Mackay's Newspapers

This article first appeared in the Arco Advertiser

As the Lost River Vallev was being settled at the turn of the century, and as Mackay was born and began to grow, came the need for infornation and for businesses to advertise their wares. Folks wanted to know what was happening, both in the local area and throughout the rest of the country, and a newspaper was the answer.

The first known efforts to fill this need were in 1885. The first edition of the "Houston Press" a two to four page, (6) column paper, was published by F. 0. Harding and James Leaper of Houston, a thriving stage stop of the day and forerunner of the town of Mackay. Evidence indicates that this publication lasled only a short while, but that other attempts were made to fill the information need. A copy of "The Lost River Catchall", dated January 1889, was uncovered in 1933. It was published in Houston by Clay and Gertrude Vance. a paper of four columns and 16" width. These early publications were a far cry from even the small newspapers of today and consisted mostly of advertisements touting Houston's businesses with some legal proceedings and very little local news.

With the coming of the railroad in 1901 and the birth of Mackay and subsequent demise of Houston, came an even greater need for a source of administration. I'ublisher Byrd Trego was first to establish a newspaper here in Mackay, and called it the "Mackay Telegraph". It would continue until about 1904 when Mr. Trego, attracted by a larger readership, moved his print shop and business to Blackfoot. Two employees hired in 1903, printers Les and Mily DllIIngham, would follow the publisher to Blackfoot, and acquire a small newspaper of their own, the "Bingilam County Democrat". Now doing what may have been their intentions all along, they almost immediately moved the paper and printing plant to Mackay, and established "The Mackay Miner" in 1906 History has proven what a fortunate move that was for Mackay and the Los' River Valley.

Locating their operation in a building moved to Mackay from the old town of Houston, the first edition of the "Miner" was printed on February 19, 1906. Subscription rates were $2.00/ year in advance. These early editions consisted of 8 pages. The front page generally canned local news and some advertisements, and pages 4, 5, and 8 local ads, local social items and legal publications. Pages 2, 3, 6 and 7, that contained world, national and state news with up-to-date pictures, serial stories, and national ads were purchased from syndicated news suppliers in the bigger cities such as Boise and were Sent to the "Miner" already printed. With telephone and teletype communications for Mackay still a few years in the fature, news from the world, nation, and state outside the valley, including up to date photos, was not available. "Type" for these earliest editions was all set by hand and printing done on presses rather crude, even by standards of that day.

But the Dillinghams and the "Miner" would prove to be just as progressive as the town they represented. In 1908 a revolutionary "type" 'forming machine, the "Linotype", was installed in the shop which could do he work of four typesetters in the same time. By 917, the paper's circu-lation was over 1000 and required a move of the shop to new and bigger quarters. In 1919, a large capacity, rolling, flat bed press was added that gave their print shop speed and versatility. (These old presses and Linotype machine can be seen on display at the Mackay Museum). Shortly after the "Miner" became welI established, LesDllllnham alone took over both as publisher and editor an d continued in those roles until his death in 1932 when his son Dudley Dilliiigham took over management of e paper. Subsequent publishers and editors include:
J..C. Schieppegrel, Jr. for the year 1940;
Floyd and Doris Spraktes--- 1941 to 1954; And another husband and wife team,
Ted and Ruth Hanawalt--1954 to 1973. ________

Through the years the "Miner" would print everything from butter wrappers to custom Christmas cards. Through the changes in owners and editors, the paper format stayed relatively the same. In 1933. literally keeping up with the times, a new, easier to read style and size of "type" was introduced following the lead of newspaper giant, the New York Times. The number of "Miner" pages varied on occasion to accommodate election news or special features, but it is believed a paper hit the streets everv week of its nearly 70 year existence. It was often used to promote political views and candidates, but it never failed as a booster for the Valley and its residents. Ironically, a persistent problem for all the different publishers of the 'Miner" through the years was getting people to pay for their subscriptions and many an issue devoted space pleading the folks to pay up. The "Miner" would win various _ awards for excellence through the years and be very instrumental in promoting Mackay and the Lost River Valley. A few of the various slogans that graced the front page through the ~ years are included here:
"A Newpaper For all Central Idaho"
"Hew to the Line, Let the Chips Fall where they may"
"Leading Paper of Big, Rich, Custer County"
"The Newspaper that goes to the Firesides of Central Idaho"
"A Booster of Central Idaho and its people since 1906"

A fire at the print shop, followed later by the death of his wife and publisher Ruth in 1971, led to the decision of editor Ted Hanawalt to give up the paper . On August 9, 1973, the last edition of the Mackay Miner to be printed in Mackay came offthe presses the presses, equipment and circulation rights sold to the Challis Messenger. The Challis publisher would continue to print a Mackay Miner through 1975, when he decided the "Challls Mesenger" would be Custer County s only newspaper. The last issue of the Mackay Miner was dated December 25, 1975, a run of almost 69 years.

The last location of the "Miner" shop would later be renovated for the n home of the Mackay Lions Club, and present home ofthe Lion's Den, a popu lar coffee and sandwich bar. Luckily most ofthe Mackay Miner issues printed through the years escaped destruction by fire and were salvaged by those realizing their historical value, and are available for limited review by those interested in the history recorded on their pages. Because of their age and condition, it is also fortunate that a number of years ago, microfilm copies were made by the State Historical Society and forever preserved. It is the goal of the South Custer Historical Society to purchase a set of the microfilm copies and a microfilm reader to make it easier for research or review of these pages of Mackay history.

(If you find the history of Mackay and the area of interest, Please contact the South Custer Historical Society, Mackay, Custer County, Idaho)


 

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