Excerpts from An Illustrated History of Monroe County, Iowa - 1896
CHAPTER VIII ~ THE PRESS.
The first paper established in Monroe County was called the Albia Independent Press. It was edited and published by A. C. Barnes, the father of the present proprietor of the Albia Union. The paper, which first made its appearance October 10, 1854, was independent in its political views, as it so stated. Yet it now and then exhibited a decided leaning towards the new Abolitionist party, which had not yet begun to gather to itself much popularity. In the issue of the Independent Press of September 26, 1855, the publisher has this to say of slavery:
"We have never deemed it our calling or duty to say much about slavery, though we have ever regarded it as an unavoidable evil to both master and slave, in the original slave States. But if slavery had not been extended and was not now being extended over the limits where it was when the Union was formed, we would probably scarcely ever speak or think of it, and we have hoped long since that its agitation would cease. When it had nearly ceased, after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, the patriots who had abhorred some features of that act had smothered their feelings of opposition and were quiet. Soon again pro slavery men opened afresh the agitation by their efforts to extend the area of slavery. We did not object to the slave owner with a posse from a slave State taking the fugitive slave back, but we do object to being made a party to assist him by compulsory laws, and then again a party to assist in procuring new slave territory, and not allowed to desist nor not allowed to say one word on pain of being called an abolitionist, and charged with endangering the Union. Nor will we consent to being gagged on any account. We would check fanaticism on the subject of slavery as we would on every other subject, and still preserve and defend the liberty of speech and the rights of conscience."
In the same issue were the minutes of the Agricultural Society. Jas. B. Turner, E. P. Cone, and John Phillips were the committee to award premiums on ox bows made with in the county; Robt. Saunders, E. M. Moore, and Jas. B. Turner were the committee on jacks and mules; and Wm. Robinson, Hillah Hayes, and Andrew Trussell the committee on stallions and brood mares.
Among the display "ads" in the Independent Press is one which reads:
"Beef Hides Wanted. - I will pay the highest price for any dry and green hides delivered to my shop on the south side of the Square, Albia. P. Morgan."
Morgan afterwards located in Des Moines, and built the Morgan Hotel, for a long time the largest hotel in the city.
Mr. Barnes, the publisher, was a most exemplary and pious gentleman, and had such a particular abhorrence to profanity that he states in a paragraph that it shocks him to hear boys swearing while playing on the streets. He concludes the paragraph by stating that it had been intimated to him that his own boys were beginning to swear. He assures the public that if there is any truth in the rumor, he will be sincerely thankful for being informed of it, and that he will not be offended. Evidently his friends were a little derelict in reporting any appearing tendencies towards juvenile profanity in the case of little Alpheus, or, at least it would appear that the proper corrective had not been interposed soon enough.
Mr. Barnes, in the issue of the Press of October 17, 1855, administers a little fatherly advice to T. B. Perry touching the evil of the young attorney's ways. He reproves him on two counts: one was for Mr. Perry's presumption in aspiring to the county judgeship, and the other was for procuring whisky "at the doggery kept near Bremen, with which to promote his interests in the campaign just prior to the August election." The kind-hearted editor states that Mr. Perry is still a young man, and that the opportunity is still open for him to live down his youthful errors. He pardons his offense, but expresses the fear that the young man is on the downward road. This thrust had been provoked by Mr. Perry having alluded to Mr. Barnes as a "Know Nothing" in a speech at a big Democratic rally at Albia.
Mr. Barnes conducted the Press until the 17th of June, 1857, when it suspended.
The Weekly Albia Republican made its appearance November 5, 1857, under the management of W. W. Barnes, a son of the pioneer journalist and a senior brother of A. R. Barnes, the present proprietor of the Albia Union, and C. E. Topping. After running four months, Topping went to Michigan to visit his relatives and obtain funds to pay for his interest in the paper. He never returned; and Stephen R. Barnes bought the interest of his brother W. W., and published the sheet until 1859, when he sold the paper to Josiah T. Young and T. B. Gray. Young called the paper the Monroe County Sentinel. The Republican was uncompromising in its opposition to the extension of human slavery. It made vehement assaults on Buchanan and his tardiness or inaction with regard to checking the rapidly advancing crisis of -1. In one issue the publisher calls upon Congress to impeach Buchanan.
