, Iowa History Center


History of , Iowa, 1881




     For many years after the organization of there was no newspaper published with in its borders. The citizens were nearly all subscribers to papers published at the former homes, and many of them were readers of the Iowa State Register, the Burlington Hawkeye, which was depended upon for the latest news, the Council Bluffs Nonpareil and the Bugle of the same city, while the St. Louis, Chicago and St. Joseph newspapers also had patrons at every post office. The only representative the county had in Newspaperdom was the Corning Sentinel, a newspaper published at Corning, Adams county, by D. N. Smith and edited by the inimitable genius, L. Raguet. The Sentinel was established in 1858 or 1859. It contained a column devoted to interests, which was filled with correspondence from Frankfort and other points in this county. It required the united support of the citizens of Adams and Montgomery counties to enable the Sentinel to stand at its post, but despite the favor with which it met -- attributable in great part to the sparkling wit -- and brilliant humor of its irrepressible Democratic editor it eventually gave up the ghost. Mr. J. B. Packard was the Sentinel's chief contributor from this county.

     The project of staring a newspaper in this county was frequently talked of at Frankfort prior to the removal of the county seat. At the close of the war, and a year or two thereafter, when Red Oak Junction had become the capital f the county, the enterprise was again discussed from time to time, but nothing of importance done.

     March 28, 1868, the first copy of a newspaper ever printed in the county was struck at Red oak Junction.  It was called the Express. Mr. Webster Eaton was the editor and proprietor. The paper was a seven column sheet,  bright, sparkling and newsy. It was republican in politics, and in the presidential campaign  of the first year of its existence, supported with great warmth the ticket headed by Grant and Colfax. It had an average weekly circulation during its first year of about four hundred subscribers. Many democrats of the county were its patrons, in spite of its politics, for local and other considerations.

       The first two or three numbers of the Express were printed at Quincy, Adams county, and the press and material on which it was there printed were afterwards used in printing it in Red Oak. The following spring were afterwards used by some prominent men of the county to assist Mr. Eaton in his enterprise. Mr. R. M. Roberts rode over the county and secured many subscriptions to the new paper, and others rendered quite valuable assistance. The paper received something in the way of public patronage by being awarded the publication of the laws of the state and the proceedings of the board of supervisors, together with the tax list and other county printing.

       Mr. Eaton continued sole editor and proprietor of the paper until November 10, 1871, when he sold it to B. E. A. Simons. February 20, 1872, Mr. Simons sold a half interest to W. F. Eastman. May 15, 1872 Mr. Z. T. Fisher purchased Simons remaining half interest , and the firm of Fisher and Eastman continued the publication of the journal until November 15, 1872, when they sold to Joel and W. S. Mayne. Thereafter Mr. J. Mayne was the real editor and publisher of the paper although the firm was known as J. Mayne & Co. Mr. Mayne was an old newspaper man. Prior to 1860 he had been editor and proprietor of the Keosauqua Republican, at Keosauqua, Van Buren county, and had presided over its columns for many years. He conducted the Express until June 1, 1880, when he sold to Hunter & Co., the latter firm being composed of W. A. and S. C. Hunter, respectfully, father and son, formerly of Oskaloosa. December 16, 1880, the paper passed into the hands of its present proprietor, Mr. John M. Killets, latterly of Bryan, Ohio, a young republican journalist of good ability, culture and zeal. The Express is printed on a press said to have considerable history connected with it. It formerly printed the LaCrosse (Wisconsin) Democrat, published by the noted, if not notorious, M. M. (Brick) Pomeroy, and was the first power printing press ever owned by him. It was also the first power press used in Council Bluffs.

      There is an excellent job printing office connected with the paper. The circulation of the Express is about 1,200. Its subscription price is $1.50 per year.

      Webster Eaton, the first to own and publish a paper in , after selling out here, went to Kearney and Lincoln, Nebraska. He engaged in the newspaper business at Lincoln, and at other points on the State, publishing no less than three different newspapers at the same time, but at different places, and afterwards held a position in one of the Federal land offices in that State. He is present residing in New York City.

