Early Newspapers of O'Brien County
The following pages are copied from the first book of the three volume "Northwestern Iowa: its history and traditions, 1804-1926; comprising the counties of Woodbury, Monona, Plymouth, Cherokee, O'Brien, Sioux, Lyon, Osceola, Sac, Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Calhoun, Ida, Crawford, Carroll and Greene" by Arthur Francis Allen (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1927).
O'BRIEN A PIONEER NEWSPAPER COUNTY.
O'Brien County, situated west of Clay and north of Cherokee, furnished numerous pioneering ventures in the newspaper field of the Northwestern frontier. Its first paper was
established in the village of Old O'Brien, located in the southeastern corner of the county where the original pioneers gathered and established their seat of justice. The O'Brien Pioneer, as it was called, although supposed to be the newspaper
representative of the county by that name, was printed in
Cherokee County by Robert Buchanan, of the Times. Its
editor was the eccentric and talented B. F. McCormack, who
for nearly forty years was connected with the business and
public life of O'Brien County. The Pioneer continued under
this rather distracting arrangement until May, 1872, when
Col. L. B. Raymond, then publishing the Cherokee Leader,
opened a printing office at Old O'Brien, and on the 24th of the
month he published the first newspaper printed in O'Brien
NEWSPAPER KING OF NORTHWESTERN IOWA.
Colonel Raymond conducted newspapers in many other
Western Iowa counties, chiefly to secure the public printing
and the publication of the state laws in the new and unorganized counties. The publication of the state laws enacted
at each session of the Legislature was required by law and
was the source of much profit to the proprietor of a weekly
country newspaper. The publication of the tax lists was also
considered a "fat take" for the newspaper man of the '70s
and '80s, and for the purpose of monopolizing this profitable
business of the frontier counties, especially in Northwestern
Iowa, Colonel Raymond established a chain of printing and
publishing offices where newspapers were not already in the
field. So successful had he become in this undertaking that
he was widely known as the Newspaper King. He finally
settled at Hampton, Franklin County, in the northeastern
part of the state where, for many years, he edited its chief
paper, the Recorder.
The O'Brien Pioneer was moved to Primghar, the new
county seat, in the spring of 1873, and in 1880 it was transferred to Sanborn. Since 1881 it has been published as the
When Sheldon was platted by the Sioux City & St. Paul
Railroad in January, 1873, it started on its career as one of
the leading railroad centers of Northwestern Iowa eventually
it became the junction of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis
& Omaha, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and the Illinois
Central lines, and, as a city, far outstripped any other town
in O'Brien County. It has a present population of more than
3,500. Two newspapers have taken firm root in Sheldon.
Soon after Sheldon was platted the Newspaper King established the Mail there. It was his second newspaper venture
in the county, when, as the Colonel says, "Sheldon's inhabitants might be enumerated by counting your fingers." For two
years it experienced several changes in management and
ownership, and even in name, but in August, 1875, F. T.
Piper became its proprietor, manager, editor and all-around
developer, and continued as such until his death in 1902.
Although there have been more brilliant newspaper men, and
more lovable members of the profession in Northwestern
Iowa than Mr. Piper, there was never one with greater general ability in the building up of a country newspaper than
he, and the Mail became noticeably prosperous in that field.
Col. M. B. Darnell, a Civil war officer, was probably the
most finished editorial writer that was ever connected with
the journalism of the upper counties of Northwestern Iowa,
and gave the Sheldon Sun a prominent literary standing,
after it had been moved from Sanborn in 1898.
The Sutherland Courier was established by Harvey Hand
in 1882, and it is still active, and the Paullina Times was
moved from the county seat in the same year, where it had
been published for a time as the Primghar Times.
In June, 1884, Hartley published its first local newspaper,
the Record. Its name was changed to the Journal when
Claude Charles bought the establishment in 1894. Mr.
Charles sold the newspaper and left the county, but returned
to Hartley in 1912 and established the Sentinel, the last journal to find a foothold in O'Brien County.