The Sentinel, under the management of Messrs. Young and Gray, was Democratic in politics.
In the Sentinel of May 25, 1861, is a leading editorial, called forth by threats of mobbing the Sentinel office. The publisher protests his loyalty to the Union, and points out the grave consequences liable to ensue in case the Sentinel office or its publishers should be molested by a mob. Mr. Young by this time had retired from the paper as editor, although he still owned it.
In another issue is published the proceedings of the Urbana Township Democracy in a meeting assembled to discuss the war question. The sense of the meeting was that the only feasible plan of settling the momentous question was by peaceful diplomacy; civil war was unjustifiable and inimical to constitutional liberty as established by our forefathers, etc. While the position taken by the Democracy of Urbana Township at the time may have been located on the extreme limit of the border line between pro and anti slavery, their public meetings and utterances do not indicate an approval or endorsement of the secession movement then assuming form in the Southern States. They did not believe it was right for the South to withdraw from the Union, and at the same time they felt that it was usurpation of power for the North to hold the South in bonds of union against its wishes. In short, the Democratic party of 1860-61 persisted in their entreaties to persuade the South to stay in, if possible, but if not, then the Lincoln administration at Washington should not hinder their withdrawal by force of arms.
Later on, the sentiments of the publishers of the Sentinel (J. T. Young and J. H. Denslow, the latter having taken Mr. Gray's place) seem to gradually modify in behalf of the expedient of suppressing the Rebellion by force of arms. In the issue of the Sentinel of September 28, 1861, the paper says, in an editorial:
It is necessary to fight for the country, and the hotter the war the sooner peace. We have been, and are yet, in favor of using all proper means for the restoration of the Union and preservation of all our rights under the Constitution, but would much rather that we could get along without a bloody war. But the fortunes of war are upon us, and fight we must!
The Sentinel, however, in commenting on a prevalent rumor that the President and Cabinet had taken under advisement the question of acknowledging the Southern Confederacy, makes this remark: "Under existing circumstances, this is the best thing the new Administration can do towards settling our difficulties peaceably."
The columns of the Sentinel from 1860 to 1861 are largely taken up with reports of meetings called to discuss the war topic. They are termed "Union meetings," and were participated in by men of all parties. Fort Sumter had been fired upon. Most of those in the North who had hitherto hoped for a peaceful adjustment of the dispute, and who had bitterly censured the President and his Cabinet, now united on common grounds with those who had espoused the cause of the North from the start.
The Sentinel suspended on the 2nd of November, 1861.
The Jeffersonian Blade was a contemporary of the Sentinel, and was Republican in politics. It was established January 26, 1860, by James Noffsinger. In May, 1861, Noffsinger retired, and Geo. Hickenlooper and Aaron Melick assumed the management.
It would appear that pioneer life was not without its social festivities. The Blade publishes a card from A. C. Barnes, announcing that he would serve watermelons at his home two and one half miles east of Albia, on Friday afternoon of the 24th instant, at 4 o'clock. All who could not come on that date were requested to come on the following Tuesday afternoon.
The Blade of October 15, 1861, announces to its patrons that in consequence of one of its publishers, Mr. Melick, having gone to Iowa City for a few days to visit with friends and relatives, there would "be no paper next week."
The Blade ceased to exist October 15, 1861, and up from its ashes, phoenix like, rose the Albia Weekly Gazette, published by Melick and Young. In January, 1862, Melick retired and Mr. Young ran the paper until the following April, when he laid down his pen and took up his musket in defense of the Union, and in the years that followed his political sentiments were changed and his party faith rechristened by the "baptism of fire."
The Weekly Albia Union, the well-known Republican organ of Monroe County of today, was established by Matthew A. Robb, May 20, 1862. The sheet then, as now , was Republican in politics.
The columns of the Union during the war period were filled chiefly with war news from the front. No other topic was of interest to the people. The soldier boys wrote letters home for publication, from the scenes of hostility. The telegraphic wires were charged day and night with reports of the movements of the armies. Mothers watched the papers eagerly for the list of "killed and wounded," or to read the "latest telegraphic news."
The Union of March 26, 1863, contains an editorial concerning an organization known as the "Golden Circle," an alleged organization composed of rebel sympathizers. Following is the article:
Any society formed for the overthrow of this Government can have but a temporary existence. Such associations may do us much harm and materially embarrass the designs of government, but they never can permanently resist its power and effectually supplant it. The Knights of the Golden Circle exist here, and in most of the townships throughout the county, but nobody fears them except as they do the midnight assassin or the torch of the incendiary. Whatever of evil they will ever accomplish, at most, cannot go far beyond the destination of a small amount of private property and the secret assassination of a few individuals. Even this would be a melancholy state of affairs, but no one would deem such disasters equal to the great calamity which must befall us if this Government is destroyed. The leaders of the Copperhead Democracy pretend to be ignorant of any such associations, and deny that they have any knowledge of their existence, but they cannot cover up and conceal the monster deformity and loathsome organization by any such mild pretense.
While the name was familiar to every one, the existence in Monroe County of such an organization was probably a myth. In the first place, those identified with the movement would have been apprehended by the loyal citizens of the county, and, under the high tension of excitement existing at the time, would have been roughly dealt with. Public sentiment was so wrought up that it is quite probable that if any secret movement had been undertaken, to furnish aid and comfort to the South, the promoters of the movement would have been apprehended and lynched. The public brain was heated to madness, and in the blindness of intense partisan feeling many of these acrimonious charges made by the respective political parties against each other had no real foundation.
The "Golden Circle" was a real organization in some parts of the North and it may be true, and indeed quite likely, that it had its agents at work throughout the country, but in thinly settled localities like Monroe County, where most people were loyal to the Government, it would have been impossible for the emissaries of the "Golden Circle" to have established a working foothold. It is stated on reliable authority that an organization of this kind existed at Blakesburg, just over the county line in Wapello County. The term was used more as a malediction against the more active and partisan Democrats of the county than anything else, as nearly every noted Democrat was branded as a Knight of the Golden Circle.
The Union of March 3, 1864, contains a letter written by Rev. Jacob Wyrick, of Monroe County, to Jacob Hittle, a soldier of the Thirty-Sixth Iowa Infantry, stationed with his regiment near Little Rock. As the letter discusses the subject of human slavery from a scriptural standpoint, we copy it just as it appeared in the Union. The reverend gentleman's orthography is decidedly unique, and we forbear to attempt to reconstruct it.
Monroe County Iowa, Dec. 13, 1863.
Dear brother, - I take my pen in hand to let you now that I am well at the present and all of my family and yours was also well last Monday. I was thare and saw all of them, and we talked of you, and I red the speach that you sent home, part of that speach is good when he gives it to all the high officers, I think that he tells the truth but when he attempts to justify the linkion prolamation and amansipation then he leaves the truth and the law of god for him and all the mansipations cant read in gods word and justify it, if they can I want them to turn down a lief and gave me the chapter and verse so that I may read it too for I say it cant Be found only by them that says that Sprinklinge of Baybies is baptism will you please read the 13 and 14 chapters of pauls letter to the romans here You see he commands no man to be a Judge of another mans servants of his own master and now we thousands put themselves up as Judges of another mans servants of his own master O may god help me to turn from disobedience to serve the only and true god by obedience to his lawes.
