-by Greg Hoots-
In April of 1867 Alma, Kansas became the county seat of Wabaunsee County, following two contested elections which found Alma and Wabaunsee vying for the placement of the county’s courthouse. The momentous event did not make its way into the newspapers. In the earliest days of Alma, growth was slow, and the county was isolated both geographically and socially, and there were no newspapers printed in the county. In those days there were no easy ways for the citizens of Wabaunsee County to learn the news of the day. With no railroad service into the county at that time, the only method of learning the news was from an occasional newspaper from the east brought by settlers or teamsters bringing supplies.
On April 1, 1869 the first issue of the county’s first newspaper, The Wabaunsee County Herald was published by Sellers & Bertram. Six months later on October 28th, Bertram sold his interest in the paper to Alma pioneer, S. H. Fairfield who purchased Sellers interest in March of 1871, changing the name of the paper to the Alma Union. In May of 1872 Sellers reacquired the newspaper, becoming the sold operator, and he changed the publication’s name to the Wabaunsee County News.
Sellers then sold the News to Nathan Hughes in October of 1883 who sold the publication to D.W. Scott in 1887 who in turn sold the paper to I.D. Gardiner in 1888. Gardiner changed the name of the paper to The Alma News and operated the paper for a year, selling it to F.W. Graham in December of 1889. Graham sold the paper to A.O. Grigsby in December of 1892, operating it a year before retiring in 1893, leaving L. H. Gregory as the paper’s manager. In January of 1894 the paper suspended publication and its subscription list was sold to a competing Alma paper, The Enterprise.
The Alma Blade, published by R. Cunningham & Co. in Alma, was the first competition to the Herald and its successors, printing its first paper on March 14, 1877. The Blade operated for eleven months before closing its doors on February 20, 1878. A second paper, The Mail was issued from The Blade offices during the fall political campaign of 1877.
In 1880 The Wabaunsee County Herald was resurrected by J.B. Campbell & Bro. in Alma, operating for less than a year before selling to W.W. Cone in 1881 who changed the name to the Home Weekly. In 1882 the publication moved to Eskridge, selling three more times before consolidating with the Eskridge Star in September of 1888.
The Alma Enterprise, published by Welch & Sage at Alma, printed its first paper on October 16, 1884. Welch sold his interest to O.W. Little on October 16, 1891, and the firm of Sage & Little was formed. O.W. Little published The Alma Enterprise for more than a half a century until he sold the paper to the owner of The Alma Signal, Carey Carroll on August 1, 1943. Carroll consolidated the two papers, creating the Signal-Enterprise.
On September 7, 1889 the first issue of The Alma Signal was published by Matt Thomson who operated the newspaper for a dozen years before selling to Chester & Carroll in October of 1901. Chester sold his interest in the publication to F. A. Seaman in February of 1902. Soon, Carey E. Carroll acquired full ownership of the publication, and he would publish The Alma Signal and later the Signal-Enterprise until his death on March 10, 1948.
After Carey Carroll’s death his son Edwin Carroll, a prominent Alma attorney, took the reins of The Alma Signal-Enterprise, and in 1951 Carroll hired his nephew, Robert Stuewe to work at the newspaper. Ten years later Stuewe purchased the paper from Carroll and operated the Signal-Enterprise until 1990 when he sold the paper to Ervan and Pam Stuewe of Alma.
In 2016 the Stuewes sold the Signal-Enterprise to Lori Daniel of Alma, Kansas, who operates the newspaper today as the Wabaunsee County Signal-Enterprise.
A handful of other papers operated in Alma, including The Progressive Patriot which printed papers from September to December of 1895, the Teacher, Patron and Pupil which published between 1897 and 1901, and the Truth, printed from 1899 to 1901.
Across the county, more newspapers operated, including E.H. Sanford’s Landmark, published in 1871, The Eskridge Star, founded in 1883, and The Wabaunsee County Democrat, founded in 1886, all printed in Eskridge. The Eskridge Tribune, founded by Frank Hartman in August of 1900 and The Eskridge Sun, operated by A. A. Graham were also published in Eskridge. The Harveyville Herald was established in June of 1886 but moved to Eskridge soon thereafter and merged with The Wabaunsee County Democrat.
In Alta Vista there were four early newspapers, including The Alta Vista Register (1887-1889), The Alta Vista Bugle (1889-1890), The Alta Vista Record (1890-1895), and The Alta Vista Journal, founded in June of 1899.
In the modern age of communication where people access their news by reading computer-based media through their mobile telephones, it is difficult to imagine how different life in the Flint Hills was just a century ago. But, there was a time, not many generations ago, when the only news of the outside world or of one’s own neighborhood came from the local newspapers.
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