The Press of Independence, IA
From: History of Bachanan County, Iowa And its People
By Harry Church and Katharyn J. Chappell
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago 1914



The first printing press set in motion within the limits of Buchanan County printed the first edition of The Independence Civilian, May 17, 1855. This was the first Buchanan County paper, although about thirteen years after the first settlement. It bears the imprint "B. F. Parker and James Hillery, editors. Published every Tuesday morning. Office in the rear building of W. Scott's harness establishment." This was the culmination of a long promised venture - months previous subscriptions were solicited and the money paid in advance to help boost the proposition. To S. S. Allen, a young real estate agent and extensive property owner in the city, belongs the credit of starting the enterprise and furnishing most of the financial aid. Feeling that a newspaper was a public want in the town, he went to Dubuque and interested two employees of the Herald office in the project. They were James Hillery and B. F. Parker. A press and the necessary outfit was purchased and forthwith the paper appeared. Hillery was an intelligent, well educated man and his editorials were of a superior quality. B. F. Parker seems not to have cut much figure in the conduct of the paper. Undoubtedly he furnished more of brawn than brains. The paper was started non partisan and extremely independent in its tone. After about a year Hillery sold his interest to Parker and returned to Maryland, and afterwards was employed in the Government printing office at Washington, D. C. Then in a few weeks Mr. Allen purchased Parker's interests and the latter went further West.

Thus deprived of a printer, Mr. Allen made another pilgrimage to Dubuque and employed as foreman another employee of the Herald office, G. W. Barnhart, who conducted the business interests of the concern. Judge S. J. W. Tabor acted as editor in 1856, and for a time was partner and made the paper, strongly anti slavery in its political tone.

The first of the year, 1857, Judge Tabor retired and Barnhart became a partner, and in April another practical printer named Cornwall became a member of the firm, and the paper was then conducted by Allen, Barnhart and Cornwall. At that time it espoused the principles and ticket of the democratic party and has ever since been the only organ of that party in the county. Barnhart then sold out to a Mr. Metcalf, who retired, and Allen & Cornwall continued as editors for a short time, then Cornwall sold his interests to Warren Barnhart.

In looking over the files of that period of the paper's existence, we find various changes transpired on this combination of names; every few weeks the partners exchanged or sold their interests, until in 1859 Cornelius Hedges became the sole editor and proprietor. This change, however, proved of short duration, for in 1860 Mr. Hedges sold it to the Barnhart brothers, A. M., G. W. and Warren, and they continued its publication until February, 1863, when they retired in favor of the Buchanan County Printing Association, which firm consisted of C. F. Leavitt, S. S. Clarke, H. W. Glynn, H. A. King, Levi Stroh, Albert Clark John Smyser, E. W. Purdy, L. J. Dunlap, S. S. Allen, Henry Bright and associates.

The concern was officered by a president and sixteen directors, an editor, secretary and treasurer. This was in reality a joint stock company which represented 150 shares at $5.00 per share. The holders of all these shares were all of the democratic persuasion. It was, so to speak, the Buchanan County Democratic Party conducting its own mouth organ. Messrs. Roszell and Leavitt acted as editors. Early in 1864 the Barnhart brothers, this time Warren and A. M., again became its proprietors and on account of the unpopularity of the old name "Civilian" during war times, changed it to "The Conservative," which title it has adhered to ever since. It was conducted by various combinations of the five Barnhart brothers until 1872, when Warren Barnhart became sole proprietor and continued until July, 1879, when business interests took him to Chicago. L. W. Goen, who had been printer for him, became the editor in chief. July 15, 1882, he bought a half interest of Mr. Barnhart and in 1886 bought the entire paper. In November, 1896, he sold a half interest to Warren Miller. This partnership continued until January, 1903, when Mr. Goen again assumed fully charge, and continued its editor until his death in August, 1913. Mrs. Goon then conducted it until March 1, 1914, when she sold to Warren F. Miller, Samuel Miller and Mrs. Walter Stevenson, who incorporated under the name The Independence Conservative.

The Civilian had a most changeful career. During the war the intense party strife and antagonism to democratic principles and "copperheads" made the paper in this strong union and republican county a veritable struggle for existence. Hedges abandoned it because he could not make it pay expenses, and when Judge Roszell was editor, A. M. and A. E. Barnhart, the printers, were given whatever proceeds there were for their labors.

To further show to what straits those early editors were driven to get pay either on back subscriptions or advance payments, was the ever recurren plea for subscribers to bring in anything they might have for sale, corn, wheat, oats, potatoes, butter, eggs, cabbage, turnips, wood, anything and everything, and they would be allowed the highest market price. In 1856 one cord of wood paid a year's subscription to the Civilian. Even marriage notices had to be accompanied with a dollar bill, or else receive the ignominious fate of the wastebasket. But news was voluminous and space at a premium, during war times at least. The paper was started a seven column folio, seven columns to the page and four pages, but has been changed several times; for a short season, during the war, when paper was exorbitantly high, the size was cut to six columns, also in the early '80s it was smaller. The Conservative office is now equipped with fine up to date machinery, an Intertype type casting machine, a Cottrell news press and two job presses, with individual motor for each press.

It has a circulation of over two thousand, and being the only democratic paper in the county, is the temperature and pulse of all the adherents of that faith.

Files of the early papers were not kept and only a few scattered and incomplete numbers are still in existence, saved from the fire of 1873, the earliest of which is a copy of the March 27, 1856 edition, Volume I, No. 40, with the following motto as its escutcheon, "Deserve success and you will command it," and the subhead "A family newspaper devoted to foreign and domestic news, literature, science, the arts, agriculture, education, etc. Independent on all subjects. "

As far as living up to the foregoing professions and devotions, it most certainly fulfilled its obligations; has sown and reaped success and conscientiously devoted its entire space to all the above named topics, so far as the advertising space, which constituted the far greater portion, would permit. During the race meetings in 1891 the Conservative was published as a daily and during the I. N. Guard encampment in 1896.

A copy of the original issue of the Civilian was framed and presented to the public library by L. W. Goen, a photographic reproduction of which may be found in this volume.

In November, 1904, the Conservative moved into the store building on South Main Street, now owned by Will Littlejohn and occupied by the Ten Cent Store operated by Mr. Hale, after a residence of thirty years, or since the big fire in 1874, in the second story of the building occupied by the Steinmetz shoe store. In 1910 the Conservative moved into its present convenient quarters, in the Wapsie Block, on North Main Street, near the bridge.


This, the second paper published in the county, came into existence in Quasqueton, December 13, 1856. It was a seven column folio published every Tuesday under the editorial name Buchanan County Guardian, with Rich and Jordon as proprietors.

In 1858, it was removed to Independence and was located in the Union Block over the postoffice where it remained many years. When the war broke out Mr. Jordon was enlisted in the first company that was organized in Independence and was elected first lieutenant. In a few short months he succumbed to disease, and Mr. Rich, who had been conducting the paper, continued as before in the interests of himself and Mrs. Jordon, until June 8, 1864, when he sold their interests to Mr. S. B. Goodenow to become editor of the Dubuque Times.

Mr. Goodenow conducted the paper for two years under the caption of "The Guardian of Independence, Buchanan County, Our Horne, Our Country and Our Brother Man." This title caused the editor much discussion and many explanations in its defense. He also changed the day of publishing it from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Previous to his purchasing the Guardian, S. B. Goodenow had been a Methodist minister in Waterloo. He was a very able and fearless man.

In June, 1866, he enlarged the paper to an eight column folio which he continued for a few weeks, but probably owing to the bitter animosity which he engendered from his outspoken and vitriolic arraignment of the other republican paper, The Bulletin, and the republican machine, he was eventually forced to sell to J. J. Loomis, who consolidated it with his own paper, The Bulletin, which he had established about a year before. The consolidated paper bore for a time the rather cumbrous title of The Buchanan County Bulletin and Guardian. The last name, however, was dropped after a time, and the paper continued as the Bulletin until it was combined with the Journal in 1891 and still continues the Bulletin-Journal.

In 1863 the Guardian improved its equipment by buying a new Gordon press, capable of printing 1,000 sheets per hour, which was considered a fine machine. At this time the circulation of the paper was between five hundred and six hundred copies. It also boasted seventy different styles of type for jobbing purposes, and professed to excel the Dubuque offices in assortment of type and superiority of work. In 1865, appeared the first correspondence from other towns and communities, that is, in a collective sense.

The Guardian under Mr. Rich's management received the most flattering notices throughout the state. It was known as a strong, earnest, wideawake, influential paper, made up of fine scissorings and a greater amount of original matter than any other weekly in the state.

Mr. Rich was a man of rare abilities with a quick, virile and versatile pen. His partisan zeal was very pronounced and that his pen exerted great influence was demonstrated in the fall election of 1863, which went republican by a large majority and Buchanan had hitherto been closely contested.


In 1858 was established another republican paper with the editorial nomen, The Republican Eagle, which after a short existence under that title assumed one more euphonius The Rising Tide. It was published weekly with Mrs. Daniels and Esquire Chandler as editors. Under this management its faith was changed from republicanism to spiritualism, and about 1860 moved its field of operations to a more congenial atmosphere, namely, Des Moines.


The Crisis was another paper of short and meteoric existence. It was published during the campaign of 1862 by some of the leading democrats, and being of bombastic and vitriolic nature wore itself out in a short time, but its purpose, the issues of that bitter and hot campaign, were decided by the ballot and proved that even a ballot is mightier than the pen.


The National Advocate, an eight column folio, was established and its first number issued at Independence, May 17, 1878, by R. J. Williamson. It was the result of the somewhat popular protest against the bank and bond system, and the general financial policy of the republican party; and, up to June 1, 1881, continued to be an organ of the national greenback labor party. Mr. Williamson having been elected to the office of clerk of the courts of Buchanan County on the greenback ticket, and finding it impracticable to conduct the paper in connection with the duties of his office, sold it to M. S. Hitchcock, one of the pioneers of the greenback movement, January 1, 1880. During that year a Washington press was procured, and other important additions were made to the stock and furniture of the office. The Advocate was then printed both sides at home, and for the six months previous to June 1, 1881, the average circulation of the paper was over eight hundred copies.

L. H. Weller, commonly called "Calamity," afterwards became its editor and publisher and issued it spasmodically until about 1904, when it gasped its last breath. Weller made a contract to trade the plant on a piece of land in Minnesota but refused to complete the trade. Some litigation followed but the Advocate did not survive the shock and with its only excuse for existence, "the greenback party," is now but a matter of history.


The Independence Courier, a paper printed in the German language, was established in January, 1881, by Hermann Hoffman, as editor and proprietor. It was a six column paper with "patent insides," published every Thursday, and independent in politics. It was printed on the Bulletin press. Mr. Hoffman prepared all the editorials, set all the type in fact did all the work of the office, with assistance in putting the paper through the press. He often "composed," in both senses, at the case; setting up what had never been set down, except in his own head. Mr. Hoffman sold out the type and other property of the office, to Steinmetz & Company, about the middle of April, 1881, but was still retained as editor and continued the publication until November 28, 1888, when it was discontinued.


In the last of December, 1890, the prospectus of the Iowa Turfman, a monthly journal published at Independence and devoted to the advancement of the horse breeding interests of Iowa in general, and Independence in articular, had just been issued. As the proprietors of the enterprise preferred to remain incognito, no name being attached to the prospectus, the public was left to guess under whose guiding hand the craft set sail. It later developed that C. W. Williams, the Croesus of Independence, was the substantial promoter of the enterprise.

By January, the prospective Turfman had changed its nomen to the American Trotter - and the date fixed for its first issue was March 1st. Mr. Frank Whitney, a talented young artist from Chicago, had been secured to design the cover pages, and the result was highly artistic. Before the first issue was in type subscriptions were pouring in at a marvelous rate. One enthusiast from Indiana in remitting his first year's subscription added, "I expect to renew annually for the next fifty years, after that I do not expect to be interested in trotters." The office of the American Trotter was opened in the Phillips block on Chatham Street, the first floor was occupied by the business office and editorial rooms, with the composing, mailing and press rooms in the double basement. A big five horse power water motor propelled the machinery. The first issue was published March 1, 1891, and at the end of the first year 10,000 subscribers were enrolled, which circulation steadily increased up until the time it suspended publication, which was in the fall of 1893. This is an unusual state of affairs, but owing to Mr. Williams' financial reverses, the paper along with the other concerns of which he was the motive power, suffered. The paper under the able management of C. B. Gildersleeve, with S. S. Toman and M. A. Smith, both of exceptional ability and experience, was bound to succeed and gained the enviable reputation of being the best journal devoted to the horse industry in the entire country, and had the concern been financed through this crisis by some of the Independence business men, it might have flourished for many years. Mr. Toman went to New York City, where he published the American Horseman. Mr. Gildersleeve removed from Independence to Galesburg with Mr. Williams. Mr. M. A. Smith for several years contributed a column known as sporting news to the county papers (the Bulletin-Journal and Conservative) and to sporting and horse papers.


The Saturday Herald came into existence on Saturday, October 5, 1895. Its excuse for existence expressed in its own words was that "Believing there is a field and a welcome in Independence for a. bright, lively, newsy paper, The Saturday Herald has arrived and makes application for citizenship." In asking for recognition, it deviated somewhat from the usual custom of candidates for public favor, in that it made few promises, or pledges and did not espouse the cause of any political party, would be the organ of no faction and would fight no one's battles but its own. It is not for the purpose of filling any long felt want, that the Herald threw its hat in the ring (so to speak); but it intended to create a want and then fill it and many other palpable reasons and intentions were elucidated.

The Herald was really an outgrowth of the printing business established in Independence by Mr. E. W. Raymond in the spring of 1894. Charles A. Durno and E. W. Raymond were the publishers and proprietors. Mr. Durno acted as editor and E. W. Raymond as business manager. The Herald's office was in a building directly opposite the Gedney Opera. House on the second floor.

This paper flourished for a. season under this efficient management and gave their subscribers as they intimated they would, "news in a. concise and correct way, free from sentiment and prejudice." Their specialty was local news and when they could not find a sufficiency they proceeded to manufacture it. The editorials were particularly clever at times, some of the literary geniuses among the young men of the town lent their literary ability. After a short time Mr. Raymond sold his interest to Mr. H. A. Allen, the firm was then Allen and Durno, and soon thereafter Mr. Allen gained entire control of the business. In October, 1897, F. S. Wilcox, managing editor, severed his connection and the paper was in charge of Mr. Emmet Allen, who conducted it for about a year and a half. when the enterprise was abandoned. It has never been satisfactory demonstrated that Independence can support three weekly papers, at least for any long period of years and this venture, although starting under such auspicious conditions, but proved again the already demonstrated fact.


The first issue of the Buchanan County Schools, an educational publication edited by County Superintendent E. C. Lillie and Professor Buechele, appeared in January, 1899. This publication was devoted to the interests of teachers and educators, contained a large amount of general reading matter pertaining to educational matters and school work and several columns of local news concerning work in the county.

This publication was continued for only a. short time, the moving spirit, Mr. Lillie, for a time retired from public life on account of ill health.

The Advocate and Reformer, a religious weekly was published in Independence in the early '80s. It was edited by F. M. Robertson and published by Mr. J. E. Cates and had prospects of becoming the official organ of the Methodist. Episcopal Chureh in the state. The office was located over Edwards' grocery_ The paper deserved and received the generous support of the church whose interests it represented.

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