Volume 11, No.9          Buffalo County Historical Society          October, 1988

THE NEWSPAPERS OF KEARNEY
Part II
by Margaret Stines Nielsen

        No account of Kearney newspapers is complete without mention of Moses H. Sydenham who began publishing the Kearney Herald at Ft. Kearney in 1862. After moving to Dobytown (Centoria) he began publishing the Central Nebraska Star in about 1870, and later at intervals in Kearney. When the fort was closed he advocated the removal of the national capitol to the military reservation. Failing this, he then proposed that 39th Street and 2nd Avenue (Capitol Hill) in Kearney be the site. (1)

        The proliferation of Kearney newspapers matched the boom of other businesses beginning in 1888. The 1891 City Directory lists two dailies and five-weeklies, some destined to be as short-lived as the sixty-three incorporated companies listed in the same directory.

        The Central Nebraska Press was discontinued about 1887; in 1888 editor William C. Holden established the Liberty Bell, continuing the "personal journalism" for which he was notorious. By 1890 J. M. Easterling (2) "and associates" had assumed the plant and changed its name to the Nebraska Standard, which was soon consolidated with the People's Sentinel. James A. Edgerton, editor, (known as the "toiler's poet") advocated the principles of the people's independent party.

        Holden took over the Courier, established in 1888 by Ferdinand McConnel. It was absorbed by the Sentinel and the combined Nebraska Standard and People's Sentinel was consolidated with the New Era in 1895.

        J. M. Easterling in an article written for the fiftieth anniversary of the Hub, states

In 1891 Kearney was the home of organized labor, and the printers went on strike. So, as they had no war chest, they started the Daily Review ... It was a "throw away" paper and covered the city . . . In those days weekly pay day came on Monday to save us from the effects of the night before. The treasurer of the "venture" (a tramp printer) had collected for the week's advertising and on Saturday ... had tarried too long at the bowl and the gaming table, and hit the road . . . The strike came to an end, and the Review quit the game.
        Will Maupin, who had come to Kearney to work for the Enterprise, was editor and wrote "sunshine poetry" for its "readable columns". Later, writing the "Kearney Come Back Club", he stated he "borrowed $2 from Frank and Roy Rhone to avoid the necessity of walking across country . . . after the explosion early in the summer of 1890".(3)

        The Buffalo County Sun, established by George J. Shephard in 1894, lasted until February 8, 1900 when it was absorbed by the Hub.

        The Kearney Gait, a monthly, appeared on March 15, 1891 with H. H. Martin as editor. Its sole purpose appeared to be the promotion of the Kearney boom. A poem, titled "The Kearney Gait", by C. A. Murch, appeared on the front page of the first issue. The term, descriptive of Kearney's progress during the boom, had appeared as early as 1889. The only other issue of the paper located was for June, 1891.

        L. B. Cunningham changed the Journal-Enterprise to the Weekly Journal early in the nineties. These were hard times for all businesses but the Journal kept going until 1906, when Cunningham sold the paper to T. B. Garrison publisher of the Kearney Morning Times.(4)

        The New Era-Standard consolidated with the Kearney Weekly Times in 1909, and the weekly became the Kearney Morning Times in 1913 with F. W. Brown, editor. This paper was absorbed by the Hub in 1917.

        The Kearney Daily News first appeared on August 28, 1893, with Forrest L. Whedon as editor and Charles and Jerry Scott, publishers. The name was changed to the Kearney Democrat in 1894. The office was originally in a frame building at 21st and 1st Avenue, now the location of Sears store, and later moved to 22nd and Central.

Kearney Daily Hub, 13 East 22nd Street, 1911-present

        Whedon's motto was "a newspaper without a muzzle". In 1896 he wrote, "Bryan feels just as proud that he was defeated by Hanna's money as McKinley dares feel because he was elected by it." Whedon's outspoken column, "Thoughtful Thinks", was a topic of conversation about town each time the paper appeared. The last of his columns was found in his typewriter after his unexpected death. Mrs. Whedon operated the paper for a time with the help of her son-in-law, Arthur W. Stevens, and later with Roy Barnard as editor. C. N. Harris bought the paper in 1926 and in an editorial on June 5, 1926, titled "Democrat Retires - Kearney Tribune is born", he wrote, "It is not our intent to fight the battles of any political faction." W. D. Edson became editor in 1930.

        In an editorial on July 14, 1932 titled "We Relinquish the Wheel" he announced the sale of the paper to Vance R. Beghtol. Mr. Beghtol, of Hastings, had previously been with a paper in New York City and also served two years in an editorial capacity in Paris.

        In his first editorial on July 21st, he wrote:

To the best of our ability we shall steer the craft in the straightforward course set by our predecessors . . . Our attitude politically will be, as nearly as possible, independent, which may be difficult for one reared in the traditions of republicanism.... These are the days of our nation's second Reconstruction . . . We must retrench, get back to earth, rebuild our lost prosperity.
        The paper felt the pinch of the depression very soon. On September 29th Beghtol wrote, "Realizing that money is tightening, this newspaper is reducing its rates to $1.65 a year, 85¢ for six months, 45¢ for three."

        On July 28, 1932 he had written, "Mr. Hoover has done his best ... He may have done better than any other man could have done ... yet there has been a shade of dissatisfaction.

        By September 29th he was writing, "We trust you are voting for Roosevelt. We used to be a Republican, too, sort of, but we have seen the light. Do you want your daughter to drink home brew? Then vote for Hoover."

        After Beghtol's death his wife, Marjorie, continued the paper as the Platte Valley Tribune until some time in 1938, then operated the publishing company as a separate business.

        By April 4, 1939, Henry C. Kroger and Esther Stock Kroger(5) were operating the Kearney, Nebraska, Daily News, a morning paper, successor to the Platte Valley Tribune, at 2302 Central Avenue (Gerber's Store). On December 27, 1941, Mrs. Kroger announced she had sold the News to the Kearney Daily Hub:

Since "Heinie's" passing, I feel I cannot "carry on" without him ... I wish to thank all of our loyal friends and employees who helped make the paper the success it was. "Heinie" and I were happy with our work and I shall ever treasure many beautiful memories.
        In the silver anniversary edition of the Kearney Daily Hub Mentor A. Brown wrote,
 The Hub was founded upon the rather shaky foundations of the old Central Nebraska Press. . . In the fall of 1888 the present editor and manager of the Hub came to Kearney upon the solicitation of a Kearney citizen ... then visiting in Beatrice. The writer had a few months before disposed of the Beatrice Express . . . he visited Kearney, was pleased with what he saw ... Rice Eaton and J. P. Johnson owned the plant of the Central Nebraska Press, which they had just revived. The writer bought the Johnson interest, retained Mr. Eaton, and organized the Hub Publishing Company.
        The name of the paper was changed to the Semi-Weekly Kearney Hub and Central Nebraska Press; by 1891 it was the Daily Hub for about a year. "Then trouble began" the Hub struggled through the "boomerang years" of the national panic, barely able to make the payroll. Frank S. Williams, managing editor of the Lincoln Journal at the time the Hub celebrated its golden anniversary, wrote of his experience with the paper as editor. Shortly after joining the staff in 1896, he states.
Publisher Brown called me aside ... and asked me to buy the Hub. I was amazed because I hadn't a dollar to my name. He explained that it was to be sold at a bank receiver's sale and that he had hopes of securing the money to pay for it, but that it was best that I buy it in my own name ... On the day of the sale he handed me a check for $1,800, and asked me to make a bid for that amount.
        The group at the sale was amazed, they didn't think there was that much money in existence ... For nearly two years M. A. Brown ran the newspaper and so far as the records went, I owned it."

