Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

The Many Newspapers of Van Buren County

Recently I was asked to write an article on Van Buren County's newspapers, and that is no easy task.  It is difficult to trace the existence of all of them.  Keosauqua alone has housed at least fifteen, either because of name changes or as separate entities.
The first newspaper published in the county was at Keosauqua, and was called The Iowa Democratic and Des Moines River Intelligencer.  Either the 6th or 8th newspaper published in Iowa Territory (depending on the source), it began operation in July, 1843 and continued until 1850.
Jesse M. Shepherd and J. L. T. Mitchell began the publishing operation, and Jesse's father bought out Mitchell in 1844.  At that time, Mitchell attempted to run a second paper in Keosauqua, a Whig paper, entitled The Border Pioneer, but it soon failed.
In Keosauqua, the Des Moines Valley Whig, operated in 1845-1846 under the guidance of Howell & Cowles.  Arlando Jones published the Keosauqua Jeffersonian from April 29, 1850 until May 26, 1851.  The Western American was published by L. D., and H. Morris from July 5, 1851 until July 3, 1852.
A newspaper simply called The Union was operated by Shepherd and Summerlin beginning November 25, 1854, and the Democratic Union was published by a man named Southerland from about 1853 to August 5, 1854.
O.O. Taylor published the Des Moines News from May 7, 1858 until March 31, 1860.  Shepherd became publisher on April 7, 1860 and it continued until 1865.
A Republican newspaper called the Shady Side was published by Joel Mayne from Oct. 27, 1871 until March 8, 1872 when it was sold to Burton, who continued the operation until July 26, 1872. 
The Van Buren Democrat was moved from Bonaparte to Keosauqua on December 1, 1876.
Meanwhile, The Keosauqua Republican had a long history, which began on September 12, 1854 by W. C. Worden.  Worden sold the newspaper to L. D. Moore in 1855, who transferred it to John S. Stidger in 1856.  Stidger sold it to L. D. Morris in 1858, who sold it to Joe Mayne in 1859. Mayne sold it to George Henry in 1868.
On February 12, 1877 Henry sold half the newspaper to W. H. Bleakmore and on August 30, 1877 he sold the other half interest to J. M. Strong.  On December 27, 1877 Strong transferred his interest to Judge Joshua S. Sloan and the operation became known as Sloan & Bleakmore.
The Farmington Gazette was started by M. L. Mooers in February, 1874 but was discontinued in 1878.  It was followed by the Record on November 8, 1878.  The Farmington Herald began operation in 1886 and the Farmington News on December 6, 1894.
The first newspaper in Bonaparte was the Van Buren Democrat by Smith & Holcombe that operated from January 19, 1870 until 1876 when the operation was moved to Keosauqua.  J. W. And John H. Sherman (Sherman Brothers) started The Journal on April 5, 1877.  This was followed by the Bonaparte Bee and eventually, the Bonaparte Record.
The Bentonsport Signal was published by A. C. Bailey from 1865 to 1868. 
Earlier, the Vernon Democratic Mirror operated from December 7, 1855 to December 18, 1857.  John M. Estes was the editor, and J. S. Shepherd the publisher.  Shepherd changed the name to the Valley Weekly News, which ran from January 1, 1858 until April 30, 1858.  Vernon had a paper factory at this time, and their newspaper operation was said to be the only one in Iowa that used paper manufactured in the area.
The Milton Headlight began in October, 1876 by Allen Ditson.  Ditson sold the newspaper to Marsan & Baxter, who continued it until October, 1877.  Marsan became the sole owner, and continued it until March, 1878.
The Milton Herald operated from 1891 until 1930.  Cantril also had a paper, called the Cantril News, which began circulating in 1887.
The Weekly Selma Star existed for awhile, and was first published on December 12, 1884.
The Birmingham Enterprise was started by W. H. Moore in October, 1869.  J. A. T. Hull, J. S. Ragsdale, and W. K. Parker were owners during the next few years.  By 1874, Parker sold his half to C. L. Sheward and the publishing firm was known as Sheward & Parker.
On April 28, 1922 a man named H. R. Tillat began publishing the Stockport News, which operated until 1932.
Ten newspapers were in circulation in Van Buren County at the same time, including 1 in Stockport, 2 in Farmington, 1 in Milton, 1 in Cantril, 1 in Birmingham, 2 in Bonaparte, and 2 in Keosauqua.  Six still remained in operation 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.
Two weekly newspapers continue a lively operation in Van Buren County, which is remarkable for a county with a population of only 7,600.  If I have left out any newspapers in this brief historical outline, please let me know.

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