This week, readers will notice a significant change to the newspapers for Ballinger and Winters with the change of the name to the Runnels County Register.

This week, readers will notice a significant change to the newspapers for Ballinger and Winters with the change of the name to the Runnels County Register.

This is the official merger of the two publications, which have been in existence in some form or other for well over a century.  But the new masthead, which references both the Ballinger Ledger and the Winters Enterprise, represents the history and impact that these publications have had on Runnels County for 130 years.

The new updated publication will feature news from across the county, to not only include Ballinger and Winters, but the City of Miles and the communities of Rowena and Olfen, all of which contribute to the rich heritage of Runnels County.

“We want the readers to have a broader sense of what is going on across Runnels County,” said Editor Celinda Hawkins.

The decision to merge the publications has been in the works for some time, and company officials feel 2017 is the right time to launch the new publication.

"We are excited to announce the merger of the Ballinger Ledger and the Winters Enterprise," said Clarice Touhey, Senior Group Publisher of the Runnels County Register as well as the Brownwood Bulletin and Stephenville Empire Tribune. "We realize the historic significance of these publications and their importance to their respective communities and plan to continue the tradition of serving the entire area and beyond as we have the best interest of both our readers and our advertisers in mind."

Newspapers have been a vital and important part of the community since Runnels County was established in 1858. The first newspaper called “The Runnels Eagle,” was published in 1883 by I.C. Huege, who had moved the plant from Buffalo Gap in Taylor County, to Runnels City. But after moving his paper to Runnels City, Huege was forced to join in the exodus to Ballinger, where the railroad was going in.

In 1883, the “Runnels County News” was established in Runnels City, but was only published for two months before it too was moved to Ballinger and the name was changed to the “Ballinger Bulletin.” The Bulletin was Ballinger’s first official newspaper, making its first appearance on April 9, 1886.

After Huege died in 1887, P.E. Truly took over the Eagle and consolidated the Eagle and the Bulletin, now calling the paper “The Leader.”

Truly would retire, but later formed a partnership with A.L. Clark and established the “Runnels County Ledger.” For several years the “Banner-Leader” and the “Runnels County Ledger,” shared newsstands. In 1905, Truly would publish the
“Daily Ledger.” In 1911 the Banner Leader and the Runnels County Register, were consolidated, because according to a historical thesis written by Houston Bailey Self in 1931 “the merchants realized that it was better to have one good county newspaper than two not so good.”

So hence, the Banner-Ledger was born and continued as the county’s weekly publication, while the Daily Ledger continued to be published. The daily edition was suspended in 1931, so then the weekly publication became aptly named the “Ballinger Ledger.” The paper continued through many historic milestones including both world wars, and the conflict in Korea. In 1961, a 75th Anniversary edition, which featured 70 pages, was printed – the largest paper every printed in the shop.

The first newspaper published in Winters was the “Winters Recorder” which began Jan. 9, 1903, almost exactly 114 years ago this week. W. D. Currier was the owner and publisher of the paper and felt that even though there were other publications in Runnels County, and Winters was not on a main rail line “it need not worry because it was located in one of the richest agricultural districts in the state.”

After two years, Currier sold the paper and in 1905 it officially became the “Winters Enterprise.”

Two other men, John Stone and Jim Rankin, each directed the paper for a year or more, then it was sold to Ed E. Peason in 1908, who remained as publisher until 1925.

The Enterprise would then be sold to George C. Hill and two Abilene businessmen. By then, new equipment was being added to update the publication. The newspaper would move from behind the Main Drug, to the 200 block of West Dale and later to 114 West Dale.  The paper would eventually be owned by Mrs. George C. Hill, George R. Hill and Richard Thomas as co-owners and publishers.

The publications have gone through other owners and publishers.  In 1989, Roeneal Boles would return to his hometown and restart the Winters Enterprise, which had closed.

Boles said he decided to restart the paper while living and working in Mississippi, after noticing he wasn’t getting the Winters Enterprise in the mail. His younger brother Reg called him and told him “the Enterprise went out,” and asked him if he was ready to come home and bring it back to life.

He wanted to bring it back to life, so he got an office at 104 Main Street in Winters and got to work. This was a little bit between the Internet and desktop publishing era but the Boles brothers, Roeneal, Reg, Randall and Ricky were serious about reviving the paper. And they had to start from scratch, so he rented an office at 104 Main St. purchased the MacIntosh computer and got to work.

“We had to get all the equipment,” Roeneal recalled. “The old Enterprise building and all the stuff went to the bank.”

The first edition under Roeneal’s tenure would come out in December of 1989.

The Boles brothers would go on to purchase the Ballinger Ledger in 1993 along with the paper in Sonora. Roeneal was gone for a few years in between after accepting an offer he could not refuse in Plainview, but he would return in April of 1995 and began running the Ballinger Ledger. By this time, his sister-in-law Jean Boles was the editor of the Winters Enterprise.

Roeneal Boles ran the papers until 2007, when he retired. A few years prior to that, in 2001 the papers were purchased by American Consolidated Media, linking the Ledger and the Enterprise to the company that owned the Brownwood Bulletin, the Staphenville Empire Tribune and Waxahachie Daily Light.

In July of 2014, the Ballinger Ledger and the Winters Enterprise were part of an acquisition made by GateHouse Media, the current owner of the publication.

Today, the Runnels County Register, is among 309 weekly newspapers and 121 daily newspapers published across the U.S. by GateHouse Media.

“We are committed to providing community news and advertising for all of our clients and are looking forward to a continued relationship in 2017 and beyond,” Touhey said.