The Great West (St. Paul, Minn.) 1889-1894  Browse the title

The Star (Aberdeen, S.D.) 1891-1898  Browse the title

The Great West was a Farmers’ Alliance and, later, Populist (or People’s) Party newspaper published in St. Paul, Minnesota, between October 1889 and January 1894, with publication continuing in South Dakota until 1895 or 1896. The eight-page weekly was edited and published by Dr. Everett W. Fish at the request of State Lecturer of the Alliance, Ignatius Donnelly, who felt that most mainstream papers were either neglectful of the Alliance’s message or outright hostile to it. A well-known reform politician, Ignatius Donnelly had long used newspapers to spread his populist ideas. He had previously published the Anti-Monopolist between 1874 and 1878 as a platform for the Anti-Monopoly Party position.

The Great West acted as a voice of the radical wing of the Farmers’ Alliance, declaring on the first page of its first issue that, “This is a radical paper; it fears God and defies the liars.” In keeping with that spirit, the dogmatic editor Fish used the Great West as both a tool to promote Alliance policy and a weapon with which to attack anyone who did not adhere to strict Populist doctrine. Eventually a rift formed between Donnelly and Fish due to Fish’s confrontational style and uncompromising fervor. Following the defeat of Donnelly and the People’s Party in the 1892 Minnesota gubernatorial election, Fish found himself increasingly exiled from the center of influence within the People’s Party, and rumors and accusations began to swirl around him, including that he was acting as an agent of the Republican Party. Some said his biting attacks on Donnelly’s rival within the People’s Party, Sidney M. Owen, were not aiding Donnelly as much as hurting the cause of the Populists. Populists were also suspicious of Fish’s preoccupation with conspiracies of dynamite plots in Kansas leading up to the 1892 election, believing it helped the Republicans label the People’s Party as extremists.

By 1894, Fish and Donnelly had completely severed their association. Fish began to challenge Donnelly’s integrity and honesty in editorials in the Great West, while Donnelly began publishing a separate Populist Party newspaper, the Representative. At the State Farmer’s Alliance convention in January 1894, the former allies turned adversaries held an impromptu public debate, trading accusations of corruption and betrayal of the Alliance. The Great West and the Representative carried differing accounts of this debate in their weekly issues.

The January 12, 1894 issue of the Great West was the last one published in St. Paul. Subscribers of the Great West were sent an issue of the Aberdeen Star for the week of January 19, 1894 while Fish moved his paper to Aberdeen, South Dakota. Publication of the Great West resumed in Aberdeen on January 26, 1894, with Fish sharing editorial duties with W.E. Kidd. In late 1894 or early 1895 Fish and Kidd split, and Fish moved the Great West to Redfield, South Dakota. By 1896, the Great West was no longer published, and Everett W. Fish had moved to Penn Yann, New York, where he lived until his death in 1912.