Salem Willamette Farmer
The Salem Willamette Farmer [LCCN: sn85042522] is representative of the many regional newspapers of the 19th century with an agricultural focus. First issued in March of 1869, the Farmer was a weekly published by A.L. Stinson, an experienced newspaperman who had previously published the Albany Inquirer [ LCCN: sn96088499] from 1862-63, and the Albany Oregon Democrat [LCCN: sn96088479] from 1863-64. These were pro-secessionist papers that were periodically suppressed and excluded from the mails during the Civil War years. When Stinson returned to journalism after the war’s conclusion, his new venture was the far less controversial Willamette Farmer. The new paper would only touch on political matters insofar as they had a direct bearing on the growers and ranchers who made up the bulk of its readership. “We strive to make it interesting and readable,” an early editorial declared, “and hope to see it in the hands of every man and women interested in lands, agriculture and kindred interests.”
In its early years, the Farmer would boast a pair of prominent editors. The post was held by John Minto at the time of the paper’s debut. An organizer of Oregon’s first State Fair in 1861, in 1867 Minto had purchased the island in the Willamette River that now bears his name, developing the property as a hops farm and sheep ranch that would eventually make him one of the state’s most prominent agricultural businessmen. In his long career, Minto would also chart Santiam and Minto passes through the Cascade Mountains east of Salem, serve as the first Secretary of the State Agricultural Society, and be elected to four terms in the Oregon state legislature. In April 1870, he was succeeded as editor of the Willamette Farmer by Andrew J. Dufur. Two years later, Dufur would relocate to the wheat-growing region of Wasco County, purchasing land with his brother Enoch, near the town of Fifteenmile Crossing. In 1872 the town’s name was changed to Dufur, as the family was already well on its way to establishing a long-lasting prominence in the area.
Throughout its history, the Farmer was a visually interesting and cleanly laid-out paper. Its masthead, featuring a unique title font and vignette illustrations of scenes from rural life, truly stands apart from the generally unadorned and conservative masthead treatments that were the standard among journals of the day. Additionally, engravings illustrate many of the ads that ran in the Farmer, making it an excellent pictorial reference on period farm stock and agricultural machinery.
The paper frequently published advice pieces authored by amateur correspondents. The editors opined: “Being the actual experiences and observations of practical farmers, dealing with the circumstances and conditions of our own soil and climate, they cannot be otherwise than valuable to every cultivator.” In its early years, the Farmer is also noteworthy for its stated policy of refusing to print the “filthy quack doctor” advertisements that are typically seen in the pages of its peers—for this reason, the editors held their paper to be appropriate for “cheerful” introduction “into every family circle.”
In 1872, A.L. Stinson sold the paper to Samuel A. Clarke and David Watson Craig, entrepreneurs and experienced newspapermen who had previously worked on the Portland Morning Oregonian [LCCN: sn83025138] and for a time operated the Salem Oregon Weekly Statesman [LCCN: sn85042467]. They published the Farmer together until 1880, when Clarke bought out Craig’s interest. The Willamette Farmer would last for several more years before ceasing publication in 1887.
-- Written by Jason Stone