 1881 and the Brownsville Herald observed that folks from nearby St. Louis purchased and planned to build cottages at the resort. The Herald also covered how the community developed hotels and other retail establishments to compliment the resort. In 1881, the health resort attracted approximately 6,000 visitors and the newspaper advertised the resort and its great benefits to its subscribers.
On April 21, 1882, the Herald once again focused on events that impacted the community when it covered the aftermath of a destructive tornado that hit the town on the afternoon of April 18, 1882. Publisher George Tuthill captured the event with the following headline: "Crushed to Earth. Brownsville Laid Waste. A Terrible Cyclone Plows Through the City. Terrible Loss of Life and Property. Eleven Killed, Many Wounded." Tuthill described the carnage left by the tornado and listed the names of the residents of the town that were killed and identified those who were injured.
These two examples of the early publishing by the local newspaper were incredibly valuable, not only to the immediate residents, but also to attract others to come to Brownsville, and later to Sweet Springs to visit the resort.