The Ladysmith News is marking the 125th year of newspaper publishing in Rusk County. This story first appeared in the Nov. 6, 1931 edition of The Ladysmith News.
As Rusk County is only a youngster among the counties of Wisconsin, so is The Ladysmith News, dating its existence back to the establishment of the first weekly paper in what is now Rusk County, a mere infant among the weeklies of Wisconsin, especially those of the southern part of the state.
At the village of Apollonia, then the most flourishing of the small hamlets that marked the progress of the Soo Line across the county, a village that has since faded, until now it is but a wide spot on the federal highway, the Weekly Budget first came to light April 19, 1895 with Frank E. Munroe as editor and W. E. Tubbs as proprietor. Mr. Munroe edited the Budget for six year until he was appointed county clerk of the new county of Gates, just then coming into existence as a governmental unit. The name of Mr. Tubbs disappeared from the mast-head of the Budget within a year, and from then on it was F. E. Munroe, editor and manager.
The first issue of The Weekly Budget, now in our present files in not any too good a state of preservation, was well loaded with items from Apollonia and nearby communities. We note advertisements by the Apollonia Store Company, Lyons and Hoagland, Dr. R. A. AveriI, the J. W. Fritz store at Warner; F. J. Otis and Company at Apollonia; August Kjelstorp, Apollonia jeweler, and H. W. True, of Hawkins.
Times Were Different Then
In 1895 H. W. True was preparing to build a large store at Glen Flora, the C. R. & M. railroad was delivering 50,000 feet of lumber daily at its yard at Apollonia, George Shattuck was proprietor of the Hawkins hotel, and C. E. Hoagland returned from a trip to the Yankton Indian reservation. Hard times was upon the country, the editor said, the country was distracted, very few things were marketable at a price above the cost of production. Tens of thousands were out of employment and jails, penitentiary, workhouses and insane asylums were full. A poem spoke of “this rapid transit age.” A forty of timber land bore an assessment of $60 with a tax rate of 2-1/2 percent, making tax of $1.50 per 40.
Upon the departure of Mr. Munroe from Apollonia to Ladysmith, the new county seat, in 1901, Henry Schneider succeeded him as editor of The Budget in October of that year, although there was one intervening issue in which E.W. Hill was listed as editor. Mr. Hill owned the Budget plant at that time.
Move plant to Ladysmith
With the issue of March 28, 1902, The Budget passed into the hands of R.S. Reeves, of Ladysmith. On July 4, 1902, the first issue of the Budget was issued from Ladysmith, to which city it had been moved. The owners of The Budget were then listed as follows: J. W. Fritz, O. C. Sabin, W. S. Manning, W.E. Clark, O.E. Peterson, L. E. McGill, E. M. Worden, Dr. H. R. T. Ross, C. K. Gerard, James Prentice and R. S. Reeves.
The ground work of the new paper mill was then being pit in at Ladysmith, M. H. Ball being here from Menasha to supervise that work; Dr. Blake was building a new hospital here; Ladysmith observed Independence Day with a roaring celebration; and H. W. True led the LaFollette delegation nominated by the Rusk County Republican convention.
The Weekly Budget, although the first paper in the county, had been preceded in its advent into the county seat journalism by the Gate County Journal, which D. H. Richards established at Ladysmith on May 1, 1900. Mr. Richards was editor of the Journal for many years, being succeeded by Phil S. Reed. Later, D. W. Maloney edited the Journal for about ten years when R. W. and E. W. Richardson took up the reins of the Journal. In February 1927, the Rusk County Journal was purchased by M. R. Bell and consolidated with the News-Budget.
The first Ladysmith News
Another chapter in Ladysmith Newspaper history must deal with the original Ladysmith News.
With two papers already in the field, The Ladysmith News made its first bow March 11, 1905. The Ladysmith News Publishing Company was given as its publisher on the editorial masthead, but no name of the editor was listed. However, A. D. Campbell was the editor. County politics were seething in those days and the new Ladysmith scribe reveled in all the prerogatives of old-time personal journalism. However, Mr. Campbell directed his vitriolic utterances against Editors Richardson of the Tony Enterprise, and McCormack, of the Bruce News-Letter, rather than against his brother editors in Ladysmith.
Spicy criticism of men in the public eye undoubtedly adds zest to a newspaper, but as a steady diet it not only fails to satisfy the reader but also lacks sustenance for the community. As a result, in 1908, Ladysmith people hailed with relief the announcement that A. A. Hadden, who recently had come to this city as a printer on the Budget, had purchased both the Ladysmith News and The Weekly Budget, consolidating both papers under the title, The Ladysmith News-Budget. The cessation of newspaper warfare also brought about a decline in community factionalism that had held back the advancement of what promised to be one of the most thriving young cities of upper Wisconsin.
In the interval between the time Mr. Reeves brought The Budget to Ladysmith and when it was sold to Mr. Hadden, the paper had passed through the ownership of H. W. True and had been served as editors by M. C. Martin and O. J. Kauffman, a former school superintendent.
This issue marks two decades
This page of The Ladysmith News this week is really a gesture of celebration on the part of the publisher and owner of The News, marking the end of 20 years in business in Ladysmith. The Ladysmith News-Budget was purchased by Mark Bell from A. A. Hadden about October 1, 1911, and the first issue of the paper under the new ownership came out October 13.
Prior to coming to Ladysmith Mr. Bell had published the Prentice Calumet for ten years. A fire which destroyed the plant of the Prentice News, of which E. R. Barager was publisher, gave Mr. Bell the opportunity to sell his newspaper there to Mr. Barager and fulfill his ambition as good as could be found anywhere.
While the above statements have specifically mentioned Ladysmith, they apply with equal force to Rusk County, which is really just one large community with Ladysmith as its center. In such a field, it is a pleasure, a privilege to work. The publisher of The News owes more of a debt to the people of Ladysmith and Rusk County than he can ever repay.