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A look back at the history of Ladysmith News

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Mark Bell

April 18, 1895, was unlike any others he had ever done.

Munroe walked over to the stone, a marble-topped table found in print shops, and picked up the line he had just set, carefully setting it in place at the bottom of a column of type in the chase. He leaded out the page and tightened the coins  locking the type in place in the metal form.

Early Press

With the utmost of care, he gripped the chase and carried it over to the bed of the Washington press. The old hand press, a second cousin to those used in early days of printing in America, had been brought from River Falls, where Munroe had worked as a foreman at the W.E. Tubbs Medicine

Co. plant since 1891. Munroe inked the type forms with a brayer, laid the unprinted side of a sheet of “ready print” on top and paper was pressed against the inked type, and the front page of “The Weekly Budget” came off the press.

Volume 1, Number 1, actually dated April 19, 1895, was the first newspaper printed in what is now Rusk County. Munroe, then only 28, was editor, publisher, solicitor, ad man, job man and “devil” for that operation; W.E. Tubbs of River Falls was proprietor.

The eight-page paper had six columns of type on each page, with local news and advertising on the front and back pages.

First Newspaper

“The Budget wishes to be known as a newspaper pure and simple, and will endeavor to appear at all times with good and interesting reading,” wrote Munroe in the first issue. “We propose to make it a medium through which the people of northern Chippewa County may exchange ideas upon practical questions of the day; and by which they may further the interests of their immediate towns and


Apollonia, located just west of Bruce on the Soo Line, was the hub of northern Chippewa County, then. The C.R.& M. Railway, owned by Weyerhaeuser’s interests, had its headquarters and lumberyard there. The “Budget” described Apollonia as a thriving town, “where peace and harmony prevail in a wholesome atmosphere.”

At first the “Budget” was regarded as a novelty. Subscribers paid their dollar and a half for 52 issues, and in return, many expected to see their name in correspondence from the villages and settlements of northern Chippewa County.

The early issues were devoted to more than local gossip, however. The paper took a strong editorial stand for the division of Chippewa County. Most editorials appeared as front page stories signed only by “Max” probably a pen name for Munroe. In the June 21, 1895 issue, Max wrote as follows:

“Most assuredly ... we need a new county and for many good reasons aside from being so far from the county seat that the county superintendent seldom, if ever, visits our schools. Fifty miles from the county seat we exist as a shadow in a picture, useful because of our obscurity. We have been recognized by virtue of the space we occupy upon the tax roll; our minority upon the poll list; the slight resistance we make as a negative factor among the nays and ayes in voting upon the questions before the county board.”

The editorial went on to say: “... The child (northern Chippewa County) is assuming the proportions of advanced youth and early manhood. The treble is changing to a base note of dissatisfaction.”

“The Weekly Budget” did not only find fault in Chippewa Falls; there were problems right in Apollonia, as noted by “Max” under the heading “Things that ought to be.” He advocated: the swamp, railroad tracks and streets be ditched; the streets be cleared of stumps; sidewalks be built across the low ground; a new school house be built; the cemetery grounds be cleared; the Soo Limited stop for passengers at Apollonia; a creamery be started; there be a thousand subscribers to the “Budget;” and that there be a chain and padlock for Hill’s hat.

County Divided

Munroe’s desire that Chippewa County be divided was realized on June 24, 1901, when Gates County was formed out of the northern portion of Chippewa County. Munroe was named clerk of the new county by Governor Robert M. LaFollette. Munroe continued to edit the budget until September of 1901, when he sold the paper to Apollonia store owner E.W. Hill. Apollonia’s monopoly on newspapering in the

county lasted for about three years. The “Tony Enterprise” was started in 1898 by C.E. McKee atabout the time the Hein Lumber Co. boomed the settlement of Deer Tail and renamed it Tony.

The “Weekly Journal” was started in Warner (Ladysmith) on May 5, 1900, by Del H. Richards. A few months later, in October of 1900, the

“Bruce News-Letter” was started by A.W. McCormack. Glen Flora was the next settlement along the

“Soo” to get its own newspaper. “The Glen Flora Star” was started in July of 1901 by D.W. Maloney, an attorney who later became county judge.

Ladysmith which boomed after the turn of the century, became the county seat in 1901. The “Weekly Journal” changed its name to the “Gates County Journal” in December of that year. A second paper began publishing in Ladysmith in July of 1902. It was none other than “The Weekly   Budget.”  R.S. Reeves bought the Apollonia paper in April of 1902, and saw that the only future for the paper would be in Ladysmith,

Apollonia was swiftly declining as Weyerhaeuser had pulled out his interests by 1900. Competing Papers Not every town the size of Ladysmith, then only a few hundred strong, had competing newspapers. Reeves made note of this in his salutatory to the people of Ladysmith as follows: “It is admitted that a second paper in Ladysmith is, as yet, premature, but it is only a matter of short time when circumstances will justify another paper ... in one of the most pro- gressive villages in Wisconsin today.” Owners of “The Weekly   Budget” were Ladysmith businessmen J.W. Fritz, O.C. Sabin, W.S. Manning, W.E. Clark, O.E. Pedersen, L.E. McGill, E.M. Worden, Dr. H.R.T. Ross, C.K. Gerard, James Prentice and R.S. Reeves.

On Sept. 1, 1902, the paper was sold to H.W. True and M.C. Martin. The paper was then published from the basement of the First National Building. Ladysmith got its third newspaper on March 11, 1905, when “The Ladysmith News” was started by G.B. Boocher and associates. They sponsored the paper to oppose the local faction that was then in power in Ladysmith. A.D. Campbell, a newspaperman from Minnesota, was hired as editor. Campbell made the “News” a lively sheet, ripping things up the back with reckless disregard for the old motto: “Discretion is the better part of valor.”

Elsewhere in the county, new papers were springing up. After “The Weekly Budget” had moved to Ladysmith, the “Apollonia Review” was started by John A. Blackwell. This was followed by the “Apollonia Cause,” which published until nabout 1906.

Ingram reportedly had a paper, the “Ingram Record,” which was published from 1904 to about 1905. William Bowman was the editor. In Weyerhaeuser, the “Weyerhaeuser News” was started in 1906 by O.G. and Louis A. Briggs. It was published until about 1908. Hawkins’ first paper, the “Hawkins Reporter,” was started by R.W. Richardson in 1908.

Merges Papers

A.A. Hadden, who came to Ladysmith from Nebraska in the fall of 1906 to work for “The Weekly Budget,” bought out that paper, as well as

“The Ladysmith News” in the spring of 1907. The consolidated paper was known then as the “Ladysmith News-Budget.” The “Budget’s” press was sold to the “Journal” and operations of the “News-Budget” were conducted in the former “News” office.

In the fall of 1908, Hadden erected the building on W. Second St. in Ladysmith (which still stands) that served as the office and plant for “The Ladysmith News” until the move to the former Gustafson Dairy building. The two- story brick building was truly one of the finest newspaper plants in Northern Wisconsin in its day.

Hadden operated  the “Ladysmith  News-Budget” until 1911, when it was sold to a veteran newspaper publisher from Prentice. His name: Mark Bell. Thus began the Bell family’s association with the newspaper which has continued for over 100 years. Mark bought the “Budget” for $10,000 in September of 1911 and took over as owner and manager on Oct. 6, 1911.

The son of a newspaperman, Bell learned the printing trade as a youngster in his father’s print shop at Prentice. Frank H. Bell, Mark’s father, bought the “Prentice Calumet” in 1894.

While a student at Prentice High School, young Bell started a school paper on Jan. 29, 1899, calling it the “Prentice Tribune.” Bell wrote the copy and sold the ads for the small paper, providing him with valuable experience.

That training prepared Bell for a new responsibility in 1901 - editing of the “Prentice Calumet” following the death of his father.

Fire destroyed the “Calumet” office in 1903, but Bell overcame the setback, and within six years he had equipped a new plant. One of the modern inovations at the “Calumet” was a Linotype, a machine which casts whole lines of type out of molten lead. Few small newspapers had Linotypes in those days. Copy was still set by hand in most newspaper shops.

Installs Linotype

Bell installed that Linotype in the “News-Budget” shop in 1911, and many Ladysmith citizens, including some from the “Journal,” the competing paper, stopped by to see this marvelous invention. That early Linotype was traded in for a Model 5 Linotype. A three-magazine Model 14 was added in 1917. The Ladysmith News still has this Linotype, although it is obviously no longer in use.

In 1920, there were six newspapers still publishing in Rusk County. In addition to the “News-Budget” and “Journal” in Ladysmith, there were the “Bruce News-Letter,” the “Glen Flora Star,” the “Hawkins Reporter” and the “Tony Tribune.”

In 1922, the “News-Budget” made a major addition to its plant, installing a new Premier press.

The two-revolution press, costing upward of $5,000, was truly the premier of the industry at that time. The 12-ton unit was erected in the basement of the “News-Budget” building.

A hole had to be cut in a rear basement wall to fit the press into the buidling. It took nearly two weeks to erect the press and remove “Old Betsy,” as the “News-Budget’s” old press was affectionately known.

The Premier was capable of running 2,000 sheets an hour. Four pages were printed at a time on the press, and then the pages were flipped over and four different pages were printed on the reverse side.

Quality Printing

The quality printing produced on this press won the “News-Budget” many awards in both state and national newspaper competition.

In 1927 Bell bought the “Rusk County Journal” from R.W. and E.W. Richardson, who had been operating it since 1920, when they purchased it from D.W. Maloney. The name of the consolidated paper was known as “The Ladysmith News.” Ed Richardson, who had been editor of the “Journal,” took the job of editor of the “News,” a position he held until 1937 and to which he returned on occasion in later years.

Following the merger, Rusk County was left with but three newspapers: “The Ladysmith News,” “The Bruce News-Letter” and “The Hawkins Chronicle.”

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