The Huffmans: Owners of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune

by Alison Bruener, Museum Assistant

Today with fewer and fewer newspapers circulating, I’m amazed how many local people over the years owned and published the numerous iterations of our local newspapers. In the days of the Wood County Reporter, the Centralia Enterprise & Tribune and the Grand Rapids Tribune, there were names like Jack Brundage, H.B Philleo, and Drumb and Sutor. But one family stands out for their years spent running the Daily Tribune:  the Huffmans.

Having moved to Grand Rapids in 1919, William F. Huffman purchased the Grand Rapids Daily Leader and the Weekly Leader in October of the same year. By spring 1920, the Tribune had absorbed both Leaders. For almost a year, both the daily and weekly Tribune continued to be published and eventually the weekly was discontinued in favor of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.

Alcinda Louise Fey Huffman

A couple years after moving to Grand Rapids, in 1921, William Huffman married Alcinda Louise Fey, or as she was more commonly known, Louise. The two met in college and were engaged, though the wedding was postponed due to his participation in the French Ambulance Service during WWI. Once married, the couple had two children, William Jr., born in 1924, and Mary, born in 1926.

William Jr. (Bill) and Mary Huffman in a photo for Daily Tribune Calendar

With his family settling into the growing city, and still at the helm of the Tribune, Huffman in 1940 introduced a new media outlet to the area, radio station WFHR (William Ferdinand Huffman Radio).

After Huffman’s death in 1949, the widowed Louise Huffman served as the president of both the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune and the radio station WFHR until 1950. Then, William Jr. (“Bill”) took the helm, after returning home from receiving a degree in agricultural journalism from UW-Madison. He had also served in WWII. As for Louise, she would spend the next two decades traveling the world. She passed away in 1976.

By 1955, Bill Huffman had co-founded the Forward Communications Corporation with other Central Wisconsin newspaper publishers. The company would later expand to other regional television and radio stations.

In his editorials in the Tribune, Huffman criticized the war in Vietnam and expressed concern for environmental protection.

In 1983, Huffman sold the Tribune to Thomson Newspapers out of Toronto, Canada.

Gannett Co. purchased the Daily Tribune in the year 2000. Gannett also owns Appleton’s Post Crescent, Wausau’s Daily Herald, Green Bay’s Press Gazette,  the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Sheboygan Press, Fond Du Lac’s The Reporter, Manitowoc’s Herald Times Reporter and the Stevens Point Journal. Gannett’s headquarters are located in McLean, Virginia.

I have enjoyed learning the history of our local newspapers and look forward to continued work on our forthcoming exhibit on the papers here at the Museum. We will be open to the public again after Memorial Day, which, as things go, is right around the corner, and we will post our summer hours soon. Hope to see you then!

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Examining the History of Our Local Newspaper

by Alison Bruener, Museum Assistant

At the end of every season, we at the South Wood County Historical Museum ponder what are we going to do for next year’s Buehler Gallery exhibit. The 2018 exhibit featured the closing of East Junior High School, also known as the “Old” Lincoln High. While considering what to choose for next season, an anniversary came to our attention:  William F. Huffman purchasing the Grand Rapids Tribune. What about 100 years of Tribune History?

The 2018 Buehler Gallery Exhibit focused on the 1931 Lincoln High School, which in more recent times served as East Junior High School

To start preparing for the exhibit, I needed to gain more background on the newspaper history of Central Wisconsin. I was surprised at just how many papers were circulating along our piece of the river. The first was the Wood County Reporter published by John N. Brundage in November 1857 (one year after the county was organized). Another newspaper was the Centralia Enterprise, a weekly paper started in 1879 by C.H. Clark. This paper would go on to merge with the Grand Rapids Tribune, which was created in 1873. The last new newspaper to come into existence was the Wisconsin Valley Leader, which began in 1902.

These newspapers all exchanged ownership multiple times, which came with name changes of the papers themselves. When the Centralia and Grand Rapids papers merged, their name became Centralia Enterprise and Tribune. Then when the two cities of Grand Rapids and Centralia merged and became Grand Rapids in 1900, the paper once again became the Grand Rapids Tribune. It really boggles my mind how much change happened with these papers! What a good way to track the changes going on in the city and county they were named after.

In 1919, the famed and fabled William F. Huffman from Rockford, Ill., moved to Grand Rapids after graduating from Beloit College.

William Ferdinand Huffman c. 1919

Huffman had already worked in newspapers. In high school, he served as a correspondent and reporter for the Denver Evening Times and Rocky Mountain News. He was the editor of his college newspaper, The Beloit Round Table.

He would leave college for two years which he spent as an ambulance driver for French forces before the United States joined World War I.

Upon graduation from Beloit in 1919, he made the move to Grand Rapids. In October of the same year, he purchased the Grand Rapids Tribune and the Wisconsin Valley Leader. By 1923, Huffman had purchased the Nekoosa Tribune, and discontinued all papers other than the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, which received its name in 1920, when it became a daily paper.

So, while the exhibit’s focus will be on the years between 1919 and 2019, one can’t help but take note of what happened leading up to the consolidation of the papers. In a time and place where radios weren’t common just yet, newspapers held all the power of the news, not just in the city or county, but state, national and international. As I type this in the digital era, it pains me to think of not being able to plug a question into an internet search engine and have the answer in under one second. What a time to be alive! The excitement of innovation is probably similar to what people in this region felt 100 years ago, when daily newspapers first arrived.

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Photos from Christmas Tree Walk

Photos by SWCHC Website Coordinator Angelica Engel

As we approach the end of our annual Christmas Tree Walk, here are a few images of the trees that so many people have seen around the Museum! You still have a chance to view them this evening from 4 to 8 pm, tomorrow (Saturday) from 12 to 4 pm, and Sunday also from 12 to 4 pm.

The blue trees in the foreground are part of Faye Collier and Corey Bowe’s “Solarium.” Notice the ice skates on and under the trees. In the background is the Buehler Gallery, decorated by Pam Nettesheim, Rita Weiler and Bambi Johnson.
Buehler Gallery by Pam Nettesheim, Rita Weiler and Bambi Johnson.
A close up of the mantel in the Buehler Gallery.
Tree #9 – “Dressed for Success” by Career Closet
Tree #13 – “Polar Express” by the South Wood County Historical Museum
Tree #14 – “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” by Faye Collier of LeChateau-The Manor Bed & Breakfast. Notice the many wedding photos.
In the foreground, Tree #19 – “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” by Joan Milka 
Tree #22 – “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” by Sara Salewski 
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