Cattle Trails & S.M. Konkel
No single county saw towns mushroom faster than did Baca County on the plains between 1885-1888. Americans were moving across the plains to cast their lot with the soil. They settled on land under the homestead, preemption and tree claim acts. [A "tree claim" required a certain number of trees be planted each year.
Unlike the gold rush, when only the men scurried to the hills hoping to gather nuggets and quickly return home, this venturesome movement was one of families intending to establish homes on virgin land and grow with the prairie country.
The land settlement reached its peak in 1888. In three years more than 6,000 persons moved into the area. Drought struck the region in 1889 and successive years of crop failures started an exodus. By 1893 only 700 persons remained. All the towns except Springfield, Stonington and Vilas disappeared.
Ralph C. Taylor, "Colorado South of the Border"
The Santa Fe Trail, pushing its way from Dodge City, Kansas, to Cimarron City, New Mexico, crossed the land that is now Baca County in the early years of the nineteenth century. It was well-traveled, although it traversed a very small area in the extreme southeast corner of Colorado. In 1851 another trail was established that penetrated further into the county and became a useful path for grazing herds. Several cattle trails, including the National Cattle Trail, crossed the county.
The first settlers came from New Mexico. The first permanent American citizen was a sheep rancher who located on Freezeout Canyon, so called because a small group of United States soldiers froze to death there in the late 1870s. Other ranchers followed, many financed by British capital. Two small railroad companies soon filed incorporation papers, creating a land boom. Speculators started towns. People came from nearby states, and from the eastern seaboard. By 1888 thirteen towns had been founded. The dream of a quick fortune, however, began fading, hastened by crop failures and lack of continued development.
There was enough activity for the people of this eastern part of Las Animas County to began agitating for their own county so they wouldn't have to go all the way to Trinidad on county business. Four towns considered themselves viable candidates for the county seat honor: Atlanta, Boston, Carrizo and Minneapolis. In fact, the four towns proposed four separate counties so they each would be a county seat. Springfield went along with the idea, with the proviso that if only one county was established, Springfield would be the county seat.
Publisher S. M. Konkel told of the efforts of the four towns:
In the fall of 1888 each of these towns sent its candidate, which Trinidad had agreed that they could have, to the convention at Trinidad.
Each of the towns came with their candidates and hot air spouters; but according to arrangements made the Boston man was nominated, and as the county was at that time Democrat he was elected as representative.
Along in March a bill granting the cutoff was granted. Tioga would be the name of the new county, with Boston designated the county seat.
Boston went wild with the excitement, lasting about a week, when the mail one day brought the news that the governor had returned the bill to the legislature for some changes.
The name of the county was changed to Baca with Springfield designated for the county seat. It was a terrible tumble for proud old Boston, and before the end of the year 1889 the people were gone, as was the case of [almost] all other towns of the east end....The houses all were sold for a song....Three or four remained at Vilas and a couple dozen at Springfield, old, dilapidated, and unpainted.
S.M. Konkel estimated the population peak was 3,000 in the spring of 1888. By the fall of 1889 only 1,000 remained, and that was soon "whittled down to 500, who remained with the county during its 15 years of hibernation.
Springfield was officially voted county seat the following year.
When the new county bill passed the legislature in 1889, Baca County was split off from the eastern portion of Las Animas County. It was named for the prosperous pioneer Baca family who were among the founders of Trinidad. Don Felipe Baca was the first settler on Butte Creek.
The 1890s, with a few years on either side, were a dormant period, during which the "few remaining ranchers settled down to an existence of almost unendurable privations and hardships occasioned by frequent drouths and crop failure," according to J. R. Austin, author of the Baca County chapter in the 1938 "Who's Who in Colorado." Cattlemen and farmers warred over fences.
A resettlement period began in 1916, when the Grazing Act was passed, permitting a new section for homesteading. It lasted until all the public land was gone.
From 1932 to 1938 there was a great drought, the worst years of which were l933-1935, followed by the Great Dust Bowl. Federal relief made it possible for towns to survive, but many farmers left. Baca County became the chief experimental location in the U.S. for erosion control. There was a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp near Springfield.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway infused new life when it came into the county in 1926, built townsites, and offered inducements for business houses to come in. The towns of Bartlett, Pritchett and Walsh either started or expanded. The Santa Fe added track in 1936, bolstering possibilities.
