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 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 County.


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 Sanborn Pioneer.

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.