Wednesday, November 30, 2022 • Vol. 145, No. 27

About the Argus

The Astoria South Fulton Argus is located in Astoria, Illinois. It is published every Wednesday, and has a circulation of 2,000. The website is updated every week.

Argus Office Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

It is owned by K.K. Stevens Publishing Co., Thomas B. Stevens, Publisher.

Correspondence may be addressed to:

Astoria South Fulton Argus
P.O. Box 590
Astoria, IL 61501

Phone: (309) 329-2151

FAX: (309) 329-2344

E-mail: argus@kkspc.com


History of the Astoria South Fulton Argus

The Astoria Argus

Charles Pratt began a new paper called The Astoria Argus on Aug. 8, 1879. Two years later, he sold it to William Cummings. Around 1883 a man with the last name of Harkrader (first name unknown) took over the business. He then in turn sold the paper to Albert K. Tate in Feb. 1886.

Our microfilm records for the first seven years of the publication of the Argus are non-existent, but we do have film beginning with the Sept. 1, 1886 issue. At this time, it was still owned by Tate, and he wrote “With this issue the Argus enters on its seventh year.”

It is interesting to note the subscription prices; back then a year’s subscription cost $1.25 per year.

Tate decided to step down in 1892. In his last issue he wrote, “On Saturday of this week, the writer will sever his connection with the Argus, the paper passing into the hands of our esteemed townsmen R. F. and H. E. McLaren. For six years and three months we have been at the helm, and our pathway has not been strewn with roses altogether. Coming here, a stranger to all, the work was hard, but we eventually brought the Argus up to the position it now occupies, with a healthy, handsome subscription list and a well paying advertising and job patronage. We dispose of the Argus because of the fact that since last October our health has been gradually failing, and our physician advises a change from our present business. Since coming to Astoria we have made many friends, and some enemies. The former, we heartily thank for the many kind favors shown us, and hope our friendship will continue through the future. To the business men of Astoria we feel deeply obligated for their liberal support, and we wish them a prosperous career. As to our successors in the business we can say little but what all know, for both gentlemen are residents of Astoria, and have a wide acquaintance throughout the county. Harrie learned his trade under our supervision, and has since worked in various offices. He understands the mechanical part of the work and will no doubt acceptably fill the position. Robert McLaren is too well known for us to make any extended comment. We wish the new firm success, and feel that the old Argus is passing into good hands.”

When the McLarens took over the Argus from Tate in April 1892, Harrie wrote: “In assuming the editorship of the Argus, we feel that we have quite a responsibility to fulfill. The people of South Fulton are an intelligent class of people and a paper that will fittingly represent them must be well edited and have a neat appearance. We have lived among you for many years, and three years of that time have been employed upon the Argus, therefore, we believe that with the assistance of the citizens of South Fulton and the business men of Astoria we can make the Argus what it should be — a good local paper.

“When newspapers were first printed they had no other mission than simply telling the news in a plain, brief manner. Gradually this changed until today their influence is most powerful. Yet journalism is not perfect. There are some editors who have made themselves influential by personal abuse. This is not right, and the time will soon come when a man’s personal character will be safe, so far as newspapers are concerned. If a person does an act that is important to the public it must be published but not in a slanderous manner. In the future the Argus will adopt this method. All persons, rich or poor, will be treated alike.

“Hoping to retain all the old friends of the Argus and to make many new ones we remain.

“Very truly yours,
“Harrie E. McLaren.”

On Jan. 31, 1901, ownership passed from the McLarens to Corbin B. Hagans. At that time H. E. McLaren wrote: “Saturday evening of last week the Argus passed from my control to other parties. For about nine years we have published the Argus, and during that time have always striven to issue a paper acceptable to all our readers. At times we have failed to please all and no doubt there are persons in Astoria who feel that some time in the past we have done them an injury but it has always been our desire to treat all fairly and we have never knowingly used the columns of the Argus to injure any individual.

“… Mr. C. B. Hagans, our successer, is a young man of honest convictions and sterling qualities. He is in every way qualified and capable of conducting the business he has acquired and we earnestly hope the business men of Astoria and the people of this locality will continue to give the Argus the same liberal support in the future that they have in the past. — H. E. McLaren.”

