For decades, and in one case for more than a century, journalists in Dawes County have been keeping tabs on local government, chronicling births, deaths, weddings, promoting community events and connecting businesses to customers.
Three news organizations in the county celebrate significant anniversaries this year: The Chadron Record marks its 135th, KCSR turns 65 and the Crawford Clipper turns 40.
Though technology has evolved in that span of time, the employees of all three entities remain committed to local news coverage that tells the stories of the people that make up their communities, and to keeping them informed of actions taken by their elected representatives.
“The importance of a local news presence cannot be understated,” said Record Editor Kerri Rempp. “Though many people access news online today, local media play a key role in making that available. Without journalists from places like the Record, KCSR or the Clipper, local citizens won’t have news to read about their communities, whether it comes in the format of the printed page, on websites or through social media.”
The Chadron Record
The Record can trace its roots back to the Sioux County Journal, started by E.E. Egan in November 1884. After Egan sold the paper to George Snow, he wrote his recollections of the paper’s beginnings in 1909 for the papers 25th anniversary.
Born in 1859 in Illinois, Egan moved west seeking to make a home in either Dakota or Nebraska in 1884. Egan arrived in Valentine early that year and was invited to continue to the end of the line in White River country by J.B. Buchanan. He made the rest of the journey with several members of Levi Sweat’s Missouri colony, and they convinced Egan to join them in settling in the area.
“The ending of the colony trek was at Pete Nelson’s ranch house, a commodious building on Bordeaux creek, where some of the travel-stained were made welcome in genial frontier fashion by the ranchman and his estimable wife, and a welcome one it was to some of us. During my stay I went out to see my preemption but found my timber claim like most “sight unseen” trades not worth bothering too much about. I had been “adopted” into the colony scheme to start a newspaper on Bordeaux creek which was to be the scene of empire building, but already my luck or “good eye” or whatever it was, had outgrown this pent-up Utica, and I discovered that when the railroad should come … it must make its detour to the Hills around the reservation considerably west of the Bordeaux valley,” Egan wrote in 1909.
With that revelation, Egan struck out to find another place to establish his newspaper and became enamored of the valley situated at the confluence of Chadron Creek and White River.
The half-dozen or so settlers in the valley welcomed Egan, and he set out to establish his newspaper, traveling back to Chicago to purchase a press and 200 pounds of type. He sold his first subscription in Pine Ridge to Trader Ed Robinson before the first issue was even printed, at a rate of $2. Dave Mears purchased the first advertisement for his store, paying $10. Set with equipment and a meager income stream, Egan constructed a 20x20-foot office and home.
“At last the first issue of the Sioux County Journal was off the press November 6, 1884, and to say that I was proud that Vol. 1, No. 1, very feebly expresses my feelings. My brother wielded the roller while I cranked the army press, and we were speedily prepared for the rush at the “mailing and counting rooms.” I had been unable to secure any windows or doors for my log cabin, so some idea may be had of the fine fall weather that fall to know that it was warm enough for printing a paper in the open air Nov. 6,” Egan wrote.
The Sioux County Journal, as it was known then, took its name from the name of the county, which encompassed all of northwest Nebraska. When the territory was split up in 1885, Egan changed the name to the Dawes County Journal. When Egan’s first issue rolled off his old army press, its nearest competitors were in Valentine, Sidney and Rapid City.
Egan’s newspaper, which carried the dateline, Chadron, Nebraska, is entwined with how present day Chadron came to be named. Hoping to be named postmaster in his new community, Egan planned to use the name Chadron for the post office and his paper, after a defunct post office by the same name. However, when he returned from purchasing his equipment, he learned that Fannie O’Linn had petitioned for a post office and named the community O’Linn. He briefly contemplated returning to the Bordeaux valley with the Sweat colony but decided against it.
“The lure of the beautiful picture I remembered of Chadron valley, together with an inborn trait of not turning back after taking hold of the handles of the plow, decided me to go forward and to publish The Journal under the date-line of Chadron, in spite of all the power of post office, widow and Uncle Sam combined,” he wrote.
In time, Egan and his newspaper won the battle for the name of the community, as those journeying to settle nearby knew it as Chadron from the pages of the Dawes County Journal. It became official when the railroad arrived in 1885, though that milestone required the citizens of the old town to relocate their homes and businesses five miles east. The railroad originally planned to call the town Bordeaux, but in an effort to sway citizens of the old town to support the new location, Egan was approached by P.E. Hall and Marvin Hughhitt of Chicago & Northwestern.
“After some talk sounding the situation they frankly asked my aid to gain the cooperation of the people for their new town. I asked regarding its proposed name and was told it was to be Bordeaux. And then with a zeal of eloquence I never equaled before or since, I poured out my whole soul in a plea for the preservation of the name of Chadron. I don’t think I could have overlooked any argument in its favor, chief of which, of course, was that it had been so persistently and widely advertised, was known all over the west, which would be a valuable asset to upbuilding a new town; alto that it was beloved by the people and if the name went to the new town it might be possible to get the business houses of the old town to follow,” Egan wrote.
