Rodhuggeren (Fergus Falls, Minn.) 1893-1898 Browse the title
Rodhuggeren ("The Radical") was first published in Fergus Falls and Crookston, Minnesota, on November 28, 1893, by Torkel Oftelie and Ole E. Hagen, both immigrants from Norway. Rodhuggeren was an eight-page weekly newspaper published on Tuesdays in Dano-Norwegian (at the time Danish was the basis for the Norwegian written language) with a blackletter typeface. Hagen had purchased the printing equipment of a failed newspaper in Crookston and moved it to Fergus Falls. Oftelie contributed additional supplies to set up the newspaper. Before founding Rodhuggeren, Oftelie had been on the staff of the Fergus Falls Ugeblad ("Fergus Falls Weekly"), a competing Norwegian-language paper.
From the beginning, Rodhuggeren showed rapid growth because the editors, especially Hagen, were outspoken in their support of the principles of Populism at a time when the People’s Party was emerging in the region. Rodhuggeren became one of the leading Populist papers in northwestern Minnesota. The paper’s expressive name Rodhuggeren literally describes a person chopping or digging out roots. A notice to advertisers in the January 30, 1894 issue characterizes the newspaper as "the only Scandinavian labor and farmer journal in the northwest," and it points out that its editors and publishers "are themselves laborers, who have for years been working for the emancipation of toil and a just remuneration to the producer and wealth creator of the land." Thus if local businesses wanted the support of farmers and laborers, they were urged to advertise in Rodhuggeren.
Fergus Falls, where Rodhuggeren was based, is located in Otter Tail County. The town had been incorporated in the late 1870s and became a center for Norwegian immigrants, many of them part of an earlier wave of immigration to Chicago and Minneapolis. By 1898, Fergus Falls had a population of almost 4,700. It was on the Northern Pacific and Great Northern Railroad lines and situated on the Red River of the North, about 50 miles from the larger cities of Moorhead, Minnesota, and Fargo, North Dakota. With abundant water power, Fergus Falls was adjacent to pine forest, hardwood lumber, and prairie land and was also known for its flour milling and manufacturing. The town of Crookston, to which Rodhuggeren later moved, was just over 100 miles to the north, in Polk County, Minnesota. Also situated on many railroad lines, Crookston served as a commercial hub in the Red River Valley, a major agricultural region.
On November 5, 1895, two years after its founding, Rodhuggeren enjoyed a circulation of 4,000, surpassing the more traditional rival newspaper, the Fergus Falls Ugeblad. By 1898, Rodhuggeren’s circulation is said to reach 5,200. In Fergus Falls and Otter Tail County as a whole, Rodhuggeren’s more radical political stance also challenged the politics of the Ugeblad. Editor Hagen went so far as to challenge the influence of the churches. In response, the Ugeblad cast Rodhuggeren as "a Unitarian and freethinker organ."
The owners of Rodhuggeren bought the weekly Populist paper Samhold ("Solidarity") of Elbow Lake, Minnesota, and merged it with their paper on November 12, 1895. At that time, I. (Ingvald) H. Ulsaker also became part owner. In the spring of 1898, Rodhuggeren relocated to Fargo, North Dakota, hoping to achieve greater financial stability. This proved to be an unfortunate error. The owners of Rodhuggeren had a complete print shop in Fergus Falls, with no debt and more than four thousand subscribers. Their main problem was a shortage of advertisers. Upon moving to Fargo, however, the paper’s financial situation worsened. In the end, Rodhuggeren consolidated with the Populist Norwegian-language newspaper, Den Fjerde Juli og Dakota ("Fourth of July and Dakota"), with the final issue published on May 10, 1898. At that time, Rodhuggeren was succeeded by a new weekly newspaper known as Fram ("Forward").