by David Hill, Times Associate Editor
Some Photos Are From The Early 1900's
The fire that almost burned The Times on March 26, 1981
(Editorial Note: Although the newspapers in Thief River Falls have contributed much to the historical records of the community, there appears to be very little recorded history of the newspapers. The following information was collected from books on local history, records collected by The Times, other newspapers, and state historical records. The writer also received a great deal of help from many different individuals. The Times welcomes any additions or corrections to this historical record.)
Records for Thief River Falls indicate that Thief River Falls has now had at least 100 years of newspaper tradition to be proud of and it begins with two newspapers.
"Where Two Rivers Meet" a history of Thief River Falls, written by Mary Croteau for Thief River Falls' diamond jubilee, indicate the first newspaper, The Press, was published in 1889 when the settlement consisted of about two hundred people. It was owned by E. C. Knappen and A. E. White, but was soon purchased by the Evenson Brothers and, in 1891, H.E. Mussey purchased The Press from the Evensons.
Records of The Press newspapers prior to 1909 were not recorded by the Minnesota State Historical Society, but information from the Warren Sheaf indicated that H.E. Mussey sold his interest in the Warren Sheaf, Argyle Banner and the Stephen Leader, and moved to Thief River Falls and purchased the Thief River Falls Press which he was forced to sell shortly after due to ill health.
In 1911, with the aid of his son Homer, Mussey returned to Thief River Falls and began publishing The Thief River Falls Times, which he published until l912. The next record of a publication called The Thief River Falls Times was noted in 1917.
The News, the first newspaper of record noted by the state historical society for Thief River Falls, was moved from Red Lake Falls to Thief River Falls in the August of 1893 by James P. Meehan. The earliest records - - Vol. XI, No. 52, January 3, 1895 -- indicate the paper was owned and operated by James P. Meehan and Henry W. Lee. The volume number was carried over from publications in Red Lake Falls in the Red Lake Falls News.
On April 2, 1896 a change to the nameplate indicated a change in ownership. The paper was owned and operated by Henry W. Lee until August of 1887. An issue of the paper, August 19, 1887, indicated that John W. Eastman was the new publisher.
The newspaper business can sometimes be very colorful. According to "Where Two Rivers Meet", H.E. Mussey, who owned The Press for a short time, sold the paper to two attorneys, Greely E. Carr and Sam H. Clark, who had just opened offices in the city. During the Christmas holidays of 1905, Carr and Clark were holding losing hands in a poker game. They mortgaged the paper to get more funds, but their bad luck continued. They then put up a mortgage as stakes and lost that also.
Prior to the loss of The Press in a poker game, The Review was started by D.A. McDonald and J.A. McDonald in the fall of 1903 and the first issue appeared on November 14.
(The state historical society has an issue of the paper from 1904.) During this time there were at least three newspapers in Thief River Falls.
The Press and Review were purchased and consolidated by F. E. Packard in February of 1905.
On January 26, l911, The News ceased to be operated by John W. Eastman, but was published by Mrs. John W. Eastman. There was no indication of why this happened in the paper or the editorial column. But, the paper was purchased by Marcus C. Cutter from Mrs. J.W. Eastman on May 1, 1912.
Cutter's announcement in the editorial section on May 9, 1912, was decidely brief. He noted the change and stated, "We do not propose at this time to burden our readers with a diatribe of what we propose to do or what we propose to accomplish." Cutter actually spent more time elaborating on his dedication to the Independent-Republican party.
The early papers were notable for their strong editorial stands and political endorsements. The bias often crept into general reporting, however the early papers were also noted for short stories such as the Adventures of the Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and poetry.
The News and The Press, officially announced formation of the News-Press on May 30, 1912. According to the newspaper, E.L. Quist, past proprietor of the Thief River Falls Press sold his entire interest in that paper to the present owner of the Thief River Falls News (M.C. Cutter).
(A notation in a history of Thief River Falls indicated that Hruby Quist, son of Charles and Sophia Quist, bought the Thief River newspaper in 1915 and operated it until 1918. It is not known where Hruby Quist fits into the picture or what newspaper he operated.)
Cutter's explanation of the purchase of The Press was brief. In a style typical to Cutter, he declared his support of the Republican party in more words than he spared in explaining the purchase of the paper.
On December 27, 1917, an article in the News-Press announced another change in ownership. The paper was purchased from Mitchell and Vandeluis by R.H. Ross of The Thief River Falls Times, "a corporation formed for the purpose of taking over the two properties." The Thief River Falls Times was started in March of 1911 by H.E. Mussey. The change of hands was announced in a long editorial and front page story. The change was seen as a benefit to the community. R.H. Ross noted the influence of local businesses in encouraging the transfer, but stated his dedication to being free from outside influences.
On May 23, 1923, The Thief River Falls Times burned to the ground. "The fire yesterday, which destroyed the plant of The Times, was the second in the history of that newspaper. A little more than three years ago while the newspaper was located in the Union block, fire swept the plant and almost entirely destroyed it. The plant which burned this morning has been purchased since that time and embodied all the news and up-to-date devices," according to an article in The Times.
The future of The Thief River Falls Times was questionable. The plant was invoiced at $42,000 and carried insurance of but $12,000. Immediately following the fire, The Thief River Falls Times was published at The Tribune, another local paper operated by J.S. Arneson.
The future of the paper became darker when former editor, T.J. Austad, 50, died in July following a prolonged illness. Austad owned half interest in The Times.
Apparently the relationship between The Thief River Falls Times and The Tribune deteriorated. An editorial in The Times on August 2 noted that it had been taken to task in a Tribune editorial. Apparently The Tribune strongly disagreed with The Times assessment of a Rural Credit Bureau policy. It was not unusual for local newspapers, of which there were several, to strongly disagree with each other.
Financial problems must have continued to plague The Times after the fire. A plea appeared on the front page of the August 16, 1923, issue asking subscribers to subscribe for a year or more to help pay obligations as a result of rebuilding after the fire. "We must raise a large sum of money to meet the obligations incurred in rebuilding our plant and our subscribers are the only source we have to get this money from. A small amount from each one will mean a great deal now. Many have already responded very generously. Have you?" the article asked.
On October 1, 1923, The Times was purchased by Alvin E. Mattson, C. Waldemar Mattson and Edgar N. Mattson of Warren and the Warren Sheaf. The three brothers took over the paper after it had been printed at the Warren Sheaf for half a year because a fire destroyed its plant. So to save something of an unpaid printing bill, Alvin and Waldemar moved to Thief River Falls to take over the operation of the paper and Edgar stayed in Warren at the Warren Sheaf to be joined three years later by his younger brother, Cy.
Dreng Bjornaraa became the editor of The Thief River Falls Times, and R.H. Ross gave his farewell address and left for Madison, WI.
On September 1, 1927, The Thief River Falls Times was consolidated with the Thief River Falls Tribune, which had been purchased by William Dahlquist and Ludwig Roe of Montevideo two years earlier, after having been published by J.S. Arneson for five years. The state historical society has records of the Thief River Falls Tribune from January 3, 1919, to August 31, 1927.
At the time of consolidation, a news story in The Times stated, "The Thief River Falls Times is the legitimate successor to all of its forerunners in the field, R.H. Ross having purchased the News-Press in 1917."
After the consolidation, William Dahlquist who had been the previous owner of the Thief River Falls Tribune, served as the editor and part owner of The Times until 1964.
During the 1930's another newspaper appeared on the scene, The Thief River Falls Forum. Roy M. Aalbu and Harry L. Schuster were the owners. Bernice Berge was city editor from May 1, 1934 to January 5, 1935. The Forum office was located in the basement of the Elks building on the LaBree avenue side. The 20-year-old Berge was being paid $10 per week.
Apparently, the paper changed hands in 1936 because the state historical society has issues of the TriCounty Forum from February 13, 1936 to June 3, 1943. It is believed that Jake Ulvan was editor and publisher.
Norman Holen, whose witty articles we still print, joined The Thief River Falls Times as city editor in 1930. The announcement was made in The Times on November 6, 1930. Holen succeeded Arne Solum, now resigned. Holen, who had edited the Marshall County Banner of Argyle for five years before moving to Thief River Falls, was also among the first group of students to graduate from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism. William Dahlquist remained as editor of The Times.
In 1949, Clarence Mattson was the business manager of The Times, Robert Mattson, the plant superintendent, Norman A. Holen, the city editor, William Dahlquist, the editor and Huck Olson, the sports reporter.
Dahlquist served as editor of The Times until 1964 when Marvin Lundin, a native of Warren, who had worked at the Warren Sheaf from 1954 to 1961, became editor. Lundin had been a reporter and later the city editor at The Times for three years before becoming the editor.
In 1965, The Times moved to its present location at 324 Main Avenue North from LaBree Avenue across from the post office. The October 14, 1968, issue was the first edition printed on the new offset press and on October 16, the first four-color picture was run.
As of 1968, the "Thief River Falls Times" printed semi-weekly issues. The Times printing department also printed newspapers for East Grand Forks, Roseau, Greenbush, Middle River, Warren, Red Lake Falls, Williams, and the North Star News, a consolidated newspaper for Lake Bronson, Karlstad, Kennedy and Lancaster. In both 1962 and 1965 it was awarded first place for Excellence in Farm and Livestock News by the Minnesota Newspaper Association.
On August 1, 1986, John P. Mattson and his father, E. Neil Mattson, purchased The Times from Neil's cousins, Clarence W. Mattson and Robert C. Mattson and Marvin Lundin.
Presently, John P. Mattson is the Publisher; David Hill, editor; Mike Lundgren, sports editor; and Kathi Carlson, community reporter. The publishing plant is supervised by Mary Ann Lofberg with Jeff Zbacnik, DeDe Coltom and Karen Asselin as sales representatives. Mark Mattson, a cousin to John P. Mattson, runs the large off-set press. The Times employs 28 workers.
In 1990, The Times switched from a semi-weekly to a weekly newspaper, published on Wednesdays with a circulation of approxiamately 6,000. The Monday edition of the Times was combined with the Northern Minnesota Shoppers Guide to create a total market coverage product called the Northern Watch, which is now published on Saturday and has a circulation of approximately 22,300. The Northern Watch is northwest Minnesota's regional newspaper and is distributed free of charge in this area.
During research of a history of the newspaper, it was discovered that there have been pets in residence at The Times - the first in 1931 being Scamp, a fox terrier. In 2002 we have an office dog named Cotton. He is a Yellow labrador, who spends most of his day sleeping behind the desk of the publisher and owner, John P. Mattson.
Since The Times and Northern Watch put its web site online, in January of 1997, the average number of visitors per month has increased to approximately 12,000 per month.
It is interesting to note where many of our visitors live. Most of our web site visitors are from the United States, but not all. After the United States, many of our visitors come from Norway, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Indonesia, Japan, Finland, France, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Singapore, and Malaysia. By charting activity, we also know that most of the visitors from the United States come from Virginia, followed by Minnesota, California, North Dakota, Ohio, New Jersey, Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.
Many of our online readers are from outside of the United States. They commonly report that it's nice to read it online rather than wait for the mail to deliver the newspaper.
The most active day of the week is Wednesday; with the average number of visits on any given day at 350.
Advertisers have supported the home site. Viewers can find connections on our page to Northwest Medical Center, Genereux Realty, RV Sports, Oklee Quilting, the City of Thief River Falls, Anderson Realty, TR Salvage, Seven Clans Casino and Evergreen Implement, along with links to homework helplines, Encyclopedia Britanica, Thief River Falls Library and the Social Security Administration.
324 Main Avenue North, Thief River
Falls, MN 56701
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