Egan continued to operate the paper until 1892, when he moved to Texas. For the next 14 years, a succession of five owners published the paper using both the names Dawes County Journal and Chadron Journal. By 1901, the newspaper staff appeared to have settled on the name The Chadron Journal, and paper was purchased by George Snow in 1906. Snow ran the paper until his death in 1942. In a retrospective published in 1984, then owner Don Huls, noted that Snow’s widow and children kept the paper going for another year and then merged it with the Chadron Chronicle, owned by C.H. Pollard. The name was changed to The Chadron Record at that time. Pollard sold the paper in 1947 to a group from the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, and Huls purchased it in 1957. Huls published The Chadron Record until 1976, moving it to a twice weekly publication during his tenure. Alabama-based CNHI purchased the Record, with ownership eventually transferring to Country Media and finally to current owners Lee Enterprises. The Chadron Record has three employees today: General Manager and Editor Kerri Rempp, Sports Reporter Brandon Davenport and Advertising Manager Julie Pfister.
The paper has won dozens of Nebraska Press Association Awards, including being named Best in Class in 2015 and 2017 and runner-up in that category in 2018. The Record has also won three Service to Agriculture awards and a Service to Community award from the Omaha World-Herald in the last three years. In edition to the weekly publication, The Chadron Record has an active website at thechadronnews.com, a strong social media presence and produces numerous specialty publications each year, including the event guides It’s Fair Time!, Go, Do!, Fur Trade Days and school sports and club magazines.
Chadron Radio Station, call sign KCSR, was granted its first Federal Communications Commission license in May 1954. Station owners Bob Fouse and Bill Finch told The Chadron Record in the days following their opening that month that the public had been supportive. Listeners surprised them with reports that KCSR could be heard as far away as Idaho and Saskatchewan.
Fouse was a former announcer and promotions manager at KTLN in Denver, Colo., while Finch had previously worked as a sales manager and announcer at KRAI in Craig, Colo. Other employees in the early days of KCSR included Dave Scherling, a former announcer in Torrington, Wyo., and Ted Turpin and Sherry Girmann, both of Chadron. Turpin worked as KCSR’s sports director and news reporter, while Girmann acted as the station’s receptionist and stenographer.
“KCSR plans to build the schedule around coverage of local and regional news, with emphasis on ‘good music and programs designed to serve the community,’ the owners said. There will be no network tie-up, as yet at least, but several ‘big shows’ have been transcribed for Chadron presentation,” read an article in The Chadron Record upon the station’s launch. One of the earliest programs announced by KCSR was, in fact, a Chadron Record newscast, prepared by newspaper editor Don Prather, who planned to curate items from the most recent issue of the paper to be read on air every Wednesday evening.
When KCSR began broadcasting it was located at 1450 on the dial, but was later moved to 610. It’s home has always been on Bordeaux Street, first at 212 Bordeaux; the station moved to 226 Bordeaux in 1979. Eventually, Big Sky Company, based out of Wyoming, owned KCSR, along with an FM station.
Big Sky made the decision to sell the AM and FM stations separately in 1991, placing the FM station in the hands of Eagle Communications of Hays, Kansas, which moved the station to 331 Main and continues its operation today.
Current KCSR owners Dennis and Kathi Brown formed Chadrad Communications, Inc., and purchased the AM station in September 1991. They moved to Chadron from Holdrege in order to operate their new purchase. Dennis, a native of Denver, Colo., had worked at stations in Fort Morgan and Sterling, Colo., as well as in Holdrege as a program director, and also served as an operations manager at a station in Kearney. Kathi is an Alliance native and a former employee of the Alliance Times-Herald, who also had radio sales experience before they purchased KCSR.
During the course of their ownership, they have installed a new AM Stereo transmitter and remodeled the station’s studios.
Dennis Brown has served as an officer in the Nebraska Association of Broadcasters, and in 2008 was able to speak with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., when he was chairman of the association.
“We have one of the most outstanding (broadcaster) associations in the nation. We work hard to serve the people of Nebraska,” he told The Chadron Record in 2008. “I’m pleased to be part of it.”
Brown was the second owner of KCSR to be named NAB chairman, and the first leader of the organization from western Nebraska since 1992.
The trip to D.C. gave Brown and other broadcasters an opportunity to discuss a variety of issues, including those related to pressure for increased regulation of objectionable content. The infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction prompted much of that discussion and radio stations, KCSR included, had to invest thousands of dollars in audio delay systems in order to edit out possible obscenities by on-air callers or guests.
Other issues KCSR and other stations have faced is proposals to require them to be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the erosion of First Amendment rights. Technology such as satellite radio and iPod music players also poses challenges to radio broadcasters, said Brown in the 2008 interview.
