Biography of John W. Potter
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Newspaper work is essentially transitory in its nature. The newspaper article that may be read with the most absorbing interest today by thousands is tomorrow forgotten by the eager public as it is then no longer “news” and some more recent event has occurred upon which public attention is centered for a few brief hours. Consequently the newspaper article possesses none of the stability of other literary effort. Rarely is it kept for general reference except in the files of the newspaper office itself. It is read, makes more or less of an impression for a time and is superseded by the next day’s issue and tossed aside. To make a permanent impression upon this particularly kaleidoscopic field of the world’s work requires something more than mere talent; it requires absolute genius, and the fact that a publisher and editor can make a deep and lasting imprint upon the public conscience-an imprint that remains unobliterated for years after his decease shows him to have possessed that genius. Such a man was John W. Potter deceased, for years publisher and editor of the Rock Island Argus.
He was born August 17, 1861, at Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland, his parents being John W. and Josephine (Ryan) Potter. That in his early youth he should enter the newspaper field seemed only natural as his environment tended strongly in that direction, both his father and grandfather (whose given names were also John W.) were successful in that profession until the day of their death.
John W. Potter, Sr., the father of the subject of this sketch came to America in the year 1853, settling in Buffalo, New York. Here in 1856 occurred his marriage to Miss Josephine Ryan, a young lady born and reared in that city. Soon after his marriage he returned to Ireland with his young wife and there our subject was born, as has been stated, in 1861. The Potters continued to make their home in Ireland until 1865, when the father again returned to America, bringing his family with him. For a short time he again made his home in Buffalo, and then went to St. Louis, Missouri. Four years later he removed to Bolivar, in the same state, where he established and published for several years a newspaper known as the Bolivar Herald. Visiting Freeport, Illinois, he disposed of his newspaper plant at Bolivar, and afterward made the former city his home. In Freeport he purchased an interest in the Freeport Bulletin, and later became its sole owner. In 1882 he purchased the Rock Island Argus from Richardson and Powers, then its proprietors. Under their management the paper had not been particularly successful. After his purchase of the Argus he placed his son, John W., Jr. in control as managing editor, he having prior to that time resided with his parents in Freeport. Upon the death of his father, which occurred at Freeport in 1885, John W., the son, was left sole proprietor of the Argus. He remained its proprietor and editor until his death, which occurred January 11, 1898. When he took charge of the Argus, he brought to it the enthusiasm of young manhood, tempered by experience. He set for himself and for his paper a high standard and that standard was maintained throughout his life of The Argus was a Democratic party organ, and as its editor Mr. Potter accomplished more for his party during the seventeen years that he edited the paper than any other Democratic newspaper between Omaha and Chicago.
March 5, 1889, occurred the nuptials of John W. Potter and Miss Minnie E. Abbott, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Fisher Abbott, one of the best known and most highly respected families in Rock Island, Their married life together was a most happy one, and to them three children were born, a daughter, Marguerite, and two sons, John W. and Ben H. He is survived by his wife and children. One brother, Osier F. Potter, resides at Freeport, and a sister, Marian E. Potter, in Minneapolis.
Mr. Potter during his lifetime was a member of St. Paul Lodge, No. 107, Knights of Pythias, and of C. W. Hawes Camp, No. 1550, Modern Woodmen of America. He was a most delightful man to meet socially; a most genial and polished gentleman.
In 1893 Mr. Potter was appointed postmaster of Rock Island by President Cleveland, and it was during his tenure of the office that the present post office was erected upon the site at the corner of Sixteenth Street and Second Avenue, and the office removed to its new location. In the year 1890 when Ben T. Cable was nominated and elected as Congressman from this congressional district, Mr. Potter was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee. In politics Mr. Potter was keen and far-sighted.
In conclusion it may be truthfully said of John W. Potter that he was a splendid type of manhood, a man of keen nature, broad mind and liberal in his dealings with his fellowmen; a man generous of. impulse and a doer of kindly acts; a man of strong will and tenacious of purpose. yet always open to conviction. His death was a permanent loss to the community in which he lived and toiled and to the newspaper which through his efforts became a power throughout Rock Island County.