History of the Press in Wapello County, IA
From: History of Wapello County, Iowa
By Harrison L. Waterma, Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago 1914


The pioneer newspaper of Wapello County first made its appearance August 8, 1848, under the name of the Des Moines Courier, with J. H. D. Street and R. H. Warden as editors and proprietors. It was a six column folio, neatly printed and edited. Politically it was the advocate of whig principles, advocating the election of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore for the presidency and vice presidency. In its first issue appeared the advertisement of a number of merchants and professional men of Ottumwa. Lane and Devin have a card as attorneys. Dr. Charles C. Warden and Dr. A. T. Alt had professional cards. L. C. Nichols advertised a livery "with horses and buggies to carry persons to any part of the state. He also keeps a four horse omnibus that will carry fourteen persons, which he will run whenever occasion requires." S. Richards, hardware, etc. F. W. Taylor advertised drugs, paints, oil, etc.; A. Mudge & Company, dry goods and groceries; W. S. Carter & Company, the "Farmers' Cheap Store;" Hunter & Baldwin, general store.

At the beginning of the second volume the paper was enlarged to a seven column folio. Street and Warden continued the publication of the paper until January 20, 1851, when Mr. Warden became sole proprietor, and continued the publication of the paper until December 20, 1855, when J. W. Norris purchased the office, and in connection with his brother, G. W. Norris, published the paper until 1866, when N. D. Mussleman, W. H. Caldwell and W. C. Holden became proprietors. The name of the paper was changed in 1857 from the Des Moines Courier to the Ottumwa Courier. J. W. Norris at one time was associated in the publication of the Chicago Journal. In his editorial utterances he was quite conservative, though a warm supporter of republican principles. The Daily Courier was established in 1865. In August, 1869, Gen. John M. Hedrick and Maj. Augustus H. Hamilton became editors and proprietors and continued in partnership until January, 1878, when A. H. Hamilton became sole owner. The publication was presided over by Major Hamilton until April 1, 1890, when the late A. W. Lee purchased it and became owner and publisher. The office was then located at 204 South Court Street in the rear of the Ottumwa Savings Bank, and it boasted of a circulation of 575 copies daily and 1,500 copies weekly. For mechanical equipment, Mr. Lee had an old Taylor drum cylinder press with a capacity of 900 copies an hour, each paper having to be put through the press twice in order to print both sides of the paper.; Four men setting type by hand made up the composing room. As the publication expanded, new quarters were found to be necessary and in 1897, the plant was removed to the Leighton Building on Market Street, where. Davis' Saratoga Billiard Hall is now located. The present home of the Courier was completed in 1903 and in November of that year the first issue of the paper was printed in its own home.

On the 5th day of April, 1865, the first issue of the Ottumwa Daily Courier appeared, and from then on to the present it has prospered. Major Hamilton retired in April, 1890, when A. W. Lee became proprietor and editor. The Courier then entered upon a new era of prosperity and Mr. Lee's wonderful energy and business judgment brought the paper to metropolitan proportions. The Courier has grown from a weekly publication; issued from a rude log cabin, to a triweekly and daily journal, printed in its own up to date and modernly equipped plant. The hand press and hand set type of former days have given way to five linotype machines, a three deck Goss printing press of twenty four page capacity, and the latest stereotyping devices. The Courier of today in point of circulation, mechanical equipment, news service and general facilities, makes the claim that it is the biggest newspaper in the world, published in a city the size of Ottumwa. To reach this happy consummation, men of intellect and executive ability have been at its head. This is readily apparent when mention Bs made in this connection of Richard H. Warden, Gen. John M. Hedrick, James W. Norris, Maj. A. H. Hamilton, William H. Caldwell, and Alfred W. Lee, James F. Powell, able, energetic and enterprising, is the publisher, and R. D. McManus, managing editor, under the Lee Newspaper Syndicate, founded by the late A. W. Lee, and of which the Courier is a member.


The Ottumwa Weekly Review was established in August, 1905, and the Daily Review, February 3, 1909, by A. J. Stump, who designates the publication as the "official county democratic newspaper." It is a six column quarto and is established in a building at 123 West Second Street.


The Des Moines Republic first came before the reading public of thins community in June, 1850. It was established by James Baker & Company and suspended publication after about two years of existence.

The first number of the Democratic Statesman, which appeared in 1858, was published by G. D. R. Boyd. Mr. Boyd soon retired and J. H. D. Street took charge of the paper. He was succeeded in 1861 by H. B. Hendershott and E. L. Burton, who changed the name to the Ottumwa Democratic Union. In the course of a year Judge Hendershott retired from the publication in favor of S. B. Evans, who, with Mr. Burton, published the paper under the name of the Democratic Mercury. Mr. Evans went into the army in August, 1862, and Judge Burton continued the publication with his brother, S. H. Burton, until October, 1865, at which time the Burton interests passed into the hands of Russell Higgins. In November, 1865, S. B. Evans again took up associations with the Mercury, having secured the Higgins interest, and remained until 1868, when he severed his connection and shortly thereafter the paper was discontinued.

In March, 1868, an exceedingly ultra democratic newspaper entitled The Copperhead, previously published at Pella, Marion County, was removed to Ottumwa. M. V. B. Bennett, H. M. McCully and S. B. Evans here continued its publication until December of that year, when Mr. Bennett withdrew. In December, 1870, Mr. McCully also withdrew. Mr. Evans on his succeeding to the sole editorship and proprietorship, immediately changed the name The Copperhead to that of The Ottumwa Democrat.

Capt. S. B. Evans founded the Ottumwa Democrat in December, 1870, and the Daily Democrat in 1874. He sold a half interest in 1876 to J. W Norris, and later on the Democrat was consolidated with the Times under the name of the Democrat and Times. The latter named paper was sold to a syndicate of democrats in 1881, and in 1884 Captain Evans assumed the management and continued the publication until it was purchased by R. H. Moore. The Democrat and Times was conducted by Mr. Moore until in August, 1897, when it was consolidated with the Sun. Moore retired in 1898, and Charles D. Brown & Company assumed control, retaining the management until George F. Smith bought the property. The latter sold to Martha B. Johnston, who remained in the management until June 15, 1901, at which time S. A. Brewster became sole proprietor.

The Ottumwa Sun, a weekly publication, was established in June, 1890, by Capt. S. B. Evans and H. C. Evans. In 1894 the Daily Morning Sun was established, and although it attained a circulation of nearly 2,000, the enterprise was not profitable, which compelled suspension of the daily issue. The weekly was continued until July, 1897, when it was consolidated with the Democrat. Both papers are now out of existence.

In 1870 H. S. Bailey began the publication of the Reveille, and six months later the paper was out of existence. A. Danquard established the Journal, a German publication, in April, 1871. John A. Wagner became part owner in 1881, and had full control in 1884. Publication of the Journal was discontinued in 1912.

The Ottumwa Printing Company, composed of H. M. Ives, O. C. Graves, Dr. G. F. Foster and others, established the Spirit of the Times in April, 1874. Foster withdrew and in 1875 H. M. Ives purchased Graves interest. I. T. Flint acquired an interest in the paper in July, 1876, and on November 14, 1878, the Times was consolidated with the Democrat.

In 1880 appeared the Ottumwa Press, a weekly newspaper, established by Riley & Jones, which attained a large circulation in Southern Iowa. The plant was incorporated in 1899, the original owners taking the majority of the stock, and a daily edition was published. The plant was equipped with a speedy and expensive printing press and typesetting machine, but the enterprise was unprofitable and the paper suspended.

E. H. Thomas established the South Ottumwa News, an outgrowth of the Ottumwa Saturday News, January 4, 1890. Upon his appointment as postmaster of South Ottumwa, he sold the paper and in the course of time A. J. Stump and Arthur McGrew accquired possession.

In 1895 S. S. Sherman issued from his job printing establishment a little four page paper, which he called the Daily Republican. But a few issues had been published when E. M. Jennison, a former employe of the Courier, purchased the plant. Within a few weeks he took into partnership J. S. McClelland and his brother. The paper was enlarged and it fought valiantly for the republican ticket in 1896. The venture was a disastrous one, however, and in 1897 the publication was suspended.

The independent, founded May 26, 1899, by Capt. S. B. Evans, and the Saturday Herald, established May 27, 1899, by R. H. Moore, are both out of existence.

In 1912, A. J. Hathaway and J. M. Woods, under the firm name of Hathaway & Woods, established a paper devoted to the labor interests, which was known and designated as the Labor News. Its life was a short and uneventful one, as it ceased to exist in the latter part of 1913. The plant was bought by Charles E. Hay, who moved it from the building on the northwest corner of Main and Green, to the basement of a building on Second, just off of Market, where he has established a job printing shop.

The first paper published in Eddyville was the Free Press, established by J. W. N orris, August 14, 1853. The second proprietor was J. V. Meeker and the third, B. H. Palmer who, in 1856, changed the name to The Commercial. The paper ceased to exist in 1859. Soon thereafter The Observer was born and died within three months. The author of its being was J. T. Cooke. The Star was established in 1862 by Melick & McConnell, who published the paper until 1865 and they sold out to Charles Sherman, who shortly after discontinued the publication. Melick & Bitner started The Independent in 1868, a short lived affair, whose material went into the possession of Editor Straight, who started the Des Moines Valley Gazette. John Wilcox became associated with the enterprise and in the course of three years Mr. Straight withdrew. The paper went the way of its predecessors in 1872. The Advertiser was the next paper here and was brought into the world by William L. Palmer in 1869. The next venture was by W. A. Fast and J. T. Sherman, who founded the Advance in 1865. Fast retired in favor of A. Cross, who was identified with the paper until 1873, when the plant was destroyed by fire. The Tribune became the successor to all the publications here noted and was ably edited by W. W. DeLong until 1905, when it was bought by the present owner and publisher, Chal Sturgeon.

It is believed that the first newspaper to be printed in Eldon was the Herald, established by a Mr. Morehouse in 1873. No real encouragement was accorded the innovation and it lasted but three months. Then came the Messenger in November, 1875, under the editorial management of Mr. Melick, which lasted about six weeks. The Times issued its first edition soon after and in June, 1876, the editor, Dr. J. E. Elverson, turned over the paper to Tunis Bentley, who changed the name to the Western News. Jesse Markee was the owner in 1877 and in the spring of 1878 suspended publication. Then came the Review in 1881, which was established by E. H. Thomas, of South Ottumwa. He sold out to C. E. and L. R. McKinney in 1885. The paper is no more. But in 1891 the Graphic was established by George W. Friend and M. P. Duffield. Mr. Friend purchased his partner's interest in 1893, changed the name to Eldon Forum and later sold a part of his interest to O. S. Garriott. In 1901, Friend was again in sole possession, and in 1902 sold to C. E. Akers who, in the following spring, turned the plant over to its new owner, W. D. Davis, who published the Forum for six years and sold to Benjamin J. Pruess and Clarence Seaton. The latter retired in a short time and Seaton disposed of the paper to W. F. Bigley and D. H. Murphy, in the spring of 1912. In the spring of 1913 Mr. Murphy became sole owner and publisher.

The first issue of the Register appeared February 12, 1913. It was established by Bert Davis, son of W. D. Davis, of the Ottumwa bar. It is a seven column folio, all home print, and independent in politics.

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