      B. E. A.  Simons now resides near Red Oak.

      Mr. Joel Mayne, as has been stated, is an old newspaper man. He came to Keosauqua, Van Buren county, about the year 1857, and a short time thereafter became editor and proprietor of the Keosauqua Republican. Mr. Mayne was a pioneer if not a charter member of the Republican party, and has been of great service to that party. He has never been an office-seeker, but on one occasion, when he was a candidate for clerk of the courts, but learned that political parties, like republics, are often ungrateful.




      In 1872, a daily edition to the Express was started and published  until 1873. It was a six-column sheet, and had an average circulation of probably 300 copies.




      The first number of the Red Oak Record was issued June 5th, 1871, by John S. Stidger, of Keosanqua, Van Buren county. Mr. Stidger had been editor and publisher of the Keosauqua Republican some years before the beginning of the war. He was a captain in the third Iowa cavalry, and a brave and gallant soldier. The citizens of Columbus, Georgia, will ever hold him in grateful remembrance for the magnanimity and generosity with which he treated them when provost marshal of their city immediately after its capture by General Wilson, in the spring of 1865. He repressed all acts of vandalism and lawlessness, and while obliging the people to respect the Federal authority, did not cause them to dread it.

      The first office of the Record was in Evan's building, west side of the public square, Red Oak. When first started the paper was a seven-column folio, and was independent in politics. It supported the Democratic ticket, headed by Judge J. C. Knapp, of Van Buren county, for governor, in 1871 - the editor's familiar acquaintance with and high personal regard for the Judge doubtless influencing the course of the paper to a considerable extent. The paper continued its independent character politically and otherwise until, in the fall of 1874, when it came squarely out of favor of the principals of the Republican party, which it has ever since advocated.

       In the Fall of 1875, the Record was enlarged  to an eight-column paper, 26 x 40 inches, at which it is still published. In 1876, Captain Stidger associated with him his son, C. W. Stidger, and September 23, 1880, the firm became Stidger Bros., Captain Stidger retiring from the field.

       July 8, 1879, the first number of the Daily Record was published. The paper was and is a folio in form, containing six columns to the page. It is the only daily paper now published in the county. Both the daily and the weekly Record are printed on a power printing press, and there is a good job printing office in connection, presided over by R. C. Stewart, Esq. The circulation of the weekly Record is about 1,000 copies; of the daily about 225. Subscription price of the weekly, $1.50 per year; of the daily, twenty cents per week. The present office is on the east side of the public square.





     The Red Oak Democrat was established by Wm. C. Stigder in 1879. As its name indicates, it has always been Democratic in its politics. Mr. Stidger had for the motto of his paper this legend: "Democratic at all times and under all circumstances,"  and the editor's choice for president of the United States as announced at the head of his editorial columns prior to the nomination of General Hancock in 1880, was Samuel J. Tilden. Mr. Stidger died in August, 1880. A biographical sketch of this gentleman will be found on another page of this history.

      September 8, 1880, Messrs. Lineham & Esser purchased the office of the Democrat. These gentlemen were formerly conductors of the Ackley (Iowa) Times, and Mr. Linehan was for many years connected with the Dubuque Herald. When first started the Democrat was a seven-column paper, and the office was in the postoffice block, but it was afterward enlarged to eight columns to the page, and the office removed to Moriarity's building, north side of the square, Red Oak. February 18, 1881, these gentlemen gave up the struggle, suspended publication of the Democrat, said the material of the office was for sale, and that henceforth they should work with the Republican party. Their valedictory made quite a sensation in Red Oak at the time.

      The first Democratic paper in the county was the New Era, which was established at Red Oak in february, 1786, by Captain H. M. Hall. In the fall of 1877, it was consolidated with the People's Telephone





    September 7, 1877, the first number of the People's Telephone was issued. Mr. G. Dennis was the editor and proprietor of the paper. It was to advocate the principals of the then new national greenback labor party, and right well has it performed its work. The nomenclature of newspapers has always been more fanciful than appropriate. Very slow going journals are frequently called "Express," "Telegraph," and other names indicating celerity and briskness, while many another paper is christened the "Statesman," though why no person is ever able to discover.

