At one time considered the Democratic organ of Morgan County, Ohio, the Conservative was established on July 20, 1866, at the county seat, McConnelsville. At the urging of local Democrats, William Glenn, the paper’s first editor and publisher, purchased the press that had been owned by Daniel B. Linn, former editor the M’Connelsville Weekly Enquirer, a paper which ran from 1854 to 1864. In the first issue of the Conservative, Glenn stated: “We intend to publish a good, reliable family newspaper, devoted to politics, general and local news, with a view to the markets, home and abroad. We desire to put this paper in the hands of every Democrat and all others that are in favor of the union of all the States, as proposed by President Johnson. We want a united Union, and not a divided one. We want peace, and not contention.” In the aftermath of the Civil War, this sentiment was shared by many like-minded Democrats.
Glenn temporarily suspended publication three months later, declaring in the October 12, 1866, issue that “Democrats can blame themselves” for the paper’s suspension, due to their lack of financial support. The next issue was published just two weeks later on November 2, when Joseph A. Kelly and his partner Moore began their run as editors. In an editorial, they admitted to some qualms about taking over the Conservative since so many attempts to establish a Democratic newspaper in that county had failed in the past. With plans to exercise “a rigid adherence to the strictest principles of economy” by accepting only cash payments for subscriptions, the paper did well over the next several years. In addition to voicing and defending the political beliefs of the Democratic Party, the Conservative printed poetry and fiction; local news, such as marriages and deaths; and what the paper referred to as “miscellany,” but what readers today would recognize as “human interest” stories.
In January 1867, Kelly became the sole editor of the paper. Under his leadership, the Conservative also began to support the Prohibitionist Party in 1870. Kelly changed the paper’s name to the South-eastern Independent in 1871. This paper, as the name suggests, was intended to be neutral in politics, but it also became closely associated with the temperance movement. These changes left the Democratic Party without a local paper in Morgan County, and, as a result, many of the leading Democrats in the area withdrew their support from the Independent and began to look for another publication that would stay true to “democracy.” In 1871, they found their voice again in the Democrat, established in McConnelsville by Francis A. Davis.
Toward the end of 1871, the South-eastern Independent briefly changed its name to the McConnelsville Independent. In November, Kelly removed the paper to Malta, a village across the Muskingum River from McConnelsville, and began publishing it as the Morgan County Independent. This paper ceased publication in 1874. Joseph A. Kelly eventually moved to Missouri and became connected with the St. Louis Republican and the Missouri Republican, the leading Democratic paper in St. Louis.