The Free Homestead

Free homestead (Winnebago City, Minn.) 1864-1870 Browse the title

The Free Homestead was published weekly in Winnebago City, Minnesota, located in Faribault County in south central Minnesota. The town, founded in 1857, was named for the Winnebago, or Ho-Chunk, people then living on a reservation north of the townsite. Winnebago City's first newspaper was the Whig of ‘76, established in October 1863 by Carr Huntington. J. "Lute" (James Luther) Christie purchased the paper in March 1864 and renamed it the Free Homestead, with the first issue under the new title published on April 20, 1864. The name was a nod to the Homestead Act of 1862, signed into law by US President Abraham Lincoln, which allowed settlers to claim, live on, and cultivate acres of land for free, as was explicitly stated in the first issue: "Located as we are in the very midst of the free homesteads, which the government has given, or will give for the asking…it seems to us appropriate to identify our paper in name, with these homesteads, as we intend it shall always be identified with them in interest." The Free Homestead featured a Farm and Household column as well as poetry, business directories, market news, school news, and local to international news. Issues were generally printed with six columns and four pages of content.

J. Lute Christie (born 1841) began his newspaper career as a printer at the Chatfield Republican, operated by Christie's brother-in-law Henry Whitcomb Holley. In 1862 Christie briefly ran the Blue Earth City South-West Minnesotian, before leaving to enlist in the US Army upon the outbreak of the US-Dakota War. Christie published the Free Homestead, with Holley as editor, from March 1864 until February 1865, when he re-enlisted in the Army. Oscar Garrett and Philander Perry Wall served as temporary publishers of the newspaper until Christie returned from service in October 1865. The motto "Punish Enemies, and Reward Friends" appears below the masthead beginning May 1865.

Holley left the Free Homestead after the December 27, 1865 issue, and Christie took over the role of editor as well as publisher. In February of 1867 Christie sold the Free Homestead to Edward Arminius Hotchkiss, who changed the paper's motto to "Liberty, Literature and Land", and added a seventh column of content starting with the May 5, 1869 issue. Hotchkiss operated the Free Homestead until June 1870, when he sold to Almon E. Foss. Foss changed the title to Winnebago City Press, which folded in January 1872 due to low patronage.

After leaving the Free Homestead, J. Lute Christie operated numerous newspapers, including the Lanesboro Herald, the Houston County Journal (Caledonia), a second iteration of the Winnebago City Press, the Mankato Free Press, the Faribault County Journal (Blue Earth City), and the Superior Times (Wisconsin), which he published until his death in 1895.