Since 1890, one family has brought the printed news to Garrett County. Five generations of Sincells have chronicled wars and historic elections, but most often births, deaths, crimes, and acts of the school board in the pages of The Republican weekly newspaper.
Members of the Sincell family will continue to report on Western Maryland communities after handing publication of The Republican to a new owner this month.
Don Sincell is retiring after 40 years as editor. His sister, Mary Sincell McEwen, a writer and associate editor at the paper, will step into the role held by their great-uncle and their great-grandfather before them.
“We have just about every issue ever published since 1877 in our archives,” Sincell said. “Indeed, it’s interesting to go back and look at those. When you see some of the major events on the national scene or the international scene you know either my great-grandfather or whoever was editor at the moment would have published something about it: the attack on Pearl Harbor, World War II peace being signed — those kinds of things.”
But 95 percent of the newspaper’s stories were about local events or state news that impacted Garrett County, such as legislative action by the Maryland General Assembly.
“By and large though, our job was to focus on Garrett County and some of the immediate surrounding areas of West Virginia and a little into Pennsylvania,” Sincell said.
“Our newspaper pages are a historic gold mine for Garrett County clear back to 1877,” he said. “You can’t place a value on the documented news of these past 140 years. The Garrett County Historical Society does a fine job in their own research and finding other sources of information on Garrett County history, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what you would find in the literally hundreds of thousands of pages of our newspaper.”
In the history of The Republican, its founder and first editor, Union Army Capt. James Hayden, was the only editor who was not a Sincell family member.
“I’m not sure how he ended up in Garrett County,” Sincell said. “He was from Pennsylvania, and he fought at Gettysburg and was decorated for valor. Sometime after the war, he came to Garrett County and purchased the Garrett Gazette (in 1877). I have no idea how long that had been published before he bought it. Abraham Lincoln was his absolute hero, and he renamed it The Republican in honor of Lincoln. He operated it for 13 years.”
Hayden hired Sincell’s great-grandfather, Benjamin Hinkle Sincell, as a teenager. On his 21st birthday, B.H. Sincell bought The Republican from Hayden and established the Sincell Publishing Co.
“To my knowledge, my great-grandfather did learn on the job,” Don Sincell said. “As far as we know, he never went to college. But he had good command of the language and was a fairly good writer.”
In 1947, B.H. Sincell was the first person named to the Maryland Delaware DC Press Association Newspaper Hall of Fame. In 2008, the organization inducted his grandson, Robert B. Sincell, Don and Mary’s father.
The Sincell patriarch published the paper and managed a general printing shop making posters, tickets, brochures, invitations and business cards, until he died in 1946.
B.H.’s son, Donald R. Sincell, stepped up to be general manager and took over the family business with his brother-in-law, George H. Hanst, as editor. B.H.’s widow, Lillian “Tay” Sincell, and his grandson, Robert Benjamin Sincell, also helped run the company.
Hanst and Robert Sincell held journalism degrees from West Virginia University.
Don became editor in 1977. As his sister takes the office this summer, she will be the 140-year-old newspaper’s fifth editor. She, too, is a graduate of WVU. Mary’s husband, John R. McEwen, also worked for the newspaper as photo editor, but now will move on to other employment. The McEwens and Don and his wife Suzanne are the last Sincells to own the paper.
“My great-grandfather spent his entire life working here,” Sincell said. “My grandfather spent his whole life here, as did my dad. Unlike me, they didn’t retire until they practically had to be escorted out the door with health issues. They were here well into their 70s.”
Sincell, who turned 65 this spring, said he hasn’t made definite plans for retirement beyond continuing to serve on Mountain Lake Park Town Council and in his church. In fact, he was named acting mayor of the Park just last week following the sudden death of Mayor Leo Martin. He and Suzanne will likely travel to visit their children, who live in San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Washington.
No Sincell ever pressured his descendants to join the family business, Sincell said. In fact, he initially chose a different path.
“I have a psychology degree from WVU,” he said. “I had little experience other than being a high school newspaper editor, and I did a lot of writing with my degree in college. I didn’t intend to get involved with the family business. I decided very young in life I really wanted to live in Garrett County. It’s a great place to raise a family. And, unlike so many of my friends who didn’t have the opportunity to stay here and make a decent living, I did have the family business. And it needed somebody to pick up the ball.”
Now, there is no Sincell descendant who wants to own the operation.
“That one factor was key in our decision to sell the business. The next generation probably is not going to get seriously involved,” Sincell said.
His daughter, Rachel Sincell Vecchioni, mother of three young children, will stay on as a writer in the newsroom.
“One of the really good things about this arrangement is the majority of our employees are still going to be here and employed,” Sincell said. “And our family is still connected for as long as Mary and Rachel are here.”