History of The Courier Press
The Courier Press, Prairie du Chien’s bi-weekly newspaper enjoys a singular legacy in the city and in the state. Only a handful of Wisconsin newspapers have a longer history of continuous publication. Few institutions have been as important to Wisconsin’s Second Oldest Community.
In September 1852, the weekly Crawford County Courier began publication. Until April of 1856, when veteran publisher V.A.W. Merrell bought it, the fledgling paper had six owners – three pairs of partners. In the last 144 years, two families have conducted it. V.A.W. Merrell and his son, William D. Merrell, operated it until 1911. At that time, Henry “Hank” Howe bought it; four generations of Howes have kept it alive through most of the 20th century. On January 4, 2000, eleven days short of her 100th birthday on January 15, 2000, Eliese Boeckh Howe, daughter-in-law of Hank, died after almost seventy years of direct involvement with the Courier. Although she would have been the last to talk about it, Eliese Howe was liberated before anyone knew what the word meant. After her husband, Lyman died in 1949, Eliese ran the Courier with her sons Bill and Jack. Now Bill’s son, Gary and Jack’s son, John, carry on the tradition.
At first the office was located in Lowertown, and all the papers were delivered by carrier; there was no mail service. The office has been in the old Dousman Block on the SE corner of Main and Blackhawk, one on each side of the street on the west side of Beaumont Road and at its present location on the NE corner of Beaumont Road. During the Big Fire of 1899, the office was on the south side of Bluff Street, now Blackhawk Avenue, directly across the street from the fire. They carried some of the equipment down the alley to the city’s artesian well park, where the library is today, to safeguard it. The heat was so intense, paint melted on the front of the building and glass in the windows cracked and shattered. The businesses on the north side of the street were not so lucky, five buildings and eleven businesses were leveled.
The Crawford County Courier became the Prairie du Chien Courier which became The Courier and finally in 1955 The Courier Press.
The Courier, as most local people still refer to it, has witnessed the closing of Fort Crawford, the buildup of the Civil War, the business development of the city since the 1850’s, WWI, WWII, the Depression, The Flood of ’65 and thirty-six presidential elections, not to mention many more local elections and countless community triumphs and tragedies. The Courier is both the enduring voice of Prairie du Chien and the chronicle of its collective past.
The Prairie du Chien Historical Society is pleased that Howe Printing Co. has joined with them to reprint Old Fort Crawford and the Frontier. You can be sure when Bruce Mahan researched his definitive account of the fort in the early 1930’s, he examined the archives of the Courier.
History of The Guttenberg Press
The Guttenberg Press was founded by Sumner Miller, in 1897, at a time when the community was without a newspaper. The old "Guttenberg News" had ceased publication two years previously, and the town was more than happy to see this paper started.
The newspaper started out in what then were rather impressive quarters, a 22x60 foot building, on South First Street (which now houses the local laundromat). The Press remained in this building, to which some additions were made as the years passed, until 1955, when it moved to its present home at 10 Schiller Street.
Miller, who also served a term as grand master of the Masons in Iowa, ran the newspaper only a short time before moving west to seek his fortune.
The first issue of the paper came out on January 6, 1897.
During the second decade of the 1900s, The Press was published by the Muschewske brothers, Lou and Harry, and until the 1930s it had a series of owners including John Sikes and Mike Greibel.
It was finally purchased by G.W. Hunt, a Guttenberg lawyer who had become acquainted with the community when he was superintendent of the Guttenberg school.
Hunt installed a series of managers in charge of the paper, including Merrill R. Smith, who later served several terms as Clayton County auditor and whose niece (Jane Thein) is a present member of The Press staff.
This group also included Finley McGrew, who is remembered by many old-timers. The editor who came to Guttenberg with the resignation of McGrew (who purchased his own newspaper) was Charles Millham
Millham purchased a half interest in The Press from Hunt during the early 1940s and shortly thereafter purchased complete ownership.
During the mid-1950s, The Press was moved by its editor-owner to the old Fleck Mill on Schiller Street, where additional space made possible the addition of more equipment, which made the newspaper and its commercial printing division one of the largest and most complete firms in Northeast Iowa.
It was during the ownership of Millham that the Gutenberg Bible was purchased from the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. This set of books was on display at The Press office for many years, until it was moved to the Guttenberg Library in 1989. Millham owned the books until his death in 1991.
On May 1, 1971, The Press was purchased from Millham by brothers O.W. Kellogg and Ed Kellogg. O.W. Kellogg eventually became sole owner of the business.
During Kellogg's years at The Press, he virtually removed dependence on the letterpress for production of both newspaper and commercial printing. Computers were installed in the composing department, and a program of further modernization was carried out.
During the 1970s a modern 5-unit Goss offset printing press was installed in The Press building by a company known as Mississippi Valley Printers, owned by newspapers in McGregor, Prairie du Chien and Dyersville, as well as Guttenberg. Many area newspapers were printed at the facility. In 1999, Mississippi Valley Printers moved to Prairie du Chien, Wis., following purchase of the company by the Howe family.
Robert and Mary Ann LeMay, and Jack, Bill, Gary and John Howe purchased The Guttenberg Press from Kellogg in 1988, and in the late 1990s purchased the building at 10 Schiller St. In 2000, the Howe family became sole owners of The Guttenberg Press.
The Press continued to carry on a tradition of progressive activity that has characterized the entire city of Guttenberg since its first Germanic settlers came in the 1830s and 1840, fleeing the student revolution in Germany and arriving here via Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Western Settlement Society.