Newspapers of the West and the Oregon Trail

Michael Raffety


I was shocked to learn that Hawaii’s first newspaper predates California’s first newspaper -– by a lot.

It was actually a student newspaper written in Hawaiian with somewhat of a slant provided by the missionaries. It was printed at the first high school west of the Rockies. The high school was called Lahainaluna and the newspaper was called Ka Luma, first published in 1834. Ka Luma means Hawaiian Light.

The high school on Maui is still there. And still in operation.

The first newspaper in California was the Californian, printed in 1846 in Monterey.

Placerville, of course has the oldest continuously published newspaper in California. The Mountain Democrat began publishing in 1851 as the El Dorado News in Coloma, moved to Placerville and was renamed the Republican, becoming the Mountain Democrat in 1854.

The Oregonian in Portland began publishing in 1850 beating the Mountain Democrat by a year. The newspaper promoters there bought a printing press in San Francisco and hired an editor from San Francisco.

The Deseret News also was founded in 1850.

Texas claims the oldest continuously published newspaper in the West. The Galveston News claims a founding in April 1842, but there was a one-year discontinuation of publication, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The more accurate beginning is June 1843. A name of some fame in the newspaper business, A.H Belo, joined the newspaper staff in 1865 and by 1875 became owner of the Galveston News. A decade later he founded the Dallas Morning News. Belo is recognizable in Sacramento, where the company owned KXTV, along with 19 other local television stations until 2007 when it spun off its television holdings as a separate company. In 1999 KXTV became a Gannett station.

These four newspapers are the oldest continuously published west of the Missouri. That includes Washington State, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

In order of history here are the four oldest west of the Missouri and west of the Red River:

June 1843, Galveston News

June 15, 1850, Deseret News

Dec. 4, 1850, Oregonian

June 19, 1851, Mountain Democrat

California came to be largely populated by gold seekers in 1849, followed by famers and merchants who saw steadier money to be made selling to the miners.

Oregon, by contrast, was populated entirely by farmers, with 12,000 coming over the Oregon Trail in 1836. And they kept on coming afterward. In Eastern Oregon’s Baker Valley where my maternal grandparents lived even today you can still see the wagon ruts.

My grandfather’s father emigrated from Sweden in 1870 or ‘71 to escape army service. He had apparently already served in the army, where they changed his name from Jensen to Nordean because there were already too many Jensens in his company.

The Nordean family had 12 children, not all of whom lived to adulthood. I counted seven in a photo taken when my mother was a baby. The Nordeans farmed near Britt, Iowa.

When the Nordeans left Iowa is not stated in a family history written by my late Aunt Beverly McColloch. But how they left and moved to Oregon is fascinating. They rented a boxcar. They stashed their household goods in one end and in the rest of the boxcar they were allowed one cow, a crate of chickens, one team of horses, a hunting dog and one person to ride with the livestock, with the rest of the family traveling by passenger train.

This was promoted by the railroads to help settle the West. The Willamette Valley, though heavily populated is still a bucolic scene of picturesque farms, now interspersed with wineries.


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