The fictional 1847 news reporter Archibald G.W. Borden II. Mark LaFlamme

There’s mischief afoot in the bustling city of Lewistown and our hero Archibald G.W. Borden II is hot on the scent. 

That’s PROBABLY our hero’s name, anyway. I’m kind of speculating here. Ever since all the hubbub about the Sun Journal’s 175th anniversary started hubbubbing about, I’ve been trying to imagine what the upstart newspaper’s very first crime reporter would have been like. 

He would have been a dashing young fellow, that’s for certain. All of us crime reporters are. It’s practically a requirement for the job. 

He would have been a striking chap, from the shine of his Derby shoes to the top of his Billycock hat, which he would have worn at a jaunty angle, a “Press” card tucked into the band. 

Mutton chops? Heavens, no. Not my boy Archibald; he’s much too refined for that absurd old trend. Ol’ Archie would have sported a well-oiled handlebar ‘stash, fit for twirling in moments of deep thought. 

He would have worn a lumpy overcoat in cool weather but in the heat of summer, he would have worn a lumpy overcoat, because that’s how people rolled back then. It didn’t matter if you were baking hot or freezing cold as long as you looked respectable, and if there’s one thing I know about Archibald G.W. Borden II, he was a respectable lad, the kind of boy you could bring home to meet your dear old mother. 


We’re all like that. It’s practically a requirement. 

Oh, but he would have had a rakish side, our Archibald. He probably spent more time in the taverns down on Lisbon Street than he’d like his editors to know about, but can you blame him? The taverns were where all the good scuttlebutt was heard. All the city’s movers and shakers gathered there in the dark hours, and they talked in boozy whispers about the big doings of the day. 

Archie could drink with the best of them, let me tell you, and yet not a single one of those whispers escaped his ear. He might not be able to walk a straight line after midnight, but his mind was like a steel trap and he would reel home after the night of debauch stuffed full of tasty, fresh information. 

No stopping for the pretty girls on the corner, Archibald. Get ye home, lad, and sleep it off. 

He would have lived in a little one-room dive above a watch repair shop on muddy Ash Street, close to the action. It would have been a dark and dingy kind of place, but it was convenient to the paper (and to the saloons) and he liked it just fine. 

If a bitter woman lopped off her husband’s head with a garden hoe out in the farmlands, or if the sawmill down by the falls went up in flames again, Archibald could roll out of bed and be at the scene in a flash. 


But how would he get there, one wonders. Automobiles were still five decades off and Archibald wouldn’t have had any place to park a horse outside his dinky little Ash Street walk-up. 

Maybe our young buck had one of those old-timey bicycles with the comically oversized front tires and a raucous bell on the handlebars to alert slow-moving pedestrians that a reporter was on the move and they’d best step aside.  

“There goes ‘ol Ace Borden, off to his next scoop” admiring town folk would observe as Archie passed. “Bully! Look at that son-of-a-gun go on that two-wheeled boneshaker!” 

And once out in pursuit of a story, Mr. A.G.W. Borden II would have been all on his own. There were no phones over which an editor could nag him, after all. There were no such things as radios or anything even remotely like them.  

When Archibald went to work for the spanking new Lewiston Falls Journal in the spring of 1847, the Morse telegraph was only just emerging, and a young reporter like our boy wouldn’t have any access to such a thing even if he wanted it. 

He wouldn’t have wanted it. Archie had his trusty steel nib pen, some sheets of cotton rag paper to scribble upon and he had his own two feet. That was all the technology this dude needed for doing what he did so well. 


Oh, sure, there were a few impressive gadgets at his disposal. Why, the office had just supplied him with a new fangled type writing machine, a bulky, boxy contraption, invented just 20 years earlier, on which Archibald could bang out his red-hot stories. 

And oh, he wrote those stories with the giddy flourish of the age, crafting long, descriptive, run-on sentences without ever coming up for a breath. 

“The widow Matilda Dolores Gildersneed, a spry 82 years old on her last birthday, is in a fretful mood these days due to the unhappy circumstances of a child’s birthday party in her back pasture last Saturday that turned into a three-day brawl with implements of farming, during which 17 local gents were relieved of their fingers, toes and in four instances, hands and arms. Lewiston Falls constable Nob Garland said he wasn’t inclined to toss any of the combatants into the clink since most of them were still wandering about in Mrs. Gildersneed’s pasture in search of their missing appendages…” 

Archibald would have come to considerable grief on a daily basis due to the overly cautious nature of his pedantic editor, one Malcom S. Vanderball IV, who would balk at letting Archie include the latest cuss words of the day in his copy. 

“I’ll not subject our esteemed readers to filthy terms like ‘darn’ and ‘gosh’ and ‘strumpet,’ young man,” Vanderball would admonish poor Archibald, sniffing indignantly and polishing his monocle just so. “Now off with you, boy, to write us a clean and wholesome story about the coming weather. THAT’S what the town folk want to read about, you know.” 

Off poor Archibald would go, muttering and mustache twirling, to the nearest tavern. Reporting news in the mid-19th century was not without its aggravations, I reckon, but our hardworking friend would have borne it well with few regrets. What a great time it was, after all, to be a newsman! 


I sincerely doubt that Archibald G.W. Borden II ever found himself thinking: Gosh. I sure wish there was a way I could do 75 percent of my work by typing messages back and forth with people right through the air. 

I suspect that Archie never once lamented that, golly. If only there was some kind of electronic gadget he could carry around in his pocket so that people could reach him anytime, anywhere for any reason. 

And I’m almost certain that Archibald George William Borden II never longed for some advanced social medium wherein he could interact with complete strangers posting photos of their dinners, their pets and their own selves making kissy faces for no apparent reason. 

What would be the point? 

No, I suspect our bud Archie liked things just the way they were in 1847. With all those nice folks from Quebec migrating to Lewistown for textile manufacturing jobs, the city had swelled to 21,000 souls and, to Archibald G.W. Borden II, that meant more than 20,000 stories just waiting to be told. 

There was even talk of digging a canal system right here in Lewistown and boy, how that fired the imagination of this eager young reporter. Can you imagine what might eventually make its way to the bottom of a canal in such a raucous city?  

I feel I’ve really come to know this Archibald character and consider him a long lost pal. He is one of the giants upon whose shoulders I have had the luxury of standing.

What became of him? If I had to venture a guess, I’d say he got married, got divorced and then said to heck with it and headed out West, bringing his nib pen and cotton rag paper to chronicle the journey. He’d have spent the rest of his days writing about the many adventures of westward expansion, riding the rails whenever and wherever he could.

I reckon he would have died of either a rattlesnake bite or the bullet of a jealous husband in a Wyoming saloon, which means Archie would have missed the era of automobiles, telephones and flying machines by just a few years. I doubt he’d regret that much.

Archibald G.W. Borden II may have perished somewhere in the Badlands, but his spirit would remain forever in Lewiston where he first discovered his zeal for writing and reporting.

Sometimes when I’m prowling the old building at 104 Park St., I sense his ghost walking with me.

“Bully!” says my spectral friend. “We’ve put in a full day, you and I. What say we stroll on down to the tavern and have a pint and see what the night tells us?”

I’d be honored to go drinking with Archibald G.W. Borden II, of course, and with draft beer selling at 2 cents a mug, I imagine we’re in for a long and lively night.

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