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Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

by Joe H. Smith

The first newspaper published in this county was in the summer of 1858, at the old town of Calhoun, by the Hon. Isaac Parrish, and was baptized The Harrison County Flag. It only lived for three issues, at which time it was brought to Magnolia and then purchased by Capt. W. M. Hill, who at that time was Clerk of the Courts.

Mr. Hill at this time purchased the residence then known as the Tom Barnett property, and the paper was published in this building for two years and a half, and kept flying at the mast head the name given by Parrish at Calhoun. The Captain was a very voluminous writer; so much so that it took the foreman and assistant, A. G. Hard and Mr. John Parrish, two-thirds of their time to decipher his hieroglyphics and bad orthography. During this time as above stated this paper was run in the interest of the Old Hickory Democracy, not so much with the intent of proselyting the Republicans as to keeping the faithful in line and have them all out on dress parade and at inspection on election day.

As before stated this sheet was kept alive for the term of thirty months, at which time it collapsed a flue and died for lack of Democratic support, when it was sold to some parties from Fremont in the State of Missouri, and taken to that place and there used in the fall or summer of 1861 in pumping treason to the johnnies at that location.

In the fall of 1859, Mr. D. E. Brainard purchased of the "House of Ephraim" (a class of people then located at the village called Preparation on the south line of Monona, and just across the north line of Harrison county) the press, type and fixtures of a paper which had been for one year and a half published at that place then known as Jehovah's Presbytery of Zion, and immediately removed the same to Magnolia and then started a paper which was named The Magnolia Republican, and had for its editoral staff a Mr. Ellis and G. R. Brainard. From that date to the present time (except for a short period in 1874) the county has not been without a Republican organ. In the fall of 1860, Mr. Ellis dying, left the sole management of this paper to Mr. Brainard, who not being possessed of a very active turn of mind, somewhat neglected the business of the editorial department, as well as not giving the strictest attention to the financial end thereof, the same sickened and dwindled to a simple state of approximate lifelessness, when Hon. Henry Ford purchased the outfit in 1862 and continued the publication of the paper until the summer of 1863, when he in turn sold out to one W. F. Benjamin, who advocated the Republican principles in a poor weak way until the spring of 1865, when Joe. H. Smith purchased the outfit, restocked the same with new type, changing the name to that of The Western Star, and in turn sold the entire "machine" in the summer of 1867 to Henry Cutler, who on the 1st of January, 1868, sold out to Mr. G. F. Waterman, who wielded the scissors until the summer of 1869, when Messrs. Musgrave and Cook purchased the good will and press, and then Cook sold his interest to Henry Cutler in the fall of 1870, and he then sold his interest to Mr. George Musgrave in 1871, at which time the paper was removed to Logan and published at that place until the fall of 1874, at which time the entire business was taken to Harlan by Musgrave and soon after disposed of by him. The Star "twinkled" for nine years and I may truthfully say that during all the time of its starring was never dimmed or gave an uncertain political light.

The Harrisonian was born into Harrison county, being on the day preceding the 4th of July 1868, under the especial care of the Hon. D. M. Harris, who gave his readers, from the first issue, simon pure, unadulteratecl Democratic doctrine, until the year of 1872, at which time he sold the paper and press to one M. H. Goltry, who, on assuming the editorial management thereof, changed the name to that of The Missouri Valley Times, by which name the same is published until this date. Mr. Goltry sold and transferred all his interest in the same to Gore & Cutler in 1874, who edited and published the same as an independent paper until 1876, at which time Mr. Harris returned to Missouri Valley, repurchased the paper and began anew to publish the same as a Democratic sheet. From that date to the present there has been no uncertain sound to the political rattle of this paper, but it has ever been a straight, honorable Democratic paper. True, the editor has at times honestly differed from his Democratic brethren as to the party measures, on the subject of prohibition, and has on one or two occasions changed front to rear, but at the present is as sound on this measure as the purest Republican sheet in the State.

