The days of swaying public sentiment through broadsides of oratory from the platform are rapidly passing away in this country, although they will never cease. The reason for this is the establishment of so many monthly and weekly magazines, the springing up here and there of such a multitudinous number of daily newspapers and the creation of local and rural mail carriers or their distributon; also to the diffusion of education and the creation of the reading habit.

The Revolutionary war period called forth a score of the ablest orators the world has ever produced. The Civil War period gave to us another band of spirited speakers who re-echoed the sentiments of revolutionary days. Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death," found its parting echo three-quarters of a century later in Dan Webster's "Liberty and union, one and inseparable, now and forever."

During the nineteenth century, journalism not only took root but multiplied itself and flourished greatly. In 1814, Nathan Hale, a talented nephew of the famous spy of the revolution, bought the "Boston Daily Advertiser," which was, and still is, the leading daily paper of New England. He edited it for fifty years. Down in a little, dingy cellar under an old building on Nassau street in New York City, James Gordon Bennet established the "New York Herald" in 1835; and for over seventy-five years has remained one of the most powerful papers on either continent. Horace Greeley, in 1833, had thrust the "Morning Post" to the arena of newspaperdom. It was the first penny paper ever published in the entire world. The next year it was converted into the "New Yorker," which six years later gave way to the "Logcabin," and which, in turn, yielded to the "New York Tribune," Chas. A. Dana, Henry Raymond, George Curtis and George Childs, each as editorial satellites, glided into prominence and took their respective places in the firmament of journalism.

While these men were rounding out journalism on a large scale in the far east, Dame Nature was slowly developing at Janesville, Wisconsin, a young lad who was destined to achieve distinction in a smaller way, as an editorial writer in the west; and, who, had he been given a chance with those of the east, would easily have taken rank with the best of them—Editor W. S. Bowen of the "Daily Huronite," the most classical editorial writer in South Dakota, and one of the ablest in the west.

Editor Bowen was born in 1843 at Akron, Ohio, where his father owned and published the "Summit County Beacon." Six years later the family removed to Janesville, Wisconsin, where W. S., as a mere boy, took up city editorial work in a print shop which his father established at that place.

In 1873, he "pulled stakes" and struck out for Yankton, S. D., where he took up and continued for twenty three years his editorial work on the "Press and Dakotan." A political editor of unusual force and ability, he had been one of the strongest factors in the state in sending R. F. Pettigrew to the United States Senate. Mr. Pettigrew was not ungrateful for the service rendered, and Editor Bowen soon found himself called to the Senator's private secretaryship.


He bought a half interest in the "Sioux Falls Daily Press," in 1901, and in 1907 he sold his interest to W. C. Cook, our internal revenue collector. It was during his six years as editor of The Press that he achieved distinction as an editorial writer. During this period, The Press enjoyed a remarkable growth, and it was quoted by all the leading dailies of the west.

Like Napoleon battering out the keystone to a strong-hold by centering his fire constantly on the pivotal spot, so Editor Bowen kept hurling large calibre missiles of political death at his opponents until he had forced a retreat and placed Coe I. Crawford in the United States Senate. Without Bowen's newspaper battery constantly in action, Mr. Crawford never could have won.

After selling his interest in The Press, Mr. Bowen went to Boise City, Idaho, where for one year he edited the "Idaho Scimater." Returning to South Dakota, he bought the "Daily Huronite," in 1909, and later bought and united with it the 'Huron Spirit." Although bowed with the turmoil of sixty-nine years, his editorial pen "still lives, forever young." Dipping it into the "fountain of eternal youth," he writes with the vigor, the courage, the clearness and the coherency of thirty years ago. Could anything be prettier than his editorial in the "Huronite," last year, on Memorial Day? It follows:


"Through so many years of prosperous peace has the memorial anniversary in honor of the dead of the Civil War been observed that the event has become as well established as our Christan Sabbath. As the swift years go by, increasing solemnity is attached to the observances of each 30th of May, couched though they are in the forms that admit of no variation.

"It is far away now, the weary march, the bristling line, he sputtering fire, the roar of musketry, the boom of artillery, the weird cadence of flying shells and the hiss of the death dealing minnie, the sobbing away of life, the moans, the shrieks, the shouts of triumph, the groans of despair.

"So far away and covered by so many years of rising and advancing generations that the life of today knows little of the significance of Memorial Day to the survivors of one of the world's bloodiest periods.

"And the appreciation of the soldier of the '60's is somewhat dimmed, for he has lived long since there came unsought into his life experiences that were wrought into his soul in the red-hot crucible of war. He may feel that he, too, would be willng to lie down in his place 'on fame's eternal camping ground,' for the journey is becoming a weary one and the thinned column drags along the line of march.

"Today, under the stars that were saved and the stripes that wreathed about them, all over the loyal portion of our land, the people have turned their thoughts to the men of the sixties, have honored them as they will again on each recurring 30th of May, giving to the present the glorious lesson of the past, that the future may be saved against the conspiracies of evil."


During his busy life Editor Bowen found time to detach himself for three years from newspaper work to serve his country. At twenty years of age he enlisted in the 12th Wisconsin Battery and served till 1865, being mustered out on May 1, of that year, at Newburn, N. C., where he was marching northward with General Sherman's victorious army.


Mr. Bowen looks backward upon his early time experiences in the territory of Dakota with keen interest, feeling that they covered the most important and the most enjoyable period of his life. The making of a state out of nature's raw material had just begun. Settlements had fringed the large rivers of the territory, the Red, the Sioux and the Missouri, and the advance guard had begun to creep up the Jim. The vast interior was an unpeopled stretch, awaiting the advent of railroads and inhabitants, a scene of summer beauty and winter desolation. To witness the occupation of this wonderful agricultural and pastoral realm by the people who have since developed it, and to have participated in the creation of two important commonwealths is something to call up pride and gratifying retrospection. Yankton, his home, was the headquarters of the legislative and executive force of the new empire, and a resident of that city came into close touch with the builders of the two Dakotas. Many of them are now only memories and about their work the coming generations will know but little. They left their impress. Their names are passing with their lives. All of the nearly forty years of Editor Bowen's residence within the Dakotas have been years of growth and expansion, and one who has given the larger part of his life to such experiences treasures them in memory as the best achievements of an earthly pilgrimage.

Our gray haired sires, like Editor Bowen, who builded with blistered hands and weary feet our young empire of the west, are gradually, and of late, quite rapidly, taking their places "in the silent halls" of eternal rest, while their sturdy sons are pressing forward with manly vigor to complete the tasks their sires began. Hail! Chieftains of yesterday! Hail Bowen! Hail! All Hail!


©2002, Virginia A. Cisewski
All Rights Reserved