In 1890 the U.S. Census population for Baca County was 1,479, but was that halved to 759 in 1900. It rebounded to 8,721 in 1920, but declined to 7,964 in 1950, and still more to 4,556 in 1990.
Artesia was founded in 1914 but lasted only a year. The name of the town was changed to Blaine. That was long enough for a newspaper to be born:
Artesia Call spring 1914-1915, R.O. Casady and C. Lyle Knox, founders.
Knox was formerly with the Springfield Herald.
The Artesia Call name was kept when the name of the town was changed in 1915 to Blaine. N.G. Jones of the Two Buttes Sentinel bought the Call in 1916 and merged the two.Blaine
The town of Blaine was named for an early settler, and may have been built on, or next to, the site of the vanished Minneapolis. Oehlerts' directory says that Minneapolis changed its name to Artesia and then to Blaine.Atlanta
Artesia Call, 1915-1916.
Atlanta, settled on Freezeout Creek in May 1887, had the reputation of being the most orderly town on the frontier. It had one short-lived newspaper:Boston
Atlanta Democrat 1887-1888. S. M. Konkel remembered the name 40 years later as Atlanta Constitution, not as Democrat.
Boston blossomed in 1886, and by July 1887 claimed a population of 500. Many of the original town leaders were from Massachusetts, but the name may have come from the Boston, Trinidad & Western railroad company, one of the two lines that were boosting settlement. When Boston failed in its attempt to get the county seat designation, the town began to decline.Brookfield
Boston was the "largest and most lawless of " towns in the area, says J.R. Austin. With five saloons it could have been. The town also had a bank, three livery barns, several general stores, and two newspapers.
The population of the precinct which included Boston in 1890 was 362.
Boston had three newspapers:
Western World 1887-1889, S.M. Konkel, founder. Konkel states that the Western World was the first paper in the county, followed by the Minneapolis Chico. The World name was changed in 1889 to:
Boston Banner 1887-1889, George Daniel & Co., publishers. The name was changed to Baca County Journal 1889-1891, L.D. Gall, publisher.
The Brookfield Town Company built the town in May 1887.Campo
Brookfield Maverick 1887-1889, J.L. Young, publisher.
Campo, whose name is Spanish for field, was established in 1912, although F.M. Wheeler had installed a post office in 1909. The Santa Fe railroad passed through Campo.Carrizo Springs
The population in 1990 was 121.
Campo Enterprise 1916-1924, C.C. Swen, founder. Swen vowed it would be "strictly independent."
In 1919, O.L. Badgeley bought the Enterprise from Mrs. C.H., Wheeler. Colorado Press reported the sale:
The Campo Enterprise has been sold by Mrs. C.H. Wheeler to Mr. O.L. Badgeley. The Enterprise, which is published in a small field, is one of the best newspapers in the state, comparatively speaking. It takes advantage of everything its field offers and has developed not only the business, but the news possibilities almost to the limit of the field and no paper anywhere can do more. Mr. Badgeley is a level-headed, hardworking newspaperman, and will keep the Campo Enterprise on the map, always to the forefront with progressive and business-producing ideas.
Herman D. Smith was publisher 1923-1924.
Colorado Comet, April 1931-July 1932, Royal Young, founder. It was a five-column, eight-page paper "with plenty of advertising and much news. It is well printed and will be successful no doubt. A new building was erected to house the plant," Colorado Editor reported.
Young was a former editor of the Ouray Herald and Walsh Tab.
Carrizo Springs officially became a town on December 17,1887. It was the nearest of the new towns to the county seat, which was then in Trinidad. Four miles north of the town was Carrizo Flats. Carrizo is Spanish for common reed grass.
The precinct including Carrizo in 1890 had a population of 38.
Carrizo Springs Current 1887-1889, W.C. Powell, publisher.Minneapolis
Carrizo Springs Optic 1887-1888, Mark M. Davis, publisher.
Carrizo Miner December 1899-June 7, 907, C. Frost Liggett; merged into Springfield Herald.
Liggett owned at least eight papers around the state around the turn of the century, mostly in southeastern Colorado. Among them were papers in Alma, Chivington, Eads and Lamar.
Stories of wonderful crops of small grain grown in 1886 in the eastern end of Las Animas county [now Baca] had reached a lot of us who were seeking new locations.
Early in 1888 the writer got together his belongings, bought tickets for Granada and there we took an old Concord stage for the new town of Minneapolis, some 50 miles south.
