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The first issue of The Independent was published in Oskaloosa on July 11, 1860. Contrary to what the name suggests, The Independent clearly stated: “we are for the Union, for our county, for the glorious Republic we have loved.” Subscribers received a copy of the newspaper with its four-page, seven-column format every Wednesday before it switched to a Saturday publication schedule in July 1861. The Independent experienced wide circulation in Jefferson County, which had a population of nearly 5,000 in 1860, as well as in other counties in northeastern Kansas.
The Independent was founded by John Wesley Roberts (1824-1900), an abolitionist and prohibitionist, who wrote his editorials from his home in Waynesville, Ohio, until he moved to Oskaloosa in 1862. Roberts had previously been publisher for The Miami Visitor in Warren County, Ohio, in which he described the events of Bleeding Kansas as recounted by his own family members. Roberts’ brother-in-law, John W. Day (1833-1905), acted as local editor and business manager of the The Independent. Although The Independent obviously sided with the Free-State cause, Roberts in his editorials denounced lawlessness on both sides. Only 30 miles from the border with Missouri, Oskaloosa witnessed important military actions during the Civil War, including Quantrill’s Raid on the city of Lawrence and Price’s Raid along the Kansas and Missouri border. The unique content and distinctive format of The Independent was emphasized by the paper’s motto: “Devoted to Agriculture, Mechanics, Arts, News and General Literature.”
Francis (Frank) Henry Roberts (1851-1945), who had been a frequent figure in the printing office since childhood and who was hailed by the Cincinnati Weekly Enquirer as the “youngest typesetter in America,” took over as sole proprietor of the The Independent following his father’s death in 1900. Today, The Oskaloosa Independent, which succeeded the The Independent after its last issue on May 2, 1874, remains in circulation.
Provided by: Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, KS