    Mr. Dennis chose to call his paper the Telephone, after the new instrument which had just then been invented and brought into successful use.

    The first office was on the northeast corner of the northwest corner of the public square. The paper was an eight column sheet when first established. It rapidly came into favor with the members of the greenback party throughout southwestern Iowa generally, and attained a considerable circulation in other counties. It was ably and vigorously edited and well printed.

    In the spring of 1879, Capt. H. M. Hall, an old printer and practical newspaper man, became a partner with Mr. Dennis. The paper had been enlarged to a nine column sheet the previous February. December 3, 1879, the paper was sold to Capt. N. W. Cook, formerly of Bloomfield, Davis county, and a gallant officer of the 3d Iowa cavalry in the war for the Union. His paper purports to have a circulation of 1,200 copies, at a subscription price of $1.50 per annum. An excellent job printing office is run in connection. Early in February, 1881, in the case of Hall and Dennis vs. Cook, before the circuit court, the petition of the plaintiffs that a receiver be appointed to sell the Telephone newspaper was granted. R. M. Roberts Esq., was appointed receiver and was instructed to continue the publication of the paper until the June session of the court, if not sold before.

      A paper called the Enterprise was started at Elliott, in Sherman township, By O. C. Bates, a short time before the election in 1880. It was printed for two months; then was printed for two months at the Record office, in Red Oak, but is now not published.




     The first paper published here was by a company of citizens consisting of Dr. F. Cooper, G. H. Pulver, John Patten, Joseph Mann and L. N. Gordon. It seems to have been some sort of a private or personal affair. Name and date of the paper were not obtained; it is said only two numbers were issued.

     The Villisca Journal was started in the spring of 1869, by W. T. Sherman, editor and proprietor; politics, republican. It kept up about eighteen months , then died and went to newspaper heaven.  

      A seven-column paper called the Villisca Enterprise, was started by T. F. Willis; he issued two numbers, with the following notice attached for those to whom he sent copies of his sheet:


"If any objection, return the paper and state reasons why."


It is told that the papers were all returned, with all sorts of serio-comic "reasons why" written on the margins. The poor editor wilted. The date of those papers was not obtained.

       The The Weekly Iowa Mercury was started July 14th, 1871; it was a six-column paper, and both sides were printed at home, which was a point of special pride with the publisher, as much the greater portion of county newspapers are what is called "auxillary sheets" - that is, one side of it printed at Des Moines, or Chicago, or Omaha, or Kansas City, or some other place, where one side of more than a hundred different county papers are all printed from the same type, the sheets thus half printed being furnished to the country editor about as cheap as he could buy the raw white paper. This system has its advantages and it has its evils; the historian states the fact, but does not discuss or state which way is the better way. The Mercury appears to have been a company enterprise, for the name of Thomas S. Kames stands as editor and manager, and six numbers were issued  as a six-column paper, then it was enlarged to a seven-column paper.

      On the 25th of August, 1871, Wm. E. Loy bought out the company and conducted the paper until March 7, 1872, calling it independent in politics.

      At the last date above mentioned the name was changed to Villisca Review, it was still "independent," and a seven-column sheet; but August 1, 1871, it was enlarged to eight-column size. From April, 1874, till September, 1875, Mr. H. G. Thurman was the editor; he made it a republican paper and it has continued so ever since. In September, 1875, Mr. C. K. Kennedy took charge of it as editor and proprietor. November 15, 1877, Mr. A. E. Powers bought a one-half interest in the paper, and since that time it has been conducted under the firm name of Powers & Kennedy. The Review is a staunch advocate of the interests, prosperity, morality and home news of Villisca and all the region round about. Terms $1.50 per year.

     The Villisca, , Independent was established by its present editor, H. K. Gregory, in 1879. It is an eight page, six-column quarto, 30 x 44; is Republican in politics, and is devoted more especially to the interests of farmers. The office is supplied with a large power printing press, and has excellent jobbing facilities.    


~ source: History of Montgomery County, Iowa, Illustrated. Publisher, Iowa Historical and Biographical Co., Des Moines, Iowa, 1881. Page 398-403.