From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Magowan Brothers and the Reporter (Mt. Sterling, KY)

The Reporter Newspaper

  • The Reporter newspaper was published in Mt. Sterling, KY by the brothers John D. and Noah W. Magowan. The Reporter was the first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans in the city of Mt. Sterling; the Mt. Sterling Advocate ran an article welcoming The Reporter. The paper was recognized as a strong voice for the Negro in Kentucky, and in 1907 when the Negro Press Association, Kentucky was formed with 14 members, N. W. Magowan was named president. One of the goals of the association was to solidify the Negro vote in the upcoming presidential election.
  • The Reporter took on the cause. The newspaper had been established in April of 1904 as a weekly publication with Noah W. Magowan as editor, Reverend W. H. Brown and Reverend J. W. Smith associate editors, and John D. Magowan as manager. [The Magowan brothers are mentioned in many sources by their first and middle initials and last names.] In January 1908 as president of the Negro Press Association, Kentucky, N. W. Magowan made a call to all Negro press members in Kentucky to meet at the Kentucky Standard newspaper office in Louisville to discuss the political situation in the state, specifically in reference to the presidential election and the selection of Negro delegates to the National Republican Convention.
  • In March of 1908, The Reporter ran an editorial against William H. Taft of Cincinnati, OH who was campaigning to become President of the United States. The editorial was described by fellow Negro editor W. D. Johnson of the Lexington Standard as "unmanly, unkind, and intended to rouse race feelings against Mr. Taft." The two editors who disagreed about Taft were also two of the Negro candidates for delegate-at-large to the Republican Convention. The other candidates were J. E. Wood, editor of the Torchlight in Danville; R. T. Berry, editor of the Kentucky Reporter in Owensboro; Dr. E. W. Lane of Maysville; W. J. Gaines, Grand Master of the U. B. of F. [United Brothers of Friendship] in Covington; W. H. Steward, editor of the American Baptist in Louisville; and Dr. E. E. Underwood, editor of the Bluegrass Bugle in Frankfort.
  • W. D. Johnson was expected to be the selected delegate among the Negro candidates. During the election, Magowan was an election officer in Mt. Sterling. When Taft became President in 1909, Johnson was rewarded for his loyalty: he was assigned to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. Just prior to his appointment, Magowan, who had been against Taft as a presidential candidate, wrote an editorial in the Lexington Leader proclaiming Johnson's support of Taft was a forward-thinking decision and that  he championed Johnson's right to a political reward for his loyalty.
  • Magowan's good words about Johnson in the Lexington Leader were not an indication that the Reporter had changed its mission; in 1909, a letter from Berea College President William G. Frost was published in The Reporter in response to the argument presented by Rev. Morris of the Centenary Methodist Church of Lexington, who had said "the old Berea College ought to have been turned over to the Negroes." Magowan had been among the Berea graduates who attended the 1908 meeting at Berea College, hoping to adopt resolutions that would give Negroes the opportunity to help establish a new colored college if the Supreme Court did not set aside the Day Law [source: "Colored graduates meet," Citizen, 4/9/1908.

The Move to Washington, D. C.

  • In 1910, N. W. Magowan left The Reporter newspaper to become a clerk for the Census Bureau [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census], having received his appointment in April of 1910 [source: "Appointment at Washington," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 4/13/1910, p. 2]. W. D. Johnson had left the Lexington Standard newspaper and moved to Washington, D.C., and Magowan and his wife were regular guests at the Johnson home. The Reporter continued to be managed by Magowan until his death in 1913. His brother remained in Washington, D.C., and in January of 1915, N. W. Magowan delivered the principal address during the installation exercises of the Charles Sumner Post and Woman's Relief Corp. N. W. Magowan was a member of the Committee on Ways and Means of the National Emancipation Commemorative Society. By 1920, he was employed as a clerk at the post office and  elected president of the Post Office Relief Association. Magowan, his wife Mary, their son Paul (1911-1984), and a boarder all lived on Q Street [source: 1920 U.S. Federal Census].