Thence turn with me to the 6 chapter of effisians and 5 verse and hear you finde that thay are commanded to obey thare masters and if these abolishen can sho me that it is the word of god that telles us that it is rong to rule over them we will be Able to show them that the lord conterdicts himself but I as a man say that no man can do it, thence turn with me to the 4 chapter of Collassians and first verse and here you sea that the lord through the apostle commanded the masters to give thare servants that wich was just and equal now if it was rong as the abolishens say then the lord would have sed set him free but remember wel that no man can sho that and turn down the liefs whare the spirits sed so. thence turn with me and read the sixth chapter of the first timothy and hear the lord speak to many servants to count thare own masters worthy of all oner so if god sayes thay are worthy of all oner why do Gault and all other abolishen say that it is no oner may god spare them for denying his word is my prayer for them all.
makel and debby and all the family is well I want you Both to receive my love and remember me until death I pray that you may get back home safe Brother it does seam strange to me to read your solem letters and read in them that you desire the struggle to go on and hear that you voted for stone when he is aposed to peace on any termes untill the last visage of slavery is wiped out. o brother why will men vote for the cuse that will keep them from thare wives and children and vote for the dagger to be pushed on that pearces ther one hartes. I want you to show this letter to all the abolishen and tell them to anser me I pray for you and I want you to pray for me I am yours truly
On the 7th of August, 1862, Mr. Robb retired from the Union, he enlisted in the Twenty-Second Iowa Infantry, and was killed at Vicksburg. M. V. Brown bought the sheet, and Geo. W. Yocum did the editorial work. In 1863 G. W. and B. F. Yocum became editors and proprietors. In 1865 Val Mendal purchased this plant, and five years later he took C. M. Clapp in with him as editor and partner. When Mr. Clapp retired, in 1872, C. L. Nelson took editorial charge and did all of the editorial work, Mr. Mendal being the sole owner of the paper.
In 1882 Tom Hutchinson succeeded Mr. Nelson as editor for a short time, and on October 5th of the same year Mr. Mendal sold the paper to Hon. J. T. Young and son. These gentlemen conducted the paper until April 17, 1884, when ex-Lieutenant Governor M. M. Walden bought the concern. Mr. Walden had Congressional aspirations at the time, and did not assume active management of the paper. Mr. Young continued as the editorial writer, and Frank Hickenlooper acted as local editor for a time.
On March 4, 1886, Walden sold the paper to Alpheus R. Barnes, who has been the sole editor and proprietor up to the present  time. Mr. Barnes has been at the helm for the greatest length of time of any of the Union's former proprietors. He is assisted quite efficiently by his son Horace, a young man of strict integrity and of considerable promise, well calculated to take up the cudgel in behalf of the public welfare and good government whenever age shall require the senior member to lay it down.
Mr. Barnes has his paper located in a handsome and well equipped brick building on the southeast corner of the Square, and owns the block as well as the newspaper plant. He is a veteran in journalism, and will doubtless die in the harness, a natural death. His bold and aggressive methods of conducting a paper have won for him some enemies, which would be an inevitable consequence with anyone conducting a high mettled sheet for so long a time. Whatever may be said of Mr. Barne's qualifications as a journalist, he has a wide circle of staunch supporters, and is a high minded gentleman, was a brave and loyal soldier, and is the head of one of the best and most highly esteemed families in the State.
The Albia Republic was a Democratic paper, started by A. C. Bailey in August, 1868. It existed for about a year, when the plant was purchased by Messrs. Ragsdale and Hills. The Republic was a fair and faithful exponent of the Democratic doctrine, and might have established itself permanently had it not been that the Democratic support within the county at that time was very meager.
Ragsdale and Hills converted the concern into a Republican paper, under the name of The Spirit of the West. The sheet made its first appearance December 1, 1869. In 1870 Hills withdrew, and one E. B. Woodward took his place. In June of the same year Woodward was succeeded by C. McConnell, and in October of the same year a man named Brown succeeded McConnell. In April, 1871, I. S. Carpenter and C. C. Berger bought the paper, and in the same year B. F. Yocum succeeded Mr. Berger. In 1872 Yocum retired and left the concern solely to Carpenter. In 1872 Ben F. Elbert identified himself with Carpenter, and James Haynes became editor. January 16, 1874, J. C. Peacock & Company bought the plant and ran it six weeks, and then sold it to W. H. McConnell & Company, who removed it to Kearney, Nebraska. The publication led a checkered existence from first to last; not so much from incapacity on the part of its managers as from the fact that the local field could not support two Republican papers, and it was impossible for The Spirit of the West to gain a permanent foothold where the Albia Union held the patronage.
