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The Mellette County pioneer. [volume] : (Wood, Mellette County, S.D.) 19??-1971
Alternative Titles:
  • Pioneer
Place of publication:
Wood, Mellette County, S.D.
Geographic coverage:
  • White River, Mellette, South Dakota  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
  • Wood, Mellette, South Dakota  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Fred C. Kirch
Dates of publication:
  • -Mar. 4, 1971.
  • English
  • Mellette County (S.D.)--Newspapers.
  • South Dakota--Mellette County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01212331
  • South Dakota--White River.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01288137
  • White River (S.D.)--Newspapers.
  • Wood (S.D.)--Newspapers.
  • Available on microfilm from: State Archives, South Dakota State Historical Society.
  • Description based on: Vol. 4, no. 11 (Apr. 23, 1915).
  • Published in: Wood, <1915>-<June 8, 1967>; and in: White River, <Aug. 22, 1968>-1971.
  • Volume and issue numbers irregular.
sn 96090217
Succeeding Titles:
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The Mellette County pioneer. [volume] February 16, 1912 , Image 1


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Mellette County Pioneer

In early 1912, a group of South Dakota citizens led by G. L. Watson formed a stock company, the Wood Publishing Company. The group purchased a small printing press and on February 16, 1912, they published the first issue of the Mellette County Pioneer, in the town of Wood. This weekly newspaper was the official paper of Mellette County, managed by B. R. Cole. Each Friday issue contained six columns on eight pages at an annual subscription rate of $1.50. The subscription rate did not change until January 4, 1918, when it increased to $2.00 annually.

In the first issue, the editor clarified the paper's news outlook by stating, "Mudslinging will be no part of our stock in trade, believing as we do that time and space can be more profitably devoted to crying of your own wares than to decrying the wares of others. Just criticism is desirable, but the practice of dirty-low-down-mudslinging and petty-personal-spite-work, as is sometimes indulged, is disgusting and of no general interest."

Mellette County had been created in 1909, 20 years after South Dakota became a state. It was named after the last Dakota Territory governor and the first state governor, Arthur C. Mellette. The county was originally part of the Great Sioux Reservation made up of the entire West River portion of South Dakota, as well as part of northern Nebraska and an eastern section of Montana. Since settlement was not allowed in this area until 1912, West River South Dakota counties were not organized as early as those in eastern South Dakota, where railroads were established.

Albert K. Wood of St. Louis was a licensed Indian trader at the Butte Creek Indian Issue Station in eastern Mellette County. Many Indian trails led to this area, where a post office opened in May 1906. In 1912, Wood traveled a few miles north to help organize the Wood Townsite Company and begin platting the town that bears his name, Wood, South Dakota. The Butte Creek post office was eventually moved to this site.

The local population was primarily Native American, so the Pioneer included a few short columns and advertising in the Lakota language. The "Lakota Wotanin" (meaning "Lakota News") column appeared regularly, featuring reports of local Native happenings. A special column headline read "Onjinjintka Oyanke Owicohan Kin," which roughly translates as "The Rosebud's the place for working people." By June 1912, however, Lakota items were no longer a part of weekly issues.

The Mellette County Pioneer provided much-needed local, state, national, and international news to the sparsely populated area. Advertisements included many local businesses, but also businesses in the nearby towns of Winner, Witten, Jordan, Carter, and White River. These ads featured cafes, hotels, markets, livery stables, feed and seed stores, plasterers, contractors, blacksmiths, well drilling, hardware and general stores, and other service providers. Interspersed with the news and advertising were clever anecdotes such as "In the Game of Love you can always take a Heart if you will lead a Diamond."

The masthead for the Pioneer not only provided the paper's name but also a boxed-in, full-width line drawing special attention to such statements as "The Election Is Over - - - Now For Thanksgiving" or "The Ten Inch Snow Sunday Was Just What We Needed" or "Those R.R. Extension Stories Sound Mighty Good-Toot! Toot! Look Out For The Cars." Other stories focused on train wrecks, bank failures, outcomes of infamous court cases and divorces, election candidate ads, post-election results, shootings, and robberies. Serialized novels, along with serialized columns on marriage, health, household hints, farm info, beauty and patent medicinal treatments, made up the remainder of each issue.

During the summer of 1912, Fred C. Kirch moved from Kansas to Wood. By November 1, 1912, he had purchased the Mellette County Pioneer's printing equipment and newspaper, becoming editor and publisher. He was a major supporter of the community. One of his famous phrases was "Watch Wood Win," which he began using during the town's campaign against White River to become the county seat. Kirch continued the Pioneer for many years. In 1942, he suffered a paralyzing stroke that kept him from printing the paper; however, his wife, Ida M. Kirch, took over the duties under his supervision for another 10 years.

Provided by: South Dakota State Historical Society – State Archives