MEEKER I A stellar year for new beginnings came in 1885. The Town of Meeker was officially started. The rodeo began that year and never stopped. And James Lyttle came to town and started a newspaper on Aug. 5, 1885.
Rich Lyttle, a descendant of the founder, worked for the paper from 1949 to 1962. He summarized the history this way in his article, “And Hand Set Paper: Letter by Letter, Line by Line:”
“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 White River Museum.
Even though it was a very time consuming job to hand set all the items that were put in the paper, there wasn’t enough revenue to support two individuals, 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, when he established a rival newspaper, The White River Review, which was published until April 1934.
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.
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. They subsequently sold it to Sureva Towler in the early 1990s.
Towler published the Herald for a couple of years, then 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 the Hugus Building. The Murdocks had it about a year when it was again sold to Mitch and Meg Bettis in March 2001.
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 has come about with the change of the name and paper covering Rio Blanco County news—The Rio Blanco Herald Times.”
From “Ropin’ the Past” by Rich Lyttle (Available at the White River Museum)
On Sunday afternoon, the Rio Blanco County Historical Society invites everyone to help us celebrate those 130 years!
Starting at 12:30 p.m., RBCHS members will meet for a brief quarterly business meeting.
At 1 p.m., everyone will gather outside in the courtyard of the garrison for a potluck luncheon. The RBCHS board will provide homemade hamburgers and fixin’s and those attending are invited to bring sides, salads or desserts.
Convening inside the Old West Heritage Culture Center at 2 p.m., an historical program about the founder of the newspaper will be presented by Annette Lyttle, wife of Bill Lyttle, the great-grandson of James Lyttle.
At 2:30 p.m., we will welcome comments from those who have worked with the newspaper, ending with closing remarks by Mitch Bettis, the current owner of the Rio Blanco Herald Times who is from Little Rock, Ark., and president of Arkansas Business Publishing Group.
For the finale at 3 p.m., there will be a guided tour to the White River Museum to see the original newspaper office exhibit.
Everyone is invited to attend this momentous, historic occasion.