Noah and Mary Magowan

  • Mary W. Magowan (1870-1940) was from Bourbon County, KY; she had been a school teacher in Mt. Sterling, and in 1904 she was the Grand Worthy Counselor of the Independent Order of Calanthe. Her husband, Noah W. Magowan, was born October 26, 1868 in Mt. Sterling, the son of John Wesley Magowan and Amanda Jackson Magowan [source: History of the Anti-Separate Coach Movement in Kentucky, edited by Rev. S. E. Smith, p. 171. Noah Magowan was a Berea College graduate, listed as a student on p. 8 in the Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Berea College, 1889-90 [available online at Google Books]. N. W. Magowan was also a teacher beginning in 1887, and in 1890 was a teacher at the Colored Western School in Paris, KY [source: "A Tribute," Bourbon News, 5/2/1902, p. 5. In 1892, he was elected a member of the State Central Committee, a group established to defeat the Separate Coach Bill in Kentucky [trains]. N. W. Magowan was a notary public in Mt. Sterling in 1896; he is listed on p. 902 in the Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky [available online at Google Books].

John D. and Mayner D. Magowan

  • John D. Magowan was born April 26, 1877 in Montgomery County, KY and died July 15, 1913 [source: Certificate of Death]. He was one of at least five children of John Wesley Magowan (d. 1895), a Civil War veteran whose last name had been Brooks, and Amanda Trimble Jackson Magowan (d. 1925) [sources: 1880 U.S. Federal Census; Civil War Veterans Headstone Records; Kentucky Death Record]. The John W. Magowan family lived in Smithville, located in Montgomery County, KY. After he was married, John D. and his wife Mayner D. Magowan (b. 1879 in KY) lived in Harts, also located in Montgomery County [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census]. In addition to being a newspaper printer and publisher, John D. Magowan was a member and officer of the Colored Knights of Pythias in Mt. Sterling.


  • "Dr. Frost," Lexington Leader, 2/28/1909, p. 16; "The Negroes in Kentucky...," American Baptist, 4/15/1904, p. 2; "The Reporter, The Mt. Sterling Advocate, 4/13/1904, p. 6; "Colored Notes," Lexington Leader, 7/15/1913, p. 9; "Colored Notes," Lexington Leader, 5/9/1904, p. 21; "Negro editor," Lexington Leader, 3/8/1908, p. 4; "Call to Negro editors," Lexington Leader, 1/12/1908, p. 10; "Negro pressmen," The Mt. Sterling Advocate, 1/15/1908, p. 7; "Mrs. Mary E. Magowan...," Freeman, 3/15/1940, p. 7; "The contest in Kentucky this week...," Freeman, 4/25/1908, p. 1; "Editor W. D. Johnson," Freeman, 3/12/1910, p. 1; "West Washington," Washington Bee, 1/30/1915, p. 4.; "Lincoln's birthday," Washington Bee, 2/20/1915, p. 1; "Election of officers," Washington Bee, 12/18/1915, p. 4; "Colored Knights of Pythias here," Paducah Evening Sun, 7/27/1909, p. 5; and "Election officers," Mt. Sterling Advocate, 10/06/1909, p. 8.


  • The dates for the Reporter are given as 1904-1915 in Bibliographic Checklist of African American Newspapers (2008), by B. K. Henritze, p. 58.
  • The following information was provided by Holly Hawkins, Montgomery County Historical Society: Amanda and John Wesley Magowan had five children, Noah William (1869-1945); James Edward (1870-1933); Susan Francis (b.1873); John D. (1877-1913); and Emily (b.1879). All of the sons and Susan attended the Academy at Berea. John D., James, and Noah are all buried in the Magowan Family plot in the Smithville cemetery.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Montgomery County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Madison County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
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Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Smithville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Harts, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Berea, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Paris, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Magowan Brothers and the Reporter (Mt. Sterling, KY),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-05-26 15:52:41