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Judith Gap Journal
In the first issue of the Judith Gap Journal, published November 20, 1908, the publisher, Sylvester J. Small, proclaimed in a banner headline above the masthead, "Judith Gap is Fastest Growing Town in Montana." The six-column, four-page weekly went to press no more than three months after the platting of the central Montana town. An experienced manager of newspapers in western Pennsylvania and Fargo, North Dakota, Small wasted no time attacking a story published by the Sutherlin brothers in the Rocky Mountain Husbandman, which stated that Judith Gap was destined for failure due to poor soils and a lack of irrigation.
In that first issue of the Judith Gap Journal, there appeared an interview with Professor Thomas Shaw, a self-proclaimed soil expert out of Minnesota, extolling the virtues of the region's clay soils and its perfect climate for dryland farming. Shaw proclaimed it unfair to call subsoil in the Judith Basin gravel; "it should be called calcareous clay gravel" instead--the perfect medium, Shaw said, for wheat and barley.
The Journal ran features on local businesses in Judith Gap and promoted the town's access to rail transportation as a division point on the Great Northern Railroad between Great Falls and Billings. Small's Republican weekly focused almost exclusively on local, county, and regional affairs and celebrated the promise of Judith Gap, a community founded during the heart of Montana's homestead boom but which also suffered the effects of the drought beginning in 1917.
On June 1, 1882, E. A. Bromley and Alexander Devine established the first newspaper in Billings, Montana, the Billings Herald, an 8-column, 4- page weekly. Devine became the Corresponding Secretary early on for the Montana Press Association. Before Devine launched his career in newspapers, he served as the secretary to the general traffic manager of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad.
In early issues of the Herald, the editors touted the mining, agricultural, and steamboat trade, and of course news of the Northern Pacific Railroad figured prominently in stories, not surprising since the town was named for Fredrick Billings, president of the Northern Pacific.
Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT