Stillwater Messenger

The Stillwater messenger (Stillwater, Minn.) 1856-1868 Browse the title

Stillwater messenger (Stillwater, Minn.) 1870-1928 Browse the title

The Stillwater Messenger began publication in Stillwater, Minnesota on September 15, 1856. The paper covered news of the St. Croix River Valley, with an emphasis on the town of Stillwater. Known as the "birthplace of Minnesota," Stillwater played a leading role in the state’s early history. Through the late 1800s and into the twentieth century, Stillwater was dominated by the lumber industry. Manufacturing of farm implements was also a major part of the economy. In 1883, Stillwater became the largest manufacturer of threshing machines in the world. The town was also home to Minnesota’s territorial prison, and subsequent state prison.

The Messenger was published weekly as a seven-column paper and ranged in length from four to eight pages throughout its printing. From its inception, the paper was steadfastly Republican. It published material supporting Republicans in Minnesota and nationwide. The Stillwater Messenger also contained material on local, national, and European news.

The original editor and proprietor was Andrew Jackson Van Vorhes who came to Stillwater in 1856 from Athens, Ohio where he and his brother Nelson ran the Athens Messenger and Hocking Valley Gazette. In 1862 Van Vorhes was selected to help administer annuity payments to the Dakota at Fort Ridgley. When the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 began, he participated in the fighting for nine days, sending correspondence back to the Messenger. During the Civil War, in the spring of 1863, Van Vorhes was appointed as a quartermaster in the Union Army. He then leased the paper to Augustus B. Easton and Alpheus Beede Stickney. Easton had been employed by the Stillwater Messenger since 1857. Stickney was president of the Chicago Great Western Railway and left the paper after only six months. Easton then operated the paper as manager until October 1, 1865 when Van Vorhes returned and assumed his former position. Van Vorhes later became a civic leader in the state of Minnesota, serving in the legislature, and working as a clerk for the Supreme Court.

In 1868 Willard S. Whitmore, who had learned typesetting in the Messenger office, purchased the paper from Van Vorhes. Whitmore renamed the paper the Stillwater Republican. It carried that name from March 18, 1868 to December 8, 1870. Whitmore eventually sold the paper to George K. Shaw, a newspaperman from Minneapolis, and Shaw returned the publication to its former name, the Stillwater Messenger. He stated that the change back to the original name was in accordance with the "expressed wishes of many of our patrons," and that it had been, "bad policy to change the name to Republican."

The paper then went through another succession of owners. Henry Woodruff owned the paper from 1871 to 1873. He sold it to Victor Carleton Seward and S.S. Taylor, brothers-in-law who ran the Stillwater Messenger until 1892. They characterized the years 1875 to 1883 as "dark days" in which they faced "terrible persecution and opposition." The paper endured many attacks in business and politics. The paper was sued, and the editors claimed assassins were even sent against them. Seward and Taylor’s main opponents were the men who operated the Stillwater Lumberman, a group of Republicans who were disaffected with Seward’s methods and his paper. These men leased the floor directly above the Messenger offices and attempted to destroy Seward, Taylor, and the Messenger. Seward and Taylor were eventually forced out of their building, but established offices elsewhere in Stillwater.

Taylor died in the 1880s leaving Seward as the sole owner and editor. Then on October 11, 1892 Seward was assassinated by a former reporter for the Stillwater Messenger, George Peters who had been fired from his job by Seward. Peters swore vengeance and shot Seward in the head on Main Street in Stillwater.

When Seward died his widow, Elizabeth Seward, took over management of the Messenger. Her name appeared on the masthead as publisher and editor. Mrs. Seward wrote editorials for the newspaper under her own name, and the paper frequently included stories concerning the life of women. Stephen A. Clewell purchased the Stillwater Messenger in 1900. The paper merged with the Washington County Post in 1928 and formed the Stillwater Post-Messenger.


Peterson, Brent. "A.J. Van Vorhes; Witness to History."

Peterson, Brent. "A.B. Easton: The beginning of a newspaper dynasty." Thursday, May 31, 2012.

Peterson, Brent. "Stephen A. Clewell: A Storied Newspaper Man."

Johnston, Daniel S.B. "Journalism in the Territorial Period". Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. X. Pt. 1. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1905.

Peterson, Brent. "Murder on Main Street." September 27, 2012.

Goodman, Robert. A History of Washington County: Gateway to Minnesota History. Stillwater, MN: Washington County Historical Society, 2008.

Peterson, Brent T. Stillwater, Minnesota: A Photographic History: 1843-1993. Stillwater, Minnesota: Valley History Press, 1992.

Easton, Augustus B. History of the St. Croix Valley. Chicago: H.C. Cooper, Jr. & Co., 1909.

Stillwater, Minnesota City Directory Collection, 1876-