We reached there about nightfall, finding "some town." It was wide open with the latch string on the outside. A big two story hotel stood in the center of the town...here I stayed until I got properly located...on a quarter section just beyond old Butte City and eight miles as the crow flies southeast of Minneapolis.
A number of Kentuckians [settled] in this same locality. At this time Minneapolis was a thriving young city....There were two drug stores [one owned by] Dr. Richenbaugh, whom the cowboys liked to make dance to the tune of bullets on the floor....
Minneapolis made a strong fight for the county seat of the new county but it didn't make it, hence the wheat field that now occupies its former site.
W. Warren Morton, Springfield Democrat-Herald 10/28/1937
Morton, an early settler in Minneapolis, wrote to the Democrat-Herald about his memories of those initial days of a new town.
Minneapolis was platted in February 1887 and soon absorbed Butte City, which in 1886 was the first town in the future Baca County. Butte City was started "somewhere in the neighborhood of the present Blaine," S.M. Konkel wrote. "We believe there were four buildings built."
Minneapolis, with 81 blocks, was the largest townsite in the county, according to Ralph Taylor. (Konkel thinks it might have been a draw between Minneapolis and Boston for size. Vilas was also "making claims of being the largest town in the east end, but without bias we would put it as first in beauty and second in population," said Konkel).
Biggest or not, Minneapolis had several grocery stores, several department and general stores, two saloons (and a businessman who didn't sell liquor but kept a keg of whisky on tap for his Kentucky customers), a tin shop, a first-class livery stable and stage line, and two newspapers. Business was "thriving."
Minneapolis was named by a group of Minnesota colonists. In the vote for county seat Minneapolis appeared to have won, but the ballots from the town were ruled illegal on a technicality. Springfield was declared county seat, striking the death knell for Minneapolis and the other losing hopefuls.
The population in 1890 of the precinct including Minneapolis was 297.
Chico 1887-1890. L.A. Wikoff (or Wycoff), founder. Wikoff would publish the Springfield Herald in 1892.
Minneapolis Republican 1888-1889, Geo. W. Benedict and Robert W. Brown, founders. Benedict would later found the Trinidad Chronicle.Plymouth
Plymouth was four miles southeast of Stonington, and was the larger of the two. It apparently began about the same time, 1887, and was one of the towns that totally disappeared in the early 1890s. It did have a newspaper, suitably, if over-confidently, named:Pritchett
Plymouth Rock 1888-1889, W.L. Holcomb, founder.
The town of Pritchett came with the railroad in 1926. It was named for Dr. Henry S. Pritchett, a director of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, which established the Pritchett branch line to ship cattle, sheep and wheat, and heavily promoted the town. Pritchett was the western terminus of the railroad branch.Springfield
Its first population in the census of 1930 was 451. In 1950 it was 286 and in 1990 was down to 153.
Pritchett News #1 1930-1931, W.E. Clark, founder. Clark, born in Kentucky, published several papers in Kansas before coming to Pritchett to found the News. Later that year he moved to Walsh and purchased the Walsh Tab, consolidating the two papers. He left the newspaper business in 1935 to accept a job as foreman of a CCC camp near Glenwood Springs. He had been publisher of the Sharon Valley Times for two months when he died in October 1937 at the age of 48. Colorado Editor described him as a "newspaperman, minister and politician."
Pritchett News #2 1935-1937. The News was revived by Robert and Mignon Swenson. Arthur Willis, who was on the staff, took over in late summer 1935 from John O. Keenan, and discontinued the News in 1937.
Springfield was built by the Windsor Town Company in April 1887. It is the county seat. The townsite promoters named the town after Springfield, Missouri, whence many of them had migrated. The town had an early location advantage, being closest to Trinidad, which was then the county seat. The jubilation at being the new Baca County seat was tempered with some bad luck: the first three courthouses burned down with most of the early records.
In 1889 when Boston, Minneapolis and Vilas were all claiming to be the biggest, Springfield entered a claim to the title. Sam Konkel decided that "actually in size both in buildings and population, it would have to be placed fourth; though in appearance it came close to Vilas" which he rated as first in appearance and second in population.
Springfield and Vilas were both in precinct 5 of the 1890 Census which showed the entire precinct with a population of 375. The town of Springfield had 90 people and Vilas town, 43. In 1900 Springfield had 41 residents; Vilas was gone. The Springfield population in 1950 was 2,041 and in 1990, 1,475. In view of the Census figures, it would seem Boston had the legitimate claim to "biggest" with a population of 362 in 1890.
Springfield Advertiser 1887-1888 (about six months); John B. Garvin founder. It was bought by the Springfield Herald.
Springfield Beacon 1887-1888.
..."clean and wholesome"
Springfield Herald August 1887-1919, George Hosmer, founder. Almost immediately after starting the Herald, Hosmer bought out the Advertiser, which had been published for six months.
George E. Hosmer had worked on papers in New Mexico and Trinidad, and was later with the Fort Morgan Morgan County Herald, from 1906-1912. He was active in the Colorado press association of which he was president in 1909. He was an officer and president of the National Editorial Association from 1911-1914. He left Colorado in 1919 and bought a newspaper in Florida; in 1926 he was elected president of the Florida Press Association. Hosmer died in Florida in 1944.
Hosmer sold the Herald in 1888 to Charles F. Mechler, who sold it the same year to Arthur J. Henbest, later with the Calhan Divide Farmer. Patrick Byrnes and J.A. Love, both later with the Pueblo Indicator, were publishers 1890-1891, followed by L.A. Wikoff, 1892-April 1898, and Frank Hays Jr 1898-1901. Hays went to Manzanola and started a paper. Silas.E. Speckman owned the paper December 6, 1901-June 7, 1907. He wrote, on leaving:
Having sold the Herald...we wish to thank our patron friends for their support during the four years that we have owned the sheet. Six years ago we began working in this office and six months later began publishing the paper under contract with the proprietor. During this time we have endeavored to publish a clean and wholesome newspaper and to make it a benefit to the town of Springfield and to Baca county.
In the same issue of the Herald was another goodbye--and a hello--from the publisher of the Carrizo Miner, C. Frost Liggett:
After eight years of successful publication of the Miner, the newspaper has consolidated with the Springfield Herald. The new paper [will] be published under the management of the Herald. Mr. E.M. Whittaker will be business manager. [signed] C. Frost Liggett.
Whittaker was listed as editor and manager in 1908, but in September 1909 it was announced that E. (Doc) Emerson "assumes the paper as editor and manager." He was editor until S.M. Konkel took charge. The Herald said:
Mr. Konkel had ran (sic) the Advertiser, old Boston's newspaper in the early days, and is familiar with the county's history and interests and while the paper will be made democratic, the public is assured that it will be run in decent lines and continue as an important factor in the affairs of Baca county.
Actually, the Advertiser was in Springfield, not Boston. Konkel was connected with the Boston Western World.
The Herald Publishing Company was listed as publisher until July 1913 when S.M. Konkel came aboard.
S.M. Konkel was editor and publisher of the Springfield Herald and its successors, from 1913 to 1930.
The Colorado Editor in 1917 said:
[Konkel] publishes a remarkably lively paper, full to the brim with advertising. There is also a splendid news representation. Judging from a map and some boosting articles, Springfield and Baca county do not lack for good live publicity of the effective sort, due to Mr. Konkel's energetic endeavors.
Baca County Democrat January 1912-July 1919, Raymond K. Knight, founder. He sold the paper to Enoch F. Koontz. R.O. Casady, who founded the Artesia Call in 1914, bought the Democrat in May 1916 from the Democrat Publishing Company, which consisted of C.M. Gordon, Ward Brothers, John M. Johnson and others. The Herald bought the Democrat from Casady in June 1919 and merged it to:
Springfield Democrat-Herald 1919-1939. The Herald bought the Democrat in July 1919 and the paper was known as the Democrat-Herald, still under Konkel's management. F.J. Graves was on the staff. Konkel and Graves would start a broad and successful newspaper partnership.
Colorado Press noted in March 1919 that Editor Graves "needs a typesetting machine evidently, but has not the time to sit down and write out the order."
Konkel began branching out in May 1918 by buying the Kenton (Okla.) Record plant, moving it to Kim (Colo.) and starting the Dry-Land Record.
Colorado Press reported in February 1920:
Konkel & Graves publish the Springfield Democrat-Herald, Kim Dry Land Record, Branson Las Animas County News, Plum Valley Leader, Campo Enterprise, and the Boise (Okla.) Cimarron County News, If these two high-class newspapermen keep on they will have the record of Hearst and John C. Schaeffer (sic) thrown into the discard.
Colorado Press editor Guy U. Hardy was apt to call anyone with more than three papers "the Hearst of Colorado." John C. Shaffer bought and merged a number of Denver newspapers, notably the Rocky Mountain News, around 1920.
