By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Life was different back when Lester Prairie’s first newspaper was established.
Air conditioning, vacuum cleaners, and ball point pens hadn’t been invented yet, and a full-time job might pay $60 per month.
Journalistic discretion was different, too, and newspapers no longer include some of the subject matter printed 120 years ago.
The May 21, 1897 Lester Prairie Journal, for instance, had this article on its front page:
“There has been a case of wife beating in our village within the past ten days, and from what we have heard it is not the first time, and the brute of a husband has been in the habit of beating his wife right along. And what makes it worse at this time, she is in a delicate condition. This should not be allowed, it’s a disgrace to the village, and a warning should be given him if it occurs again he shall be punished severely for it. We do not know but the most effective method of stopping it would be for several men to take him out and give him a good beating; a taste of his own medicine, as it were. We have mentioned no names, but if it happens again we will make it public.”
The same issue of the Lester Prairie Journal also included many brief tidbits on the front page about the lives of people in town, such as:
“Geo. Schaumberg drove over to Buffalo Lake Saturday, returning Sunday evening,” and
“John Heneman has the piazza on his house finished, and it is the finest one we have seen in this county. It is a daisy, and no mistake, it is admired by all that have seen it. John is having his house painted, and when finished it will be one of the handsomest residences in the village.”
The early days
The village of Lester Prairie was home to 397 people in 1895, the year Lester Prairie’s first newspaper began. Nearby Bergen Township had a population of 1,242, according to the Lester Prairie centennial book.
The newspaper was called the Journal, and its first issue came out May 25. According to the History of Lester Prairie and Community (a book published in 1937), the publisher was S.G. Peterson, and the editor was William Kirkpatrick.
A local printing press was established in January 1896, and the Journal was printed and published from its own office, with O.H. Smith as managing editor.
The following summer, Peterson and Smith traded the Journal to W.E. Talboys for the Glencoe Register.
A second newspaper
Smith came back to Lester Prairie in 1901 and started a second paper The Lester Prairie News.
The two newspapers continued together for a few months, but Talboys soon discontinued the Journal, and sold the subscription list to the Lester Prairie News.
Smith ran the paper until 1922, when he sold it to Ervin L. Benjamin. Six years later, Benjamin sold it to Emil C. Ernst. When Ernst died unexpectedly in 1959, at age 63, the Lester Prairie News was sold to Lynn R. Smith, publisher of the Carver County News in Watertown.
Lester Prairie’s newspaper changed owners again in 1962, when it was sold to Llewellyn and Marceil Buss.
Growth and change
By 1980, Lester Prairie had a population of 1,229. That year, William McGarry bought the newspaper, which later became the McLeod County Chronicle in Glencoe.
In December, Floyd and JoAnn Sneer published the first issue of a new newspaper, the Lester Prairie Journal.
Llewellyn Buss started a second newspaper in town shortly after, called the Prairie Ad-News.
In 1986, Bill Ramige of Glencoe bought the Lester Prairie Journal, along with the Winsted Journal, and the Howard Lake Herald.
The 21st century
Chris Schultz and Dale Kovar bought the newspaper business from Ramige in 2001.
The year before, Steve and Sue Jameson purchased the Prairie Ad-News.
Schultz and Kovar bought the Prairie Ad-News in 2002, and later combined it with Lester Prairie’s other newspaper.
Today, the Lester Prairie paper has grown to serve Howard Lake, Winsted, Waverly, Mayer, New Germany, and the surrounding area.
Schultz and Kovar also own the Delano Herald Journal which serves Delano, Loretto, Montrose; and the Enterprise Dispatch, which covers Dassel and Cokato.