Houston County Chief / Hokah Chief

Hokah chief (Hokah, Minn.) 1857-1894  Browse the title

Houston County chief (Hokah, Minn.) 1894-1927  Browse the title

One of the earliest newspapers published in the state of Minnesota, the Hokah Chief was founded in the town of Hokah, Minnesota in 1857. Hokah is situated in Houston County, the southeastern most county in the state, across the Mississippi River from the larger town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and on land originally occupied by the Dakota people. The July 15, 1857 inaugural issue of the Chief sets out a focus on "our farming interests, as the success of the farmer materially affects the growth and prosperity of our villages and cities." Besides market news, local to international news was also printed. The Chief was a politically Republican publication throughout its history, and issues were typically printed with four pages and eight columns of content. 

Publication of the Chief was temporarily suspended following the retirement of its founder, Charles Reynolds, in early 1859, but resumed on April 26 of that year, with Hiram Ostrander as the new proprietor. Publication once again halted following the May 23, 1865 issue. James Ostrander and Henry L. Hohl revived the paper seventeen years later, in August 1882. James Ostrander retired following the January, making Hohl sole operator. 

In 1888, Hohl was charged with libel and slander by Wisconsin doctor and politician David Franklin Powell. Powell, who had heavily advertised his patented herbal cures in the Chief, was elected mayor of La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1885. The Chief began to target Powell during his run for Wisconsin governor as a Labor Party candidate in 1888, arguing in the August 9, 1888 issue that it was their "duty" to label Powell "a fraud and a man not to be trusted." Powell sued Hohl for damages, and was awarded $5,800 in May 1889, as described in the May 30, 1889 issue of the Chief

Wesley Sewell Moe joined the Chief as assistant editor in August 1893. In January 1894 the paper was renamed the Houston County Chief, following the Chief's designation as "official" newspaper of Houston County by the county commissioners. Issues at this time were generally printed with four pages and seven columns of content, and congressional as well as local, regional, and international news was covered. Hohl left the paper in February of 1895; Albert E. House joined as a co-proprietor, but left in January 1897. Moe operated the paper until selling to Herbert E. Wheaton in June 1912. Oscar E. Fischer joined as publisher in November 1916, leaving in December 1918. A fire destroyed the printing office of the neighboring Brownsville News in October 1920, and the News was included as a one-quarter to one-half page section inside the Chief thereafter. During the 1924 US presidential election, the Chief was critical of the Progressive Party candidate from Wisconsin, Robert La Follette. In the October 16, 1924, issue, the Chief argued that La Follette embraced communists' "ideal of socialism, communism and bolshevism. They are for him because he stands for the destruction of law." George J. Fischer joined the Chief in March 1925, but left in March 1927. The title Hokah Chief was restored after the April 21, 1927 issue. On October 1, 1953, the paper merged with the La Crescent Times to form the La Crescent Times-Hokah Chief, which folded after the September 27, 1963 issue.