The Browns added an FM radio station to its business in 2010, purchasing a broadcast construction permit for the 107.7 FM frequency. KBPY is a locally programmed classic rock station with an effective power output of 100,000 watts. It wasn’t the first expansion for the company, as the couple added Chadrad.com to its repertoire in 1998. The website provides an alternative source for listeners to find news, sports and weather updates and also offers live streaming.
KCSR currently employs 10 including owners Dennis and Kathi Brown, Jeremy Anderson, Lisa Aschwege, John Axtell, Roxie Graham-Marski, Deja Henson, Brad Moore, Sara Taylor, Mike Trueblood and Jeff Wing.
The station took second place in the National Association of Broadcasters Community Service category in 2006 for their coverage of the fires that engulfed the Pine Ridge that year.
The Crawford Clipper was the original publication started in Crawford in 1886, but the paper went defunct in the 1890s. The community wasn’t without a paper long, because Con Lindeman started the Crawford Bulletin in 1897, operating it until 1904, when he sold the paper to the Crawford Tribune. Lindeman and his daughters, Millie and Emma, purchased that paper in 1910 and kept it going until 1959 (the daughters published it after Con’s death in 1934). When Emma died in 1950, Millie was joined at the paper by her nephew and niece, Johnny and Gilberta Marrall Stolldorf, working together in the publishing business until 1962.
After the Lindeman’s left the newspaper landscape in Crawford, Chadron Newspapers, Inc., assumed ownership of the Tribune, with The Chadron Record’s Don Huls keeping a small office open in Crawford. The next year, Gene and Anne Ramsey partnered with Huls on the Crawford paper, an endeavor that lasted more than 10 years, when Ramseys sold out to John and Sue Saunders in 1973.
Four years later, the Saunders sold the Crawford weekly back to Chadron Newspapers, which continued to operate its offices in Chadron, Crawford and Hot Springs. Jann Reichenberg led the Crawford Tribune office.
According to Reichenberg in an interview for the World-Herald Magazine of the Midlands, December 30, 1997, “What led to the revival of The Clipper was a decision of Chadron Newspapers to close the Crawford office, discontinue publication of the monthly publication and incorporate the Tribune as part of the Chadron newspaper.”
Upon the Tribune’s closure, the community asked Reichenberg to consider opening her own paper, and the Crawford Clipper was established Sept. 21, 1979, by Bob and Jann Reichenberg. The Crawford Chamber of Commerce aided in the start-up, and many local residents purchased one and two-year subscriptions before they published the first issue Oct. 10, 1979. The couple published the clipper until 1986, when they sold the operation to David and Sandy Cook.
David and Twila Vogl took over the business two years later and published the Clipper until they sold it to Kacey and Diane Clark in 1999. Diane had worked for the Vogls since 1992 in various capacities, and the tradition of passing the publication on to an employee continued in 2017. Jessica Espinoza began working for the Crawford Clipper in 1999, and she and her husband, Wayne, purchased the publication from the Clarks two years ago.
In addition to the weekly Crawford Clipper, the paper began publishing a monthly feature edition known as The Northwest Nebraska Post. It was distributed free to families in Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux counties and featured stories on area personalities. The Clipper and the Post won numerous Nebraska Press Association awards for its stories, photos and advertisements. Eventually, however, the Post became an every other month publication before it ceased publication completely after its June-July 1992 issue.
Another special project started by the Reichenbergs was the Clipper’s Summer Edition, which began in 1980 and is still printed each year in May. The Summer Edition is distributed to local Chambers of Commerce, museums and businesses along Highway 20, serving as an activities and attraction guide. In 1989, Vogl added the Post Playhouse Program to the publication, and it has been available at every performance of the Post Playhouse at Fort Robinson for the last 30 years. The Clipper also produces the Dawes County Fair premium book, which aids 4-H members and open class entrants in entering their fair exhibits.
The Crawford Clipper purchased the Harrison Sun in 1981, merging the two papers to become the Crawford Clipper-Harrison Sun. The Sun dated back to 1901 before the consolidation.
Since its inception 40 years ago in 1979, the Clipper-Sun has done business at 435 Second Street in Crawford. The doors will close on that era this summer, as the Espinozas are purchasing a building two doors north of the current location and hope to move into the new offices at 427 Second Street by mid-July.
It has become a family affair, with the Espinoza's daughter, Clarissa, joining the staff recently as the paper’s website director. The addition means the Clipper-Sun will soon offer online services in edition to its weekly printed edition. Diane Clark still works for the paper two days a week, as well, and contributions from community members, particularly volunteer Moni Hourt and Sioux County Schools Public Relations Representative Sandy Murphy make each week's paper possible.
“We, at the Crawford Clipper-Harrison Sun are proud to record local births, deaths, news, sports, school functions, community events, and area happenings free of charge, as well as promoting events, activities, well wishes and letters of thanks, and businesses through advertising. Your loyalty to your community newspaper has allowed us to continue to bring you the local news and have a presence in our community. We hope we can continue to do that in the future,” Jess Espinoza said.
Editor's Note: Jessica Espinoza and Kathi Brown contributed to this article.