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Daily Yellowstone Journal and Yellowstone Journal
Published in Miles City, beginning on July 24, 1879, the weekly Yellowstone Journal was the first newspaper in eastern Montana, established only three years after Custer's demise at the Little Bighorn and the construction of Fort Keogh by Colonel Nelson Miles. From its beginnings as "Miles Town" in 1877, the military and later the cattle industry dominated the community, and the Journal, as Custer County's first newspaper, reflected those interests. The Journal's first editor and owner was Major Thompson P. McElrath, a veteran of the Civil War and son of the owner of the New York Tribune. Having himself served as assistant editor of both the Philadelphia Evening Journal and the New York Weekly Century, McElrath relocated to Miles City in May 1879 for his health. He had a financial interest in promoting the fledgling town, where he was appointed the U.S. Land Office commissioner a year after his arrival and where he acquired major real estate interests over time. In January 1880, William D. Knight, a printer and pressman from the Black Hills, appeared in Miles City and by December 1881, had acquired an interest in the Journal. On October 18, 1882, Knight began publishing the Daily Yellowstone Journal, a six-column, 21.5 x 15-inch newspaper, with a declared Republican perspective. During those years, the Journal proclaimed itself "the only newspaper between Bismarck, North Dakota and the Rocky Mountains."
Originally housed in a log building, the newspaper moved into a frame structure following the Yellowstone River floods of spring 1881. From its beginnings, the Journal declared that "our functions are of a local character, to record the growth and progress of this new country..." The newspaper also commented on the movements of Sitting Bull and the Sioux; arrivals of steamboats on the Yellowstone River; the persistence of horse thieves; the dangers of rattlesnakes; and the beauty of moonlight during a recent summer evening. It also noted the daily progress of Northern Pacific Railroad, then under construction, and its arrival in Miles City in 1881, as well as the establishment of the Montana Stockgrowers Association in 1884. Throughout its early succession of editors and owners, the Yellowstone Journal consistently represented its eastern Montana audience of cowboys, ranchers, and railroad men and advanced the cause of the Republican Party. A reflection of the newspaper's interest in the cattle industry is demonstrated in the paper's name change on August 22, 1885 to the Weekly Yellowstone Journal and Live Stock Reporter. In 1883, Sam Gordon, a bookkeeper in the employ of the St. Paul fur buyers, Gordon & Ferguson, purchased a share in the newspaper. Gordon remained with the paper until 1915, serving as sole proprietor from 1891 forward. The Daily Yellowstone Journal continued through the 1920s; it was followed by the weekly Yellowstone Journal, which persisted through 1936.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT