Southern Minnesota Star

Southern Minnesota star (Albert Lea, Minn.) 1857-1858 Browse the title

The Southern Minnesota Star was established in 1857 in the Minnesota Territory town of Albert Lea. It began as a four-page, six-column paper and was published weekly on Thursdays. The paper included local, Freeborn county, Minnesota, national, and even some international news. The paper’s motto and philosophy from the first issue (July 9, 1857) were, "My country, may she always be right, but right or wrong, my country" and "The Star will be independent of any party, sect or clique. It is designed to make the Star a good family paper of local interest."

Even though it stated its independence of any party, the Star was considered a "Democratic" paper. The Albert Lea community was strongly Democratic when it was first settled, and the editor, Alfred P. Swineford, was of that political persuasion. There was even a report that the paper was subsidized to the extent of $500.00 by the Democratic Central Committee.

The Star’s founding took place when George S. Ruble, a local businessman, put a notice in a St. Paul paper looking for a printer to come to Albert Lea. Ruble was instrumental in getting Albert Lea the designation of temporary county seat of Freeborn County in 1857 and wanted to consolidate the town’s standing by starting a newspaper.

Alfred P. Swineford answered the ad and he and Nathaniel T. Gray came to start up the paper in March, 1857. The first boards to be sawed at Ruble’s lumber mill were used to create a barn-like home for the Southern Minnesota Star. Ruble also purchased a printing press, type, paper, and supplies from Sterling P. Rounds in Chicago in February, 1857. The equipment was shipped to Dubuque, Iowa, then up the Mississippi River, and hauled overland by ox team from Winona to Albert Lea. A delay in receiving the equipment caused the paper to finally begin publishing in July of that year.

The first issue was devoted to a description of Freeborn County and its town sites and was also used as an advertisement for the city to be sent to the East. It ridiculed the town of Bancroft, which didn’t yet exist, because Dakota Land Company speculators were proposing this new town as an alternative for the permanent county seat.

The Southern Minnesota Star survived difficult circumstances, financial and otherwise, over that fall and winter of 1857 and got out a paper every week, except two weeks in October and one in November. The October 10, 1857 issue was only one sheet because, as the story goes, "The editors explained the ink roller was melted by the sun and it was impossible to print until a new one could be made." The Star had also been in operation only a few months when a fire broke out on the second floor. But the building and equipment were saved with the help of the town’s few citizens.

The Southern Minnesota Star ended up being sold to satisfy a debt held by Ruble—and Swineford ultimately bought the paper and started the Freeborn County Eagle. The last issue of the Star was May 1, 1858. Minnesota was admitted to the Union as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858.


Spicer, Lester W. "Here Is The Story of Albert Lea’s First Newspaper, Published 85 Years Ago." Evening Tribune (Albert Lea, MN), May 23, 1942.

Spicer, L.W. "Our Local Newspapers Have Recorded Our History From the Earliest Pioneer Days." Evening Tribune (Albert Lea, MN), May 7, 1943.