Konkel wasn't known to waste words. In 1923, Inter-Mountain Press (IMP) reported:
[Konkel] devised a new variety of continuation line, which offers new interest in the fact that it leaves a good deal to the reader's imagination. Whenever a story is continued to another page he uses in place of the customary "Continued on page__" the curt instruction: "Go Elsewhere."
Samuel M. Konkel arrived in Colorado in March 1886 and located the first claim in his section of the county. A year later he started the the Western World at Boston, then the largest town in what would become Baca County. In 1917 he wrote:
Thirteen papers flourished in the area then but the Springfield Herald is the only one which survived the migration back to God's country in 1887-1889. A few lonesome people who couldn't help themselves stayed with the country along with a few cows and the Herald. Springfield and Vilas are the only towns that didn't go to the wall [out of the original thirteen.
A former schoolteacher, department store manager, and finally an editor, Konkel "probably knew more people who have lived in the county than any other person," the Herald said when he left, adding:
An ardent Democrat, Konkel caused great consternation in the county when he deserted the donkey for the banner of Mr. Hoover in preference to Al Smith.
Later Konkel was a leader of the Liberty party nationally. While he was in the department store business, Konkel's hobby was showcasing the county's unique and interesting places in his store. The petrified forest and the Two Buttes mountain and reservoir were his particular "delight." He described Two Buttes as "Used by the gods' kids to do sled riding on."
In 1933, when he was well past the age of 70, the Konkel and his wife auctioned off surplus household goods--"a practice he had seen hundreds of times in this country"--and moved to Arkansas, where he died in August 1935, "after a worthy life." The Plainsman-Herald eulogized: "A dynamic newspaperman...Fearless in his writings, he struck out on a path which he deemed to be the right one in his journalistic career."
I.C. Rosa and L.L. Brown bought the Democrat-Herald in June 1930 and ran it for almost a year. Brown had been with a Calhan newspaper. They sold the paper in May 1931 to Ralph and Juanita Williams, and returned to Dodge City. The departing editors wrote:
The Democrat-Herald has been sold to Mr. Ralph Williams who now has charge of the publication. Mr. Williams and wife and little son will move here from Denver where he has been employed for several years by the Rocky Mountain News.
Williams left the Herald in 1936 to become editor of the Lamar Sparks. Mrs. Williams stayed on as editor in Springfield until 1939, when Bruce Thompson bought the Herald and merged it with his Plainsman.
Springfield Republican 1889-1890, F.M. Tipton, founder.
Baca County Republican March 1920-1937, Charles E. Howell, founder. F.J. Graves was editor. IMP reported in April 1920:
The first issue of the new Baca County Republican, published at Springfield by Charles E. Howell, county clerk, appeared shortly before April 1. The paper is in charge of R. K. Trivett, formerly with the Springfield Herald. The paper is now printed at Lamar but will be produced in Springfield as soon as the necessary equipment arrives. "There is a field for a Republican paper in Springfield," says the Two Buttes Sentinel, "and the Sentinel congratulates the editor on its good beginning.
The Republican Publishing Company was owner from 1921 to January 1927, when Bruce Thompson bought the paper.
Bruce A. Thompson, born in 1892 in Lincoln, Nebr., learned the printing trade at an early age as an apprentice at the Wichita Eagle. He was a tramp printer with the Kansas City Star, Chicago Daily News, and Kansas City Post before coming to Colorado in 1919. For the next 12 years he was with the Pueblo Star-Journal. Even before he left the Star-Journal, he bought the Baca County Republican in 1927, taking full charge in 1931. He served with the army in World War I. His wife, Mary, worked with him on the Springfield newspaper.
One biographer says Thompson "edited his paper with such ability and wisdom that he exercised great editorial influence throughout Baca County and even beyond its borders....[under him] the paper has grown in circulation, income and influence."
Bruce Thompson died in 1965.
Thompson changed the Republican's name to:
Plainsman March 1937-1939. In September 1939 Thompson bought and merged the Democrat-Herald into his Plainsman, which then became the:
Plainsman Herald 1939 to date. Bruce Thompson sold the paper in 1955 to Melvin and Ruth Stults, who owned the Walsh Topic. They would become long-time publishers and effective Baca County citizens. The Stults sold the paper 38 years later to Penny and Joe Self, who assumed management January 1, 1993.
The Selfs both grew up in Springfield. Penny had been working on the Plainsman Herald for more than two years; after buying the paper, she became editor and publisher. Joe kept his job as an employee of the power company.
