Editor Karl Nash, taught Ridgefielders about themselves

Karl S. Nash

Karl S. Nash

Contributed photo

While most people considered him a newspaperman, Karl Nash was really a teacher. His subject was Ridgefield and his students were its residents. As a country newspaper editor and publisher over 60 decades, he spent his life telling townspeople about themselves, their neighbors and their institutions.

Born in 1908, Karl Seymour Nash was descended from several founding families of the town. His Main Street homestead had been in his family since 1708.

His father died when Karl was 13, and his mother, Christie, was left with five children and little money. She worked as a librarian at the Ridgefield Library almost next door to their home. As the oldest child, Karl helped care for the children and did many chores. He later delivered milk for his grandfather’s Walnut Grove Farm in Farmingville.

A top student at Hamilton High School (now RHS), he graduated in 1926, went to Harvard, and planned to become a minister. After getting a degree in government in 1930, he turned to journalism instead.

As a teenager he’d covered local events for The Press and area dailies. After college, he became a Danbury Evening News reporter and in 1935, married Dorothy Baxter, granddaughter of the founder of The Press in 1875. (They were later divorced.)

In 1937, Karl and his brother John bought The Press for $2,500. It was a struggle. With a baby daughter, “I didn’t have any money to invest,” Nash recalled. The two borrowed most of the money from jeweler Francis D. Martin.

“How John and I thought we could both ever make a living from this run-down $12,000-a-year-gross business, I don’t know,” he said. “But we went to work at it and worked hard. We put ourselves on the payroll at $25 a week and for months on end didn’t collect it.”

Over the years their company, Acorn Press, grew into a multi-million dollar group of eight, award-winning weekly newspapers. It merged in 1997 with the Hersam family’s weeklies from New Canaan to become Hersam Acorn and by 2005, they were publishing nearly 20 newspapers in three states. Most papers were sold in 2018 to Hearst Media.

John left in 1948 to buy other newspapers in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He died in 2013 at age 101.

In 1951 Karl married Elizabeth Grace Boyd, daughter of two novelists. The couple co-edited the newspaper for many years. Under their leadership, the Press reached nearly 90% of Ridgefield’s homes.

Active in town, Nash was on the school board for 20 years, 17 as chairman, served on school building committees, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and moderated countless Town Meetings. He wrote often about Ridgefield’s history and was chairman of the town’s huge 250th anniversary celebration in 1958. He was 84 when he died in 1992.

“Karl had a love and sensitivity for his home town that came from being not only a native son, but also a descendant of the founders and earliest settlers of the community,” said an editor who worked under him. “Generations of Ridgefield were in his blood.”— Jack Sanders.

(This is the final entry in Mr. Sanders’ Notable Ridgefielders column, running as a weekly contribution to The Press. Some 400 Notable Ridgefielders profiles are collected — along with much other interesting information — on his website: RidgefieldHistory.com.)