Sayville’s newspaper, The Suffolk County News, was founded in 1884 and was originally named the Sayville News. Walter Burling of Southampton was its founder and first editor. He started quite a number of small newspapers on Long Island. Why he started them but didn’t remain, we will never know.
The first office of the Sayville News was in Columbia Hall block, still standing at 75 South Main Street, now an apartment house. It was once used as a hall and was the hub of local community activities and meetings, a building which was very much a part of our local history.
The first issue of the Sayville News appeared September 12, 1885.
A few weeks later the office was moved to the second floor in what was called the Green Block on the northeast corner of Green Avenue and Main Street, built in 1885 by Samuel W. Green. In later years it became known as the Batson Block. It was torn down eventually and a service station built there, best known when Cy Beebe owned it as the Home Port Station.
A year later, September 11th, A.D. Hawkins took over as editor, and Mr. Burling returned to Southampton.
Two years later on January 7, 1888, the paper again changed hands when it was purchased by A.L. Cheney of Port Jefferson, who renamed it The Suffolk County News, which allowed it more scope in news coverage, although it remained primarily Sayville’s paper.
In 1891 under Cheney, the office was again moved, this time to Railroad Avenue on the corner of what is now Center Street. The building was the original Congregational Church, a small wooden structure, moved to Railroad Avenue when the present church on Middle Road was erected in 1888. The little wooden one was built in 1848. It still stands today, not recognizable as a little church, through the years it has been rebuilt, remodeled and enlarged.
Two years later on June 17, 1893, another editor took over, Charles L. Grubb of Bangor, Maine. He stayed only a year, for on July 1, 1894, Francis Hoag bought the paper and began his long association with it.
Mr. Hoag had published weekly papers in Schnectady and Schoharie counties, upstate New York, and worked on daily papers in Albany. Thus, he became the fifth owner of the local paper in nine years. With him came his wife, Lena Fischer, and their daughter, Jane. Daughters Catherine and Marion were born here. Mrs. Hoag assisted her husband because she was able to set type and help in many ways. She became active in community affairs and organizations and was a tireless worker. Their three daughters were also—and when grown helped run the newspaper, working closely with their father, and taking part in community affairs.
After the death of Lena, Mr. Hoag married Alida Vanderborgh of West Sayville, who predeceased him.
Francis Hoag was editor for 54 years. He was a dignified man who used a bicycle to calmly peddle to fires and newsworthy events in early years. He remained editor until his death in December 1948.
It was in 1905 that he had The Suffolk County News building at 23 Candee Avenue built, where the paper has been ever since.
Joseph ”Joe” Jahn, who grew up in Sayville was first a reporter, then associate editor from 1938 until the death of Francis Hoag, when he became editor. Under his direction, the paper won many awards as an outstanding weekly. When Mr. Jahn left in 1967 to go with the new short-lived Suffolk Sun, the paper had a rough time editorially. Charles Halliburton was editor for a very short time, but he did not click as editor, although he had edited other newspapers. The staff got the paper out each week for a while but soon Marion and Catherine Hoag decided to retire. Jane had passed away several years previously. Lou Grasso of the Patchogue Advance became editor. In 1968, the paper was purchased by Mary Lou Cohalan, Joann O’Doherty, John J. Hart and Donald A. Rettaliata. Grasso stayed as editor until 1976.
When Mr. Grasso left in 1976, Mary Lou Cohalan, one of the owners who had been working with him, took over as editor.
The paper has had many changes in its format, especially in recent years. Some were tried and discarded, some were kept, but the paper always kept up with the changing times and continues to remain one of Long Island’s outstanding weekly newspapers.
In 1946, The Suffolk County News suffered a devastating fire, and for six weeks—not missing an issue—was published in a vacant store on Railroad Avenue, loaned by James Willis. History repeated itself on February 20, 1980, with another devastating fire and again, not an issue was missed.
In September 1984, The Suffolk County News celebrated its 100th anniversary. Less than a year later, in August 1985, The Suffolk County News and it’s sister paper, the Islip Bulletin, were sold to John T. Tuthill III and his wife Lorelei P. Tuthill, publisher of The Long Island Advance, based in neighboring Patchogue. ”The papers have a history of mutual cooperation and the sale marks an extension of a long relationship,” said Joann O’Doherty. Today, John T. Tuthill III continues as publisher of all three papers while his son John ”Terry” Tuthill IV, who joined the staff in 1992, serves as assistant publisher.