In 1874 the Reform Weekly Leader made its appearance under the management of Porte Welsh. The sheet was very rambling in its political tenets, and did not espouse any party cause in particular while under the management of Mr. Welsh. It was published simultaneously at Albia and Oskaloosa. On April 18, 1874, R. Tell Coffman bought the Albia concern, and J. M. Humphrey acted as associate editor. It finally, in 1874, espoused the cause of the Democratic party, but early in 1875 it collapsed.
The Albia Reporter was the next newcomer in Monroe County journalism. It was established by G. N. Udell and G. C. Miller. April 10, 1875, and professed to be independent in politics, but soon enlisted under the banner of Horace Greeley and the Liberal Democrat movement of that year. It did not run longer than a few months.
The next paper to attempt to attain the "north pole" of journalistic success in Monroe County was the Industrial Era, which made its appearance in 1875. F. A. Mann leased the plant from Geo. C. Fry, of Batavia, Jefferson County, Iowa, who had conducted it as a Grange organ. Mann converted it into a Greenback paper, and ran it until August 14, 1879, when he retired and his place was taken by Geo. Tucker, of Albia, who ran it for four months in the interest of the Greenback party. D. M. Clark, of Wayne County, was running for State senator that fall, on the fusion ticket, and Monroe County was carried by that gentleman, largely through Mr. Tucker's efforts.
In the latter part of 1879 Geo. Stamm leased the Era and continued it as a Greenback organ until May, 1882, when he retired. His paper made a strong fight to secure the enactment of the Iowa prohibitory amendment, which was voted upon by the people of the State on June 27, 1882.
The Albia Era, as it had been named by Stamm, was now leased from its owner, Mr. Fry, by Henry J. Bell, a brilliant young student and ardent advocate of Federal fiat money. Mr. Bell conducted the paper a year, and was succeeded by H. E. Davis, of Bloomfield. Davis staid (sic) with the Era a short time, and finally Mr. Foster, the well known weather prophet, succeeded as publisher. The paper expired and was never resurrected when Foster let go of it. The Era was never a success financially.
E. O. Davis, at about this time, established The Opinion, a sheet in the interest of the Union Labor party, but it died down in a few months. Wallace Miner had charge of it for a short time. The paper was a failure financially.
In 1876 O. H. Wood established The Plaindealer at Melrose. The following year it was transferred to Albia and conducted as a temperance paper. It finally became a Democratic organ, but in 1878 it collapsed. A short time afterwards Tom Leonard revived the sheet as a Democratic organ.
John Doner, in 1879, took charge of the plant and started the Albia Democrat, running it about three years. Some time later, after the paper had become defunct, Hon. T. B. Perry, and perhaps other leading Democrats in the county, bought the plant, and placed its management in the hands of Messrs. Weber and Howard. These gentlemen built the concern up into a thrifty party organ. Mr. Weber was the most adroit and active party manager the Democrats have ever had in Monroe County. He proved to be a Moses to lead them out of political bondage. By his efforts the county was carried by his party; and under Mr. Cleveland's first term of the Presidency he was given the Albia office. Mr. Howard, his partner, attended to the local and mechanical departments, and besides being a first rate printer, was a talented writer, especially in a light, humorous vein. Both gentlemen are now located in Utah.
In 1890 they sold out to W. E. Cherry, a gamey young newspaper man from the western part of the State. Mr. Cherry conducted the paper as a Democratic organ until 1894, when it was purchased by D. R. Michener, who in 1895 sold it to Campbell Brothers. These gentlemen did not succeed with it, and later in the year Frank Morris acquired an interest in the Democrat.
