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Shelby County


1889 History Index

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Shelby County, Iowa


The local press is justly considered as among the most valuable institutions of every city, town, village and county. Every community regards its particular paper as of peculiar importance, and this not merely on account of the fact already mentioned, but because these local newspapers are the safe repositories wherein are stored the facts and events, the deeds and the sayings, the undertakings and achievements, that go to make up final history. One by one these seemingly trivial matters are placed in type; one by one these papers are issued and read; one by one these papers are gathered together and bound into files, and then another volume of real and true local history is laid away in an almost imperishable state.

The people of each community naturally have a pride in their own home paper. The local press, as a rule nowadays, goes onm ahead, coupled with the railway, as vanguard to civilization and refinement. They nearly always reflect the true character of a people by whom they are read, and their advertisements are indices to the growth and financial prosperity of a town or city. Juding from this standard, Shelby County has ever had wide-wake, enterprising business men.

The first newspaper issued in Shelby County was the New Idea, started by Samuel Dewell, at the now defunct village of Simoda. Its first issue was dated soon after that place was platted in 1858, and was later known as the Gazette, but, like the embryo town, soon "died in the shell," when another journal representing the interests of Simoda sprang into existence. This was known as the Shelby County Reporter. Volume I., No. 1, of this pioneer sheet was dated March 5, 1859. It was Democratic in its politics, and was a live local paper, advocating the removal of the county seat to Simoda from Shelbyville. It was edited by Major P. Bull. Its size and form was that of a five-column folio. It carried on a personal and bitter warfare against Judge Tarkington and the people of Harlan, indulging in much slang and personal abuse. Its second issue had the following in bold head-lines: "Our County a Kingdom Where a Tyrant Doth Rule." Its opponent was the Shelby County Courier, published at Harlan. When the county-seat "Simoda war" had ended both journals sank into oblivion, and were both hard to bring back by the historian.

The Shelby County Courier first greeted its patrons Januar 30, 1859. It was a creditable looking paper, several copies of which are now highly prized by some of the old settlers as mementoes of the long ago. In size and form it was a six-column folio, and was independent in its politics. Its editor and proprietor was J. B. Besack, who prior to this had been editor of the Jasper County Express. It was an even match for Major Bull, of the Reporter of Simoda, the rival town, and frequently referred to its editor's writings as "Bull Bellowings," "Kicked by a mad bull," etc., while in answer the editor of the Reporter styled him as "Bees wax drippings,"--his name being Besack. In it was published an account of the first agricultural society, with a long premium list; the fair, however, never materialized! Its career, like the Simoda paper, found the end of its mission with the county-seat settlement--both living long enough to say very many mean things of each other.

The Herald was started December 18, 1874, by Campbell & Musgrave. It was a seven-column folio, and Republican in politics. It only ran a few weeks until a change was made, which has been going on ever since, until its identity was absorbed in what is now the Republican. Campbell dropped out and Mr. Musgrove operated alone until May 6, 1875, when he took in as a partner F. H. McIntosh, who Musgrave, in introducing him to his old patrons, said through his columns was a man of fine culture, an excellent writer, and with all of an untarnished character. However, within a few months the young journalist (McIntosh) stole $30 from his fellow neighbor, H. C. Holcomb, and "skipped the town," going to Council Bluffs and from there went to Texas.

The next change on the paper was in September, 1875. After having been closed about a month, G. D. Ross took charge of the plant. He changed the motto of the journal from "Independent in all things--neutral in nothing," to "Republican--always for the right." The 17th of July, 1879, Robert W. Robins became proprietor of the paper, with John L. Log as a silent partner. January 22, 1880, a half interest was sold to C. R. Pratt, of Connecticut, when the name of the firm became "The Herald Printing Company." In November of that year C. R. Pratt sold to E. R. Parmelee. January 5, 1882, S. K. Pratt purchased a half interest from Parmelee, when the firm was styled Pratt Bros., which continued until July 12, 1883, when they sold to W. W. Girton, who soon took W. M. Oungst as a partner. They had both been connected with the Harlan Hub, which was merged into the Herald, and its name changed to the Shelby County Republican--its present name. This change was effected in July, 1886, when Girton sold to C. W. Rhinesmith. Perhaps no paper in Iowa has had more changes than this plant, considering its age.

The Shelby County Record was founded by R. H. Eaton in July, 1870. It went through several changes in proprietorship. Woods & Robins conducted it awhile, then Robins sold to Woods, who was connected with it when it was merged, together with the Harlan Hub, into the Shelby County Republican in 1875.

The Harlan Hub was established December 9, 1880. It was a Republican paper which advocated the prohibitory constitutional amendment. Its founder was W. M. Oungst, who after a year took W. W. Girton in as equal partner. The plant was merged into the Herald in July, 1883.

Under all these manifold changes the paper has been a live local journal, and well supported by the people of Shelby County.

The Harlan Tribune (Democratic) was first launched on the sea of journalism June 11, 1879, by A. D. Tinsley and U. S. Brown. It was started as an eight-column folio, and has always adhered to the true democratic principles and been the leading official organ of Shelby County. Tinsley purchased Brown's interest February 18, 1880, and operated it until May 10, 1882, then sold to E. T. Best, of the Chariton (Ia.) Leader. December 19, 1883, another change was effected, by which Best sold to G. W. Cullison and J. D. Walker; they continued as partners until February 27, 1884, when Cullison sold his share to Walker, who conducted the paper alone until January 1, 1885, then sold to the present proprietor, W. C. Campbell, who has made radical changes in the plant, both as to mechanical and general newspaper tone. July 11, 1888, it was enlarged to a nine-column folio, and a Campbell cylinder press was put in at the same time, which gave the paper one of the best outfits owned by any printing establishment inthis sction of Iowa.

The Industrial American, the latest newspaper publication in Shelby County, was established July 16, 1887, by A. T. and M. B. Cox. It is a six-column quarto, one side home print and the other from the Sioux City Newspaper Union. In April, 1888, H. C. Hanson bought M. B. Cox out--the firm name now being Cox & Hanson. This journal is an advocate of the Union Labor party, and has a large circulation among the various county farmers' alliances. As an advertising medium for the merchants and professional men it has no superior. The political standard which it so faithfully upholds is constantly growing in popular favor.

The Shelby News, published at Shelby, is a good local journal, fully up to the times and always found working in a correct manner for the village of Shelby and its surrounding country. It was founded in 1877, its first issue being dated March 22 of that year. Its founder was El. L. Heath, who owned and conducted it until April 8, 1880, when it became the property of John Pomeroy, who is the present proprietor. In politics it is a consistent advocate of Republican principles. It is of a seven-column folio form and printed by a Washington hand-press. At this date one-half of the printed matter is run by the Western Newspaper Union of Des Moines, Iowa. The local department is replete with the latest, spiciest news items, giving its patrons all the comings and goings of their town and county.

The Defiance Argus, one of the fixtures of Shelby County newspaper publications, was founded at Defiance, Iowa, in 1882, the first issue being printed on June 10 of that year--the same season the railroad was being constructed through the place. Its present proprietor, F. Bangs, was its founder and has constantly worked for the best interests of the territory in which it circulates. The office met with a misfortune in 1883, by which all was lost in a fire; but it came forth from the ashes brighter and better than ever. It was at first a five-column quarto in size and form, but at present is a seven-column folio. Its local department is well filled each week with every local happening. Politically the Journal stands independent, being a news chronicler, rather than an assumed party organ. It may here be stated that Mr. Bangs has not "amassed a great fortune," but by the aid of his good wife and daughter, who use both brain and muscle on the Argus, manages to pay his bills and live.

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass February, 2015 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 250-253.

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