Pioneer Newspapers of Montana

A history of the pioneer newspapers will not be out of place here. The Montana Post was the first journal started in the territory. In 1864 John Buchanan brought a press and material from St Louis to Fort Benton, with a view to locating at some point in the new commonwealth. He fixed upon Virginia City, where the first number of the Post was issued August 27, 1864. After printing; two numbers Buchanan sold to D. W. Tilton and Benjamin R. Dittes. Dittes was a native of Leipsic, Saxony, born in 18.33. He was for a number of years on the upper Missouri at the various trading posts, and in Colorado in 1863, when Alder gulch was discovered, to which he removed that year, building one of the first houses in Virginia City. The firm of D. W. Tilton & Co. continued to publish the Post at Virginia City until the winter of 1867-8, when Dittes purchased Tilton’s interest, and in conjunction with Mr Pinney, removed it to Helena. The change was not favorable, and Dittes withdrew, the paper being suspended in the spring of 1869. Dittes died Nov. 6, 1879. Helena Herald, Nov. 6, 1879.

Another paper published by Tilton and Dittes was the Tri-Weekly Republican, which was started the 7th of July, 1866, at Helena, and after printing 32 numbers was removed to Virginia City and published there as the Tri-Weekly Post. After the removal of the office of the Montana Post to Helena, a daily was issued, the first number appearing April 20, 1868.

The second newspaper in Montana in point of time was the Montana Democrat. Kirk Anderson, a reporter and correspondent of the St Louis Republican about 1857 established a ‘gentile’ newspaper in Salt Lake City, called The Valley Tan, which ran for a year and a half, or thereabouts, when Anderson returned to St Louis, and going south on the breaking-out of the war, died. The material of this first gentile journal in Utah was purchased in 1865 by John P. Bruce to start the Democrat in Virginia City. It sustained the action of the acting governor and the Democratic Party generally. It became a daily in March 1868.

In March 1866 T. J. Favorite removed the press and material of the Radiator from Lewiston, Idaho, to Helena, Montana, where it became the Montana Radiator. In November of the same year it was sold to Posnainsky and House, who changed the name to Helena Herald and employs R. Emmet Fisk to edit it. The Fisk brothers afterward purchased it. It was republican in politics, and became a daily in 1867.

The Rocky Mountain Gazette, a democratic paper, was started at Helena about the last of August 1866, by Wilkinson, Maguire, and Ronan. It was destroyed in the great fire of 1872. The Beaverhead News, republican, began to be published at Bannack about the same time, by J. A. Hosmer, son of the Chief Justice.

The next newspaper established was the Independent, at Deer Lodge City, by Frank Kenyon, in October 1867. A half-interest was sold to John H. Rogers in May 1868, who assumed charge of the editorial department. In January 1869 Rogers purchased the entire interest, and, notwithstanding the name, ran it in the interest of the Democratic Party. In 1874 it was removed from Deer Lodge to Helena by L. F. La Croix, formerly of the Gazette, who purchased the material and good will of the paper in company with McQuaid and Kerley. A daily was issued in the same year. J. E. Kerley was born Aug. 12, 1840, and came to Cal. in 1853 by the ocean route. Learned the newspaper business, and worked in the offices of the Trinity Journal and the Mountain Democrat 5 years. In 1865 he went to Helena, Montana, and mined subsequently at Cañon ferry, and was in the grocery business. Finally he settled in Deer Lodge, became proprietor of the Independent as above, and opposed hanging by the vigilants without trial. He served several terms in the legislature.

I have noted the establishment from time to time of political and news journals, with the date of their origin and politics. The following were before; published in 1884:

d=daily, w=weekly, rep=Republican, m=monthly, q=quarterly, dem=democrat, ind=independent

Lewis and Clarke County
Helena, Herald. d. and, rep., 1866
Independent d. and w., dem., 1871
Montana Argus, w.
German, 1883
Stock and Mining Journal, m., 1884
Christian Advocate, m., 1882
Montana Baptist, q., 1884
Montanian, d., local, 1884

Sun River
The Sun, ind., 1884.

Silver Bow County
Butte, Miner, d. and semi-w., dem.;
Intermountain, d. and semi-w., rep., 1881.

Yellowstone County
Post, w., rep., 1882
Herald, w., dem., 1882
Rustler, d., local, 1884

Gallatin County
Avant-Courier, w., ind., 1871
Chronicle, w., n., 1883

Enterprise, w., ind. dem., 1883

Custer County
Miles City,
Yellowstone Journal, d. and w., rep., 1879
Stock-grower’s Journal, 1884

Dawson County
Times, w., local, 1881
Independent, local, 1884.

Missoula County
Missoulian, w., ind., 1873; w., rep., 1883

Madison County
Virginia City, Madisonian, w., n., 1873
Montana Churchman, m., 1883

Deer Lodge County
Deer Lodge
New Northwest, w., ind. rep., 1809

Beaverhead County
Dillon, ??ltune, w., local, 1881

Choteau County
Fort Benton
River Press, d. 1 w., rep., 1880
Record, w., dem., 1881

Meagher County
Maiden, Journal Argus, w., 1883
Tranchant, w., local, 1883
White Sulphur Springs,
Rocky Mountain Husbandman, w., 1875

Then there were:
Pick and Plow, Bozeman, 1871
Times, Bozeman
Frontier Index, Butte City; Atlantic, Glendale
Bad Lands Cowboy, Medora
Frontier Index, Thompson Falls


Bancroft, Hubert H. Bancroft Works, Volume 31, History Of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845-1889. San Francisco: The History Company. 1890.

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