Hagans responded, “Our predecessor, Mr. McLaren, is contemplating new fields of labor. Recognizing his good and faithful service for the Argus, we can assure him that its best wishes will go with him into whatever he may undertake. During the last ten years the paper has made marked advance in many directions; its circulation has increased, its influence has broadened and the material equipment of the office has been added to and built up until now it is capable of turning out that high and satisfactory grade of work found only in a first class printing office. Judging from his success while connected with this office, we feel confident that the broader newspaper work which he is about to begin, will grow extensively and prosperously in years to come. — C. B. Hagans.”

The Astoria Argus changed hands one last time on June 4, 1903, when A. N. Price took ownership. At that time, Price wrote: “In assuming control of the Argus office and business, I desire to state that the same policy of former years will be adopted by the new management, in furtherance to its course. The Argus shall stand for the best interest of Astoria and its citizens; further, as far as possible, run to the interest of Democracy, — and it shall at all times strive to give its readers the best, most wholesome, most refined and comprehensive news that the field affords.”

The Astoria Search Light

Back in the day, newpapers often leaned one way or the other politically. The Astoria Argus was considered a Democratic paper.

In 1894, A. E. Scott decided to start a Republican paper. The Astoria Search Light debuted on Aug. 9, 1894. His subscription prices were $1.00 per year.

The first issue of The Astoria Search Light included free sample copies to introduce the new paper to the public. Scott wrote, “Many sample copies are sent out this issue to those who have had no opportunity to subscribe. If you get a paper or your friend loans you one that you may read it, you will please take it as a gentle hint to call and subscribe.” He continued, “The Search Light occupies four splendid rooms over Duncan & Spangler’s dry goods house where we will be glad to welcome those who have a friendly feeling for the paper. Call and get acquainted. The formality of presenting your card is dispensed with for the present at least and all the credentials needed is one of Uncle Sam’s ‘wagon wheels’ which admits you to the show fifty-two weeks in the year.”

Scott included some comments with his first issue, many of which still stand true today:

“If you have news of any kind we want it. We are here for that purpose. Church happenings will be received with pleasure and all churches treated exactly alike. No partiality will be shown whatever.” … “If our paper isn’t fit to go into the homes of the ministers no one else should take it.” … “This paper will each week contain all of the news from the county seat consisting of a bright clean letter, the real estate transfers, probate court news, marriage license and general court news.”

The Astoria Argus-Searchlight

From what I’ve been able to discern in my research, A. E. Scott was the sole proprietor of The Astoria Search Light. On June 1, 1910, A. N. Price, the owner of The Astoria Argus, took over The Astoria Search Light and combined it with The Astoria Argus to create a new entity: The Astoria Argus-Search Light. It appears that combining a Democratic paper with a Republican paper produced an “Independent Newspaper.”

Eventually the “Search Light” became “Searchlight”, although I have not been able to determine when the switch was made. [Laura's note: It looks like it changed in the late '20s or early '30s.]

In 1910 Price wrote, “During the thirty-one years the paper has been published, it has witnessed and faithfully recorded the joys and sorrows, the hopes, aspirations and success of a splendid community. Births, deaths and marriages have been duly chronicled, making the old Argus files an encyclopedia of much interest. Babies that were born in 1879, are now men and women grown, taking an active part in the industries of life.

“When we purchased the paper seven years ago, a number of times during the first two years of our newspaper career, we had but two meals a day. But it didn’t take any hide off, so to speak, as we were determined to go to the front, despite the cruel prophecy that ‘A. N. Price will surely fail.’

“We have tried in all possible ways to show our appreciation of the liberal patronage given us since the first day we took hold of the paper. In its columns we have fought for our town to the best of our ability. We would not be egotistical, but believe by using the paper as a weapon we have been able to render some assistance to the enterprise and growth of our beautiful little city. If our paper has pleased you we are fully repaid for the hard labor we have given it and can promise our readers that in the future we will try to make it superior to the past by giving more attention and work to the local field, realizing our readers appreciate a spicy local sheet.”

Price ran the paper for the next 55 years. In 1959, Ken K. Stevens bought the newspaper. His first issue appeared on Feb. 1 of that year. He was listed on the masthead as the Editor, with Mary Ann Stevens as Associate Editor and Helene Bollinger as Society Editor. The introductory article read in part: “Mr. Price will enter semi-retirement, but after 55 years, he says it will be hard to break away completely. He still intends to make the Argus office his headquarters, assisting the new owners in getting started, and becoming acquainted in the community.

