Wabasha County Herald

Wabasha County herald (Wabasha, Minn.) 1857-1929  Browse the title

Wabasha County herald (Wabasha, Minn.) 1953-current  Browse the title
Issues from this title can only be accessed from the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center.

Wabasha County is located in Southeastern Minnesota and is a part of the Mississippi River Valley and the Mississippi River Bluffs regions of the State. The city of Wabasha is the county seat and also Minnesota's oldest city and longest continuously inhabited river town. Wabasha was first settled in 1826, becoming an officially recognized city in 1830 with the Treaty of Prairie du Chien. Prior to 1826, the area was inhabited by the Dakota, led by chief Wa-pa-shaw, who would later give the county and city their names. In the 1830s Augustin Rocque established a fur trade post there. The community grew up around his post and the City was platted in 1854 and incorporated in 1858.

The Wabashaw Weekly County Herald, one of the earliest newspapers in Wabasha County, began publication on August 15, 1857 at Read’s Landing, Minnesota before the State was admitted to the Union. The first proprietor was Norman E. Stevens, a young printer from Illinois. With the assistance of businessmen in the village, he bought the publishing equipment from the Waumadee Herald, which had published one issue in May 1857 and then ceased with the accidental drowning of two of its founders, Thomas A. and Joseph McMaster.

The Herald began in Read’s Landing, but the people of Wabasha were determined to have a newspaper that would help the development of their town over that of their rival, Lake City. The two towns had been competing for the location of the county seat, so the citizens of Wabasha made arrangements with Stevens to bring the paper there. The first issue published in Wabasha came out on December 15, 1860 as a weekly, four-page and five-column paper. It covered Wabasha County, Minnesota, national and some international news.

The title of Wabasha’s newspapers changed over the years as the frequency of their publication or the inclinations of the editors or publishers dictated. "Weekly" was dropped from the title of the paper and it became just the Wabashaw County Herald on May 1, 1858. Read’s Landing and Wabasha were listed as joint publication locations for the Wabashaw County Herald until July 9, 1863 when Read’s Landing was removed from its masthead.

Wabasha became a bustling town, with major industries such as trading, clamming, button factories, logging, shipping, and flour milling. Wabasha saw a boom in industry, as well as tourism, with passenger paddle boats stopping in the town as they traveled the Mississippi in order to meet tourist demands. Besides tourists and industries utilizing the river, Wabasha became a transportation hub in 1857, with the development of the first state road going through the city, as well as an extensive rail system. The Minneapolis, St. Paul & Chicago Railroad, the Minnesota Midland Railroad and the Lake Superior & Chippewa Valley Railroad all intersected there.

On January 30, 1861 the Wabashaw County Herald went from a weekly to a semi-weekly publication schedule and was published on Wednesday and Saturday. It’s motto under the banner was, "Devoted to News, Literature, and the Dissemination of Republican Principles." Editor Stevens was a staunch Republican and the paper was devoted early on to the advocacy of the principles of that party. The newspaper changed owners repeatedly but remained true to that political persuasion until April, 1881. 

In the fall of 1862 Norman E. Stevens left the paper and U.B. Shaver became sole publisher for a short time. By October of 1862 the newspaper had again become a weekly publication. Stevens had returned by December of 1862 and Shaver and Stevens became joint proprietors up until about April 1, 1864. At that time Stevens left again to move to Illinois, and on July 28, 1864 R. H. Copeland came on board.

By August 3, 1865 Shaver sold out to E. W. Gurley and Frank E. Daggett. Both were stalwart Republicans who had served in the Union Army. Gurley was a writer and did most of the editorial work, and Daggett was an excellent printer. Gurley eventually retired in poor health and Henry W. Rose purchased his interest. Rose was an excellent writer and under his editorial management the Herald was generally regarded as the one of the best country papers in Minnesota.

The Wabasha Herald’s name changed to the Wabasha Weekly Herald on August 16, 1866. Right around the end of November 1867, printer/publisher Frank E. Daggett went on to become editor of the La Crosse, Wisconsin weekly Republican, and the Herald remained under the sole management of Rose until his death on April 2, 1868. For a few weeks during Rose’s illness and after his death, J. K. Arnold had charge of the paper. But Daggett, whose La Crosse enterprise was unsuccessful, soon returned and purchased the business from the administrator of Rose’s estate.

Frank Daggett was sole proprietor until October 13, 1870, when he sold to Amasa T. Sharpe and Willis D. Palmer. John N. Murdoch, a well-known lawyer from Wabasha and an ardent follower of Republican political principles, furnished the leading editorials for the newspaper during the following two years.

By September of 1872 William S. Walton had become one of the proprietors of the Wabasha Weekly Herald, and then editor of the Wabasha Herald (another title change) by November, 1872. The newspaper was still a weekly publication, but was again without "weekly" in the title. Among Walton’s civic contributions to Wabasha was his involvement in the movement to build the Midland railroad from Wabasha to Zumbrota.

On June 10, 1875 a new, improved version of the paper was developed when H.H. Walton joined with his brother, William, to revamp the newspaper, now renamed the Wabasha County Herald and expanded to eight pages with six columns. In that issue an article entitled, "The Herald Dons A New Dress", explained the philosophy of the new firm and why the paper was coming out in an enlarged and "improved form":

The HERALD as hitherto …will advocate the right as best it can see it, and will go for public improvements for each and every part of Wabasha County. We believe that this is the age of improvement and progress, of steam, machinery and railroads, and that it ill becomes intelligent men to stick to the rules of past ignorance and prejudice. We shall do our best to keep step to the music of the age and to induce our readers to do the same.

The size of the Herald continued to change over time, being reduced to four pages with nine columns in September of 1878, and then going back to eight-page issues with seven columns by the end of 1894. The management of the Wabasha County Herald also changed frequently over the years, but remained true to its original Republican political perspective. However, on April 1, 1881 when O.F. Collier purchased the newspaper, it became politically independent with Democratic leanings.

On September 26, 1888, the Herald offices and business were almost completely destroyed by fire. The 27th was publication day, but the paper appeared without a break. The owners of the Graphic-Sentinel kindly agreed to have the Herald printed on their press in Lake City. The old newspaper offices were repaired and updated in grand style—new type, a large Cottrell press, furniture, and fixings were purchased; a five-horse engine and large steam boiler were installed; radiators and steam pipes were introduced; and the entire building was heated by steam. The steam power system lasted until 1912, when it was replaced with electric power.

The Wabasha County Herald ran until April 11, 1929 when it merged with the Wabasha Standard to become the Wabasha County Herald-Standard. In 1953 it changed its name back to the Wabasha County Herald and is still being published today.


Curtiss-Wedge, Franklyn, comp. History of Wabasha County Minnesota. Winona, MN: H.C. Cooper, Jr. & Co., 1920.

History of Wabasha County. Chicago: H.H. Hill & Co. Publishers, 1884.

Johnston, Daniel S.B. "Minnesota Journalism in the Territorial Period." Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. 10, pt. 1. St. Paul, MN: MHS, 1905.

"Historical Letter Early Day Relic." Wabasha County Herald, August 4, 1921, pg. 5.

"Wabasha, Minnesota" at http://www.placeography.org/index.php/Wabasha,_Minnesota

Wabasha County Minnesota website at http://www.co.wabasha.mn.us/