Life in the late 1800s as a Washington DC newspaperman was no walk in the park. At least not for my gg grandfather Herbert A. Preston. Here is the text from an article that appeared in Helena Independent (probably picked up from a wire service) in March 1891 about his discharge from the Washington, DC office of the New York Herald.
Herbert A Preston, who was suddenly relieved the other day of control of the New York Herald’s Washington office, is one of the old men on the paper. For fifteen years, although Charles Nordhoff has been the head of the bureau here, Preston has borne the responsibility and ate at the news desk night after night. Why he was dropped no man knows. It is one of those things that happen on the Herald now and then to prove that it has an owner and perhaps to scare the men who are left into greater effort. The queerest thing about it is that the best men are the ones who are visited with sudden dismissal.
Preston made an especially good record during the sickness of President Garfield. The Herald all through the summer of 1881 surpassed all other papers in the fullness and accuracy of its reports of the wounded man’s condition. Most of this success was due to Preston’s acquaintance with a young drug clerk in the store where the president’s doctors sent their prescriptions.
Every night Preston knew what the physicians and surgeons had sent for and as a geologist constructs and restores an extinct species from a single stone, the Herald correspondent from the hieroglyphics of the medical men made up his story of the president’s condition. If ether was ordered he knew cutting was being done. If stimulants were sent for he knew the patient was worse; if no extraordinary drug was needed or none at all, the indications were hopeful. From such a slender thread of fact the Herald’s whole circumstantial story depended and a strong imagination made the daily account the best we had.
Herbert Augustine Preston died in May 1893. His obituary ended with a request that each newspaperman of the city contribute 50 cents so they could purchase a headstone for his grave. Although the obituary reported that his last mortal remains were laid to rest in a private ceremony at Mount Olivet Cemetery, he is actually buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Was he originally buried at Mount Olivet and then moved? Or was the newspaper mistaken?
According to the records of the Arlington National Cemetery, he, his wife, Annie McNabb Preston, who died in November 1930 and his daughter Theodora Preston, who died in October 1966, are buried there.