Caledonia Argus

Caledonia Argus (Caledonia, Minn.) 1888-current Browse the title

On August 28th, 1879, E.S. Kilbourne published the first issue of the Houston County Argus after having suspended publication of New Albin, Iowa’s The Spectator and settling in Caledonia, Minnesota. Extant issues of the first incarnation of this newspaper do not exist. The newspaper was sold to H.D. Smalley & Company on May 12th, 1880 and it is understood that the title was changed to the familiar Caledonia Argus in 1888. After nine years, Herschel Smalley decided that he lacked the temperament for newspapers and designated his brother Palemon Jared Smalley as proprietor and editor. Under P.J. Smalley’s editorship, this four-to-eight page, six-to-eight column weekly thrived with a focus on local events in addition to state and national news of note.

Though Smalley considered himself politically independent, much of his editorials were aligned with the values of the Democratic Party. Caledonia, however, was a largely Republican community and Smalley’s views were often met with outright animosity at that time. Perhaps no one antagonized the Argus more than Periander A. Kroshus, editor of the competing Caledonia Journal. Small towns in Minnesota during this time would typically have competing newspapers where the only major difference in content was in the editorials. Staunchly Republican in his views, Kroshus was also known for his distaste of anyone who disagreed with him, and his editorials regularly featured a degree of mudslinging and character attacks far more severe than what is normally found in a newspaper of this vintage. In contrast, according to sometime Argus columnist and later Journal publisher Percy "Perk" Steffen, Smalley was generally respected for his analytical approach to issues of the day.

Smalley’s interest in politics resulted in an 1891 appointment as the clerk of the Minnesota House of Representatives in St. Paul. He later moved his family there and worked as an editorial writer for the St. Paul Globe. In 1897, the Argus was sold to Walter E. Krick and Patrick Vincent Ryan, former editor of the Kilkenny Gleaner. By this time, management had changed hands at the Journal as well, making for more polite relations between competitors. In 1901, Krick left to become postmaster in Belknap, North Dakota and sold his interests to P. V. Ryan. With sole ownership, Ryan continued to report local happenings with Democratic values. His sophisticated writing and patient personality resulted in him becoming such a fixture in the community that the Argus featured a direct descendant of his on the staff for the next hundred years. The Caledonia Argus remains in publication today, continuing its focus on issues and events of Houston County.