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Sun will turn 130 Friday

Kelley's NP Store, Jim Lees Billiard Hall and George Vennum's Land Agency are no longer in business, but the media in which they advertised in on July 4, 1878, remains. That is when the first edition of the Jamestown Alert, later renamed The Jamestown Sun, rolled off the press making this publication among the oldest in North Dakota.

"With this issue we take our bow to the citizens of Jamestown and Stutsman County and to all who may be interested in and around this section of country," the editors proclaimed in the first edition. "Let us say that though at first, like a small boy, the Alert is small, yet it will grow large in proportion with the support it receives, and like our neighbor the Bismarck Tribune, shine forth a goodly sized paper not far in the future."

The Tribune had been founded in 1873 by Col. Clement Lounsberry and is still published. A number of other newspapers had been started in the northern portion of the Dakota Territory by 1878 but none are still operating.

The original owners and publishers, E. H. and C. H. Foster were taking a leap of faith by starting the new enterprise in Jamestown. It probably did not pay off for them. After one year of operations, they suspended publication in July 1879. When the Alert was resurrected in October, it was under the ownership of Marshall McClure who had the financial backing of E. P. Wells and J. J. Nierling. Wells had a history of using newspapers to promote the region operating his own, The Northwestern Land Journal, in conjunction with his real estate and banking operations.

It was under McClure's ownership that in fall 1882 the Alert ran an editorial advocating that the community had outgrown the village form of government it had operated under. That winter a bill was passed by the territorial assembly incorporating Jamestown as a city. The first city elections were held in April 1883.

But soon a new player entered the newspaper scene in Jamestown. William Ross Kellogg came to town to open a business office for the Fargo Argus in 1884. From this position he sold subscriptions and advertising as well as wrote the occasional article about life in the James River Valley.

According to the "Century of Stories," published for the centennial in 1983, Kellogg became convinced that the capital for North Dakota, whenever it would be created, would be Jamestown. He purchased the Alert in 1886.

"Kellogg was the third owner of the paper," said Mary Faith Young, local historian. "And the paper really boomed under him."

Kellogg was more than just an owner, he was publisher, editor and writer who sometimes turned his attention to highly descriptive stories about the weather.

"Last night the thermometer dropped 34 times below nothing and at daylight was hovering in the immediate neighborhood of 20," he wrote about one cold day. "At noon thermometers showed a great reluctance to rise above 10 degrees."

And he wrote about the "upper crust" in the booming community of Jamestown.

"The Spiritwood Ripples were written by Kellogg," Young said. "It was written about the moneyed people who had weekend homes out at Spiritwood Lake."

He also wrote about some of the more trivial parts of life in Jamestown.

"An unusually exciting dog scrap broke forth today on Fifth Avenue between a lawyer's bull terrier and a businessman's Irish Setter," Kellogg wrote on what may have been a slow news day.

Kellogg sold the Alert to the Hansen brothers, Byron, Percy and Loren, in 1925. They formulated a new look for the paper with new staff and a new name.

They brought in Ina Cook, better known as Cookie, to replace long-time reporter Eva Plunkett. Plunkett then moved to the new paper in town, The Stutsman County Democrat, later called the Stutsman County Record, which she co-edited until her retirement in 1954. While the two women journalists were initially rivals, they became friends in later life.

And the Hansen brothers changed the name from the Jamestown Alert to the Jamestown Sun also in 1925.

Gordon Hansen sold the paper to American Publishing in December 1988.

Under the ownership of American Publishing the paper changed from an evening paper to a morning edition in 1992.

The Sun was purchased by its current ownership, Forum Communications Co., in October 2000.

"It is in the best interest of the paper to be owned by Forum Communications," said Bruce Henke, publisher of the paper. "They have a North Dakota base. Bill and Jane Marcil are the principle owners and have media properties in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North and South Dakota."

And after 130 years of delivering the news to Jamestown the Sun continues to advance.

"We started with lead type, now everything is computer driven," Henke said. "But the principle is still the same, take care of what's happening in our backyard. Our advantage over USA Today is they don't have a backyard,"

The Sun also makes an effort to embrace new technology.

"The way we deliver news has changed drastically with the Internet," Henke said. "Right now we have stable subscriptions and about 3,000 people a day reading our paper on the Internet. Our readership has never been higher."

The Sun, which prints Monday through Saturday, except on a few holidays, is also online at www. jamestownsun.com.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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