(Source – The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition, October 29, 1953, Volume 65, Number 44)
Sixty-six years ago – on May 27, 1887 – the first issue of the Odebolt Chronicle appeared, with W. E. Hamilton as editor and proprietor.
The credit for the establishment of this new publication in Odebolt where another paper was being published goes to a group of business and professional men headed by W. A. Helsell and Joseph Mattes. Odebolt was primarily a Republican town, and the only newspaper here at that time was a struggling Democratic publication, which the representative men in the community felt was not measuring up to their requirements. From its first day of publication the businessmen of that period gave excellent support in the purchasing of advertising space. The Chronicle became an official paper in January of 1888.
Frank J. Stillman of Riceville purchased the newspaper from Hamilton when ill health forced the latter to resign. Stillman had learned the “tricks of the trade” on the Jefferson Bee, and for some years had been a distinguished Washington correspondent.
Ill health soon forced him to abandon active management of the newspaper. John E. Chrysler was employed as associate editor and business manager, later leasing the paper. On June 1, 1914, Chrysler became actual owner. Prior to coming to Odebolt, Chrysler held positions on Des Moines and Chicago papers and had been in charge of his father’s paper at Lake Mills. Still later he conducted a paper at Early. In 1896 he took over the Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise and from there came to Odebolt.
Early in 1915, Chester N. Ambler came to Odebolt and secured a position in the mechanical department of the Chronicle. Ambler purchased the paper a year later in February, 1916, from Chrysler. Ambler published the paper for 10 years and then on February 13, 1926 sold to the Chronicle Publishing Co., a corporation in which E. F. Kieffer, C. Brotherton, and Paul Wagner were stockholders.
Mr. Wagner became sole owner in October, 1927 when he purchased the outstanding stock. At that time there were two newspapers in Odebolt, The Chronicle and The News. In order to give the community a better newspaper, a consolidation was effected whereby The Chronicle took over the circulation of the News.
Of the seven newspaper publishers in Sac county today, Paul Wagner, the present publisher of The Odebolt Chronicle, owns the longest record of continuous service. Twenty-seven years is a long time for any man to be in business continuously. In the Northwest Iowa area only two publishers, W. C. Jarnagin of Storm Lake and E. F. Kieffer of Remsen can claim longer records of continuous service.
Changes of methods in production came about as naturally in the newspaper business as in any other. As progress was made in the field of country journalism, of necessity, more help was added to newspaper staffs. What once was a man or two man job demanded the services of perhaps six employees. It is rare today to find a town of 1500 where one man fills the positions of owner, publisher, editor, advertising manager, copy and proof reader, and bookkeeper.
The first full time editor and advertising manager employed by The Chronicle was H. B. Hook who took the position in 1933 immediately after graduation from the State University of Iowa’s school of journalism.
Hook served in this capacity for two years. A popular feature of his time was his weekly feature, “Bites from the Line of H. B. Hook.”
After leaving Odebolt, Hook became the news editor of the Spencer News-Herald. After leaving Spencer in 1936, he worked in the advertising business in Waterloo for a short time before accepting a position on the staff of radio station KGLO in Mason City. He is now serving as one of the executives of that station in Mason City and Quincy, Illinois.
Succeeding Hook as editor and advertising manager was Neil Maurer, a State University of Iowa graduate. Maurer served on the staff for five years before purchasing the Laurens Sun in 1940. During his Odebolt days he wrote a popular column, “Neil’s Nibbles.” This column is still a weekly feature of the Laurens Sun.
It was during the time that Maurer was here that The Odebolt Chronicle won recognition in the Iowa Press Association’s annual press excellence contest. In 1936 The chronicle was judged the No. 1 paper for general excellence for towns below 1500 population in Iowa.
After Maurer purchased the Laurens newspaper, Ted Peshak, 1939 graduate of the State University of Iowa, took over the job of editing The Chronicle. Peshak helped maintain the rich tradition of good weekly newspapering which became a Chronicle trademark. Just one year after he accepted the position here, Peshak was called to active service in the armed forces. While a member of the United States Army, he received intensive training in photography, a field in which he showed special promise and one in which he was very much interested. Today he holds a position with the visual education department of Coronet magazine. He makes his home in Libertyville, Illinois.
During the war years, with a nationwide manpower shortage, The Chronicle called A. Earl Smith, of Woodbine, Iowa, a veteran newspaperman, author and journalist, out of semi-retirement to serve as editor-advertising solicitor. Smith had previously been on the staff of various weekly and daily newspapers including the Eldora Herald-Ledge, The Denison Bulletin and Review. He remained until the fall of 1945. Since then he has returned on numerous occasions to serve as relief editor.
Assuming the editorship of The Chronicle for two years, 1946-48, was Warren Reed, now on the staff of the Cherokee papers. In 1946 The Chronicle again won the General Excellence award in the Iowa Press Association’s annual contest to determine the best newspapers in the state. The prize was in the 1500 population field.
Others who served on the staff following Warren Reed were Tom Frey, Robert Hunt, Charles Wieser, Andy Kennelly and Edward Littler.
(Transcribed by B. Ekse)