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Colfax Sesquicentennial 2014: The Colfax Messenger

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — In honor of the Colfax Sesquicentennial celebration in July of 2014, the Colfax Messenger will be publishing articles about Colfax history from time to time.

Part 5: The Colfax Messenger

Every now and then, someone will come into the Colfax Messenger office here on Railroad Avenue and ask if it could be at all possible that we might have a certain newspaper from — say — 75 years ago — that happens to contain an obituary or the birth announcement for a relative, or a wedding announcement, or birthday announcement, or something along those lines.

When I tell them we have every Messenger that was ever published going back to 1897, their eyes widen with surprise and delight.

Well. We do not quite have every Messenger. We are missing some editions from 1973. Lyle Christianson, the former owner, editor and publisher of the Colfax Messenger, tells me the company that bound the Messengers into big books went out of business, and he had to find another company.

In the subsequent shuffle of switching to a new binding company, a few of the Messengers were misplaced.


A.C. Chase, the first owner, editor and publisher of the Colfax Messenger, published a souvenir edition of the Messenger in 1901.

The original Messenger office still stands today. It is the yellow duplex house located at the corner of East River Street and Pine Street.

Here is what A.C. Chase wrote about starting the newspaper:

“Early in April 1897, A.C. Chase, then of Bloomer, drove to this village to look over the possibilities of establishing a Newspaper and Job Printing Office here, and after about two weeks, moved here and established The Colfax Messenger, getting out the first issue on April 30, 1897. It started with only two pages of home print, but after about two and one half years, opened up two more pages of home print, thus giving to Colfax and vicinity a paper worthy of their support.

“Unfortunately, however, for the Messenger, a paper known as The Colfax Record had previously started up here and ran about six months after gathering in all the free-will offerings of the people for what they supposed was to be a permanent and lasting good for their town departed, leaving their constituents without value received and with no confidence left for a printing office at Colfax; but the Messenger now occupies its own building, owns its plant and enjoys a liberal patronage and has not quite completed its fourth year.”

Ads and notices

The front page of the very first Colfax Messenger carries a variety of ads and notices, such as a Church Directory: M.E. [Methodist Episcopal] Services at the school house every two weeks on Sunday, at 10:30 a.m. Sabbath school every Sunday at 10 a.m. — Rev. F.E. Lewes, Pastor.

And — Y.P.S.C.E. [Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor] — “Services at the school house Sunday evening at 7:30. Topic: ‘Christian Enterprise.’ All are cordially invited to attend.”

The front page also carries a number of advertisements: Royal Hotel (E.W. Viets, proprietor); J.D. Simons (dealer in general merchandise and wall paper and local agent for Northwestern Life Association); Misses Erickson and Solid (dressmaking and millinery); Peter Running (dealer in general hardware, such as pumps, windmills, farming implements, furniture, and in fact, everything usually kept in a first class Hardware  Store).

The front page of the first Messenger also carried advertisements for Ole Nelson (“dealer in general merchandise such as dry goods, groceries, boos and shoes, etc., and we handle the celebrated New Richmond Flour, ‘Our Patent’ and ‘Shakespeare’”) [It is interesting to note “boos and shoes” — presumably it is “boots and shoes.]

And there was an advertisement for the Colfax Hotel (L.E. Roen, proprietor; on Main Street; one block from Depot); and Ole Noer (“druggist; dealer in dry goods, clothing, boots and shoes. A large stock of clothing and the best stock of shoes in town. Physician’s prescriptions carefully compounded”).

And last but not least, the Kinney Mercantile Company (“We are Leaders. We handle the Largest and Best Assorted Stock of General Merchandise, dry good, groceries, crockery and glassware. We handle the celebrated Gold Medal Flour. Cash paid for Farm Produce. A fine line of shoes. Good ones. Always in stock.”)

The front page of the first Colfax Messenger carried the Colfax Market Report as well, which noted, “prices are subject to change.” There is no indication if the prices are bushels or pounds: Oats (.15); Wheat (.65); Rye (.27); Corn (.17); Potatoes (.08); Hay ($6); Butter (.12); Eggs (.07). [It appears that in 1897, hay was an extremely valuable item to put up for sale.]


The front page of the first Messenger carried a variety of news items in among the advertisements: “O.G. Kinney bought a fine driving horse last week. J.D. Burns traded horses this morning. Ingman Roen has a new bicycle and now he can roll around town. M.K. Jones of Grafton, Wisc., is about to open up a lumber yard here. The masons are at work on Chris Ambles cellar for his building on Main Street. The Norwegian school closes here today; it has been a decided success under the management of O.A. Assen. Our schools here are to open next Monday for a two months’ term.”

And last but not least for local news: “Now is your chance to show your desire for a general newspaper in your town by calling soon and leaving $1.25 with the editor for a year’s subscription and giving a word of encouragement.”


On the back page of the very first Colfax Messenger, A.C. Chase published his first editorial, with the title, “Salutatory”:

“The public is again confronted with this, the first issue of another new journal, christened ‘The Colfax Messenger.’ It has come to stay, and it is the intention of its editor to make it one of the best general news journals in the Northwest.

“It will be strictly non-political, dealing only with items of general interest. Its aim will ever be to give the public local and general messages and in return for its service, it appeals to all for their liberal patronage for its support.

“Hoping the Messenger will be a welcome visitor and that the people of Colfax and vicinity will take special pains to lend their most cordial patronage to its support, socially and financially, I am yours to serve, A.C. Chase, Editor.”

Population 300

Farther down in the column on the back page of the first Messenger, A.C. Chase had this to say:

“Who said Colfax was an out-of-the-way place? Well, no matter, anyhow. Whoever said so, did not know, for we claim to be doing as much business, or more, than any other town of our size in this part of the state. We claim about 300 in inhabitants, have five general stores, one hardware store, a paint shop, three hotels, two liveries, one drug store, a barber shop, two warehouses, a creamery, two millinery shops, two blacksmith shops, a union church, a find graded school, a well equipped post office, and we are about to have a fine lumber yard, if we are in an out-of-the-way place. We are on the main line of the Wisconsin central and have good train service; so you see we are in-the-way (for business).”

And at the very bottom of the column, this news item:

“The Messenger is about 6 hours later in making its first weekly appearance, than it expects to be in the future, owing to a delay at headquarters.”