Meeker has almost always had a newspaper.
The town had its beginning after the troops left the encampment on the White River in 1883 and the first Meeker paper was established on Aug. 15, 1885. James Lyttle, who had worked on a newspaper in Leadville, purchased basic newspaper equipment in 1883 from the defunct paper in Kokomo (which is near Leadville) and then looked for a place to set up shop.
James Lyttle heard the town of Meeker was getting started and might be interested in having a newspaper. He took the train from Leadville to Redcliff which was as far as the railroad went at that time. He then rented a saddle horse and rode to where Dotsero is now and came over the Flat Tops in 1884.
Deciding that Meeker was a viable place for a newspaper, Lyttle and Jack Houston returned to Meeker with the printing equipment and put out the first issue of the Herald. The Washington hand press and some of the type and type cases that were used in publishing that first issue are on display in the local museum.
Even though it was a very time-consuming job to hand set all of the items that were put in the paper, there wasn’t enough revenue to support two individuals and so Jack Houston became Meeker’s postmaster.
Jim Riland had planned to come with Lyttle and Houston to Meeker but took a job in Aspen at that time. Riland did later come to Meeker in 1900 and established a rival newspaper, The White River Review, which was published until April 1934 in a frame building where the Blue Spruce Inn now stands.
The Meeker Herald was a hand set paper, letter by letter, line by line, and was printed on the hand press two pages at a time. The type was assembled in type frames and placed on the bed of the press, inked with a two-page sheet of newsprint placed upon the inked forms. Pressure was applied to the paper and two pages of the paper were printed at a time. This time-consuming process lasted until the 1920s when a Linotype was installed and a much faster process took place.
The hand press gave way to a Hoe printing press. A unique thing about the Hoe press was that during the spring of the year it was operated by water power from Sulphur Creek. This could bring about a question of proximity. The Meeker Herald building was originally located in an adobe (formerly used by the military encampment) building located where the I.O.O.F. hall building is today for two years. The Herald was then moved to 4th and Main streets and Sulphur Creek flowed southwest behind the Herald building.
When the creek was dry, a crank was attached to the flywheel that ran the Hoe and it was turned by manpower. When the Meeker Light Plant was built and power was available throughout the town, the Hoe press was run by electricity.
This two-page press was the printing factor until a four-page press was purchased and shipped from Juneau, Alaska. To accommodate this new press, an addition was put on the existing frame building. The Herald was printed on this “new” press until the Cook family purchased the newspaper from the Lyttles in May 1964.
In the 1970s the Cooks did a major remodeling job on the building and converted the cold type process to a more modern offset method. This allowed for a lot more flexibility in production and later, with the use of computers, a more attractive product was the result.
There were really only three owners of the Herald until about a decade ago. James Lyttle ran the paper until his passing in 1925. His son, R.G. Lyttle, Sr., published the newspaper until selling it to the James Cook family in 1964 who sold it to Sureva Towler in the early 1990s.
Towler published the Herald for a little more than a year, Mike Cook had it for a little more than a year before it was sold to Glenn and Donna Troester. The Troesters moved the location to the former school administration building and ran the paper for about five years.
It was then sold to Kerry and Joy Murdock and moved to offices in The Hugus Building. The Murdocks had it about a year when it was again sold to Mitch and Meg Bettis in March of 2001. The Bettises sold the paper to Pat and Niki Turner in 2016.
While the Troesters had the paper, it was combined with the Rangely Times with an edition for Rangely and one for Meeker with basically just the front pages being changed.
Another innovation came about under Mitch Bettis’s leadership with the change of name from the Herald Times to the Rio Blanco Herald Times, and the paper covering Rio Blanco County news.
Most of the changes in format have come in the past 25 years and most of the changes in ownership have come in the past 10 years, but Meeker has had a newspaper for 130 years.
— By Rich Lyttle and HT Staff