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The Mineral Argus
On August 9, 1883, John Morton Vrooman and Charles S. Fell launched the Mineral Argus in the bustling gold camp of Maiden, Montana, where it remained until August 1886 when they moved their presses to nearby Lewistown, the new seat of Fergus County, and changed its name to the Fergus County Argus. Fell sold his interest in the newspaper to Vrooman in 1889 when he moved to Bozeman. Vrooman had first learned the printing trade at age fourteen at a paper in Preston, Minnesota. He then worked in newspaper offices around the Midwest from Chicago to Minneapolis for nineteen years before meeting Fell in St. Louis, where together they hatched a plan to create a newspaper in Maiden. Vrooman remained an agricultural booster and active Republican throughout his lengthy publishing career. In 1912, he sold his interest in the Fergus County Argus to Arthur T. Packard and established the Grass Range Review thirty miles east of Lewistown.
The publishers printed the five-column, eight-page Mineral Argus on a Washington hand press. When the weekly moved to Lewistown, Vrooman and Fell upgraded the physical plant and in 1899 the Fergus County Argus became the first institution in the county to use electricity. With the move to Lewistown, the publishers adopted the following motto, to which they remained true: “Devoted to the Mineral, Agricultural, Stock and Wool Interests of the Great Judith Country.” The size of the paper grew, as did its subscriber base, from five columns to seven, and from 12 x 19.5 inches to 19.5 x 25.5 inches. The newspaper contained several pages of national and international news--documenting a banking crisis in Massachusetts to land prices in Niagara Falls to earthquakes in Spain--followed by coverage of significant state, county, and local news. A regular feature depicted local cattle brands, speaking to a readership dominated by cattlemen from some of Montana’s most significant ranches like the DHS, the Circle C, and the Judith Cattle Company. The newspaper faithfully documented the closing of the “open range” after the severe winter of 1886-87 when over 60 percent of Montana’s cattle herds succumbed to deep snow and subzero temperatures.
In 1915, John A. Gilluly, a publisher of newspapers in Columbus, Glendive, and Forsyth, Montana, purchased the Fergus County Argus. In 1922, Gilluly sold the Argus, which went on to compete with the Lewistown Democrat News and its successor the Lewiston Daily News . On September 19, 1946, the Fergus County Argus combined with the Judith Basin Farmer to form the Argus-Farmer.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT