NIT celebrates 160th anniversary this year

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A look at the newspaper’s founder, A.P. Richardson


By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The North Iowa Times was founded on Oct. 10, 1856, and this year celebrates 160 years of covering McGregor, Marquette and other area communities. We will commemorate the anniversary of Iowa’s third oldest weekly throughout the year with periodic updates highlighting some aspect of the newspaper. In October, around the true 160th anniversary, we hope to hold a special promotion. Now, we take a look at the founder of the North Iowa Times, A.P. Richardson.

The North Iowa Times was founded by Col. A.P. Richardson and F.W.D. Merrill, the brother of Iowa Gov. Samuel Merrill, although Merrill’s name appeared on the masthead for just two weeks. In the first issue, Richardson stated, “The commercial interest of McGregor to say nothing of the demands of a country west of us unsurpassed in fertility required the establishment of a newspaper.” 

Richardson, who also served as editor, established the North Iowa Times as a Democratic paper in the midst of a presidential campaign, supporting James Buchanan over John C. Fremont. Throughout the Civil War, it was loyal to the Union cause.

Richardson was no stranger to newspapers or politics. Born in Philadelphia in 1818, Richardson later moved with his family to Ohio and then Indiana, where he became a teacher and eventually a newspaper correspondent. According to the book “History of Clayton County,” published in 1882, Richardson was a competitor of newspaperman Schuyler Colfax, who was later speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and vice president to Ulysses S. Grant. 

“Although differing widely in political opinions, there ever existed the warmest and most kindly friendship,” said the book of the two.

During that time, Richardson was appointed colonel of the state militia, but refused to accept the appointment, said “The History of Clayton County,” because he was “greatly averse to anything like pomp or tinsel show.”

In Indiana, Richardson was also elected to the state senate, where he was said to have the good of the people at heart. Per the county history book, it was said, “he battled successfully with all the various forms of fraud and corruption, and won the warmest friendship of his constituents and the people of the state generally.”

Following his term with the Indiana State Senate, Richardson moved to Clayton County, where he helped establish the North Iowa Times. He served as the paper’s owner and editor until 1861, when he retired. Richardson returned to the paper in 1863, running it with John. H. Andrick.

Throughout his time with the North Iowa Times, Richardson was highly regarded, noted a 1956 edition of the paper. “His reputation as an editorial writer was not confined to this section, nor to Iowa; he was known and his opinions were respected throughout all the northwestern states. While a partisan, he was always a patriot,” the article said. 

In the book “History of Iowa, Vol. 4,” by B.F. Gue, from 1903, one newspaper associate said of Richardson: “He was acknowledged by his rivals to have been one of the most popular editors in the state of Iowa. His style was pithy, terse and expressive, and spiced as he only could make it. Upon subjects requiring profound thought and deep research, he would lead his readers from sentence to sentence by an irresistible fascination with his pen pictures…For this he had a faculty which he possessed of turning the sheet and flinging off columns of the most brilliant wit and mirth which sparkled as diamonds in the sunlight, or, without apparent labor, deal in the most withering sarcasm.”

Richardson died in Dec. 1870. His passing was not just mourned by the paper, where heavy black lines bordered its columns, but by people in the community and all over the country. Fellow journalists from Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois paid tribute. Per a North Iowa Times article from 1956, “The McGregor News, the rival McGregor newspaper, went into mourning in the usual manner as though it had lost one of its own editors.” Many businesses closed for Richardson’s funeral. 

According to the “History of Clayton County,” Rev. W.C. Wright gave the funeral sermon at McGregor’s Baptist church, stating: “Col. Richardson was a man of more than usual talent and wit, and had abilities which he might, no doubt, have used to signal advantage. He seems, however, to have been in the main contented with his sphere, and not very much disturbed by ambitious aspiration. In his temperament he was highly social and sympathetic, and possessed to more than an ordinary degree the faculty of making friends among those with whom he was wont to mingle. In his manner he was unostentatious and outspoken, with an evident dislike to all airy pretensions and pompous parade. Under a somewhat rough exterior, however, he carried affections that could feel for the needy and suffering, for whose relief he was ready, not only to use his pen, but also to contribute freely of his substance. Having long resided here, and having been more or less in contact with the public in various ways, and especially through the weekly paper with which he was so long identified, he needs no extended notice from me. His record is made. He has printed his own impression upon the public mind, and upon the memories of his many friends.”

Sixteen decades after its establishment, the North Iowa Times continues A.P. Richardson’s legacy and recognizes his important status as the paper’s founder in the masthead.

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