One hundred years ago, in the little village of Lindstrom, Minn., Charles A. Victor printed his first newspaper in the local blacksmith shop, according to "Lindstrom on the Lake," compiled by the Lindstrom Centennial Committee in 1994. Since most of the village residents were of Swedish ancestry, the newspaper (the Medborgaren) was in the Swedish language. This newspaper was the forerunner of the Chisago County Press.
Victor, local businessman and community visionary, started the paper in the cleanest corner of the shop that he could find, using an old hand-cranked press. In a short time, however, the paper was moved into other, more suitable quarters.
The generic, inside pages of his newspaper were shipped regularly from Sweden and included news from that country (perhaps a bit out-dated) as well as highlights from other parts of the world.
Today, interested people can read these early-day newspapers on microfilm in the Chisago County History Center at 13100 Third Avenue North, Lindstrom.
From its first issue on Torsdagenden 3 Mars 1898, to the last known edition in 1901, this forerunner of the Chisago County Press was the pulse of area society.
Readers learn about Pastor John J. Frodeen of Chisago Lake Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church being a guest of Frank A. Porter at his farm (now the site of Hazelden) in "Centre City..." that Fred Benson was appointed town clerk to fill the unexpired term of the recently deceased Peter Shaleen...and that P.G. Sausen had resigned his job as railroad section foreman to become the new County Clerk-of-Court. With true editorial license, Pastor Eckman (it was reported) "Has proven capable to work even as the organist (in Chisago Lake Lutheran Church) when necessary."
The little tidbits of gossipy news, the brief insights into an ethnic community, did not sit well with everyone, however. From newsprint neighbors to the east, the Taylors Falls Journal of March 10, 1898:
A paper published in the Swedish language has been issued at Lindstrom. We are unable to decipher its politics or religion. Foreigners who make their homes in this country with the intention of adopting its manners, customs, etc., should discountenance (sic) such publications, and devote their spare time to learning to read and speak the english (sic) language.
The Medborgaren has gone through several transformations since that time in 1898, chief among them was moving out of that sooty blacksmith shop. After enduring primitive conditions for a short time, Victor moved his news plant into his building (that currently houses the Lindstrom Bakery) at the corner of Highway 8 and Maple Street.
What a great move it must have been. As evidenced by the microfilm pages of the old newspapers, the village of Lindstrom was prospering. Commerce was booming. Lindstrom was growing! Oscar F. Lindstrom began to advertise his ready-to-wear clothing, especially Barnkostymer. Gust Peterson had a big display advertisement for his Meat Market, and an ad for "Mary Andres Millinery" invited the ladies to see her latest display of hats. Not to be outdone, Holcombe & Company let readers know about their apotekare and that their supply of fine soaps, brushes and combs, and patent medicines were "hard to beat."
Readers from the neighboring village were reminded that the Chisago City music band met every Wednesday at the railroad station for practice and they expected everyone to show up on time. Over in Almelund farmers were selling cream for 17 cents a pound, while Center City's Fredell Bros. hawked the unlikely combination of silver services, clocks, jewelry-and bicycles.
Victor's newsprint enterprise seemed to be successful and likely the number of subscriptions at $1 per year (if paid in advance) grew rapidly. The publisher of the newspaper must have felt his views were important to residents of the village because the newspaper began to make political recommendations. When time for county elections arrived, the newspaper suggested for State Senator-Peter H. Stolberg, for State Representative-Jonas P. Nord, for County Auditor-Victor C. Anderson, Register of Deeds-Alfred B. Slattengren, Sheriff-A.G. Anderson and School Superintendant-J.E. Modin.
"A handful of tobacco strewn in the nest of a laying hen will keep the lice away." This may have been good advice in 1898, when the readers were primarily rural residents of Swedish descent. But, as transportation routes improved and postal service became more dependable, Victor probably realized that conditions warranted a major change in his news presentation. Over the next few years, Victor stopped concentrating on the Swedish language of Medborgaren and introduced the new English version that he called Chisago County Courier.
For a time, Medborgaren and the Chisago County Courier competed with the Chisago County News, moved here in 1894 from Taylors Falls and published in Lindstrom by W.F. Rowe. Finally, the Medborgaren and the Courier were both sold in 1905, to Sam Ringquist, who was then publisher of the Center City Press, Ringquist merged the two papers to form the Chisago County Press and moved the operation into Lindstrom's old Opera Hall-just about on the present site of the Chisago County Press.
Records at the Chisago County History Center suggest that gradually, competing, area newspapers dropped out of production.Center City lost the Center City Press and the Chisago County News by April 1917. in Chisago City, the Chisago City Star and Chisago City Tribune ceased publication at the end of May 1917. The Wyoming Enterprise lasted until Feb. 1917. Stacy's County Sportsman apparently hung on until 1941, while the Taylors Falls Journal was still being published in 1946.
Scanning the pages of the 1898 Medborgaren (which means The Citizen) suggests to this reader that this early newspaper began a campaign to keep its "citizens" informed and the Chisago County Press begins its second century of service-still keeping the citizens of Chisago County informed.