George Torrey, Jr. (1829-1895)
Journalist and Pioneer Historian
George Torrey Jr.’s contribution to Kalamazoo’s cultural development throughout the 19th century followed both from his work as a journalist for the Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph newspaper, and from his efforts toward preserving Kalamazoo County’s pioneer history.
Originally from Salem, Massachusetts, George and his father arrived in the Richland area around 1833. After the death of his mother in 1841, the 12-year old George became friendly with Dr. Upjohn and his family. Two years later, George followed his father (George Torrey Sr.) to Kalamazoo, where the young George apprenticed as a printer, a skill that would allow him to comfortably transition into his editorial and proprietor role at the Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph in 1850. The pro-Whig Party newspaper, originally called the Michigan Telegraph debuted on 10 September 1844 with Torrey’s father as editor. The Telegraph would become the Gazette’s long-running commercial rival throughout the 19th century, and Torrey would play a considerable part in shaping the newspaper’s tone, form and political slant. It appears that Torrey’s rabid devotion to Republican Party ideas and principles drove him into public squabbles with Gazette editors, whose editorial sympathies lay with the Democratic Party. When the Telegraph became the first paper in Kalamazoo to be published daily during the Civil War years, readers were drawn to Torrey’s popular “jottings” column. Torrey was described as a “ready writer, and possesses a fine descriptive style.” (KT, 9-8-1894) Torrey’s affiliation with the Telegraph lasted roughly 50 years.
“The junior Torrey, who died at the close of the nineteenth century, was not only unique as a newspaperman, but unique in character, habits, daily mode of living and dress. He would commonly be termed a man with a cantankerous disposition and “quick on the trigger” when it came to answering anyone who maligned the press.
–Kalamazoo Gazette, 23 March 1930
For years, Torrey was the secretary for the Kalamazoo Pioneer Society, an important group of county residents dedicated to preserving the young village’s past. Many of his writings chronicling pioneer life of Kalamazoo County were published in the State Pioneer Collection. These invaluable chronicles of early life in Kalamazoo County have been crucial for local historians that have come after Torrey. His history of the press in Kalamazoo (The Press of Kalamazoo) published in Volume 17 (p.369) of the Michigan Pioneer Collection is an essential source for understanding the historical evolution of the 19th century newspaper industry in Kalamazoo. Torrey also held public office, including County Clerk. Torrey passed away on 17 February 1895 at his home on South Street, and is buried in Mountain Home Cemetery.
Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, June 2023
“George Torrey, Jr., early editor, famous Michigan newspaperman”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 23 March 1930
“George Torrey dead”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 20 February 1895
Michigan pioneer collections
Volume 26, pp.426-428
H 977.4 M62
Newspapers of Kalamazoo and their noted personalities, 1835-1890
H 070 D75
Local History Room Files
Name File: Torrey, George Jr.