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Rocky Mountain Husbandman
On November 25, 1875, the first issue of the Rocky Mountain Husbandman rolled off the presses in Diamond City, Montana, a rich placer gold camp along the upper Missouri River. The paper’s editor and publisher was Robert N. Sutherlin, a young farmer from Missouri. Without any journalistic or publishing experience, Sutherlin launched a weekly agricultural newspaper that persisted for the next 67 years, first in Diamond City, then in White Sulphur Springs, and finally in Great Falls. Like many of Montana’s earliest pioneers, Sutherlin first landed in Virginia City, a gold mining camp of several thousand men, but quickly moved on to the struggling camp of Diamond City. At the same time that Sutherlin and his brother William H. operated the Husbandman, Robert established a farm at “Raven’s Roost,” near Diamond City, northeast of Townsend, Montana, which he boasted produced better crops than he grew in Missouri.
In issue No. 1 of the Rocky Mountain Husbandman, Sutherlin laid out his life’s philosophy, reinforcing his dedication to farming: “Since the days when our first parents walked among the fruitful groves and flowery vales of Eden, agriculture has been the honored occupation of man…Were the fields left uncultivated, the orchards and vineyards unpruned, our prosperity would crumble away to dust, civilization hault [sic] and turn back upon its march, and the proud nations of the earth return to a state of semi-barbarism.” Keeping with the agricultural theme, Sutherlin produced weekly editorials regarding the raising of poultry, livestock, irrigation, and crop management. The pages of the Husbandman contained a regular column on dairying, agricultural poems, and farming practices. Sutherlin enlisted two women reporters--Ann Kline and Carolyn Murphy--to travel across the state gathering first-hand accounts of the experiences of farmers and ranchers. Early on, another newspaper, the Missoulian challenged the Husbandman’s call for more farmers, pointing to a surplus of crops during a brief depression. The Husbandman, however, continued to promote immigration to Montana, while also advocating for the creation of farm cooperatives and the levying of new taxes on mineral extraction.
In December of 1879, Sutherlin moved the eight-page, four-column (10.25 x 15.5”) weekly to White Sulphur Springs, the seat of Meagher County. In its new home, the Husbandman adopted a new format measuring 11 x 16”, and in 1884 Sutherlin expanded the paper to five columns measuring 13 x 20.25.” Sutherlin’s populist point of view persisted over time, and he remained a vocal critic of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and its political domination of the state. Anaconda’s ownership of many of the state’s dailies ultimately affected the Husbandman’s bottom line, and in 1904 Sutherlin moved his struggling newspaper to Great Falls. Sutherlin died in 1926, but the Rocky Mountain Husbandman persisted until 1942.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT