The Press of Fayette County, IA
From: Past and Present of Fayette County, Iowa
B. F. Bowen & Company
Indianapolis, Indiana 1910

By D. H. Talmadge.


The history of the press of Fayette county begins with the establishment by John Gharkey and Charles McDowell* of the Fayette County Pioneer, October 21, 1853, at West Union. The Pioneer was Democratic in politics, and a brief examination of its files is sufficient to convince one that its editor not only had decided opinions along that line, but had as well a faculty for expression that drove what he wrote well through the skins of those who entertained views in opposition. So much effect did his printed utterances have, in fact, that in May, 1863, his office was attacked and considerable of the material damaged by a party of heated partisans. It appears that Mr. Gharkey became convinced shortly after this that his ideas were not sufficiently in harmony with those of his community to warrant him in staying here and in 1864 he packed up and went to Missouri.

* Gharkey's attitude on the slavery question with which Mr. McDowell could not agree soon caused a dissolution of the partnership, and the latter removed from the county.

The Pioneer was a well printed paper and was generously supported. It is to be stated, however, that any newspaper in Fayette county which managed to keep alive in those times was "generously" supported. The path trod by the pioneer newspaper man was far from being one of roses, and his share of the burden was greater than that of those in other departments of new town enterprise, for the process of printing was expensive and the problem of keeping cash on hand in sufficient quantity to meet absolutely necessary demands was fraught with worry.

It appears that Mr. Gharkey understood the game better, or perhaps was better adapted to it by temperament, than any of the others who essayed journalism in Fayette county prior to 1863, for the record shows that no less than three papers were started in West Union to combat with the political influence of the Pioneer and it shows also that each one died an earthly death.

The Free Press was established in September of 1856 by Frank A. Badger and C. O. Meyers. It closed up early in 1857.

The Public Review was established in March of 1859 by John Hale and J. E. Cooke, and succumbed to fate in 1861.

The Republican Era was established by J. W. Rogers in 1861, using the material of the defunct Public Review. Mr. Rogers sold the paper shortly after its horning to Rev. S. D. Helms, who went to Bellevue in 1862, leaving the Pioneer in full possession of the field.

The Public Record was established by Andrew J. Felt in 1863. Mr. Felt bought the material of the Republican Era and for three years gave West Union a lively Republican weekly, but evidently thought that a better field was open to him elsewhere, for in the spring of 1866 he disposed of the property to a stock company at Fayette, and the following year founded the Nashua Post, which he sold in 1874 to buy a half interest in the Waterloo Courier. He remained at Waterloo for several years.

"Andy" Felt was in some respects the most interesting character in the early journalism of northeastern Iowa. Arriving in Iowa in 1855 from Ontario county, New York, with three dollars as his entire cash capital, he taught school in Clayton county, clerked in a store and worked in the office of the North Iowa Times at McGregor, thus filling in the time till 1857, when he established the Cedar Valley News at Bradford. In June of 1858 he was admitted to the bar (he had previously read law at add times), but after practicing law two years the itching for the editorial pen became so violent that he returned to newspaperdom, acting as associate editor of the McGregor Times. In 1861 he enlisted in the Seventh Iowa Infantry, was captured at Belmont, Missouri, a few months later, remained a prisoner of the Confederacy for almost a year, was paroled and sent to the hospital at Annapolis, Maryland, where he remained under medical care until the spring of 1863, when he returned to his regiment at Corinth, Mississippi, and was soon after discharged for disability.

From Waterloo be went to Kansas, and after a time the news came of his election to the lieutenant governorship of that state on the Republican ticket. The last record the writer has of him is dated January, 1897, and states that the "Atchison Daily Champion, A. J. Felt's paper, is in the hands of a receiver."

The Fayette County Union was established as a Democratic paper in 1866 by William McClintock and Henry Rickel. It was sold in 1867 to I. Wood and Milo Lacy, who conducted it somewhat more than a year, when they went to Austin, Minnesota, and the property was again taken in hand by its founders. Mr. Rickel retired in 1869, and Mr. McClintock conducted it until 1872, when his son Frank assumed control, continuing till 1877, when he retired. William McClintock was publisher till 1881. In that year he sold out to Walt. H. Butler, who directed the paper's course till 1885, when Mr. McClintock again took charge. From 1885 to 1891 the paper was edited at different times by William McClintock, Will H. McClintock and H. B. Blackman, but during this period, as during the greater part of the time from the day the paper was started, excepting when it was owned by Mr. Butler, William McClintock was its dominating spirit. His influence was never wholly absent from it, his was the personality that gave it force. But in 1891 the cord which had bound him for so many years - years of violent political turmoil, many of them - was completely severed. Mr. Butler again bought the Union and held it until 1894, when he sold to O. M. Smith; Smith, two or three years later, sold to George W. Van Atten, who, after a short time, sold a half interest to P. L. Ainsworth, and soon after his remaining interest to E. A. McIlree, of Riverside, Iowa. Mr. McIlree bought Mr. Ainsworth out after a few months and is at present sole owner and editor.

The West Union Gazette was started in 1867 under the heading Republican Gazette and Clermont Leader. Messrs. Talmadge and Shannon bought the material of the defunct Leader and carted it to West Union, which accounts for the Clermont feature in the name of the new paper. But it was soon dropped, although the word Republican was continued for twenty years.

Mr. Shannon retired from the firm in 1869, owing to ill health, but it was long before the impression made by his editorial personality during his brief association with the Gazette was obliterated. In fact it is noted that when his name is mentioned to an old settler a smile appears involuntarily upon the old settler's face. He was a humorist and a wag. Also he was a thinker and a writer and a good fellow. He later moved to Elkader where he conducted the Journal, going from there to a new field of journalistic endeavor at Huron, South Dakota. Finally he returned to Iowa, dying at Marshalltown several years ago.

In 1870 John W. Stewart bought an interest in the Gazette, retaining it for a month, when he sold to J. W. Rogers, who stayed with it for two years. In 1873 Mr. Talmadge sold an interest to Joseph A. Whittemore, of Providence, Rhode Island, the paper being published under the firm name of C. H. Talmadge & Company. In 1877, Mr. Whittemore having retired, his brother, David H., came from Providence and took over his interest, remaining for two years. From the time of Mr. Whittemore's withdrawal until May, 1907, the Gazette was owned and edited by C. H. Talmadge.

In 1880 the paper was burned out, and by a singular dispensation of fate its owner again went to Clermont for the material with which to resume its publication. He bought the plant of the People's Paper, the publication of which had been discontinued, and much of the furniture in the Gazette office today is that used in the Clermont office in the seventies. Since the death of Mr. Talmadge, in 1907, the Gazette has been published by his elder son, D. H. Talmadge.

The Argo had its inception in 1881, the Hobson brothers, Frank and Lee, being the founders. Lee was the typographical genius of the firm. He began his career when a small boy by carrying the Gazette each Friday morning to its West Union subscribers. In 1873, having picked up a handkerchief full of type and manufactured a press, he began the publication of the West Union Weekly Times, a diminutive sheet, selling by the year for ten cents. A few months later, having convinced his parents of the earnestness of his spirit and fitness of his talent, they bought him a Novelty press and sufficient material to enable him to do real printing. The Weekly Times was succeeded, if we remember correctly, by the Locomotive and the firm of Hobson Brothers was located on the main street of the town with an adequate equipment for general printing. In 1877 the firm began the publication of the Trade Journal, and in 1880 established Hobson's Monthly Magazine, both of which were short lived. In 1881 they joined with A. E. Winrott, a graduate of the Gazette, now a prosperous dealer in railway mail supplies in Chicago, in the publication of the Fayette County Clarion. This paper was a four page sheet, two pages being "patent." Of the remaining two pages, one was devoted to the interests of West Union, the other to Fayette, and great was the joy it created, for a county seat war arose and each page was in favor of its own town, which was only natural, and lambasted the other page fiercely each week. This, of course, could not long continue. Mr. Winrott took over both pages of the Clarion before its internal fires had quite consumed it, and the Argo was launched. Of all these ventures Frank Hobson was editor.

Hobson Brothers continued the publication of the Argo for about ten years, when the paper was sold to Shriver & Way, who retained Mr. Hobson as editor and manager until they sold out to George H. Nichols. Mr. Nichols remained about two years, disposing of the property to Frank J. Stillman, who sold to Frank H. Hobson & Company after a short interval. The "Company" in this firm was R. O. Woodard. After a time Mr. Hobson so arranged his affairs that he held the place alone, but not for long. F. J. Stillman, then in Washington, again bought it, putting his father, E. B. Stillman, one of the pioneer newspaper makers of Iowa, in temporary charge. Within a short time F. J. sold out to Hughes and Fallows, who after a short stay returned it to him. He sold it finally in 1906 to Walter H. Beall, of Mt. Ayr. its present owner and editor.

In 1879, G. W. Fitch, then county superintendent of public schools, made a new departure in journalism by launching the Educational Review. This was a six column folio, neatly printed at the Argo office. It was continued by Mr. Fitch throughout his term of office, Which terminated in 1886, and was taken up and continued by three of his successors in office.

When the Review was started, there was not another similar publication in Iowa; but it was not many years afterward until fully half the county superintendents in the state had adopted this means of holding prompt and satisfactory communication with the teachers and school officers of their respective counties.

The Review was fostered and supported at public expense, one page being devoted to advertising as a means of partial self support.

The primary object in launching this publication was to encourage the gradation of the country schools; to secure county uniformity of school text books; to promote a more general attendance in the schools, and to stimulate higher attainments in the teaching force, and correspondingly better pay for capable services.

All of these things were brought about through the agency of the Review and those who advocated its policies; hence it may be said that it accomplished the work for which it was designed before it was allowed to die from want of public support.

The last few years of its publication it appeared as The Fayette County Teacher, and was delivered free to all teachers and school officers in the county, to whom it was sent monthly for a period of eighteen years.


The Fayette Journals was established in the winter of 1837-8 by Charles O. Myers, who moved his Free Press outfit from West Union for the purpose. J. E. Cooke, who was later to be editor of the Public Review at West Union, was its first editor, and O. C. Cole, who was destined to be a prominent figure in Fayette county newspaper circles for many years, was its carrier boy. The few months during which the Journal existed were marked by many changes. Publisher followed publisher, and editor followed editor in rapid succession. In the list are the names of Byam, Norton, Robertson, Templeton, Halbert, Watts, Vines, and Mrs. D. Alexander.

Mrs. Alexander is entitled to more than a passing notice. For many years she wrote a weekly letter from Fayette to the West Union Gazette, only ceasing when, in March, 1894, her health broke down. She died in July of that year, aged sixty nine years. In commenting on her death, a writer in the Gazette said: "In 1858 she came to Fayette and, although she had the cares of her little family to attend to, she found time to give to the world many hours of pleasure and profit from her literary work. Her reputation as a writer in the locality has been secured chiefly by her letters to the local papers and especially to the Gazette. They were never a mere rehearsal of the trivial happenings of the community. Her discriminating mind found material in the commonest affairs to bring forth keen, but kindly analysis and criticism. She hated sham and hypocrisy, and was unflinching in her attacks upon them. Her pen was never used to court public praise, but the truth was her aim, and her courage to tell it was unbounded." She was much loved in Fayette and the fame of her work was widespread.

The North Iowa Observer, owned by William Brush and edited by J. W. Shannon, later of the Gazette at West Union, was the successor to the Journal. Mr. Shannon left after a time and O. C. Cole took charge of the office, with Mr. Brush still owning the plant. The paper was discontinued in the spring of 1861, after an existence of about a year, the plant being used for occasional job printing, Mr. Cole going to Mason City.

The Public Record was started in 1866, a stock company being formed to buy the West Union paper of that name and move it to Fayette. O. C. Cole, who had returned to Fayette, was put in charge and the paper was issued from the Cole residence for a year. Then the plant was moved to Main street, and Bent Wood and W. B. Lakin, the last named of whom died in Montana in 1910, took charge and restored the North Iowa Observer heading, continuing the publication for six months. Mr. Lakin retired at the end of this period, and was succeeded by O. C. Cole, who with Mr. Wood issued the paper till the spring of 1867. Mr. Wood during this time had bought sufficient stock to give him one share majority in the control of the plant, and he purchased Mr. Cole's interest, expecting to continue alone. But the prospect was not to his liking, and he did not issue another number after making the purchase. Instead, he turned the material over to his brother, who moved it to Austin. Minnesota.

Soon after this Daniel Vines started the Fayette Journal and in a short time O. C. Cole bought into the business, some new material was added and the name was changed to the Volga Valley Times. Under this name and ownership the paper was published until 1874, when it was sold to J. C. Burch and J. O. B. Scobey, after a brief period of suspension.

Messrs. Burch & Scobey called the paper the Fayette News. They published it for a year and sold out to S. D. Helms, who presently sold out to A. E. Vinrott, and Theodore Freer, who changed the name to the Clarion. Freer sold to Winrott and then the Clarion became a two town organ, Hobson Brothers, of West Union, taking a half interest. The two town arrangement soon played out. Mr. Winrott continued the paper until 1883, when he moved it to Calmar.

The Iowa Postal Card was established by O. C. Cole, in the fall of 1882. The Postal Card has continued since its founding without change in ownership, except that in 1907 L. L. Cole assumed an interest and the firm name became Cole & Son.

Since the advent of the Postal Card there have been several other ventures in the field most of them fleeting ones. The New Leaf was started by J. R. Orvis, of Fayette. The News Letter was started by Gay Osborn, of Arlington. The Mercury was started by R. Hutchison, of Arlington. The Reporter was established by Ed. Alexander, of Fayette.

We have not been at the pains to get these in the order of their establishment. For the greater part of fourteen years the Postal Card held the field against all comers. Then, in 1896, C. F. Paine & Company re-established the Reporter and still continue its publication.


The Waucoma Sentinel was, according to the directories, established in 1885 by Frank J. Stillman, but we believe it was preceded by the Pioneer and the Free Press, tentative ventures by Mr. Stillman, dating a year or two earlier. Prof. G. F. Webb was editor for a short time in 1886 and was succeeded by Fred Fallows, but Mr. Stillman's finger was on the pulse of the patient continuously. In 1889 the paper was enlarged and a page devoted to Hawkeye, headed the Hawkeye Mail, was added, this paper being edited by Jennie A. McCleery. In 1890 Mr. Stillman again took full control and continued for perhaps two or three years, when he sold to Fallows & Webster, who in time leased the plant to Norman A. Hurd, who became its owner in 1889. In 1909 he leased it for a year to Paul R. Stillman, son of the paper's founder, and during the year sold to J. N. Walker, who took possession January 1, 1910, as editor and owner.


The Arlington News established as the Brush Creek News, had its inception in March, 1874, O. H. Osborn being its founder. In two years he sold to A. B. Vines. After continuing the publication about six months Mr. Vines sold it to M. W. Bates, who changed the name of the paper, calling it the Brush Creek Plaindealer and Advertiser. Mr. Bates tired of the proposition within a year and Mr. Osborn again became its owner, and restored its original name. He was in control of it practically all the time until 1897, although it is recorded that in 1834 Theodore Freer, whose ambition seems to have been to experiment with every newspaper field in the county, bought it for perhaps a year. In 1897 W. F. Lake bought the property from Mr. Osborn and still has it, the only paper in Arlington.

The Mercury was established in 1892 by John Hutchison and was continued for about four years, Hutchison & Son being succeeded by Frank E. Hutchison, and he by Hutchison & Lickiss. The paper was removed in 1896 to Fayette, where it had a brief existence.


The Oelwein Clipper was established in August, 1876, by Arthur Stahl and was discontinued in February, 1877.

The Oelwein Register was established by Theodore Freer in August, 1881, Mr. Freer, after a brief editorial career, returned the proposition to Will Bauch, who, in 1885, leased the office to W. S. Beals, of Independence. In 1887 Messrs. Henry V. Hoyer and William Morgan came upon the scene. Mr. Morgan was succeeded in 1891 by A. E. Woodruff, and the paper was published until 1900 by Woodruff & Hoyer, when Mr. Woodruff sold out to F. S. Robinson and the firm name is now Hoyer & Robinson. The Register became a daily in 1906, and at this writing is in complete possession of the Oelwein field.

The Oelwein Herald 'was started by F. P. Donnelly in 1892 and stood the strain, if memory serves us rightly, about one year.

The Oelwein Journal was established in the late eighties, by C. P. Smith. Harry Walton appeared as publisher for a time. In 1890 Mr. Smith removed the paper to Sumner.

The Oelwein Record came into existence in 1892 under the guidance of Messrs. E. L. Bucher and William A. Reed. The former retired from the field after a few years and Mr. Reed continued the publication, changing it to a daily in 1906. He went to Waterloo in 1908 to take charge of a daily paper, leaving the Record to die, which it did in the early part of 1909.

The Oelwein Daily, started in 1906 by an over zealous gentleman named Smith, we believe, had a brief life but a merry one. When its proprietor "blew up," the city of Oelwein, theretofore contented with two weeklies, had two dailies, one of which it retains.


The Clermont Leader, Clermont's first paper, was established by George B. Edmunds in May, 1866. Mr. Edmunds was an able writer and the Leader attracted attention from its first number. But an unfortunate circumstance, the details of which are somewhat shrouded in mystery, caused Mr. Edmunds to depart from Clermont in the summer of 1867, and the Leader was continued till fall by H. D. Lindley, when it died peaceably.

The People's Paper (later called People's Paper and Alliance) was started by D. G. Goodrich in April, 1870, as an advertising medium for his farm machinery business. It was issued monthly and was printed at West Union. Mr. Goodrich's talent for the making of a newspaper, apparently unsuspected by even himself, became so manifest within a short time, and the demand for the publication so pronounced, that he bought a printing outfit and in April, 1871, the paper was made a weekly and was published simultaneously at Clermont, West Union and Oelwein. It was Greenback in politics.

During the first three years of the paper's existence, a Mr. Newell was associated with Mr. Goodrich in its publication. His interest was bought by Mr. Goodrich in 1873, and that same year Mr. Goodrich sold a half interest to the Clermont Printing Company, but remained as editor until 1879, when his connection with the press of Fayette county was severed. He was later connected with the Republican at Cedar Rapids. He represented this county in the General Assembly of 1866 and served three years as county supervisor. He died in Minneapolis in 1896. The name of the paper was changed in 1879 to Iowa State Express, and the end came in a few months, the plant being sold to C. H. Talmadge of the West Union Gazette.

The Clermont Independent was started by R. B. Hinkley in 188o and was continued for several years.

The Clermont Herald was started in 1892 by George Grames, who sold to E. A. Fisk in 1894. The paper was discontinued eighteen months later.

The Clermont Observer was started in 1898 by Andrew Hanson. W. W. Loomis later became connected with the venture, which lasted three years.

The Clermont Enterprise was established by W. R. Blake in December, 1905, and it is still under his proprietary and editorial control.


The Maynard News was established by Dr. G. W. Hanes in 1889 and was printed at Oelwein. In the early nineties L. D. Rawley bought the paper and put in a printing plant. He is still there.

The Maynard Reporter, started by E. D. Alexander in 1896, had a short life.


The Hawkeye Beacon was started by F. J. Stillman in August, 1892, with W. N. Rogers as editor. Bop Brothers bought the paper after a year or two and for a time Mr. Rogers was replaced as editor by Reuben Babcock. Soon thereafter Mr. Rogers returned and bought the paper and is still its editor and owner.

The Hawkeye Mail, with Guy Osborn as editor, ran ashore in the nineties. The Hawkeye Press, by Al F. Hack, was published for a few weeks in the summer of 1907.


The Elgin Times was established in July, 1875, by Henry C. Hammond, who sold it in 1878 to M. W. Blodgett. Mr. Blodgett continued its publication for about three months and returned it to Mr. Hammond, who discontinued it.

The Elgin Reporter was started by E. D. Alexander in the eighties and was succeeded by the Elgin Echo with E. L. Bucher, as editor and proprietor. Mr. Bucher was followed by P. L. Ainsworth, who gave place to the present owner and editor, F. W. Hughes, in 1901.


The Westgate Times was started in 1895 by R. B. Robinson, the paper being printed at Oelwein. It was soon discontinued.

The Westgate Herald was established in 1897 by Homer P. Branch. Mr. Branch, in association with his son, Julian P., conducted the paper until 1908, when he sold to the Herald Publishing Company. The paper is now edited by W. E. Snyder.

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