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Publication Of Oldest Paper In Kittson CountyProceeds


Ethel Finney

Newspapers, a very important part of communication, werejust as important back 50-100 years, as they are now. It is very importantto know what is happening in the world; therefore both local and nationalnews are of interest to everyone. The first paper in Kittson County is somethingthat will always be remembered by the people living in the county. The firstpaper in Kittson County was the Kittson County Record, the paper that isnow known as the Pembina New Era.

The "50th Anniversary Edition" of the KittsonCounty Enterprise printed the following

"Although the earliest official publications of Kittson County were made in the Northern Tier, weekly paper published at Crookston by Captain C. J. Arnold, St. Vincent boasts the first newspaper in the county."(1)

The county commissioners chose the St. Vincent Herald asthe official newspaper of the county on March 17, 1880.

The paper had many different names. It has been calledthe St. Vincent Herald, the Kittson County Record, and the St. Vincent NewEra. There have been other names, but it is now called the Pembina New Era.

F. H. Head founded the paper in 1880. He was the firstnewspaper man in the county. Head sold the paper to W. O. Mitchell, whostarted his paper in a small building. His plant and equipment consistedof a Washington press and a small assortment of type.

In the early eighties, W. O. Mitchell sold out to WilliamG. Deacon. Deacon became the "Grand Old Man" of the newspaperFraternity in Northwestern Minnesota.

Under the name of the Kittson County Record and the St.Vincent New Era, the paper with Deacon as editor launched into the politicalfield. "Tell the Truth-Cleveland" was one of the lines in thepaper during the Cleveland campaigns.

Roy C. DeFrance became editor of the St. Vincent New Erain 1910 and continued publishing there until 1929. In 1929 the Pembina Expressburned to the ground, and DeFrance moved his paper across the Red Riverinto Pembina, North Dakota.

Since he changed towns, he substituted Pembina for St.Vincent in the name of the paper. The paper became the Pembina New Era.Today the paper not only has the same name, but it also has the same smallbuilding, the same dim lighting, and the same type of machinery. The onlynew tools or articles in the dark, dingy room are the telephone and maybea different chair to sit on. Even the desk and chairs are very old.

Mr. DeFrance's weekly publication of the Pembina New Eratakes all week before it can be published. Mr. DeFrance, along with twohelpers, sets the type of his paper by hand. He said that there are onlythree other papers in the United States that are set by hand. Setting thetype by hand is a long and tedious job. It takes five days to set the typefor one sheet of paper, printed on both sides. The sixth day they removeall of the type and start over again. He uses "Cases", which arecontainers having subdivisions in them, where the letters of the entirealphabet are placed, including such other characters as question marks,exclamation points, apostrophes, commas, numerals, etc.

DeFrance's publication is one out of four newspapers inthe United States featuring all hand setting. One of the reasons he hasnever modernized his paper is because of that fact. However, most newspapersuse a form of "The Case."

When a person of the younger generation enters the doorof this quaint, little, old building, that houses the Pembina New Era, theyhave a tendency to back out of the door without further inspection. Theyaren't familiar with the building and its dim lighting. The heavy machinesand "The Cases" that he has, are too heavy for the floor to support,therefore, the floors are actually hilly. The whole place has the appearanceof being painted black, because of the dirt involved in the printing ofthe paper. The ceiling of the building is very high with little stringsof lights hanging several feet down from them. It is very hard to see anythingclearly when you walk into the building, especially if it is sunny outside.Your eyes can't adjust to the sudden change in lighting.

Mr. DeFrance doesn't have the same number of helpers hehad when publishing the paper 15-20 years ago. His helpers were no longerneeded, because he reduced his paper in size. He only has two employeesat the time, his daughter, Ione, and a friend "Casey" Cleem, tohelp him to get his paper out weekly.

Almost all of the people that worked with him were promptedto take an interest in newspaper work. Ivan Monroe, one of the fortunatepeople to work under DeFrance, went to Washington D.C. to work in the governmentprinting office. He helped to publish the "Congressional Record."

Also four of his eight children were guided to work withnewspapers. Melvin DeFrance from Phoenix, Arizona has retired after servingthirty-five years as printer in the Arizona Republic. Ralph DeFrance inSan Diego, California has a printing shop of his own. Delbert DeFrance isstill working on the Grand Forks Herald. Ione DeFrance, his daughter, hasbeen helping her father for many years. As you can see, Roy DeFrance's ambitionrubbed off onto others.

At the age of 92, Roy is still very ambitious. He goesdown to his printing shop every day, but he doesn't venture out of the houseuntil after dinner. He leaves the shop about 4:30 p.m. That is a big enoughday for him.

Before he became an editor, he worked on the Great NorthernRailroad in Borup, Minnesota. In 1906, he moved to St. Vincent, Minnesotato be the depot agent for St. Vincent. Four years later in 1910 he startedhis career as an editor, and he has been editor for 57-58 years.

Roy DeFrance can best be identified in the newspaper businessas a capable writer. The "50th Edition" of the Kittson CountyEnterprise has this to say about him,

"The Pembina Community as well as the county bearing the same name is fortunate in having a man at the helm of one of its papers as capable and able to occupy the chair of an editor."(2)

Though Roy is at a ripe, old age, he still carries on withhis work as editor of the Pembina New Era. However, the organs of his bodyare wearing out. His hearing and his eyesight are very weak. Without muchassistance from these two senses, most people would quit, but DeFrance isdetermined to continue, as he enjoys his work.

If Roy C. DeFrance didn't have so much determination, thePembina New Era wouldn't be noted for being the one out of four newspapersto set its type by hand. It is also the oldest paper in Kittson County.Even when the paper is no longer in circulation, it will always be rememberedand kept in a museum. The first means of communication in Kittson Countywill never be buried.

(1) Kittson County Enterprise."50th Anniversary Edition",Sept. 11, 1935, Page 49.

(2) Kittson County Enterprise."50th Anniversary Edition",Sept. 11, 1935, Page 49.


1>(2) Kittson County Enterprise."50th Anniversary Edition",Sept. 11, 1935, Page 49.