MCP observes 10th anniversary; a history to Mason County newspapers.

January 4, 2022

MCP observes 10th anniversary; a history to Mason County newspapers.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the current version of Mason County Press. I started MCP as an online news service on Jan. 4, 2011 through the encouragement of the community and friends who wanted to see an alternative news source in the county. Since that time, we have expanded south with the Oceana County Press (launched in 2014). I am thankful for the great MCP/OCP team which includes Editor Allison Scarbrough, Alan Neushwander, Kate Krieger-Watkins, Toni Swinehart and Kim Beardslee. I am also thankful for the many businesses and individuals who support MCP/OCP through advertising, sponsorships, and other financial contributions. Most importantly, I am thankful for you, the reader, for all your support through the last 10 years. 

I believe strongly in local journalism and take the responsibility of providing accurate news very seriously. I have worked professionally as a journalist for 34 years in some form but my interest in the craft goes back to the time I was about 9-years-old.  

I am proud to come from a long line of journalists who had the same mission, to keep our communities informed on current events. I wanted to take this time to share the history of journalism in Mason County. Since Mason County Press is based in Scottville — and always has been since the original MCP began in 1938 — we will begin our history tour in Scottville:  

History of Scottville newspapers.

The Mason Center Advocate, owned by C.E. Charborneau (1853-1939), began publishing in 1885 (last date unknown). Charboneau also published the Victory Gazette, a weekly newspaper.

A Nov. 7, 1961 article, written by Rose Hawley of the Mason County Historical Society, discusses the donation of the Sept. 17, 1885 edition of the Mason Center Advocate: 

“Parker Kirkbride, Ludington, Route 1, has placed in Mason County Museum an Appleton Fourth Grade Reader and a Mason Center Advocate, dated Sept. 17, 1885. 

“This eight uncut page newspaper was published in Scottville by C.E. Charboneau once a week. The inside pages were completely printed with ‘filler’ material from the outer world and evidently uninteresting to the local reader who confined himself to the local news which covered the front page only. Ludington, Custer, East Riverton and Scottville were reviewed. 

“‘Whiskey has taken a drop but that’s no sign you should,’ says a Scottville item. Crops were never so bountiful. There is not an empty store room in the town and more are in demand; the sawmill of Dr. P.P. Shorts was beginning its winter run. The lumber was loaded on cars by a steam loader and unloaded on the Shorts dock in Ludington.’ 

“In Ludington, H.B. Smith had shut down his shingle mill for lack of logs. The contract for building the First Ward School was to be let that week to the lowest bidder. Four new life-saving contracts had been let to be erected at Pentwater, Frankfort, South Haven, and White River. 

“Messrs Butters and Peters had commenced work on their salt well at Buttersville, adding new machinery and an addition to their mill for cutting more lumber and shingles that season.”

The Enterprise, owned by John A. Bryant, began publishing by 1885. By 1894, the name changed to Scottville Enterprise in 1894. The last Scottville Enterprise was published on March 28, 1918. The paper was sold to Earnest Blake who renamed it Mason County Enterprise, with its first edition printed on April 4, 1918. 

The Scottville Republican was founded by John Bryant in 1894. The year it stopped is unknown. 

The Scottville Independent Farmer was founded by H.J. Sprague began publishing in 1930. The name was soon changed to The Independent Farmer and it suspended publishing in April 1931. 

An April 17, 1931 advertisement in the Ludington Daily News discussed the end of the Independent Farmer: “This is the last issue of the Independent Farmer. We have published this paper at an actual loss for over a year and feel unable to continue it under present conditions. 

“The only revenue a newspaper has is from its advertising columns and while we are not blaming anyone, the fact remains that the advertising has been insufficient to support any kind of paper. Perhaps in a normal business year things would have been different. 

“We wish to thank the advertisers who have tried to help support the paper, the correspondents who have each done all they could to make it readable and interesting, and last, but not least, the subscribers. 

“We feel that most of the subscribers have received their money’s worth, but if anyone thinks they have anything coming, notify us at the old stand, as we shall continue in the job printing business as usual. While we are on the subject, we might say that we are able and willing to compete with any printer anywhere, both as to quality and price on any kind of commercial printing.”

Harley Jackson (H.J.) Sprague (1891-1969) appears to have worked most of his life in the local printing industries. He was born Jan. 16, 1891 in Big Rapids. A 1916 City Directory shows that he lived at 408 S. James St. in Ludington and worked for the Ludington Chronicle. He married Anna J. Anderson (1891-1969) on June 3, 1916 (Anna’s obituary states the two were married in 1910, but a newspaper story published in 1931 discusses the Sprague’s celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary). 

A 1919 City Directory shows him as living in Scottville and serving as foreman of the Enterprise. He is listed as living at 206 E. Broadway Ave. in Scottville in 1930. When he died, he was living in Custer Township. Both H.J. and Anna are buried at Riverside Cemetery in Custer Township. 

Mason County Sentinel. On Feb. 2, 1933, Cosmo Claire Ellwood (1877-1954) came to Scottville from South Bend, Ind. and started publishing the weekly Mason County Sentinel at the Enterprise Printing Co. in Scottville. He was assisted by his daughter, Rosalyn, Bertelle Schulte, and Harley (H.J.) Sprague.

Mason County Press. The first edition of the weekly Mason County Press was printed on Aug. 24, 1938 by owner Harry K. Kruse. The Press absorbed the Sentinel. From family records, it appears the Ellwoods then moved back to northern Indiana. 

Harry Emanuel Kruse (1890-1968) was born in Manistee. He was initially employed by the Manistee Daily Advocate and later by the Manistee News Advocate. He served in the U.S. Army in France during World War I. On Sept. 3, 1920, he married Myrtle Davis in Manistee.

After selling the Mason County Press in 1948, Kruse served four two-year terms as mayor of Scottville beginning in 1952. 

In May 1948, Kruse, at the age of 58, wrote his retirement letter to his readers: 

““The writer has sold Mason County Press and all that goes with the publishing and printing business here, to Orin W. Kaye, who has taken charge of the plant and editorial work. 

“In looking back over these 10 years many happy days come to mind from among the rather long and strenuous days and nights spent in an attempt to give this community a newspaper after many failures in the quarter century previous to our coming… 

“A large part of the unfailing loyalty of our many friends throughout the county who have stood by us through many rather discouraging times, especially in the early days of our endeavors, and to these friends we wish to express all the appreciation which words at our command fail to convey.”

Orin Wellesley Kaye Jr. (1918-2006) was quite an accomplished journalist. He was born May 28, 1918 in Paw Paw, the son of Orin and Harriet Orin. His father had served as superintendent of Paw Paw schools. Kaye, however, attended and graduated from Cranbrook, a college preparatory school in Bloomfield Hills.

In 1930, at the age of 12, he visited Germany (likely with his parents) and wrote a series of articles on the German youth “problem,” according to a published newspaper article. This was prior to Adolf Hilter’s rise of power but during post-World War I troubles in Germany. His articles were published in newspapers throughout Michigan. 

Kaye attended the University of Michigan and majored in political science. But, in February 1939, at the age of 21, left college and boarded the steamship M.V. Vulacnia to go on an extensive tour of Europe. His plans included visiting Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, the British Isles, the Balkan and Baltic states, Turkey, and Palestine. He also spent time in China. 

There are many articles, not just locally, but throughout the state, of Kaye speaking at various service organizations about the post-war issues of Europe and Asia. 

His staff included Lillian (Claire) Schulte (1886-1955, wife of Bert Schulte), Cornelius Verplank, Mike Ganakas and Earl Legault. 

Here’s where history gets a little confusing. A 1960 edition of the Mason County Press in our archives lists Kruse as the editor and publisher. However, a published newspaper article in 1955 lists Kaye as the owner. It’s likely the Press was purchased on some sort of land contract and reverted back to Kruse at some point in the late 1950s.

In the 1960s, the Mason County Press was owned by Clayton Spencer (1924-2005) and John LeGault (1903-1977). 

In a May 3, 1977 column in the Ludington Daily News, “Big George” Wilson fondly wrote about LeGault upon his death. 

“The Press is where this aging journalist got his start covering sports back in the mid-40s and one of the thrills I got was watching John “‘LeGinnits’ putting my deathless prose through the ancient linotype and on the rickety old flat bed press.”

Spencer and LeGault sold the Press to Richard Lee Dancz (1936-1990) on July 13, 1971. By May 1, 1972, Dancz sold to the Manistee News Advocate/J.B. Publications, which continued to operate it until its last edition on March 11, 1976.

Dancz had served as sports editor of the Ludington Daily News and then managing editor of the Big Rapids Pioneer prior to buying the MCP. By 1975, he had returned to the LDN as a general assignment, outdoors and sports writer. Dancz’s son, Jeff, said he doesn’t recall the circumstances of his father selling the Press. “What I do remember is that he loved Scottville, Custer, Free Soil, and Fountain,” Jeff said. “Those were his people. Whether it was at the Mason County Press or the Daily News, he always concentrated coverage on those areas.” 

On March 19, 1986, J.B. Publications, which owned the Manistee News Advocate, started publishing MCP again for a short stint that lasted only a couple years. 

While the Mason County Press has had the longest tenure of news organizations based in Scottville, it was not the first. 

History of Custer, Fountain, and Free Soil newspapers

The Custer Courier was published by John Bryant beginning in 1875. Bryant also published the Scottville Enterprise. 

The Independent Republican was published in Custer by editor E.H. Pace in 1904. 

The Custer Outlook was published from March 1, 1912 to Jan. 3, 1913 by W.E. Metcalf, publisher, and M.L. Wells, editor.

The Fountain Weekly Review, owned by M.L. Wells, began publishing in 1910. 

The Mason County Star of Free Soil was owned by E.H. Knickerbocker and began publishing on Feb. 25, 1915.

History of Ludington newspapers

The Mason County Record. The first newspaper in Mason County was established by James Ludington, namesake of what is now the city of Ludington. Ludington was a Milwaukee businessman who never lived in the town he named after himself. However, he owned one of the sawmills and several other businesses. 

According to the “History of Manistee, Mason, and Oceana Counties”, a book published in the 1880s, Ludington saw a necessity in having a local newspaper and he sought out George W. Clayton, a Milwaukee printer, for the job. Clayton had been employed by the printing office Starr & Son in Milwaukee and arrived in Ludington in July 1867. 

The Mason County Record, began publishing on Sept. 17, 1867 on the second floor of Clayton’s house, located at the northwest corner of Court and Ferry streets. At that time, the village of Ludington contained about 300 residents. The name of the weekly paper was eventually changed to the Ludington Record. 

In 1872, F.F. Hopkins purchased an interest in the Record. In 1874, Clayton sold his remaining interest to John Darr (who was one of the first sheriffs of Mason County) and the business became Hopkins & Darr. In January 1878, C.T. Sawyer bought out Hopkins and the firm changed to Darr & Sawyer. In 1880, Thomas McMaster purchased an interest and the firm was Darr, Sawyer, & McMaster until Aug. 1881 they were succeeded by McMaster & Steven. 

McMaster eventually purchased outright. He was born in the north of Ireland in 1846 and, at the age of 3, his family moved to England. When he was 20, he became a sailor. In the spring of 1871 he came from New York City to Buffalo and sailed the Great Lakes, arriving in Ludington in April 1878. 

For about four years he was one of the proprietors of the Ludington Boiler Works, after which he measured lumber in the summers and did some work in the Record office during the winters. In 1880 he became one of the proprietors of the Record until he became its sole editor and proprietor. 

The Ludington Weekly Appeal was established on June 27, 1873 by William B. Cole (1824-1889), who had previously published the Pontiac Jacksonian. Cole was born in Ellisburg, Jefferson Co., NY. He studied medicine and graduated as a physician and surgeon in 1846 and began practice in Pottsville, Penn. in 1847. In 1848 he moved to Fenton, Mich. and pursued his practice. In the fall of 1874 he was elected on the democratic ticket to represent the counties of Mason and Manistee in the legislature. Since the expiration of his term. 

In 1903 Sawyer purchased The Appeal, combining it with the Record to create the Ludington Record-Appeal, after Cole’s death.

The Ludington Democrat was started on Dec. 5, 1878 by E.W. Marsh. Marsh was born in Wayne County, NY in 1851. At the age of 6, he and his family moved to Hillsdale, Mich. where he remained until spring of 1872 and then came to Ludington and opened a boot and shoe store. He continued that business for about a year and a half when he went became a bookkeeper for the lumber firm of Stanchfield & Foster. He continued in that position until 1878 when he started the Ludington Democrat. 

