Place of Publication: Fort Buffalo Springs, Texas
Volume and Issue Data: Published sometime between 1866 and 1869.
Size and Format: Unknown
Editor/Publisher: H.H. McConnell
Title Changes and Continuation: Same editor/publisher produced LITTLE JOKER at Jacksboro, Texas and the BIG INJUN at Fort Belknap, Texas.
General Description and Notes:
According to Whisenhunt, the Jacksboro area had no fewer than four newspapers between 1866 and 1869, although only one was printed. The editor of all four was H.H. McConnell, a soldier first assigned to Jacksboro, Texas in 1866. McConnell recounts his journalistic efforts and military experience on the Texas frontier in the Reconstruction period in his autobiography, Five Years a Cavalryman.
Shortly after he arrived in Jacksboro, McConnell and other soldiers published a weekly newspaper, LITTLE JOKER, on foolscap. The paper circulated among the soldiers at Jacksboro. The Jacksboro post was temporarily abandoned by the military, and the LITTLE JOKER “was ignominiously packed on a Quartermaster’s hourse and moved to Fort Belknap.”
At Fort Belknap soon issued another handwritten paper, BIG INJUN, intended for a military audience. According to McConnell, “Here the genius of the editor again broke forth, and the ‘Big Injun’ for a time shed an undying lustre on the literature of the nineteenth century.” The paper was short-lived: “Like a meteor flashing along the midnight sky–brilliant for a moment, then rendering the darkness more intense–so the ‘Big Injun’ ran its course.”
McConnell’s transfer to nearby Fort Buffalo Springs marked the publication of his third handwritten, THE GRASSHOPPER. Like its predecessors, THE GRASSHOPPER was short-lived. Fort Buffalo Springs was soon abandoned for the more strategic Jacksboro post.
McConnell was finally reassigned to Fort Richardson where he contracted with a Weatherford, Tex. printer to publish The Flea. This, his first printed newspaper, appeared Feb. 1, 1869, but lasted only six issues, until June 15, 1869.
According the Whisenut, McConnell’s handwritten papers did little more than provide diversion for the soldiers at their respective military posts, but “this was important. Their very existence also implies that the life of the frontier soldier was mostly a monotonous existence despite the legend and aura of romance that surrounds the United States Cavalry.”
Bibliography: H.H. McConnell, Five Years a Cavalryman (Jacksboro, Texas: J.N. Rogers and Co., 1889), p. 174; Donald W. Whisenhunt, “The Frontier Newspaper: A Guide to Society and Culture,” Journalism Quarterly, 45:4 (Winter 1968), 727; see also Theronne Thompson, “Fort Buffalo Springs, Texas, Border Post,” West Texas Historical Association Yearbook, 36:168 (October 1960).