The Madras pioneer
Madras, Crook County/Jefferson County, Oregon
Born in a tent six years before the City of Madras was incorporated in 1910, the Madras Pioneer [LCCN: sn84024878] was the first newspaper to be published in Crook County. (Jefferson County was created from Crook County territory in 1914.) Drawn to the Central Oregon high desert by railroad development and homestead notices, Oregon newspaper veteran Timothy Brownhill, with assistance from printer Bill Rutter, founded the paper on August 25, 1904, using an old Washington hand-press and a collection of nondescript type purchased from John Cradlebaugh, editor of The Dalles Mountaineer [LCCN: sn83025135]. The Pioneer began as a six-column folio, published every Thursday at $1.50 for a year’s subscription.
In 1905, Brownhill sold the paper to Max Lueddemann, founder of the Bend Bulletin [LCCN: sn96088235]. Howard W. Turner bought the Pioneer in 1908 and published until 1915 with the help of printer Sidney Percival. In 1915, Vine W. Pearce, of McMinnville, ran the paper with his sons George and Lot until 1919, when Pearce sold the paper to William E. Johnson, who then sold it to George Pearce in 1920. However, Johnson took over again in 1923 under lease from Vine Pearce. When a fire swept through the town in September of 1924, the Pioneer press was one of the only buildings spared.
Johnson published the Pioneer until his death on December 31, 1924, and on New Year’s Day of 1925, Johnson’s widow took over and bought the paper that year. Mrs. Johnson relocated the Pioneer to a different building in 1929, sharing space with the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company and the Pacific Power and Light Company. As a woman publisher, Mrs. Johnson often experienced frustration and sexism from printers that “‘would not take orders from a woman’” (quoted in Turnbull 1939, 447). However, with help from the Oregon Editorial Association, Mrs. Johnson was able to find printers that were willing to work with her. Mechanical aspects of printing were supervised by W. B. Russell, and in 1933, Mrs. Johnson’s daughter, Mrs. Betty J. Welker, took over as editor. In 1935, Mrs. Johnson married A. R. Bowen, previous representative for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in the Northwest. Bowen, with the help of former Eugene and Portland printer J.R. Blakely, ran the Pioneer for the next two years before Mrs. Johnson-Bowen took charge again.
Early Pioneer topics included international, national, statewide and local news, social updates, reports on new buildings and construction, stories illustrating moral lessons, sections titled “Sheer Nonsense” and “Jolly Joker,” featuring jokes and amusing dialogues, “Science and Invention,” “Farm and Garden,” and “Papers by the People.” Fashion was presented as important to women, and women’s roles, behavior, marriage, and voting rights were discussed primarily in editorials. Political cartoons, poems, and short stories intermingled with news of national politics and coverage on presidential candidates. One cartoon from 1911 featured a woman telling a little girl that she could be president someday, with the caption, “In the Good Times Coming.”
News coverage on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation often expressed Native American grievances, and the Pioneer published reports on Native American celebrations, as well as projects such as Geoffrey O’Hara’s preservation of the music of “the original Americans, who are rapidly passing to the Happy Hunting Ground,” as reported in 1913.
As early as 1909, the Pioneer boasted Madras as the “Gateway to central Oregon,” and prophesized the city as “sure to be the railroad center” of the region, encouraging people to invest in local property and businesses. However, the railroad construction boom declined around 1911 (Crow and Ramsey 2010, 346). The Pioneer is still in print today, featuring sections on local news, sports, community updates, and classifieds. The current paper is published on Wednesdays by Eagle Newspapers, with a circulation of over 4,000.
Prepared with reference to:
Crow, Beth and Jarold Ramsey. “Ole Hedlund, Photographer of the Central Oregon Railroad Era, 1901-1911.” Oregon Historical Quarterly. 111.3 (Fall 2010): 342-371.
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
- Written by Sheila Rabun