In 1874 The Harrison County Courier was started at Magnolia and remained at that place until the month of September, 1875, at which time the magnetic influence of Logan cash drew this paper to Logan and it fell in with the "powers," advocating the interest of Logan as a coutity seat point. It is peculiarly curious that Magnolia can heap all her deprecations on one individual as to the change of the county seat and not stop long enough to glance at the real causes of such removal. Davison, the editor of The Courier, was furnished money by which to ship his press, fixtures and family from Illinois to Magnolia, and scarcely had he warmed the chair he occupied at that place until he rose, was on the wing, and lighted down in better feeding ground, at Logan. Here this paper was published in the interest of a certain element of the Republican party until the year 1880, when Henry Reel, Esq., the original proprietor of Logan, deeming himself and the public without a proper recognition, in the way of being heard through the press, sent to Chicago, purchased a new press, type, fixtures, etc., costing him an outlay in the sum of $3,000, and was about to set up a paper in which every man who, on a meritorious subject, wished to be heard through the columns of a paper, could find space for his production. This measure smoked Alpheus Davison out, and at the first effort he sold out his entire business to Mr. Reel, who assumed the control of The Courier, through the management of Mr. A. G. Hard.

In the editing of The Courier, by Davison, in the year 1879, many laughable incidents occurred which, by this time, possibly have passed from the minds of many of the people of the county, and perhaps never came to the knowledge of the greater part. It was this: at this time there were rival factions in the Republican ranks, and Davison, being a man who aimed to please every body and thereby, like all who take that shoot on public measures, disgusted and angered all; he would in one issue permit one side to be heard and perhaps the next issue would be "red-hot" for the opposite side, all appearing as "editorial." To the outsider, this cross firing was an enigma, not at first understood, but the modus operandi was this: that at, and while the paper was being run off the press, who ever could keep closest to the editor, and could get possession of the editorial nest, would be the person who would incubate the next week's hatching, as to his wrong so inflicted on the opposite faction, and hence the entire campaign was occupied by this Republican Kilkenny cat-figbt, to the disgust of good Republicans and the infinite amusetuent of all Democrats. They who resided at this time in Logan could tell the week previous what would be the tone and song of the next issue by the presence of such and such individual hanging to the elbow of this milk and water editor.

The Courier then passing into the ownership of Mr. Reel, as the sequal proved, was like the man who drew an elephant in a lottery, and when he had it, didn't know how to feed and handle the animal. Although he had a great abundance of money, those to whom he intrusted the editing of the paper and the management thereof put on such a head of editorial and financial steam that the running of the paper was like unto the Injun's gun; the cost overran the profits, so that in one year the editorial ambition of Mr. Reel was somewhat dampened, but being a man not vexed and disheartened by one failure, swapped editors, taking a man entirely unacquainted with the business, who, acting on his own convictions of certain subjects recently brought to light, and which has proved that his opinions were correct in fact and particular, became the target of those who would rule or ruin the the party, and as a result, the one wing of the Republican party brought to Logan another paper and had the same under their full control, and christened it Harrison County News.

Mr. Reel kept The Courier alive by a constant drain on his bank account until the year of 1885, when he leased the same to Mr. George Musgrave for the period of one year, at the end of which time the latter surrendered the material leased to the owner and set up a paper of his own and called the name thereof The Observer, which at present is the only paper published at the county seat. For six months after the starting of The Observer, The Courier was managed and edited by one J. K. Davisson, who as editor did very well, but as to the management so manipulated the business that at the end of six months Reel was over $600 managered out of cash.

Mr. Reel then shut up the shop and in 1887 sold the entire business, happy in the thought that for the little remainder of his life, he could live in peace, having dissipated $5,000 in the experiment of running a newspaper.

The Woodbine Twiner came into existence at Woodbine, at the beginning of 1879, was edited and managed by Mr. George Musgrave, the present editor of The Observer, and was by him, for a period of five years, edited in the interest of the Greenback party. When silver was monetized and the persons constituting this party had time to think, he, with scores of others, lapsed back into his old party, and since then has been the very ablest with his pen and pages in sustaining the principles of the Republican faith. In 1885, this paper was sold by the founder, to Rev. De Tar, who was helmsman until in the spring of 1887, when the editorial department and management was transferred to A.. C. Ford, who at the present is editing a very spicy, newsy and able paper under the old name of Woodbine Twiner.

The Dunlap Reporter was first founded and set on its pegs by Mr. George Musgrave and George R. Brainard, and while Mr. Brainard's name floated aloft at the masthead as editor and proprietor, the fact was that he did not possess a dollar's interest in press, type or fixtures, but the entire arrangement was owned by the former. This paper was, especially, published at Dunlap as an advertising medium at and during the primitive days of the place, and failed because of want of attention to legitimate business; not because the town would not furnish a sufficient support, but languished, by reason of the attention of the editor being bestowed on matters of such character that neither brought bread to the family nor patronage to the business.

