William S. Bailey
February 10, 1806, Centerville Ohio – February 20, 1886, Tennessee

Bailey is most noted for being an abolitionist as well as the editor and proprietor of several anti-slavery publications, most notably the Newport News. Born in Centerville, Ohio and married in Wheeling, VA (now West Virginia), Bailey moved with his family to Newport in 1839. He began writing numerous articles in the Newport News advocating for the freeing of slaves. This practice caused problems for the newspaper’s owner who then sold the paper and its press to Bailey. In 1860, after Bailey’s printing presses and type were destroyed by local citizens, he brought a lawsuit against a number of Campbell County residents for the damages. This angered the accused who then threatened Bailey. Instead of caving to the pressure and moving, Bailey ignored them and continued printing the Free South. Bailey’s actions resulted in his arrest and being charged with incendiarism. After being granted bail, Bailey left for England. He eventually returned to Kentucky but his trial never took place due to the start of the Civil War. During the war Bailey continued to write and publish the Free South with little concern for his previous legal difficulties. Bailey’s persistence resulted in another lawsuit, this time for libel, of which he was found guilty. Bailey was forced to print a retraction and pay the attorney fees of the man who sued him, J.R. Hallam. After the settlement Bailey moved to Nashville, TN where he died in 1886.

Works Available at KCPL

Numerous articles are available via the KCPL Newspaper Index documenting the happenings of Bailey’s life and business, particularly the lawsuit he brought on citizens of Newport.


“Fire in Newport,” Covington Journal, October 11, 1851, 2.

Steely, Will Frank. “William Shreve Bailey; Kentucky Abolitionist,” FCHQ 31 (1957) 274-81.

“The Title of Our Paper,” Free South, September 3, 1858, 2.

“William S. Bailey Arrested,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 1, 1867, 1.

“William S Bailey Proprieter of the Free South is Suing Citizens of Newport for Damages,” Covington Journal, February 4 1860, 2.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email