Cannon Falls Beacon

Cannon Falls beacon (Cannon Falls, Minn.) 1876-1922 Browse the title

Cannon Falls beacon (Cannon Falls, 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 August 4, 1876, the weekly Cannon Falls Beacon was founded by editor and publisher John A. Leonard. It was later explained by Leonard that the title was chosen due to “Beacon” having the same number of letters as “Cannon”. The Beacon succeeded several unsuccessful attempts at creating a newspaper in the area including the Cannon Falls Gazette (1856-58), the Cannon Falls Bulletin (1858-59), and the Echo (1874-75). A number of other newspapers from neighboring Northfield, Zumbrota, and Red Wing covered the same geographic area as Cannon Falls, so the Beacon largely focused on what was unique to the village (later incorporated as a city in 1905). Among numerous editorials, agricultural news, and social notices, the Beacon also features extensive coverage of the Cannon River Dam construction and in-depth weather reports of particular interest to the village’s water power and milling industries.

After Leonard sold the paper in 1877, publishing duties changed hands repeatedly in the following years. Orlando T. Jones, Cyrus Cook, and Leslie Cobb McKenney all oversaw the paper, but Silas S. Lewis is most closely associated with the Beacon since he began publishing in 1880. He later assumed full ownership on January 28, 1881 after McKenney’s retirement. Lewis was originally a pharmacist and part-time newspaper writer in Mason City, Iowa. He became infatuated with Cannon Falls after a friend’s recommendation to move there and his love of the area is consistently reflected in the Beacon. He became a well-known figure in the community and embraced a bartering system as payment for newspapers, which he publicized in numerous advertisements proclaiming eggs to be as good as cash.

Lewis sold the Beacon in 1902 to Jac. Brynildsen and purchased the Pelican Rapids Press. By 1904 however, he missed Cannon Falls and moved back after selling the Press. The Beacon had recently been sold to John C. Applegate in December 1903, so Lewis published his own newspaper, Lewis’ Ledger, much in the same way as he had the Beacon during his tenure. Perhaps most representative of his attachment to the city is his epic poem, "Eumeemie: A Legend of Cannon Falls", published in 1911. The primary differences between Lewis’ Ledger and the Beacon at this time pertain mostly to Applegate’s politicizing. Applegate used the eight- to twelve-page, six-column Beacon to espouse his views after a failed Senatorial campaign, particularly in regards to railroad matters. His visceral editorializing against railway monopolization contributed to major national and state legislative efforts minimizing discrimination against small town markets. Applegate retired after selling the Beacon back to S.S. Lewis on April 20, 1914.

Upon S.S. Lewis’ death in May 1929, his daughter, Lucretia L. Lewis assumed editorial duties of the Beacon until 1931. Several descendants of the Lewis family worked for the Beacon in some capacity throughout the next several decades. The Cannon Falls Beacon is still published today and serves as the primary newspaper for the city.