        When Williams decided to go to Lincoln in 1898, he asked Brown what he wanted to do about the ownership. "He asked that I transfer it to his daughter, Mabel ... The transfer price was $1.00."

        Brown wrote of the transaction, "in 1897, the writer effected a turn by which we had secured entire personal control. The editor, his wife, and two daughters, went to work to rebuild the paper's fallen fortunes."

        Williams wrote that Mentor A. Brown was well named. "He was teacher, friend and counsellor." Bess Furman, one of the woman pioneers in the Associated Press, wrote of her experience with the Hub, "in all my subsequent career ... I have never found a keener-minded editor than M. A. Brown - I have never met a better all-around newspaper man than Heinie Kroger."

        When Mr. Brown died in September of 1932, a large picture of him appeared on the front page of the rival Tribune. Under a large banner headline, "M. A. Brown Dies", Vance Beghtol wrote

Ten days ago this writer had lunch with M. A. Brown, dean of Nebraska editors. At that time his humor was apt and alert ... Nightly his finely written editorials appeared in the Hub - the journalistic monument to his foresight and constructive ability . . . a man whose broadness of mind endeared him to those who saw opposite in matters of public and political beliefs ... with a handclasp strong as his word.
        Hugh Brown, who had been managing editor of the Hub, took over as publisher after his father's death, with Henry Kroger continuing as editor.

        The issue of December 31, 1938, carried the announcement by Brown that he had sold the Hub to Ormond and Alfred Hill and Dwight King, "who take possession at the close of today's business."

        Brown retained the Hub Publishing Company, in the same building, later selling it to Fred Carlson, a veteran of the print shop. Dewey Kring became a partner for a number of years before selling his share to Harold Morris.

        Dwight King, who had been owner of the Franklin Sentinel, became editor of the Hub, Alfred Hill was to be the acting publisher until his brother Ormond could wind up his affairs in Kansas City. Both had been active in the publishing business for some time, all three of the men were from Kansas.

        The country was still feeling the effects of the depression. Ruth Erickson King, who was a teacher in Kearney High School, remembers that several teachers were wondering how the new owners would pay for the paper, "since the price sounded. ridiculous to them." Because of the depression college students were Hub carriers.

        The economy improved during the war but the employee situation was worse. Ruth states, "Dwight recalls that part of the time he and Sylvia Armstrong were the only ones in the news department."

        Dwight  left in 1950 to become editor of a paper in New Kensington, Pa. (6) Fred Pruitt was editor for about a year after which E. E. Chittenden became editor and later publisher until his retirement.

        The Hub, which was sold to The Omaha World-Herald in 1984, is celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary this year.

NOTES
1. Tales of Buffalo County, Vol. 2.
2. Easterling was county judge for many years.
3. Maupin also worked for the Omaha Bee-News and the World-Herald. He was editor of the Hastings Democrat in 1932-34.
4. Cunningham returned to Iowa with his family. His son, Ralph was a publisher at Shenandoah for many years and was publisher of Where
    Buffalo Roamed.
5. Kroger was editor of the Hub for many years and his wife Esther worked in the advertising department. She was also in the  Chamber of
    Commerce for a number of years.
6. King retained his interest in the Hub until its recent sale. He is now publisher of the Holdrege Citizen. In 1982 he was chosen Nebraska
    Master Editor-Publisher for the year.
SOURCES
        Kearney newspapers in the archives of the Kearney Public Library, K.S.C. Library and the State Historical Society. Basset, History of Buffalo County; Biographical Souvenir of Buffalo, Phelps and Kearney Counties; Where The Buffalo Roamed; Kearney Writers of Fame, by Ella L. Bessie; Letter from Ruth Erickson King, 10-2-88; Interview with Ward Minor.
        My thanks to the staff of the archives of the State Historical Society for their help in tracing the complicated changes of names and owners of Kearney newspapers.
Proofread 4-26-2002
Revised 3/12/2003


 

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