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Audubon County


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1889 History

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Audubon County, Iowa


A Scotchman who had seen the Stuart dynasty sung from the throne said: "Let me make a nation's ballads, and who will may make its laws." Newspapers have superseded ballads. Journalism, the popular voice in type, is the foe of usurpation. The growth of our press has, indeed, been wonderful. While Captain Carver treated with the North American Indians the newspaper advanced from an advertising sheet to a political power. Before King George rewarded Carver with a grant, the newspaper had defeated the monarch. The "stamp act" might have been fought in vain but for our journals. Patrick Henry would have aroused a small circle of loyal men, and there would have been no national soul if it had not been for journalism, the bond of union that saved the colonies. The Maryland Gazette indorsed Patrick Henry, and at once every liberal sheet responded. The Boston Gazette echoed the words, backed by Adams, and a pamphlet in London disseminated that utterance, in spite of the British government. Within one year the king was discomfited, the "stamp act" repealed -- that was the beginning, and the end was near. "I am the State," said Louis XIV. With greater truth the press could have said "I am the Revolution!" The newspaper was the weapon, without which there had been no Bunker Hill, no renowned Declaration.

No local newspaper can remain long in a community and enjoy a good patronage unless it be a journal which reflects the general public and moral character of such community. If a people be intemperate, it were folly to attempt to publish a prohibition sheet; if in a commercial center, no one would think of receiving support for an agricultural paper! For a time, a low-lived journal may find a few paying subscribers from among the morbid curiosity seeker, but no moral people will long tolerate an immoral paper, and no peculiar sect will support a paper which does not advocate its principles.

The first to found a local journal in the then wild and undeveloped region of Audubon County were John C. Brown and J. J. Van Houghton, who established the Audubon County Pioneer in December, 1860. It was published at "Audubon City" -- now defunct. It was Democratic in politics, but little else is known of its history save that the tax list was published in its columns. No file can be found of it. Upon the breaking out of the Rebellion the paper was sold to Frank Whitney and moved to Lewis, Cass County, Iowa. John C. Brown, one of the original owners, enlisted in 1861 and was an officer in Company I of the First Iowa Volunteers; he was killed at Milliken's Bend. His partner also served in the army, being Captain in the Fourth Iowa Infantry. He returned to Iowa after the war and died about 1883.

The next journal benefiting the people of Audubon County was a Democratic paper published at Atlantic, which, for political and advertising purposes, ran a portion of its issue with an Audubon County heading. It contained the proceedings of the county supervisors. Next, "Leafe" Young, of Atlantic newspaper fame, a radical Republican, furnished Audubon County with a similar paper, which in fact was a Cass County journal, but contained some local items from this county. It was at one time the official organ of Audubon County, but upon the establishment of a real home-made paper, it soon ceased its weekly visits.

The next newspaper venture in the county was made by leading Democrats who were instrumental in getting R. Lespenasse to come to the county and take charge of a paper owned by a stock company of Democrats who proposed to have an official organ. This was known as the Audubon County Sentinel, which first appeared during the winter of 1870-71. The manager whom the company had imported did not fill the bill, so the editorship was transferred to James P. Lair, who was an improvement, he being a vigorous, dashing "quill-slinger." Later on, however, its original editor, Mr. Lespenasse, purchased the plant, good-will and material; he controlled it till about 1873, when it was virtually given to ex-County Judge D. M. Harris, who changed its name to that of Audubon County Defender. He managed it a year when he sold to E. H. Kimball, who published the paper until the spring of 1877. In 1876, however, its politics were "in the twinkling of an eye" changed to Republican doctrines. In 1877 the concern was sold to J. A. Hallock and A. L. Campbell, who very much improved the style of the publication. It then passed into the hands of Milliman & Crane and from them to R. W. Griggs, then to "Bert" Simmons, who later let it go back to Griggs, who finally, in 1883, removed it to Kansas.

In 1876 Mr. Lespenasse, who started the Sentinel, which had been changed to the Defender, came back to the county and again started a paper called the Sentinel, taking up the old volume number. This only survived a year, collapsing in 1877-'78. Its manager was D. D. Stancliff, who died in 1887. But the people demanded a Sentinel, and so in 1878 H. P. Albert began printing a paper, taking the name of Audubon County Sentinel. It was at first published at the now defunct town of Hamlin, but the following year it was removed to Exira and there conducted until 1879, when it was removed to the then infant town of Audubon, at which point the county seat had been located. It continued until 1884, when its good-will (?) was sold to the Advocate.

The Audubon Advocate (Democratic) was issued under great disadvantages. Perhaps no paper in Iowa was launched on the journalistic sea under more trying circumstances, both as to opposition from the other newspapers as well as from the wintry elements -- all combining to "freeze out" the newly-born local paper, which was edited by E. H. Kimball in a very able and aggressive manner. Its first number was issued January 1, 1879. It was at first a nine-column folio -- half home and half foreign print. The press employed to print it was the ever-reliable and old-fashioned "Washington" hand press, which has ever had that peculiar faculty of wonderfully developing the muscles about the elbow joint of the operator's right arm! As a matter of history it may be well for the reader to peruse the following, which is an extract from one of the earliest editorials of this paper, under the heading of "Then and Now": "Don't it beat the royal star spangled American!"

