Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

June 7, 2007

Newspapers into the 20th century

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

Last week I related how the Iowegian was started by Charles E. Vrooman as a Greenback newspaper in 1883 and became a republican paper in 1884. At that time the J. C. Barrows was still the manager of the Citizen.

In 1884 the second story of the Iowegian collapsed, partly due to the heavy equipment, and fell all the way into the bottom of the cellar, office material, brick, mortar and all. Charles E. Vrooman, the manager, telegraphed a firm in Chicago to extricate all that was left of the greenback party. An entire new outfit was purchased including a Campbell power press, which was run by hand. The new plant was installed in the basement of the Bradley National Bank on the north side of the square. In 1887 the Iowegian was moved to the Wooden store on the northwest corner of the square.

In 1889 J.C. Barrows bought the Iowegian for $3,500. He had previously worked for both the Citizen and the Times. As Editor, he converted the newspaper into a sound business operation and a solid, well-respected republican publication.

In 1892 the Weekly Journal, a democratic paper, passed into the hands of P.G. Swigart of Chicago. In the same year, they relinquished control to J.W. and D.H. Rinehart, who conducted the publication until 1911. The Journal then went to Walter Dewey and William Currie, the latter having charge of the business and editorial interests.

On Dec. 22, 1894 Mr. Needles converted the Citizen into a daily paper. C.D. Reimers and Joe Day were on hand to assist in the process. Previously, various attempts had been made to publish a daily in Centerville but they usually could not be sustained.

As a daily, the Citizen was in a struggle for self-preservation, but slowly and surely, the enterprise built up.

The Citizen had been started as an independent in politics, but in 1896, when the soundness of the nation’s money was threatened, a stand was taken for republican principles. In 1898, J.K. Huston succeeded Mr. Reimers as a partner in the business, and the paper gained much prestige.

On March 1, 1903, Barrows sold the Iowegian to two young men, Jesse M. Beck of Muscatine and John R. Needham of Sigourney for $6,000. Beck had married Edna Pauline Needham of Sigourney, so the two men were brothers-in-law. In 1905 the business was moved to the present location on Main St., south of the square. Beck and Needham was a successful partnership. 1916 they finally purchased the Citizen from Mr. Needles, whereupon the Iowegian became a daily paper, known as the Daily Iowegian and Citizen..

In 1911, yet another newspaper joined the field, the Centerville Weekly Sun, published by T.W. Killion. However the Iowegian was gaining a dominant position and the Sun suspended publication in about 1917.

In 1924, the Journal equipment was purchased by sympathizers of the Ku Klux Klan and it became a daily named the Southern Iowa American. One of the new owners was J.Roy Wright, the Exalted Cyclops of the Appanoose Klan. The showdown between the American and the Iowegian swirled around the city election of March 1925. The American supported a pro-Klan ticket and the Iowegian against the Klan. The Klan ticket lost the vote and the Southern Iowa American ceased to exist in 1926.

In 1937, Robert K. Beck, a graduate of Iowa Wesleyan College, joined his father and his uncle (Mr. Needham). World War II interrupted and he was gone three years serving in the Navy. Meanwhile his uncle, John R. Needham died in Oct., 1943. Within two month’s of Robert’s discharge from the Navy, his father, Jesse M. Beck suffered a mild stroke. He was 72, having worked hard during the trying war years and longer than he had planned.

Robert Beck was thrust into managerial responsibilities at age 30. Notable key people were Clyde Triebswetter in circulation, Bill Hayes in advertising and Gladys and Charlie De Puy in news. Jesse M. Beck and Robert K. Beck both received the highest professional award, the Master Editor Publisher.

In the late 1960s a new form of printing (off set) was inevitable and the conversion was made in 1972. The conversion and remodeling cost in excess of $250,000. In two days, the old equipment was replaced.

The Iowegian has been a major community force all through the turbulent years. In those years the community and the newspaper rose to unusual heights, spurred by the huge coal mining boom. It also endured the devastating depression, several wars and frequent periods of turmoil and crisis.

I have been writing about the many, many newspapers that have briefly made their appearance on the stage of Centerville life and disappeared into obscurity. There were other early newspapers in some of the outlying towns in the county such as Moulton, Cincinnati, Exline and Moravia. Some of these newspapers were also destined to fall by the wayside. The newspapers in these towns will be described next week.

J.C. Burrows