“The Stevens’ plan to operate the newspaper on much the same basis as has been the custom in the past. They do, however, have several changes in mind that they hope will improve your community newspaper. These changes will be pointed out as they take place. Comments and criticisms as to your approval or disapproval are invited.

“They remind you that this is your newspaper and encourage you to use it. You are requested to call or write in your news items if you are not contacted.”

Stevens started up a regular column he wrote called “Rough Edges”. In 1988, it was written that “Mr. Stevens used this paper’s Rough Edges column to express his views on various issues of the community. Some, his readers agreed with and some they didn’t, but he always tried to keep the good of the community at heart and gave opponents the opportunity of rebuttal.”

Eventually Stevens added the following tagline to the banner: “The only paper that gives a hoot about Astoria.”

The Astoria South Fulton Argus

In November 1974, KK Stevens Publishing, which had been printing The Table Grove Herald, purchased the paper from owners Verne and Frances Keeney. With this purchase, Stevens consolidated the mailing list with The Astoria Argus-Searchlight and created a new identity, The Astoria South Fulton Argus. All subscribers of each newspaper were kept on the mailing list for the new publication. The first issue of The Astoria South Fulton Argus was dated Nov. 13, 1974.

Editors

Following is a list of editor/publishers and the general dates they served:

The Astoria Argus

  • Charles Pratt (1879-1881)
  • William Cummings (1881-1883)
  • ___ Harkrader (1883-1886)
  • Albert K. Tate (1886-1892)
  • Robert F. McLaren / Harrie E. McLaren (1892-1901)
  • Corbin Hagans (1901-1903)
  • A. N. Price (1903-1910)

The Astoria Search Light

  • A. E. Scott (1894-1910)

The Astoria Argus-Searchlight

  • A. N. Price (1910-1959)
  • Ken K. Stevens (1959-1974)
  • The Astoria South Fulton Argus
  • Ken K. Stevens (1974-1988)

* * *

When Ken first bought the paper, his wife Mary Ann served as Associate Editor. Society Editor Helene Bollinger was with the Argus from 1955-1960. In 1960, Loretta Fisk took over the Society Editor duties.

On Feb. 3, 1965, titles changed once again. Ken was listed as Editor and General Manager; Mary Ann became the Assistant General Manager; Loretta became the Associate Editor and Mary Tippett the Society Editor. Not long after that Loretta became the Editor, a title she held until her retirement in 1991.

Mary Ann Stevens passed away on April 26, 1977 at the age of 44. On July 11, 1988, Editor Ken Stevens passed away at age 57. His son, Tom, was officially listed in the paper as publisher beginning Sept. 7, 1988.

The editorial title has been passed down to a series of women from that time on. Following is a list of editors of The Astoria South Fulton Argus, along with the dates they served.

The Astoria South Fulton Argus

  • Loretta Fisk (Searchlight Society Editor 1960-1965; Associate Editor/Editor 1965-1974; South Fulton Argus Editor 1974-1991)
  • Merrie Jean Parry (1991-1997)
  • Bonnie White (1997-2006)
  • Denise Bankes (2006-2007)
  • Judy Beaird (2007-2021)
  • Jodie Ragle (2021-present)

* * *

Since our local newspaper first began, its goal has been the same: to cover local news about Astoria and the surrounding towns to the best of its ability. At a time when larger daily papers are struggling, the weekly Argus still has a useful niche, covering local events that the bigger cities don’t cover. As always, the paper is a cost-effective place where local businesses can advertise their wares. It also serves as a means for government bodies to provide information which holds them accountable to the public. Its targeted readership is based in the local school districts of Astoria and VIT in southern Fulton county.

Submissions of news items and photographs from readers are encouraged, and feature articles about local businesses or personalities are added as opportunity allows. Birth, engagement, wedding and anniversary announcements as well as obituaries are still run free of charge, which has become a rare practice in the publishing world.

The addition of the Argus website has served to provide people researching their genealogy access to historical online obituaries.

The current staff of The Astoria South Fulton Argus is as follows:

  • Jodie Ragle, editor and circulation manager
  • Ellen Stevens, advertising design and bookkeeping
  • Paul Sager, advertising sales
  • Donna Walters, receptionist
  • Laura Hickle, page layout and website design
  • Elena Dewees and Noah France, co-sportswriters
  • Tom Stevens, publisher