Newspapers in Brainerd in the city's formative years were as robust and active as the frontier itself.
During its history, at least six newspapers at one time or another told the story of this developing community.
Today they have sifted down to the Brainerd Daily Dispatch and the Crow Wing County Review, a weekly paper which maintains an office here, but which is printed in Walker.
The papers that have hit thE streets of Brainerd through the years include the Tribune, the Dispatch, the Journal, the Daily News, the Arena (later called the Journal Press) and the Re- view.
The first paper born in Brainerd was the Brainerd Tribune and it saw the light of day shortly after the city was first established.
The publisher was M. C. Russell and his first edition was published on Feb. 10, 1872. The paper got off to a shaky start with fire destroying the plant early in its history. However, Russell promptly re-established it.
In 1875, Russell sold the paper to Wilder B. Hartley and he set up his plant in the Hartley Block, the first brick building in Brainerd.
At one time or another, the paper was a weekly, a morning daily and a semi-weekly and finally was a weekly again before finally being acquired by the Journal Press in 1946.
The Brainerd Dispatch had its origin in 1881 and was established by J. W. Riggs and A. E. Pennell. The paper was actually to have been established by Frank Meyst, publisher of the Osakis Observer, who had decided to move his plant to Brainerd. One of the owners was Pennell and Riggs bought out Meyst's interest.
Plans had called for calling the paper the Brainerd Observer.
However, in December of 1881, this announcement was distributed in Brainerd: "The undersigned having perfected arrangements and entered into a co-partnership under the firm name of Riggs and Pennell, have decided to change the name of the Brainerd Observer to the Brainerd Dispatch and respectfully ask the patronage of the people of Brainerd and vicinity. We hope to be able to issue our first number next Thursday, Dec. 22, 1881, and all matter to insure publication in No. 1 should reach us not later than Wednesday noon." It was signed by Riggs and Pennell. They made good their promise and the first Dispatch was published on Dec. 22.
The paper was housed in "Sleeper's New Brick Block, Front Street."
However, things were rather rocky going for the Dispatch with a number of personality conflicts arising and in 1882 Joe Riggs, a son of A. P. Riggs who had handed his interest over to his son, sold that interest to attorney C. B. Sleeper, in whose building the paper was housed.
This was short-lived and a little later, Sleeper sold his interest to Fred Puhier of Ada. Puhler at the time was managing the political campaign for C. F. Kindred who was opposing Knute Nelson for a Congressional seat. When the campaign ended so did Puhier's interest in owning the Dispatch and he offered his share for sale.
On June 6, 1883, N. H. Ingersoll and F. W. Wieland purchased the entire ownership. It was in 1883 that the paper became a daily instead of a weekly.
Because the paper was a daily, the City Council voted on June 16, 1883, to make it the city's official newspaper. The paper's history continued in a rather uninterrupted fashion until 1907 when a fire gutted the Sleeper Block.
Ingersoll and Wieland then bought a building on South 6th and the Dispatch has called this spot home since that time. In 1931, the paper was sold to the W. D. Junkin and the H. F. McCollough families and the W. J. McGiffin Newspaper company which owned a group of newspapers. The connection with the McGiffin firm was severed in 1953 when the McColloughs purchased that stock and they have been sole owners since.
Junkin was publisher until his death in 1941 when he was succeeded by his son-in-law, H. F. McCollough. W. J. MeCollough, son of H. F. McCollough, joined the firm in 1945 and the two now are co-publishers.
Early in its history, the Dispatch published a weekly as well as a daily edition. This was discontinued in 1934.
The last of Brainerd's newspapers to be absorbed was the Journal Press, originally established in 1889, as the Brainerd Arena. It continued publication as a weekly until 1952 when it was purchased by the Dispatch.
The Arena (Journal Press) was established by E. E. Beard who came here from a town on the South Dakota line. The paper changed ownership many times.
The Evening Journal had a brief history. It is believed to have been founded by C. B. Sleeper, the same man who for a time held an interest in the Dispatch, in 1882 and discontinued publication in 1889.
Two papers were published as the Daily News. The first one attempted to get off the ground in 1881, but couldn't quite make it. Several months later H. C. Stivers got the paper going and on May 6, 1882, the council designated the evening daily as the city's official newspaper.
Disaster struck two weeks later when a fire wiped out the paper.
It was at this time that Riggs left the Brainerd Dispatch and teamed up with Stivers to publish the Daily News in the Sleeper Block. However, the paper flopped early in 1883.
Four years later the second Daily news was launched by Alvah Dewey who opened a print shop on the corner of Fourth and Front. He started publication June 6, 1887, and turned out both a daily, and a weekly paper and engaged in job printing.
It was described as a flourishing paper, but fire wiped it out a year after it was established and that ended its history.
The newest paper on the Brainerd scene is the Crow Wing County Review which was established in 1931 by consolidating several weekly papers in county villages. The Brainerd office was established May 22, 1931, and printing was started October 2. Since 1939, except for a short interval, Laurel B. Sand has served as its editor.
The Brainerd Dispatch, the leading survivor of the newspaper battles, has continued to grow with the times. Its circulation today is in the 12,000 neighborhood compared to 3,900 in 1931, and 7,500 slightly more than 10 years ago.
Three years ago the paper undertook a drastic remodeling campaign and completely changed its method of printing by going to the offset process.
It has been the city's official newspaper for 88 years.