BREMER COUNTY'S FIRST NEWSPAPERS AND THEIR PUBLISHERS
As is well known by all, the first newspaper established in 'the county was the Waverly Republican, in March, 1856, a few weeks before I reached the county. The editor was Herman A. Miles, the proprietorship was lodged in W. P. Harmon. The office from which it was issued was over the hardware store of S. H. Curtis, in a frame building on the lot on which now stands the Curtis hardware store. The paper was a seven-column folio in style, all home print, for at that time the auxiliary sheets had not been discovered. Will Ed Tucker was printer, roustabout and foreman. "Tuck" left the Republican a year or so afterwards and went to Mason City to become foreman of the Cerro Gordo Republican, and was working on it when the Civil War began. He enlisted in Captain Coon's company of the 2nd Iowa cavalry and served full three years. Coon developed qualities that led to his promotion step by step until he had reached the colonelcy of the regiment before the war ended. He returned to Iowa and some years after moved to San Diego, Calif., where about two years ago, while hunting, he accidentally shot and killed himself.
On "Tuck's" return home he took up his old trade in the same office which he lef t to serve his country, and after a few years he started the Express and published it until his death, a dozen so years ago. When I went to the Republican at Mason City in 1876, we became contemporaries and had the pleasantest relations as long
as I stayed on the Republican, which I sold in 1883.
Capt. Miles managed and run the Waverly Republican for something like a year, when he sold his interest to Caesar Tarbox Smeed, of whom I have written in a former letter. In May of 1855 P. V. Swan, a lawyer, issued the first number of the Janesville Banner,* the first paper issued in the county. It only survived for a few weeks, and was called the Bremer County Herald. It was revived in November, 1856, by D. P. Daniels, as is stated in the note, but again lived for only a few weeks. It was the pride of the town, which at that date was the largest town in the county and was one of high ambitions and great expectations. It was on the main line of all travel on the west side of the Cedar and ·the east side of the Shell Rock rivers, for Janesville was the junction of the roads, and that year was one of large travel. Strings of immigrant teams .crossed the Cedar there, some passing up the river for points clear to the state line, others diverging on the Shell Rock river road, bound north to Clarksville, Marble Rock, Mason City, etc. This volume oftravel made Janesville very prominent, and then it seemed to be the coming town of all the section north of Cedar Falls, which was the "city" of a radius ofmany miles. Waterloo was not in it in comparison with Cedar Falls and Janesville.
Swan practiced law when business of that sort showed up, but most of his time was devoted to his paper that summer, but the cold Winter of 1856-57 froze the "innards" out of it. I believe it crippled along into 1857, when it was discontinued.
The third paper launched was in 1860, when Col. Wm. Pattee started the Bremer County Argus, as an organ of the democratic party, and especially as an antidote for Smeed's Republican. The war between them was on from the start and grew bitter and relentless. The burst of war on the county in April, 1861, changed the political status of scores ofmen. Up to that time I had been a democrat, more because of inheritance than from knowledge and conviction, and therefore my associations had been with the democratic party. My father was an ingrained, doubled and twisted democrat, by inheriting the virus from a Virginia father, and the strain reached the third generation. But the war segregated father's five boys from his party, and they all lined up as republicans, much to his mortification. What happened in our family happened in nearly all families, in many cases the father changed his politics with his sons.
The result of the upheaval left the democratic party a mere skeleton, as compared with its former robustness.
In March, 1857, G. C. Wright arrived in Waverly and established a law office at once. His arrival was an opportune one for him to step in as the head and leader of the party in the county, which he did, and held the place for many years. He was a Marylander by birth, and educated in the school of polities peculiar to all the southern states.
Col. Pattee's Argus published the delinquent lists in 1860 and 1861, given to him by W. W. Norris, the democratic county treasurer. In those days the tax list was "fat stuff" for the printer, often amounting to three to five hundred dollars. The hard times of the preceeding years made it utterly impossible for many of the people to pay their taxes, so about all the resident real estate was advertised for sale. When times got better lots of people found three or four years taxes accrued against their property, the accumulated costs and the interest amounting to nearly as much as the original tax.
Col. Pattee being a Bourbon democrat with very strong prejudices, he could not admit that the war was one of salvation for the country, but he classed it as a "Black abolition war," thus placing his paper and himself covertly, if not openly, against all efforts to subdue the rebellion. This position put him in opposition to twothirds or more of his party. The result was that his paper lost business, and early in '62 he suspended the publication, and the Argus went to the boneyard.
In the meantime, J. K. L. Maynard located in Waverly and soon bought the Republican from Smeed, who left for Washington, as I have stated in a former letter. Maynard was a lawyer by profession, a college man, and a splendid specimen of the Green Mountain state. He soon took rank as a leader in all the efforts of the town to advance. His office was located on the lot where the Masonic hall now stands, it was a cheap, wooden building and was burned, with all its contents, or nearly so, in the spring of 1862. It was a bad toss for Maynard, who was just getting started in life. Not much of value was saved, so he faced the problem of how to get a new outfit. As usual, W. P. Harmon was on hand to advise, manage, and pay, when necessary. The Argus had already passed out, to suffer the Republican to go was to have no paper in the town or county. After a few weeks a new outfit was installed and the paper appeared as the Waverly Phoenix arisen from the ashes. The change in the name did not appeal to the people, especially to the republicans. In response to the pressure the old name was restored and remained with it, until recently it became the Independent-Republican under theguiding hand of sturdy dear old Comrade Grawe, who never flinches nor frets.
About 1866 George. Lindley located in Waverly as a partner with
S. H. Curtis in the agricultural implement business, under the firm name of Curtis & Lindley, which relation continued for a year or so. Lindley was a man of much ability, well informed and of wide information. In politics he was a dyed-in-the-wool democrat, and aggressive in his methods of work for his party. He soon forged to the front as a leader and general. Mr. Wright had started the Waverly News some time after the discontinuance of the Argus. It was more of an organ than a newspaper. Wright did not give the paper much attention further than "to see it was ultra-democratic in its utterances. It crippled along in some way, but was continually on the ragged edge financially. Lindley sold out his interest in the firm of Curtis & Lindley and took over the News. For a time the change promised to make the paper a success and a leader as a local organ of all interests pertaining to the town and county. But after a time it fell back into the old groove of being strictly an organ. Lindley's convivial habits grew upon him and finally wore him out. He was found dead one morning in a stable north of Bremer avenue and east of State street, near the residence of Jas. P. Olds. His was a clear case ofsuicide by intoxicating drink.
After his death Wright again resumed the editorial duties and management ofthe News, which finally passed out, and from its ruins sprang the present clean, prosperous and newsy Democrat.
*As to date of establishment of the Banner I cannot say positively. My recollection is it was in May, 1856. I was in Janesvllle at that time, and the thought lingers in my mind that I was there when the first issue of the paper appeared. Unless some record proof is found to the contrary, I shall believe my statement is correct. It is a long time ago, but I may have slipped a cog. But my mind is pretty clear as to the fact. I recollect the boast of Sam Hook, As. Leverich, Ezra Fish, John T. Barrick and others, that "Waverly is not ahead of us now." If Dr. Loveland is alive, I think he will recollect, but I think he is gone. If so, I can't recall a single person who was there then. Mrs. Albert Webb may know, if her mind is clear, for I think she was there then. Dr. Bradford came a llttle later, in 1857, I think.
Last updated 10/7/2015
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