Early in the spring of the present year  H. M. Belvel and H. H. Crenshaw, both of Des Moines, bought the Democrat, and are now publishing it. Mr. Belvel is a newspaper man of more than ordinary literary ability, and spends part of his time in Des Moines editing a syndicate letter, which is supplied to about seventy five Democratic weeklies throughout Iowa. He is high strung and aggressive in the enunciation of his party creed. He is the newspaper correspondent whom Senator Finn, of Bedford, chastised some years ago at the Capitol at Des Moines for publishing some malodorous statement concerning the latter.
In 1889 Messrs. Mendal and Nelson, both well-known veterans in local journalism, launched the Albia Herald, a Republican paper. They ran it a few weeks and then sold it to a Mr. Cider, who continued it for about a year as a Republican sheet, when it succumbed through a lack of patronage.
The concern was well managed, but it was impossible for it to establish itself in the territory of so formidable a rival as the Union, whose right of priority seemed to be so well recognized by the public that it felt indifferent to the welfare of the newcomer.
When Mr. Crider abandoned the Herald, Hal Holesclaw and Mark Sylvester took hold of the plant and started a small independent daily, called the Albia News. It lived only about three weeks, and then collapsed.
In 1890 M. M. Hinton established the Monroe County Progress in the town of Lovilia. It was conducted as an independent paper, but disclosed a slight tendency towards the Populist party.
In 1891 Messrs. Gass and Swayne started a Populist organ at Albia, called The People's Defender, and in 1892 Mr. Hinton brought his plant to Albia and consolidated it with the Defender, the organ thus united taking the name of The Progress Defender. It is the official organ of the Populists of the county. Mr. Hinton is its sole publisher and proprietor.
The Albia Republican was launched at Albia, October 24, 1894, by the Whittaker Brothers, a pair of journalistic hustlers from Oklahoma Territory. It started as a Republican paper, but was an advocate of the free and unlimited coinage of silver, a position which the Populists and major portion of the Democratic party espoused in 1895 and 1896. Finding that these views did not meet the endorsement of the Republican party, the manager soon ceased the championship of free silver, apparently without any qualms of conscience.
In July, 1896, the Whittakers sold the paper to Val Mendel and a gentleman named Sebille, from Bedford, Iowa. These gentlemen are now managing the sheet, endeavoring to place it on a paying basis. It is issued both daily and weekly, and is a nice, clean sheet.
When the Whittakers sold the sheet, Charles, one of the firm, located in California, and is now publishing a small paper, called The Olive Branch, at the town of Cucamonga. Harry, the other brother, remained at Albia a few weeks, and, becoming involved in a social scandal, left for parts unknown, leaving his wife behind. While the Whittakers had control of the Republican, they made a vigorous effort to secure the county printing. Wagons and bicycles were awarded to the person securing the greatest number of subscribers to their paper. The Board of Supervisors, on the face of the sworn subscription list of the three local papers, awarded the county printing to be placed with the Progress Defender and Republican. The Albia Union contested the award, and carried it into the District Court for trial. The jury failed to agree, and a new trial is now pending.
The Union alleged that several hundred of the Republican's certified yearly subscribers were not bona fide, as they were 25-cent subscribers. The Republican's list exceed that of the Union by several hundred, and this excess, the Union alleged, was made up of 25-cent subscribers. The Union also alleges fraud. There was but little doubt that the Republican's subscription list was made up largely of 25-cent subscriptions, and whether these should be recognized as bona fide yearly subscriptions is a problem for the courts to decide.
In addition to the secular press of the county, the Messenger Publishing Company of Albia have lately started a small weekly in quarto form, going by the name of The Messenger. Its staff of publishers consists of L. J. Harrington office editor; E. G. Powers, associate editor; and F. K. Morris, business manager. The publication is devoted exclusively to religious topics, and is an exponent of the modern doctrine of "holiness," or entire sanctification.
Source: Hickenlooper, Frank. An Illustrated History of Monroe County, Iowa: A Complete Civil, Political, and Military History of the County, From Its Earliest Period of Organization Down to 1896. Chapt. 8. p. 133-53. Albia, Iowa. 1896.
Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2010