Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

May 31, 2007

Local newspapers after 1870

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

Last week I wrote about some of the early newspapers in Centerville from 1856 until 1875. From that time forward into the 20th century there were many paper initiated, several mergers and changes in the names of the publications. I will try to continue the newspaper history by following individual newspapers by time periods between significant changes in their operation. Today’s installment covers the period from 1870 to about 1890.

As we began the 1870’s there were two prominent papers that seemed to exhibit some stability and continuity, the Centerville Citizen and the Centerville Journal. The Citizen was sold by M.M. Walden to W.O. Crosby in November, 1874. Crosby had the ability to run a newspaper but not the disposition to continue and hired D.R. Guernsey to run the paper. In 1886 George W. Needels took over the newspaper and put it on a sound financial footing. The paper was quite successful for a number of years.

In 1876, a third paper entered the scene. The Times was started by D.A. Spooner (Spurge), who purchased the equipment of a defunct newspaper at Corydon and removed it to Centerville. Spurge was a good printer and a competent man, but he had no money and not much health. In 1881 he induced J.C. Barrows to take a half interest in the concern.

J.C. Barrows was a Civil War veteran of the 8th Iowa Cavalry. When he was 88 years of age, still with his old clarity and vigor, he furnished much of the newspaper history contained in these articles. He was highly regarded for his clearness and incisiveness, as well as the fairness and consistency that characterized his newspaper work.

After Barrows joined the Times, Spurge Spooner was to continue to take care of the mechanical department. However, fate and Mollie Spooner decided otherwise. With Spurge’s failing health, Mollie laid down the ultimatum that Spurge had to get out of the office. They made the price so low that Mr. Barrows was forced to buy the other half, albeit on borrowed money. While Barrows claimed not to know an em quad from a shooting stick and had very little experienced help, he survived. Senter Payton continued to help out until he too was lured away by the footlights of the stage for an acting career.

By about 1882, after Barrows had been in charge of the Times for a year, the pressure came from the businessmen of the town to consolidate the Citizen and the Times in the interest of economy. The Times was closed and Mr. Barrows was induced to take the management of the Citizen. The Citizen continued under J.C. Barrows for five years but was not getting out of debt. Finally, in 1887, Citizen was transferred to George W. Needles, who paid off the indebtedness and eventually made the Citizen the first successful daily in Centerville.

The Greenback party was at its height in the 1870’s and 80’s and wanted a party organ. “Greenbacks” were promissory notes of the Federal Government, originally issued to help the Union cause in the Civil War. Business leaders after the war had agitated for retirement of the greenbacks and a resumption of specie (hard money) for payments of public debts of the U.S. Agrarian interests wanted to retain the paper money. But the Greenbacks had no man capable of running a newspaper and no money to support one. C. Elliott Vrooman was induced to leave the Peoples Sentinel which he had published in Lancaster, Mo. and come to Centerville to publish a Greenback newspaper devoted to the interest of the industrial classes.

On April 7, 1883 the first issue of the Industrial Iowegian appeared with 1000 copies printed in the first issue. Charles E. Vrooman was owner and editorial manager with Mrs. Julia F. Vrooman, associate editor, who named the paper the Iowegian, consistent with the way Missourians spelled the term for native Iowans. After three issues, the name was changed to the Appanoose Iowegian. It was a straight greenback and labor paper. Mr. Vooman’s own descriptions are the basis for some of the material below.

The material for the Iowegian was shipped from Lancaster, Mo., where it was previously used in publishing the Peoples Sentinel. The Iowegian hung out a large square sign on 2-inch board, 2 by 3 feet, hung on a frame, on one side of which was painted a bee hive and, on the other, an anvil, with the arm of a muscular man, in whose hand was a sledge hammer.

The office was located over D.M. Breazeale’s store on the south side of the square, near Henry Goss’s shoe store. The material consisted of a Washington hand press, a Golding jobber and such other paraphernalia as would go with such an outfit. Vrooman paid $1,500 all told for the material, which was all new and bought in St. Louis. The office, composing room and warehouse were in the second story. In 1884 it became a republican paper, but never forsook the principles and tenets which gave it birth, “The Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

With this week’s article ending in the mid 1880s, the Citizen, the Journal and the fledgling Iowegian were competing for the subscribers’ dollars. In next week’s article, the Iowegian will emerge triumphant.