Melvin Stults died December 28, 1994 after a lengthy illness.
After 1957 the Plainsman Herald was Baca County's only newspaper.
The Baca Plainsman Herald
Western Empire 1930-1931, Baca County Chamber of Commerce, publisher. J. Ralph Jett was editor.
Baca County Banner January 2, 1941-1954, Cecil E. Day and R.O. Richardson, founders. Day was mechanical superintendent, and Richardson was editor. Richardson had been ad manager for the Rocky Ford Tribune. Prior to that, he was with the Curtis Publishing Co. for 10 years, and the Daily Oklahoman for six. The Banner was the last new paper established in the county.
Day, an Oklahoman, began his newspaper career as a printer's apprentice. After college he worked on a number of newspapers or in print shops before moving to Colorado and taking a job on the Lamar Sparks. When the paper folded, he moved to La Junta and set up his own commercial shop, but when the opportunity to start a newspaper in Springfield came up, he took it and moved his plant from La Junta to Springfield.
Cecil Day went into military service. Colorado Editor reported in October 1943 that Mrs. Cecil Day had taken over management of the Banner, succeeding Ed Harshbarger, but that Harshbarger would continue to assist at the office. Harshbarger was publishing a paper in Elkhart, Kan., and would divide his time between the two papers.
One biography of Cecil Day noted that:
[While Day] was an influential Democrat, he does not use his publication as a springboard from which to launch political propaganda; he is genuinely civic-mined and considers politics as a means of getting things done of advantage to his community. His papers endeavor to chronicle the news in adequate fashion, and use the editorial page for the interpretation of what is going on in the world and in Springfield and in Washington.
In addition to his civic activities, Day was a member of the National Academy of Science.
Day founded the Walsh Enterprise in 1946, and he founded the Canon City Fremont County Sun in March 1951.
Andrew Phillips was publisher from June 1948 to July 1950. Billy Frank (Pat) Patterson and R.E. Delaney had an interest in the paper. Warren Schmidt, Alfred Arraj and Joe Northcutt were joint owners from 1950-1951.
Schmidt was an attorney and later became a county judge.
Judge Arraj, who ended his long and distinguished career as Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, grew up in nearby Otero County. He began as Baca County attorney in 1936 and after returning from World War II service was Baca County district attorney and district judge until appointed to the federal bench in 1957. He retired in 1976, and died in October 1992 at the age of 86.
J. Ross and Anne Thompson bought the paper January 1, 1951. It was a family affair: daughter Annette, 7, was Comic Supplement Editor (including folding and inserting). After the move to Rocky Ford, Annette was promoted to Downtown Distribution Director.
Three-year-old J.R. "hasn't even completed his newspaper apprenticeship yet," said Colorado Editor in April 1954. Both children relished printer's ink.
The Thompsons brought a wealth of experience to the Banner. J. Ross, who attended the University of Colorado, was a reporter and editor on newspapers in Lamar--he worked with Cecil Day on the Lamar Sparks--and Pueblo, and was a navy correspondent in the Seabees in the Pacific during World War II. Anne graduated from Iowa State University's school of journalism, and worked on newspapers in her native Iowa before joining the staff of the La Junta Tribune-Democrat.
Managing the editorial and business end of the paper led to some interesting experiments. One of them was to increase circulation. Anne Thompson shared her experience in the April 1954 Colorado Editor:
Circulation gains are desirable and profitable.... How to get new subscriptions is the problem. There are two basic ways--direct mail and personal solicitation. Obviously, personal solicitation can be very effective, but it can also be expensive and time consuming and most of us, especially on weekly newspapers, don't have the time to do it ourselves or the proper personnel to do it for us. The Banner used two direct mail plans that resulted in a [dramatic] increase in circulation revenue during a three-months period over the same period in either of the previous two years. The first month we sent a postcard mailing to all boxholders in all communities in our county, inviting non-subscribers to receive a month's free trial subscription. We used an oversize card [lower half detachable, in orange, yellow or green; orange was the best puller].... After the first sample copy had been sent out, we mailed a "thank you" letter to each person which contained an order blank and return envelope. At the end of the fourth week we sent out another letter...inviting each person to subscribe...our order blanks contain only two rates--for one year and for three. Our three year rate is just double our one year rate. We didn't offer a cut rate price or any time less than one year. We made one major mistake, I think....We sent out too many cards at once....I suggest that you send the mailing to one community a week over a period of weeks and avoid being swamped with 300 extra copies and typing labels for each one.