Dunlap. from 1870 to the time the Milwaukee built the road to the east of the place, and when there were no railroads to the north, possessed such a trade as was the envy of the other parts of the county; but when the Maple River feeder and Milwaukee began running trains, and towns had sprung up along these lines, the place lost largely of her trade, not having that scope of country to draw from as formerly, and hence a decline in the matter of trade. Then, again, the managers of the road taking from this place the division, suspended the trade of all the railroad employes, which to the extent of the support of such, lessened the trade of the place.

At or about 1873, the concern was sold to L. F. Cook, who between campaigns, and when not engaged in canvassing the county for a nomination for Representative, gave his attention to the paper, and for the period of nine years so managed the same that a reasonably respectable paper was given to the patrons. The success of Mr. Cook in this undertaking was much better than was anticipated, from the fact that he entered the business with limited qualifications, both as to the matter of editing and managing such an enterprise.

In 1881, the last named editor sold The Reporter to Mr. Issacher Scofield, who, though a miller by occupation, manifested considerable entenprise and ability, but the trade winds from the county seat put brakes on his political aspirations; yet notwithstanding, much that was said and counseled by Mr. Scofield has been developed into self evident truths since the time of his departure from this county.

After the sale of the concern by Mr. Scofield, in 1885, the editing of the paper was for a while assumed by a maa by the name of Rogers, whose ability as an editor did not excel his ability in the pulpit, and at the early part of 1887, the business was purchased by Mr. J. H. Purcell, who, at the present, is showing greater ability than has ever been manifest in the editorial chair of The Reporter. This sheet has been, from the beginning, of the Republican faith, and has ever upheld the locality which has given it a magnificent support.

The Harrison County News, as above stated, being put into existence at Logan for the purpose of smoking out The Courier, had its first issue at and about the first day of April, 1881, and had a sort of lingering existence at the place last named until the beginning of 1884, when it was sold to a Mr. Ballou, who removed the same to Missouri Valley and issued a paper by the same name as that first given at Logan, for the period of two years, at which time the entire office was purchased by the present editor and publisher, A. H. Sniff. This sheet has ever been a sound Republican paper, and sticks to the interests of the present locality with a zeal quite commendable.

There are eight newspapers published in the county, and only the Hon. D. M. Harris, of The Times, and within the last two months Smith, of The Harrison County Democrat, to shout "Hurrah for the Old Hickory Democracy," which would suggest that Harris the old veteran would surrender at discretion to this educated superior force, but I heard him say at the last county convention, as he has said for twenty years, that if all others should desert from the old Democratic standard, there would be one left to keep it aloft as long as he lives.

He has this consolation: that whenever he is outgeneraled he calls to his assistance his masked battery on the banks of the Little Sioux, when the combined forces get "a little more grape."

The Independent was first published on the 1st of September, 1880, at Mondamin, in this county, and was then named The Mondamin Independent by Mr. D. W. Butts, the second oldest typo and editor in the county. This paper was and is independent in politics, and has shown a master mind in the matter and manner of handling political, religious, local and human subjects.

In 1884, Mr. Butts, for reasons of his own, changed the locus of The Independent and began in the summer of that year the publication of this paper at the handsomely located village of Little Sioux, and from that date to the present has not broken a joint in the publication of his paper.

This is the only newspaper in the county which has not changed hands, provided the same had existed for two years or more.

Some rivalry exists between Mr. Musgrave, of The Observer, and Mr. Butts, as to the fact who has been in the business the greater length of time, each claiming the honor. I will not now attempt to decide who is the senior in command, but suffice it to say that both have grown grey in the service, and both wield a terse, trenchant and educated pen.

Some time in the last decade, a paper was started at the Valley called The Defender, which was of such brief life that, not having accomplished any good, nor having caused any evil, time will not now be consumed in giving dates.

The Persia Post is a sheet which comes and goes in the vast expanse of this eastern atmosphere, like comet visits, to-day seen, and to-morrow, lost sight of; and while an issue of January, 1888, lies before me and exhibits taste and ability, I will wait until a second edition before making further comments.

The Harrison County Democrat, now published at Logan by R. V. Smith, and just started, is Democratic in politics, and bids fair to have a reasonable support. The editor is a new man, but is here for the present campaign, and perhaps longer.

This makes the eighth paper published in the county, and with a population of 25,000 some think it curious that all live; but each community appreciates the value of printer's ink, and, as a result, gives a good support to its individual organ.

Source:  History of Harrison County, Iowa, by Joe H. Smith, 1888
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