Carriage awaits at the Citrus Belt Office

Dec. 31, 2015, the Highland Community News shared a photo of the antique printing press donated by Kyle Benson of Highland to the Highland Area Historical Society.

It was a monster effort to move the press to a new location where it can be cleaned and restored, hopefully, to working condition.

The press was not the first printing press used to print Highland’s first newspaper, the Highland Citrus Belt. In fact, the Citrus Belt was printed in Colton where Mr. Martin was editor of the Colton News.

It was not until 1902, when the paper was sold to Opie L. Warner and Edward Wall of San Bernardino, that the Citrus Belt was printed in Highland. The new owners installed a “printing plant in a building on Pacific Avenue, near the corner of Palm Avenue.”

James Merritt Martin was born in Boone, Iowa on June 4, 1867 to parents Henry T. and Sarah Routt Martin.

Some time after 1880, Mr. Martin came to California and established himself in Colton.

In 1892, J.M. Martin and Alfred “Allie” Lydia Johnson were married in Oceanside, Calif. The couple had four sons: Merritt Kennard (1895), Alfred Erna (1898), Charles Carson (1901), and George D. (1905).

Mr. Martin was editor of the Colton News before he established the Highland Citrus Belt, the first edition being published on Thursday, Oct. 6, 1892. He was among the first businessmen in the new townsite and he erected the second building, about 1892, according to newspaper reports.

He was a staunch Republican, a member of the Fraternal Brotherhood, and served as Highland’s Justice of the Peace, resigning in 1896. L.A. Desmond was appointed to replace him. Martin’s appointment date has yet to be found.

An article dated April 7, 1909, reporting a visit by Martin and his family, said that not only did he start Highland’s first newspaper, but he “built the office that is now the pool room.” (Marked as lot 67 on the 1907 Sanborn map.)

The newspaper was typical of a small agricultural town, carrying reports of crops, how to cure fruit and recipes for the ladies. Church news was on the front page, and “local notes” covered the comings and goings of almost everyone.

But most of all, J.M. Martin was a Highland “booster.” Many articles touted the greatness of the area for citrus farming. He also chastised those who did not clean-up, repair, or improve things as he thought necessary to showcase what an ideal place Highland was for settling down, as well as for financial opportunities.

A year after selling the Citrus Belt, Martin sold the Colton News to William Bebe and moved to Los Angeles where he assumed the duties of editor-in-chief of the monthly periodical of the Fraternal Brotherhood.

The family moved to Washington before 1905, where son George D. was born.

In 1923, word was received that James Merritt Martin passed away in Seattle, Wash. after a five-week illness.

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