Lake County Star documenting history nearly 150 years

First newspaper in county

Pictured are early editions of the Lake County Star. (Courtesy photo)

Pictured are early editions of the Lake County Star. (Courtesy photo)

The Lake County Star was one of the earliest newspapers in the area and has endured the test of time during the years when boom towns were springing up and newspapers came and went.

The Lake County Star documented area happenings as they unfolded and offers a rich history of pioneer life, dating back to the first edition, May 1, 1873.

The Star was birthed forth as a weekly newspaper in Chase, the first established town in Lake County. Civil War veteran Charles K. Radcliff was the editor and proprietor.

While the Star was still in infancy, “Welcome Fair Star,” was written in a column by Rodney Rustic: “Fair Star of Lake County, we welcome thy coming; May justice and truth to the end be thy aim; Gather bright golden drops from wisdom's fair fountain, and scatter them broadcast o'er hillside and plain.

“Yes, welcome, thrice welcome, to our home in the wildwood. With eagerness scan we, each week, thy fair face. Though many another is read at our hearthstone, our bright , golden star is still sure of its place. Shine on, beauteous Star; may thy bright beaming pages, o'erflowing with wisdom and truth, greet each friend, And ever remain, as now, at thy dawning, a foe to oppression, and liberty's friend.”

By 1874, Radcliff moved the newspaper operation to Baldwin.

In old accounts about the battle between Chase and Baldwin for the county seat, Radcliffe sympathized with Baldwin. Chase was the original county seat, but Baldwin wanted it located there. The matter was put up for a vote during the 1875 spring election and out of 449 votes cast, Baldwin won a 59 majority, some expressed fraudulent means. Chase wanted to have an injunction served before the property was removed.

The next morning, on April 30, a crew of “Balwinites” arrived in Chase on a train furnished by the Flint &Pere Marquette Railroad. They quietly reached the county safe housed in a shed near a railroad switch before the watchman roused the Chasites.

Different accounts mention the confrontation between Robert Bigbee, Chasite and former County treasurer, and Radcliff. According to Charles Bigbee, son to Robert, "Robert Bigbee arrived at the place where Radcliff was sitting on the stump. Mr. Radcliff hollered to him, "Hello Bob, you are too late." Mr. Bigbee didn't say a word but hit him on the side of the head and knocked him and his notes all over the ground. In the next issue of the Star, Mr. Radcliff told how he spoke to Mr. Bigbee and was knocked off the stump for doing so."

The early issues of the Star often had a "man versus nature" story on hand as the settlers encountered animals such as bears, wolves, and wild cats. It also reported tragic accidents all too common in sawmills and woods during the lumber boom era. The Star also was a valuable asset in reporting about settlements in their infancy in Lake County, and describing developments as they expanded into towns and villages.

Early Star subscriptions were sometimes paid in produce. On Sept.6, 1877, "E.B. Griffen of Glencoe sends us his name as a subscriber and accompanies it with some fine looking potatoes sufficient to pay for a year in advance."

For early pioneers, some who had to walk a mile or more to see a neighbor, the Star was a way for them to keep in touch with the happenings in the area and the growth of towns and industries that were rapidly springing up.

An Ellsworth Township settler wrote about their appreciation of the news publication:

“We're happy to receive the Star, and get the news, both near and far. To read what's passing in the wood, will often do a fellow good;

It tells of the news throughout our State, of who has gone, and who's grown great.

The Star is light to every mind, for therein we do knowledge find, and wisdom's door it opens wide; It says "walk in, and there abide."