Keokuk County IAGenWeb
Free genealogy records

What's New | Bios | Birth/Marr/Death | Cemeteries | Census | Courts | Directories/Lists | History | Land & Property | Military | Photos & Postcards | Resources | Schools

1880 History
The Press

It is generally considered that there is no education which surpasses in practical benefit the newpaper which visits the home, and dealing with home matters, home interests and local surroundings, appeals to the intellect and the pride of the family by making its readers acquainted with that which immediately surrounds them. The influence of the local newspaper is generally underrated. Its treatment of great questions may be weak, but its appeals in behalf of its county or city seldom fall unheeded, or are cast aside as useless. It is gratifying that we can enter upon the history of newspapers in this county, after a careful examination of them at every period in the history of the county since they were established, and see the good they have done, and find that they have been so strong and influential as they have. Few other counties have had a larger number of papers, and there has been no time in its history but its newspapers have compared most favorably with the best which surrounded them in other counties of greater popularity and pretentions. They have been found always on the right side of the great qnestions which affect the morals of a community; temperance, Sunday-schools, schools, and the higher education, and with every movement looking to progress.

The first paper published in Keokuk county was the "Western Friend," established at Lancaster, June 1, 1854, by I. N. and J. L. Paschal. The motto, for papers even in those days sported a motto immediately beneath the head-line, was: "As the Twig is bent the Tree's Inclined.'' Whether the application of the term twig, had reference to the young county which was to be bent into a perpendicular direction by the potent influence of the "Western Friend," or whether it was simply the youth of the county whose character was to be held in a vertical position by moral influences of the "Friend," we are at a loss to determine; we are, however, inclined to the former view, for the style and scope of the following article appearing in the editorial columns of the first number, seems to be rather beyond the comprehension of youth in the bending period:

The Fourth of July
"As the anniversary of the birthday of our national independence is ftear at hand, I would suggest to the citizens of Lancaster and its vicinity, that some preparations be made for celebrating it in a suitable manner. " All regard the declaration of independence and the results that grew out of it, as among the most important events that mark the world's history.

"Let us then, in common with our fellow-citizens in other parts of our country, commemorate the day on whicli this great drama was enacted; let us pay. at least, a partial tribute to the memory of those who sealed with their blood, and consecrated by all that is most dear in life, the great prin. ciples embodied in this declaration of rights and bequeathed to their children the glorious birthright of civil and religious liberty. By recalling their, deeds of daring and self-sacrifice we imbibe a portion of the pure and lofty patriotism which animated them; by recalling the price at which our free institutions were purchased, we are the better able to appreciate their real value, and the more willingly, if need be, to make sacrifices on our part to perpetuate and transmit them unimpaired to our posterity.

" Seventy-eight years ago, when our patriot fathers were about to take the vote upon this declaration, it was predicted by one who was not least among that illustrious number who were called upon to act in this awful crisis, and who staked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor upon the die then cast, that this day would be celebrated in all future time and by the remotest descendants; celebrated by bonfires and illuminations; by the roar of artillery; by toasts and speeches; by thanksgiving and rejoicing.

"How prophetic his words!

"The ashes of the elder Adams now repose, have long reposed, upon the peaceful hills of New England, his great compeers sleeping with him; but as year after year, returns from the inland seas of the North to the genial borders of the Mexican Gulf, from the rugged shores of the Atlantic to the placid waters of the Pacific, do their children continue to oflFer up the incense of grateful hearts to the memory of the immortal and to the God of nature.

"Shall we of the 'Far West,' who enjoy equally with our brethren of other portions of the Great Republic, the priceless legacy of civil and religious freedom, refuse to mingle our hearts and voices with theirs in celebrating our national holiday ? I am confident the response of the generous sons and daughters of Keokuk county will be - Never!"

The ""Western Friend" seems at that time to have been Independent in politics. It was furnished to subscribers at the low price of two dollars
per annum, and payments, like the subscription price of all country newspapers, was, theoretically, to be made in lawful currency and invariably in advance, but practically it was made at the option of the subscriber, and when made, consisted of ragged bills on bursted banks, country produce, whetstones, rags and saurkrout.

The first number contained a copy of President Pierce's message to Congress; as Congress assembled on the fourth of March and the message first found its way to the readers of the " Western Friend " on or after June let, the document was three months old before the latter had an opportunity to read it; rather stale reading for such a lengthy item of news, and not very creditable to the journalistic enterprise of those days when viewed from the standpoint of to-day. The number referred to likewise contains some spirited editorials in favor of the Air Line Railroad; no better argument in favor of railroads and telegraph lines, it would seem, could have been made than the statement of the fact that it required three months time to lay before the readers of the "Western Friend" a copy of the President's message.

In the advertising columns of the "Western Friend" was the professional card of Johnson & Crocker, attorneys at law; also the card of Moore &
Casey, attorneys at law. The "Western Friend" did not survive the frosts of the following winter.

The next newspaper started in the county was called "Life in the West;" the editor and proprietor was John Rogers, and it was first issued in 1856. The "Life in the West" was started in the first days of the Republican party. It was a doughty champion of the Free Soil principles during the first campaign in which that party figured as an important factor of American politics. Although it survived the defeat of Fremont, it did not continue long enough to herald the triumph of Lincoln; it suspended and was succeeded by the "News," prior to the campaign of 1860. It being the first paper printed at Sigourney, its memory is fondly cherished by many people yet living at the county-seat who formerly welcomed to their homes this weekly visitor. For the diversion of such who did not take the precaution to preserve any copies of the "Life in the West,"  we reproduce the following spirited editorial which is a good sample of the sprightly style of the editor:

"Buntline, the other day, had the goodness to go to a Republican and beseech him, if he had any influence with the editor of the "Life," to advise and admonish him - the editor - not to say anything more about the mob, as it would ruin the paper and the Republican party. How very considerate in Buntline! Onr thanks to Buntline. Dear youth! How shall we ever repay the debt of gratitude for such disinterested kindness. Buntline, you are some pumpkins, sure, and when you get ripe we have no doubt the managers of the "Democrat" will place yon on exhibition and draw the first premium at the agricultural fair. We shall try to make the most of the hint, while we remain, dear Buntline, respectfully yours, with thanks."

The next newspaper enterprise was started in 1858 by Evans & Farra, and was called the "Iowa Democrat." As its name indicates, it was Democratic in politics, and the first organ of that party ever published in Keokuk county. In espousing the falling fortunes of the Buchanan administration it was under the necessity of combating the political sentiments of a large majority of the people of Keokuk county; and this it did, fearlessly and perseveringly. The senior partner of the publishing firm continued in the concern till 1862, when he enlisted in the Union army, and the paper was discontinued. Upon returning from the army, he became proprietor of the "Ottumwa Democrat," which paper he still edits. Mr. Farra is the oldest printer in the county. He was the first compositor on the "Life in the West," and has had more or less to do with the mechanical part of all the newspapers since established, and several of which he was part owner of. In i860 he sold his interest in the "Democrat" to J. B. Shollenbarger. The following editorial, published in the "Democrat" in 1859, shows how the political issues were then discussed:

"High Taxes
"At this time there is scarcely a newspaper in the Union but what is discussing the subject placed at the head of this article. The President, in his late message, in speaking of the expenses of the government, recommends 'the practice of rigid economy,' and suggests a deduction in the estimates of several departments for the next fiscal year. Every Democrat in the land concurs in the opinion that a more rigid economy is called for and absolutely demanded.

"The opposition press and politicians charge the responsibility upon the Democratic party; they say it is a national sin and we are to blame. That
high taxes are ruinous to the best interests of any country is true; and its truth is equally applicable when applied to county or State government.

"The taxes levied upon the people of this county for the year 1868 amount to $36,829.39 - a sum equal to $3.35 to each man, woman and child
in the county, and over seventeen dollars to each voter (if it was so apportioned), and is thus composed:

County tax - $16,366.58
State tax - 3,840.15
School tax - 2,669.67
Eoad tax - 6,884.70
Township school and township school-house tax, 5,909.29

"Now, we ask, in view of these figures, are we practicing rigid economy at home? Or, citizens, had we not better divest our own vision of every mote, ere we go around in search of objects of complaint? The injunction is a good one: 'Cast the beam out of thine own eye first.' Then we can not only the more easily see, but with better countenance pluck at the motes and imperfections with which others may be infested."

The publication of a Democratic paper not being either profitable or popular in Keokuk county in those days, and the proprietors of the "Democrat" enlisting in the army, the "Iowa Democrat" was discontinued in 1862, and was succeeded by the " Monitor " in 1865, which was started by the Democrats as a campaign sheet, and not carrying the election in the county was discontinued before it was three months old.

The successor of the "Monitor" was the "Vindicator," published by W. H. Bleakmore for six months during the summer and fall of 1868. In his issue of November 26, 1868, the last one, Mr. Bleakmore says:

"Friends and patrons of the Sigourney "Vindicator," this week's issue is the last we publish in your city - not because we are discouraged that our efforts have not brought forth more signal success, for we feel confident that we have done all that was in our power to do; but we trust to be benefited by a change which, while gratifying to us, will not interfere with your interests, either personally or politically. Fellow-Democrats, be not discouraged at the defeat with which our party has met. Let it be a stimulus to greater exertions and better deeds on your part."

The successor of the "Vindicator" was the "Phoenix," established by Porte Welch in 1871, which lasted till the close of the Greeley campaign and then expired almost contemporaneously with the last breath of the lamented sage of Chapauqua.

The Sigourney "Review"
After so many repeated failures, which were enough to dishearten a party less sanguine and tenacious of life than the Democratic party of Keokuk county, they at length induced a paper to come, and, as was remarked by a distinguished Democratic member of Congress at the opening of the first session in which his party had a majority in both Senate and House, the proprietors said, "we have come to stay"; and the "Review" did, if the proprietors did not, for the "Review" still lives and shows no signs of approaching decay. It is now the official paper of the county, is ably edited, and has a large and remunerative patronage.

The Sigourney "Review" was established in March, 1873, by Kenney & Farra. In the fall of 1873 Farra sold out to Kenney, who conducted the paper for about six months, when he sold a half interest to W. R. Hollingsworth, who in a short time bought the entire paper and became sole editor and proprietor. In entering upon his editorial career Mr. Hollingaworth wrote a very sensible and sprightly salutatory entitled "Bill of Fare," from which we make the following brief extracts:

"In importing a cook from another county to assist in the preparation of literary dishes, it may not be amiss to put forth a 'Bill of Fare.'

"The value of the statement that we propose to put forth a paper that will meet the wants of a majority of mankind depends upon our ability to discern those wants.

"We do not consider a personal tournament between editors the most approved method of carrying on a political canvass, and although such little pleasantries and tokens of esteem as 'liar,' 'scoundrel,' 'idiot,' 'villain' and 'thief with which editors are in the habit of complimenting each other may be very pleasant to themselves, yet we see great reason to doubt if the masses of mankind are educated up to the point of fully appreciating their beauty.

"Although we cannot offer a piano, sewing machine or organ to the party who sends us a new subscriber, yet we will endeavor to reward any effort on the part of our subscribers in our behalf by a corresponding improvement in our paper. An increase in our circulation will enable us to put more labor into the office, to enlarge our paper, to take out the leads and crowd up our advertisements, and to place on our table periodicals and magazines which we cannot obtain by exchange."

It seems that a dog became drowned in a well located on the public square: on its removal therefrom the editor thus immortalizes the unfortunate cur:

"Little Black and Tan, we've missed you,
And though none stopped and kissed you,
As you lay when they fished you.
In your slimy, slippery morgue,
In the throng that then beheld you.
Everybody knew that smelled you.
Though no funeral bells had knelled you.
That somebody mourned a dog.

"Had you crawled in for a rabbit?
Or dug through from force of habit?
There was no one cared to blab it -
How you got into that well;
Nor the water drank and toted
From the well [in] which you floated -
Since its contents has been noted -
No one seems disposed to tell.

"In the court-yard in fair weather.
Still thy canine comrades gather,
And with some old rag or leather,
Play the games that once were thine,
Till the boys whose recreation
Is the terror of the nation.
Give these names a variation
With the can and turpentine.

"Pleasant night they put in barking,
At some far off, crowing dorking,
Or some fellow late out sparking;
'Till we wish them all in—blank,
Or say, words to that effect, while
Groping round for projectiles
Which some cur may well expect will
Likely take him in the flank.

"Thou hast left us, little terrier,
And we never more shall hear ' yer,'
Or shie bootjacks just to scare ' yer,'
And we're sad as sad can be.
Not that, ' thou has gone before us,
But you've left behind to bore us,'
A nocturnal, howling chorus.
Which we wish were dead like thee.

"Little Tan, need we remind you
That you've died and left behind you
Many curs we wish could find you
In your canine spirit land'?
And if you've a son or daughter,
That would like to go by water
For their sakes we think we 'orter'
Keep a well or two on hand."

The "News"
The "News" was established in 1860, and is the oldest paper in the connty, it now being in its nineteenth volume. It is,, and always has been, a stalwart Republican organ, and may be regarded as the successor of the "Life in the West," the first Eepublican paper of the county. The first proprietor was A. S. Bailey, now of the Brighton "Star," who continued to publish it until 1863, when it was purchased by Sanders & Farra, who conducted it for a short time, when Sanders bought Farra's interest. The paper had now been published over three years, and although it was managed with corisiderable ability, it did not take rank among the leading Republican papers of the State until December, 1863, when it fell into the hands of H. E. & J. W. Havens, who were both men of more than average newspaper ability, and under whose management the "News" soon took a position alongside the most sprightly and able journals of the State. The first number of the paper under their management contained the following salutatory:

"We this week, for the first time, greet the readers of the 'News' through its columns. We do so at a cheering period in the history of our country's troubles - when the armed enemies of our country are everywhere yielding before the invincible skill and valor of our soldiers, and when those who, in the loyal States, apologize for, and sympathize with, traitors, are overwhelmed and vanquished by the patriotic and loyal sentiment of the country - when the ripe fruits of subjugation, emancipation and confiscation are almost ready to be gathered, and "when peace, rest and quiet tor our country, upon the secure foundation of universal freedom, seems almost within our grasp.

"The 'News' will advocate the continued prosecution of the war, by the use of all the means which human ingenuity may devise, consistent with the rules of war, until the last rebel shall meekly bow to the mild scepter of the Constitution.

"We believe in Old Abe, and shall stand by him in all his measures for the finishing up of this rebellion.

"We believe that the factions opposition to the measures of the administration, by men in the loyal States, tends to prolong the war, to waste
human life, increase the burdens of taxation - and we shall endeavor, to the best of our ability, to counteract the effect of such opposition.

"We desire to see such a public sentiment as shall crush out the spirit of disloyalty existing among us, and unite all parties in the good work of
preserving our benificent institutions, and we shall labor in our humble sphere to promote snch a sentiment.

"We shall endeavor to keep our readers posted upon all matters of public interest, either in war, politics or local news. We shall furnish them with the latest news from our armies, with the proceedings of Congress and of our State legislature. In short, we shall endeavor to make the 'News' a good county newspaper. Let our works prove how well we succeed."

After publishing the paper for some time, H. E. Havens sold out his interest to F. M. Havens, and removed to Missouri, where he was elected to Congress on the Republican ticket, and served two terms. In 1874 F. M. Havens sold his interest to Mr. Farra, and the name of the publishing firm became Havens & Farra. In 1876 Havens bought Farra's interest, and remained sole editor and proprietor until November, 1878, when he sold the paper to W. H. Needham, formerly of the Oskaloosa "Herald." Owing to the ability which characterized the latter paper when in charge of Leighton & Needham, it became one of the most popular Republican papers in the State, and when the 'News' fell into the hands of Mr. Needham, it soon became apparent that much of the characteristic enterprise and journalistic tact which before time distinguished the "Herald" had been transferred to the "News." Upon taking charge of the "News," Mr. Needham published the following salutatory:

"Custom has established a necessity for a word of introduction at my hand, in assuming control of the 'News.' A long experience in journalism has, I trust, fitted me, in some degree, at least, for the duties upon which I am entering, and a life devoted to the success and prosperity of the great Republican party and its glorious principles, assures me that an adherence to that party, and a faithful advocacy of its principles, are the best security that can be performed for the well-being of our common and beloved country. It will, therefore, be my studied endeavor to sustain intact that party, and to advance, by every proper and legitimate means, its principles. The recent November elections must convince every natural thinking mind that the country is closely allied to the doctrines of the Republican party, as those best calculated to preserve the country from the grasp of demagogues and unscrupulous politicians. This party saved the country from the red hand of traitors in the hour of its greatest peril, and it is destined to save it from the sophistical grasp of demagogues and traitors to its financial interests. These are now matters of history, indelibly fixed upon the heart of every lover of our country and her free institutions. To the propagation of these interests I expect to devote my best energies and the energies of the 'News.'

"If I succeed in filling the place occupied by my predecessor I will feel then that I have accomplished the full measure of my ambition.

"In addition to my advocacy of Republicanism I shall devote much space to the mutual interest of town and country, realizing the great importance of agriculture to the best interests of the country. The farmer is the producer, and, therefore, occupies a most important place in the prosperity of the country.

"It will be my purpose to advocate and advance the interests of moral reform, believing this to be one of the best means of protecting the best interests of the country.

"I will endeavor to give you the latest and most reliable news upon all questions of interest to the readers of a local paper, believing as I do, that the local paper is the greatest advocate of the age."

The "Courier"
The Germans of Keokuk county have always been an important factor in the political problem, as well as contributing very materially to the development of the material resources of this section. There was long a necessity felt for a newspaper published in the German language but no one deemed it prudent to enter upon so perilous a business enterprise prior to January, 1878, when three liberal-minded and public-spirited Germans, who had long been citizens of the county, organized what was called the "German Printing Company," for the purpose of publishing a paper in the German language. The company was composed of Levi Bower, F. A. Schipfer and William Sehrievner. The paper was called "The Sigourney Courier," and the first number was issued January 5, 1878. After the publication of five numbers it became apparent that the "Courier" would succeed and could stand on its own merits, whereupon Mr. Bower and Schipfer, who had no time to spare from their buisness to devote to newspaper work, retired and were succeeded by J. C. Starr and the firm then became Schrievner & Starr. Upon the publication of the thirty-sixth number Sehrievner & Starr sold to A. Danquest, of Ottumwa, and in the following November the latter gentleman sold the entire concern to J. C. Starr, who since that time has been the sole editor and proprietor. From the first establishment of the paper till November, 1878, the "Courier" was independent in politics, but at that time it was changed into an organ of the Democratic party, which policy is still pursued by its publisher. Mr. Starr has ability, culture and enterprise and the sheet is a credit to the town and a paying investment to the proprietor.

The "Western Stock Jounal"
A sixteen page monthly appeared, established and edited by J. H. Sanders at Sigourney May, 1869. September, 1870, the last number was issued, at which time its subscription books and good will were transferred to what is now the "National Stock Journal of Chicago," Mr. Sanders, the present editor-in-chief, taking at the time of the transfer a position as editor of the horse department. At the time of its establishment at Sigourney and for some time afterward, the "Western Stock Journal" was the only exclusive stock publication in the United States. Other publishers, however, soon adopted the plan, trenching somewhat closely upon the name, but it was not until after the "Western Stock Journal" had achieved both financial success and a national reputation that it was merged into a subsequent growth of the same class of farm literature at Chicago. Sigourney, therefore, claims the prestige of being the birth-place of stock jonrnalisin, separated from other farm topics, and to one of its former citizens belongs the paternity of the now popular idea.

At present there are three papers published outside of the county-seat: one at Keota, one at South English and one at Delta.

"The Eagle" was established by S. C. Miller in June, 1876. In November of the same year, it was purchased by Wells & Reed, who still retain the proprietorship. The editor is G. T. Eeed, who wields a facile pen, and whose sprightly columns well represent the enterprise and dash of that stirring town. "The Eagle" was not the first newspaper venture in Keota; its predecessors were the "Plaindealer" and the "Courier," both of which had a brief existence and then passed away to join the innumerable caravan of defunct newspapers, whose untimely death has characterized the incipient stages of all Western towns.

The "Delta Independent" was started in the spring of 1879 by H, J. Vail, who delegated the management of the paper to M. B. Halloway. After a short time the paper became the property of the latter gentleman, who still remains the editor and proprietor.

The first paper published at Sonth English was called the "Advance," and was established by W. W. Yarham, May, 1872, the first number being published on the 30th of said month. The paper was run by Mr. Yarham until September, 1872, when it was sold to E. L. Rankin and D. S. Burson, under whose management it was run until June, 1873, when E. L. Rankin disposed of his interest to J. F. Shotts, continuing under the name of Burson & Shotts. In July, 1873, Shotts bought Burson's interest, and became editor and proprietor, and changed the name of the paper to the "Western Herald." In August, 1873, he sold a half interest to G. J. Brown, the firm then being Shotts & Brown, under whose management the paper was enlarged. Shotts sold his interest to Prof. E. Kieler, in December, 1873, the firm then being Brown & Kieler. On the 23d day of April, 1874, G. J. Brown bought Mr. Kieler's interest, and became editor and proprietor, and run the paper until April 15, 1875, when he formed a partnership with his brother, Rev. Wm. M. Brown, under the firm name of Brown Brothers, and the business was continued by them until October 19, 1876, when G. J. Brown again became proprietor, and continued the publication of the "Western Herald" at South English, until August 18, 1877, when he removed the material to Harper, and ran it until March 1, 1878, when he sold to the Harper Publishing Company. The paper was published there until September 6, 1878, and discontinued, when G. J. Brown again bought the material back, and moved back to South English, and on the 18th day of October, 1878, again commenced its publication. On the Ist of March the office material was sold to J. F. White, and placed on solid financial footing, and the "Herald " is now issued regularly, with J. P. White as proprietor, and G. J. Brown, editor and publisher. It is " independent in all things, neutral in nothing," and now stands as one of thebest papers in Keokuk county.

There was a paper published at Richland during a part of the years 1875-6. It was first called the "Herald," and then was changed to the " Mail." It was published by W. D. Smith & Company, and while it existed, ably represented the interests of that portion of that county. The last number was issued March 23, 1876.

There remains to be noticed one more paper, the "Domestic Quarterly Review." There were but three numbers published, the first bearing date of April 1, 1844. From the first page we learn that it was written and published by S. A. James, and devoted to literature, amusement and particular intelligence. There was no type nor press in the county, and the paper, which was printed with a pen, is remarkable for its close resemblance to printed matter.

The influence of the local press upon the morals and general intelligence of the people in the county, cannot be overestimated. In the absence of the local press there are hundreds of families who would take no paper, and it is to this agency alone that is due the almost universal dissemination of general intelligence, as well as the communication of local news.

The aggregate circulation of these papers, in the county, is over four thousand copies, weekly, or more than one copy for each family in the county.

Of printed matter published outside the county, there is supplied from the Sigonrney post-office, to a population of about four thousand people, the following:

Daily newspapers - 40
Weekly newspapers - 1167
Magazines - 137
Periodicals - 78
Total - 1422

Thirty-five years ago there were three newspapers received at the same office. The press has certainly kept pace in the march of time with other enterprises.

Transcribed by Pat Wahl.

Source: The History of Keokuk County, Iowa, A History of the County, Its Cities, Towns, &c., Illustrated, 1880