Chatfield Democrat

Chatfield democrat (Chatfield, Minn.) 1856-1902 Browse the title

The Chatfield Democrat, the second newspaper to be published in the southeast region of Minnesota, debuted on October 1, 1856, but suspended publication later that same year. A second newspaper of the same name, founded by Constance C. Hemphill, published its first issue on September 11, 1857. Through its run the Democrat ordinarily published weekly with four pages and six to eight columns of content, with poetry, politics, and state and national news covered extensively. 

As its name suggests, the Democrat aligned itself, at least at first, with the principles of the Democratic Party. However, the paper was notable while under Hemphill's leadership for the racist virulence it hurled against the Republican Party and for its devotion to political content to the exclusion of most other town interests. In an article in his first issue, entitled "Democrats of Fillmore County?," Hemphill insisted that only politically Democratic principles would ensure "permanent and sure success in the future" in the country, while "Black Republicanism" would usher in "misrule and fanaticism," using racial slurs referencing Republicans' stance against slavery. The Chatfield Republican, a competing newspaper printed by the political opposition in town, was also a frequent target of Hemphill's.

On December 10, 1859, Judson W. Bishop, previously the principal of Chatfield Academy, purchased the Democrat. A seventh column of content was added starting with the January 21, 1860, issue. Bishop sold the Democrat to James S. and John McKenny on May 11, 1861, and left Chatfield to serve in the Civil War. John McKenny died in 1878 and his sons Sylvanus and Henry McKenny took over operations, continuing until the paper’s purchase by Richard McNeill in October of 1883. McNeill, previously the proprietor of the Dodge Center Index, was a Republican and published the Democrat as a politically Republican newspaper, but "not of the radical sort," aiming to "not wholly condemn the opposition."

McNeill sold the newspaper to Francis T. Drebert, previously the proprietor of the Owatonna Journal, in June of 1889. Beginning November 27, 1894, the Democrat began twice-weekly publication, in order to "meet the demands of the day," but returned to weekly publication starting January 3, 1896. His health failing, Drebert sold the Democrat to the owners of the Chatfield News in May 1902. The Democrat printed its last issue on May 15, 1902, after which the two titles merged to form the Chatfield News-Democrat; the title reverted to the Chatfield News in 1931.