The Thompsons borrowed another circulation idea from J. Ember Sterling of the Hugo Eastern Colorado Plainsman. He suggested that "non-resident property owners are an excellent and fertile field for potential subscribers." Sterling was correct. The Banner's return on the appeal was 11 percent, a third of it in three-year subscriptions.
Basically, we feel results in any circulation promotion come if you have a good product to sell--a good newsy newspaper that covers the various communities in the area, courthouse news and, in our case, weather, crops, oil leasing and taxes. We haven't tried to cut prices or offer special rates, because we don't feel that it is as easy to get renewals if the subscriber didn't pay the full rate to begin with.
The Banner bought and merged in the Walsh Enterprise in 1948. The Banner plant was expanded in 1953. The l9th century Cranston press was moved from the basement to an extension built on the rear of the building. The extension included a garage from which newspapers could be loaded. The Thompsons did not stop publishing the paper during the renovations. They took the pages to Lamar and had the Lamar Daily News print the paper for two weeks. The Thompsons had a paper--and a lawsuit. Bruce Thompson of the Plainsman-Herald and Melvin Stults of the Walsh Topic filed an injunction to declare the Banner an illegal newspaper and to prevent county officials and others from printing legal notices in it. Thompson and Stults contended that "published" meant printed within the territorial boundaries of a county. Two former owners were also involved: Warren Schmidt was an attorney for the plaintiffs, and sitting District Court Judge Alfred Arraj excused himself from the case.
"During the trial, Arthur Gordon, attorney for the plaintiffs, was going on at length about how Bruce Thompson of the Plainsman-Herald had invested in his business and had worked hard to make it a success, that this was his livelihood, etc.," Anne Thompson recalled. "When he finished, Judge Gobin leaned forward and said, 'Mr. Gordon, wouldn't you say those statements also applied to the defendants?' Gordon was non-plussed for a moment, and we knew that we were probably going to win."
Judge Gobin declared the Banner was qualified to carry legal notices and advertisements, and "The prayer in the complaint is denied; and judgment is hereby given for the defendants and against the plaintiffs, together with costs." It was a precedent-setting case, Anne Thompson pointed out:
[It] paved the way for subsequent publication of newspapers in central plants in another county. Inter-mountain Press, for example, owes us a debt of gratitude. J. Ross and Anne Thompson sold the Banner in 1951 to Bruce Thompson--no relation--who owned the Plainsman-Herald. The sale included the mailing list and good will, but not the equipment, which was sold to A.B. Withers of the Westminster Journal. The old Intertype returned to the area around 1963, when it was set up in a job shop in the Thompsons' Rocky Ford building. "It was a very sturdy machine," said Anne. The Thompson duo went to Rocky Ford after selling the Banner. Bruce Thompson discontinued the Banner in February 1954. Baca Weekly c.1992-? Terry Evans, founder.Stonington
Stonington came into existence in 1887. As Boston declined, Stonington grew, but then it, too, waned with the other small towns in the county. Stonington sprang to life again in 1909, six miles from the original town, but by 1926 most of the town moved to the new community of Walsh.
Stonington Sentinel 1889-1890, W.C. Calhoun, founder. Stonington Journal 1911-1912, C.N. Woodard, founder. Stonington News summer 1917-1924, George Kerr, founder. Kerr was from Texas. Colorado Press, announcing its debut, called it the "most southeastern paper in Colorado."
Robert Kerr was publisher from 1917-1922, but sold the paper to Ed B. Ellinson in 1922. Ellinson (or Alison) sold the News in March 1924 to Alfred Kerr, a nephew of the founder. In June 1924, IMP reported that the:
Baca County News, "which died a few weeks ago, has been revived by Royal Ransom."
It was a short new life. The News folded the following September, and Ransom "crated the plant" and went looking for a new position. This may be the same paper, listed by Oehlerts, as the Stonington Artesian News 1923-Fall 1924. Oehlerts does not list a Baca County News. Stonington Times 1924-1926, Ernest W. Kerr and F.J. graves..Two Buttes
The Two Buttes Town Company platted the town about the same time it completed a nearby large irrigation dam in 1909. The first incorporated town in Baca County. Two Buttes was named for a formation of buttes near the Baca and Prowers county line. Two Buttes Reservoir is now a recreational/hunting area. The population in 1950 was 121; in 1990, 63.
