Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Every major village in Van Buren County except Bentonsport and Leando had its own newspaper(s.) Some lasted only a few years, some were bought, sold and changed names several times, while others merged or moved to neighboring communities. Within the county, ten newspapers operated simultaneously near the turn of the last century.

Keosauqua’s first newspaper, The Des Moines River Intelligencer, was probably the first paper to be published in the county, dating back to 1843. From 1846 to 1854, Keosauqua printed the Des Moines Whig, which then moved to Keokuk and changed its name to The Keokuk Gate City.

In 1855, the Keosauqua Republican began operation. Bonaparte and Farmington’s Leader-Record owes its beginning to this paper, which changed its name to the Van Buren Record in 1873. For awhile, Bonaparte had a paper named the Bonaparte Bee, which originated as The Record in 1889. Meanwhile, Farmington started a paper called The Gazette in 1874. Although it was discontinued in 1878, it was followed by the Record, the Bee, and the Argus in quick succession. In September, 1878 the Argus changed its name to the Herald. (This information comes from the December 16, 1886 issue of the Farmington Herald.) In 1894 The Farmington News commenced publication.

According to a newspaper article of that year, six newspapers still operated within the borders of Van Buren County in 1924: The Milton Herald, Keosauqua Republican, Farmington News-Republican, Birmingham Enterprise, Bonaparte Record, and the Van Buren Barometer. It goes on to say that a total of ten papers were in circulation at the same time. These were the Stockport News, Farmington News, Farmington Herald, Milton Herald, Cantril New Era or Cantril Leader, Birmingham Enterprise, Bonaparte Bee, The Bonaparte Record, State Line Democrat, and the Keosauqua Republican. Of those newspapers listed, the Bonaparte Bee became the Keosauqua Independent and the State Line Democrat evolved into the Van Buren Barometer.

Some people think it is unique for a county with such a small population (7,800) to maintain two weekly newspapers. Try ten. Milton, Cantril, Birmingham and Stockport had competing newspapers while the villages of Farmington, Bonaparte and Keosauqua each somehow managed to endure two rival publications. Surrounding counties with much greater populations supported fewer papers than Van Buren.

The set-up and appearance of an early newspaper was quite different than one of our current weekly papers. Two or three pages were devoted to national and international news, which might be quite old and after-the-fact. This was followed by state-wide, local news, and editorials. Although they had obituaries and local columns similar to those found in today’s papers, these weekly periodicals were yesteryear’s FOX, ESPN and CNN HEADLINE NEWS!

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick