Aitkin Independent Age

The Aitkin age (Aitkin, Minn.) 1883-1912 Browse the title

The Aitkin independent (Aitkin, Minn.) 1902-1912 Browse the title

Aitkin independent age (Aitkin, Minn.) 1912-1922 Browse the title

Aitkin independent age (Aitkin, Minn.) 1923-current Browse the title
Issues published after 1922 can only be accessed from the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota Historical Society.

On Saturday, April 7, 1883, Edwin F. Barrett published the first issue of the Aitkin Age after recently moving to the developing lumbering village from working at the St. Paul Daily Globe. Barrett established the four-page, eight-column weekly paper as politically independent and maintained a conversational tone whether covering local, national, or international events. Much of the Age’s early content centers on the potential for industrial development in the region, particularly in the timber and steamboat industries due to a high concentration of white pine and waterways naturally suited for transportation in the area.  As the population increased, the paper blended economic and industrial news with general topics. Also included were serialized literary works and sections devoted to Scandinavian and German culture, reflecting the high concentration of immigrants from those countries. The Age followed Aitkin’s economic development closely in addition to early political happenings in Aitkin County and the State of Minnesota.

Publishing duties changed hands numerous times over the next several years but local accountant and writer Freeman E. Krech is most commonly associated with the early Aitkin Age as publisher. On January 1, 1898, Charles H. Warner, former owner of the Milaca Times, purchased the Age from Krech and rebranded the paper as Republican, which both men admitted was more in step with Aitkin’s citizens.

Publishers and editors of the Aitkin Age changed several times in the next four years. By October 21, 1902 Byron Lincoln Hollister assumed the roles of editor and manager. Hollister remained in these roles until the paper ended and was sole owner of the newspaper from February 20, 1904-on when C.H. Warner disposed of his interests in their Age Printing Company to pursue politics. Warner later served in the Minnesota Legislature for several years.

In January 1902 after working some time in insurance, Krech established the Aitkin Independent as a friendly competitor to his former paper, the Aitkin Age. Using the Age’s format of eight pages and six columns, Krech’s new endeavor emphasized local and regional news in addition to the national and international. The Independent also served as the newspaper for nearby Pliny, featuring a small section dedicated to the township. Although competitors the Independent and the Age share many similarities in content and tone with the exception of political coverage as the Age was Republican and the Independent had no political ties. Both papers were openly supportive of the other and representatives from each formed an Aitkin newspaper club in January 1904.

Notable events in Aitkin’s history covered in the Independent were the train wreck of May 7, 1907, which led to the phasing out of passenger trains in the region, and the establishment of a Carnegie Library in Aitkin, from securing funds in February 1904 to the opening covered in the November 18, 1911 issue. Researchers may also trace the development of the Butler Building, then referred to as the Hodgeden & McDonald building, between July 11, 1903 and February 27, 1904. Built by industrialists Samuel Hodgeden and James McDonald, the building became the cultural center of Aitkin containing a general store, grooming facilities, and even an opera house.

On January 7, 1911 the Independent was named the official paper of Aitkin County by the county board, a distinction formerly held by the Age. At the end of July 1912, Krech purchased the Age and consolidated the two papers creating the Aitkin Independent Age. Hollister retired from the profession and Krech published the Independent Age largely as he had the Independent, incorporating some sections associated with the Age such as a Scandinavian or German news section.  Much of the region’s white pine had been exhausted by 1912 and Aitkin became a transportation hub as it struggled to develop new industries. The Independent Age followed this transitional period, as well as the late-October coverage of The Great Fires of 1918 when extreme dryness caused fires that devastated almost 1,500 square miles of the region on Aitkin’s periphery. 

Krech remained publisher of the Independent Age until his retirement on December 27, 1919 after months of ill health. He turned the paper over to staff members C.H. McQuade and Anthony C. Klee. On May 22, 1920, former Aitkin Age owner B.L. Hollister was added to the list of publishers, ending his retirement.  No changes were made to the format or the independent voice of the paper, and it continued to laud the development of Aitkin as manufacturing and the expansion of the dairy industry began to boost the local economy by the end of 1922. The Independent Age is still published today.