John F. Zimmerman was in early Danville newspaper business

Published 1:39 am Saturday, November 4, 2017

Editor’s note: Information for this story was taken from The Advocate-Messenger Archives,, and court records.

John Frederick Zimmerman, “who learned the Art of Preservative of all Arts” while in the newspaper business, began setting type on a soap box in the late 1860s.

Zimmerman and James J. Barbee began the Kentucky Tribune after the Clarion newspaper in Danville was sold in 1843. They renamed the newspaper and it was published until 1887, when it ceased to exist. It changed names a few times and later became The Kentucky Advocate.

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Zimmerman was editor of the Kentucky Tribune.

He first served as an apprenticeship at the printing business in Lexington and became an expert in the “art preservative,” according to an article in The Advocate.

Prior to coming to Danville, Zimmerman worked in publishing businesses Lexington and Winchester. His oldest son, James F., was editor of the Tribune for many years. After James died in 1862, he sold the newspaper and moved to Lexington.

The elder Zimmerman did not retire, he became a printer. He was a trusted proof reader on the Apostolic Times in Lexington. Later, he returned to Danville when the Danville Tribune was revived.

He remained here until his death.

Letter describes the editor

A letter to the editor in Kentucky Advocate dated Jan. 12, 1915, stated:

“John founded and edited the weekly Tribune. He was a versatile writer and also a practical printer and most agreeable man personally. Everyone loved him for his cheerful disposition and consistent Christian life. He left behind a spotless reputation and memory.”

A copy of the Tribune dated March 28, 1828, was found in 1928 by a local post office inspector. The newspaper was in good condition for being 72 years old.

It was published weekly in an office on North Third Street by John F. Zimmerman & Son for $2 per year.

The Tribune carried the following announcement of the editor’s second marriage in 1856:

“Our senior is absent from home on an excursion the nature of which will be explained by reference to our Matrimonial head:

Zimmerman and Martha E. Hope were married February 11, 1856, at the residence of W. W. Batterton by the Rev. J.H. Linn.

The bride, daughter of the late Michael Hope of Danville, is known as “Miss Pattie.”

His first wife, Louisa Chambers Finnell of Georgetown, died in 1855. They reportedly had nine children.

Native of Georgetown

A native of Georgetown, Zimmerman was born Dec. 21, 1807, and the eldest son of nine children.

He was a son of Frederick John and Mary “Polly” Hagart (Haggard), Zimmerman, according to

His ancestors go back to John Zimmerman (1727-1799) and his wife, Anna C., (1773-1798) who were born in Rhineland, Switzerland, and died in the Shenandoah, Virginia.

The 1860 Boyle County Census, lists John, 72, with his wife, Martha E., 59, and Lucy, 21, a granddaughter. He was an editor.

John, 52, was listed in 1880 Census as a self printer and publisher. Also listed are his wife Martha, 30; and Ben T., 16, a printer; David, 14; Eliza F., 12; Cattie Zimmerman, 9; and Ellen Verbryke, 35, a seamstress.

John was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a Mason.

He died October 13, 1885, in Danville at the age of 77 years.

Martha died March 28, 1905, at the home of a grandson, William Zimmerman, in Danville . She was 84. A Methodist for 70 years, she was survived by a brother, Mike Hope of Laurel County, according to the Advocate.