In Sept. 1881 L.N. Currott purchased an interest in the business. The Ludington Democrat was sold eventually sold to Ralph H. Elsworth after Marsh accepted a position with the U.S. Pension Bureau in Detroit. Ellsworth changed the name of the paper to the Semi-Weekly Democrat. It ceased operations in either 1896 or 1897. 

The Ludington Daily Mail is considered the first actual daily newspaper in Mason County. It was started in the spring of 1892 by a man named Robertson (or Robinson). It was then sold to App M. Smith of Manistee. However, Robert Wood had published a daily handbill beginning in 1890, which only latest a short time. 

According to an April 11, 1942 article in the Ludington Daily News, written by Frank Alexander, Smith had been running a weekly newspaper in Manistee called the Broadaxe. Alexander stated in the article that he had worked for the Daily Mail.

“His main slogan in the Broadaxe was ‘hew to the line and let the chips fall where they may.’ In the Ludington Daily Mail, his slogan was ‘The Daily Mail has opinions about everything and dares to express them.’ He certainly lived up to that slogan. Mr. Smith wrote editorials that would be a credit to any one of the great metropolitan daily papers. he lacked the capital but had the brain power to run or publish almost any kind of periodical. 

“He had two hobbies, which he consistently followed. One was to expose anything that looked to him like graft, unfairness or trickery. The other was to be always fighting for the underdog. In doing these things he collided with two of the three weekly papers and one preacher. He was more than a match for them all. He was radical in his defense of the laboring man and all poor people. He soon won them over and was their champion and friend. Being in the majority as usual, these people elected him twice for mayor. It was amusing to see the witty things that emanated from the pulpit and two weekly papers on one side and the retorts from the Daily Mail. Finally, Mr. Smith’s health failed completely and the Daily Mail fell into other hands and soon was discontinued.” 

App and Grace (Tillson) Smith lived at 207 N. William St., according to the article. 

The Smiths sold the Daily Mail in 1906 to W.H. Monroe, who formerly had operated a canning factory in Ludington. It ceased publication about 1907. Grace Smith went on to become a reporter for the newspaper that became the Ludington Daily News.

The Ludington Daily Mail began publishing in 1892 by Charles J. Robinson. It ceased in 1902. 


The Ludington Chronicle weekly was started by R.H. McCutcheon in 1901. Operation was eventually turned over to Edward O. McLean. The paper ended in 1917.

The Michigan Gardener, a monthly, began publishing on Jan. 1905 and was owned by App M. Smith.

The Ludington Weekly Signal began publishing in May 1915 and was owned by Wilbur E. Warr.

The Ludington Labor News began publishing in 1919 or 1920 and was owned by Stillwell Print Co. 

The Topic of the Times was first first published in 1925 and was owned by Uno Hoo. It was described as “ An independent paper developed in the interests of Ludington’s development generally and the Driving Park Association in particular.”

Ludington Tribune began publishing on Jan. 7, 1926 by Tribune Pub. Co.

The Ludington Daily Sun was started by Steele & Sons in 1901 in the Patterson foundry, which later became Atkinson Manufacturing Co. on James Street. After a couple years, it was purchased by George S. Luce. The printing plant was moved to East Filer Street near James Street. After George Luce’s death, his brother, W. Scott, continued to operate it with George’s wife. 

The name of the paper was then changed to Ludington Daily News and the printing press was moved to a new building at the northeast corner of Rath and Court streets. The Luces operated the newspaper until 1911 and then sold it to Charles T. Sawyer, who was publisher of the weekly Ludington Record-Appeal. 

Sawyer moved the Record-Appeal equipment into the Daily News’ plant and merged the three newspapers into one, operating under the name Ludington Daily News. He sold the operation to attorney and banker Charles G. Wing in 1912. Wilbur H. Warr managed the newspaper for three years. 

In 1915, G.H. D. Sutherland from Dixon, Ill. became half owner and editor of the LDN. He eventually bought Wing’s interest as well and continued as publisher and editor until his death in 1931. The LDN expanded to include rural areas of Mason County during that time. Sutherland purchased the Scottville Enterprise and absorbed it into the LDN (see above for history of the Enterprise). 

J.A. McFarland purchased the LDN from the Sutherland estate in 1934, operating it until 1939 when it was sold to Harold P. Fursteneau who operated it until the late 1980s when it was sold to the Jackson family of Anderson, Indiana. In 2012 it was sold again to its present owner, Community Media Group. 

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