History of The Leon Journal-Reporter

The city of Leon, Iowa, is the seat of Decatur County, which shares its southern border with Missouri. Leon was first surveyed in the early 1850s and was incorporated as a city in 1858. The town’s first newspaper, the Leon Pioneer, began in 1855 and changed ownership multiple times before ceasing publication in 1873. This opened the door for the Leon Reporter to become the area’s leading source of local news.

The Leon Reporter began weekly publication in 1875. A few years later it merged with Orange M. Howard and William C. Jackson’s paper the Democrat to become the Democrat-Reporter. The paper continued to expand, absorbing the Decatur County Press on October 26, 1881. John C. Stockton, the editor and publisher of the Decatur County Press, took over editorial duties for the newly consolidated publication, while Justinian A. Ray served as the business manager. In August 1884, Lon H. Boydston took over as editor and remained until he sold his interest in the Democrat-Reporter to John D. and Oliver E. Hull on January 1, 1887. After the sale, the Hulls changed to paper’s name back to the Leon Reporter. On October 1, 1887, Edgar W. Curry purchased John Hull’s interest in the paper. Boydston returned to the Reporter in May 1889, purchasing Curry’s interest; but on December 1, 1890, Oliver Hull purchased Boydston’s share, taking full control of the paper.

In its early years, the Leon Reporter strongly supported Democratic political candidates and featured coverage of political campaigns and Democratic policies. During the 1890s, the paper published vituperative anti-Republican content and strongly opposed trusts, monopolies, and combines. Although supportive of the Democratic Party, the Reporter also published content related to the Populist Party and the Silver Republicans.

While the content has varied over the course of its existence, the paper often featured serialized fiction, articles about fashion, cartoons, sermons, and humorous pieces. The Reporter also covered local social news from Leon and social correspondence from communities throughout south-central Iowa and northern Missouri.

From the 1890s to the 1910s, the paper gave particular attention to news of interest to home seekers, publishing letters from correspondents in other states and reporting on land runs, lotteries, and sales as new territories opened for settlement. The Leon Reporter supported the establishment of a Leon Chautauqua and offered considerable coverage when one began in 1907. The Reporter also covered in detail regional involvement in both the Spanish-American War and World War I, publishing information about enlistments and casualties. In 1918 and 1919, “Soldier Boy Letters” were a prominent feature.

The paper continues to publish today as the Leon Journal-Reporter, following its 1930 merger with the Decatur County Journal.

SOURCE: State Historical Society of Iowa

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2015
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