"But a few short months ago, in the place where we now sit, encircled by all that exalts and embellishes civilized life (perhaps), the rank thistle nodded in the wind, and the wild polecat flipped his caudal appendage in the prairie grass, or words to that effect. Pshaw! we thought we were running a Sunday-school paper in Exira! It is not often that we get sentimental! But what we started out to say is this: Less than four months ago we roamed around over this town plat, trying to trace out the streets and alleys by the short stakes planted a short time before in the high prairie grass. Not a building had been erected, and in fact there were no signs that any would be erected for some time to come. The grass had already been killed by the autumn frosts, and the cold wind betokened winter at hand. Nearly every one predicted that nothing would be attempted in the way of building until spring-time. To-day (January 22, 1879), we are sitting in a neat and cozy office in a handsome two-story building. In the rear room two presses are running, and their incessant click! click! click! announces that the 'Art Preservative' has found its way to the 'new town,' as it was then called. Around us are papers and books in profusion, and several persons, strangers to us then, some reading, some talking, but all here to, make their home. In front is a fine street, and scores of teams and busy people hurrying to and fro; the iron horse is snorting and puffing beside a magnificent depot, and passengers are leaving the train and hurrying to hotels and other places. Half a dozen dray teams are hauling goods up the streets, the hotel bells are ringing to call the many newcomer guests to dinner; the sound of the tools used in nearly all the trades can be heard; upward of a hundred buildings, many of them magnificent ones, adorn the town plat, and we see Audubon, then a naked tract of prairie, now a veritable and flourishing young city, the liveliest of its age and size in all Iowa, as hundreds who see it every day freely admit. We venture the prediction that one year from to-day the population of the place will reach nearly 1,000. And why not? It is tributary to, and will command, the entire trade of as beautiful a country as the sun ever shone on, for a distance of fifteen miles, east, north and west, and about half that distance south."

The sea of journalism in Audubon County has been very trying and rough -- one which has not fully satisfied the people, or even been a paying business to the proprietors themselves. There have been a number of changes on each of the several local papers, including the Advocate. As before stated, E. H. Kimball started the paper on borrowed capital, out of which grew much contention, so before the end of the first volume a partner named B. F. Thacker was taken in, when the paper was conducted under the firm name of Kimball & Thacker; but before the year closed Seth Paine, the original owner of the material, came on from Chicago, and took possession of his property. Under his management and editorship the paper was greatly improved, having a more reliable, respectable standing among Iowa newspapers. It ever worked for good men and good improvements in the growing county.

Mr. Paine was full of energy, and got out a large edition January 1, 1881, which contained a very authentic historical "write-up," giving the county, and especially Audubon, a grand boom. It treated of the county's soil, crops, inducements offered to emigrants, etc. He sold 4,500 of these papers at ten cents each. They were sent to all parts of the east and to many places in Europe. St. John, traffic manager of the great Rock Island Railway, bought $100 worth and sent them broadcast; and from such papers came men from New England who now reside in the county, drawn here by the glowing accounts read in that single issue. Emigrants also came from Germany and other European States. The following season 131 cars were landed at Audubon containing freight, which came by reason of that issue. It was a marvel in the way of proving the value of printer's ink.

In January, 1882, Mr. Paine sold the paper to R. M. Carpenter, who had for an editor about a year E. M. Stewart; but before that volume closed he was at the helm himself. He made some changes in the "make-up" of the sheet, and edited a good paper.

In 1886 he changed it again to a five-column quarto -- its present size and form. In February, 1888, the paper passed from Mr. Carpenter's hands to the proprietorship of Crane & Crane, who continued the partnership until November of that year, when V. B. Crane sold his interest to F. D. Allen, the present firm being Allen & Crane.

The Audubon County Republican, the organ of the party which its name would indicate, was founded December 24, 1885, as an eight-column folio, half home and half foreign print. It was established by Cousins & Foster, the latter's interest being represented by W. H. McClure, who succeeded Foster in ownership in April, 1887. The firm still remains Cousins & McClure.

The Republican is a good local paper, clean and moral -- one which no community need be in the least ashamed of. While it is a party paper, yet it treats all with fairness.

The Times was owned and conducted by E. H. Kimball, who was virtually given his outfit by the Rock Island Railway Company, who wanted an organ within their newly created town. It was established in the winter of 1879-'80 and published until the fall of 1886, when its proprietor saw greener fields awaiting his newspaper talent, in the mountain country of Wyoming Territory, to which section he shipped his office. In politics his paper was Republican. It was an eight-column folio and it is said to have been one of the strongest papers in the county, yet had its very bitter enemies.

The Audubon County Journal (independent) is published at Exira. It takes the serial number of two defunct papers of that town, but virtually was founded anew by G. W. Guernsey in September, 1885. It is one of the best local papers in Audubon County, giving each week all the local happenings in the community. Its proprietor is a practical printer and journalist, who takes with the masses. He ever strives to build up his town and county, by speaking well of his location, the county and its populace.

The Liberator was a purely local sheet, founded and conducted by T. Y. Paine -- a mere youth, who met with an accident in childhood and was a cripple till his death, which occurred in 1888. He was a son of Seth Paine who was once owner of the Advocate. The Liberator was a clean, spicy, well-edited local journal, well thought of by all. It was the pet and pride of young Paine, whose whole life seemed wrapped up in his paper, which was a four column folio in form. He conducted it as long as he lived, the paper being in its third volume at the time of his death.

The Western Blizzard, an independent journal, was started by Allen & Waitman, at the village of Gray, in May, 1887. It had for a motto at its head (which was a very elaborate design), "It blows for Humanity." About three months after its establishment Frank D. Allen became sole proprietor of the paper. It was a five-column quarto at first, but was later changed to a folio and made a semi-weekly; then changed to a weekly again and printed on rose-tinted paper. It was somewhat of a sensational paper and was suspended before it had a chance to wield much influence politically. Its name was a happy hit and caused much comment by the press throughout the entire country. It did not pay!

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass April, 2013 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 657-661.