Two Buttes had one newspaper: Two Buttes Sentinel March 9, 1910-1933, N.G, Jones, founder. Jones actually was part of a company that had a lot of faith in a community that didn't have even a finished building when the first Sentinel of 4,500 copies was run off. Not even the Sentinel building, which was built for the newspaper, was completed. There was a Washington hand press, of "which," IMP, said:
[It] gives the old timers in the printing business an idea of the tremendous amount of strong-arm labor involved. According to Mr. Jones, the paper had only two paid subscribers when the first issue appeared, the remainder of the 4,500 edition going to people who might be subscribers in the future or who he thought should know more about the possibilities of Two Buttes and Baca county. The Sentinel has prospered from the first and is one of the well established, well edited papers of the state today, as it always has been. As is the case with many of the leading newspapers of the west, it was born with the town and has played an important part in every step of development and progress which has been taken since.
Nathaniel Gomer Jones, born in Ohio in 1875, was a school teacher who came to Colorado about 1902. He worked on a cattle ranch at Blaine before teaching school at Vilas. He then founded the Sentinel. After leaving the newspaper, he went into banking. In 1916 he bought the Artesia Call and merged it into the Sentinel. Jones was publisher until 1921, when he sold the paper on April 25 to E.L. Nowels.
Jones bought the Sentinel back in 1924 when Nowels decided he wanted to live in a larger community. Jones J.R. Moore, who apprenticed on the Sentinel before World War I, returned to run the paper. He purchased it in 1925, but sold to Clyde H. Oliver in 1926. Ardel Smales was editor in 1927. Jones seems to have returned as publisher again briefly in 1929. R.L. and C.B. Henry were publishers in 1932. It was issued from the office of the Walsh Tab early in 1933 before it folded.Vilas
Approximately one hundred and ten years ago a man named Ferdinand Capansky built a building in a brand new Baca County settlement named Old Boston. The building was a wooden structure. The front part of the building housed a saloon, and Capansky moved his wife and seven children into the back.... When Old Boston disbanded as a town, Capansky moved...to Vilas. C.F. Wheeler gained possession of the building and moved it to Vilas also. There he added to the structure and operated a mercantile store and saloon.
Lamar Daily News 11/20/1991
Vilas was started July 7, 1887. It was named for William F. Vilas, Secretary of the Interior at the time, and a former Postmaster General. C.F. Wheeler is remembered as a benefactor of hungry farmers. He was said to be the one person responsible for the community's growth and the survival of homesteaders for miles around. When he died in 1938 the Baca County Republican said his was the largest funeral every held in the county. The population for Vilas town in 1890 was 41. In 1950 it was 132 and in 1990, 105.
Vilas Democrat 1887-1891. Victor 1887-1888, A.G. Durham, founder. Baca County Republican 1891-1899.Walsh
Walsh was another town that grew as a new branch of the Santa Fe in 1926, although there were some settlers there earlier. It was named for a retired baggage agent for the railroad. The 1990 population was 692.
Walsh Herald, 1927, Ardel Smales, editor of the Two Buttes Sentinel, founder.
Walsh Tab June 21, 1928-1939, Ernest Kerr, founder. Kerr was there until June 1, 1930, and again November 1, 1933 to January 1, 1935. Royal A. Young, publisher, 1930-1931, sold the Tab to W.E. Clark. Young repossessed the paper in the fall of 1932. but Clark had it again from December 1932 to November 1933. It is likely that Kerr either retained an interest in the Tab or leased it to Young and Clark. In November 1930 the Tab bought and merged in the Pritchett News. Roy L. Henry leased the Tab early in 1933 and issued his Two Buttes Sentinel from the Walsh plant. The CPA newspaper directory in 1936 listed Royal Young as publisher.
Walsh Enterprise 1946-1948, Cecil E. Day, founder. He sold it to Andrew Phillips in June 1948. Phillips discontinued the Enterprise a month later and bought the Springfield Baca County Banner.
Walsh Topic June 1948-1957, Eugene E. Gibson, founder. Melvin Stults bought the paper in November 1949 from Mr. and Mrs. F.K. Baldridge. Stults, who was also publisher of the Springfield Plainsman-Herald, published the Topic in his Springfield plant. The Topic was discontinued in July 1957. * * *
Sources: Springfield Plainsman Herald which printed Konkel memories in the fall of 1989 and January 1989.
Special thanks to Ross and Anne Thompson