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Teeming with rivals: a history of Wadena newspapers

The history of newspapers in Wadena is one of start-ups and take-overs.

In 1910, a man by the name of William Wigham with George Merwin and August Stoecker started the Wadena News at 11 Bryant Ave. SE, published every Tuesday and Friday. In 1913, the Pioneer Journal bought them out.

In 1919, the Wadena News was rejuvenated as the Wadena Farmers Publishing Company with C. F. Scheers as editor in a partnership with Nels Peterson. In 1924, Peterson sold his interest to Carroll Kingsley, publishing the Wadena County Tab and located at 106 Jefferson South, the home of the Pizza Ranch in 2009. In 1923, stockholders Carl Fischer and August Ladwig brought suit against editor C. F. Scheers for non payment of rent and that he had not acquired the necessary bond of $2,500. Scheers did not appear and the plant and building were advertised for sale. Nothing further developed on this with the appointment of A. C. Hanson, editor, and it continued to operate until sold to the Pioneer Journal in 1926.

Also in 1919, the Wadena Progressive News was started with August Stoecker as president and Charles Estlund as editor. This also was bought up by the Pioneer Journal in 1925.

In 1934, the Wadena County Tab was started by Carroll Kingsley formerly associated with the Wadena News and lasted until 1938 when he sold out to the Pioneer Journal. Kingsley continued with the job printing business at 13 Bryant Avenue SW, for many years under the name of Kingsley Press and was succeeded by his son Maurice who, in 1965, moved the business to larger quarters at 204 First Street SE until his retirement in 1985.

In 1963, a disgruntled former editor of the Pioneer Journal, Gerry Fitzgerald, started the Wadena Free Press at 9 Bryant Avenue SE, Wadena, but lasted only a short time before filing bankruptcy.

Now getting back to the Pioneer Journal after its founding in 1897.

In 1898, shortly after it came into being the Pioneer Journal determined to issue an illustrated edition of Wadena. The illustrations were to be original and of the very best modern French copper plate half tones. The pictures would consist of a large and beautiful bird's eye views of Wadena, a characteristic street scene, all of the churches, school, court house, park, electric light plant and reservoir, private residences, business and surrounding views, along with a large number of portraits of well-known citizens.

An original of this booklet is on display at the Wadena County Historical Society along with original copies of several different newspapers and later illustrated editions.

A like book was published in 1903, a smaller version in 1915 and of course the 50th anniversary one published in 1927. The one to climax them all was the 100th anniversary one in 1981. In 2000, they published a pictorial picture book, edited by Dee Goerge, of county happenings in the 20th century by decades titled "A County Cultivated." In 2006, a pictorial book celebrated Wadena's 125th year.

In 1905, Charles Eastman, of the Pioneer Journal, got together with William Verity of the Wadena Tribune and they were consolidated.

In 1906, the Pioneer Journal did away with the old fashioned method of setting type by hand and purchased a Mergenthaler Linotype. As a result a proficient operator would be able to handle all composition on the paper in about half the time now consumed by three compositors.

In 1911, on the death of Eastman, Verity returned to Wadena and assumed ownership of the Pioneer Journal. In 1912, Charles C. Hartman was the editor and in 1913 with the resignation of Alvah Swindlehurst, Harald E. Boen, who had come to Wadena a year earlier as business manager for the Wadena News, assumed the editorship.

In 1914, the old linotype machine was sold and a new Intertype machine was installed enabling the paper to give better service both in newspaper printing and job printing.

In 1916, Herman Kallusky, a local merchant, visited Verity with the complaint that the Pioneer Journal was presenting biased news concerning Germany in the First World War and said it should be stopped. Verity asked him where he thought the paper could get unbiased news and Kallusky said through the German newspapers in Milwaukee, whereupon Verity informed him that he would run the newspaper as he saw fit.

In 1921, the Pioneer Journal opted to start a farm news department employing a special man for the work. This was viewed with much misgiving by the fraternity but after it proved its worth, scores of Minnesota weeklies started similar departments.

The following year the paper ran, for a nine-week period, a missing word contest, which involved searching for missing words, from two pages of advertising in the center section of the paper. Prizes were first, $5, second a year's subscription to the paper, and third, $1.

In 1923, the subscription rate for one year was $1.

In 1925, Harold Knutson, Minnesota congressional member, purchased the paper from Wm. Verity, retaining Harald Boen as editor and staff Alfred Lemke, Etta Burnett and Robert J. Hartman. However, the next year with the consolidation with the Wadena News, Harald Boen stepped down and Alfred Lemke assumed editorship.