ONCE UPON A TIME …
The first newspaper in what would later become Rio Blanco County was born in Meeker, Colorado on August 15, 1885.
Mr. James Lyttle was an Irish immigrant who had worked at a newspaper in Leadville, Colorado. He must have liked the work, because he purchased some basic equipment in 1883 from a defunct paper in Kokomo (near Leadville.)
Lyttle started looking for a place to set up shop. He heard the town of Meeker was getting started and might be interested in having a local newspaper, so in 1884, he took a train from Leadville to Red Cliff, as far as the railroad went at that time. Then, he rented a horse and rode to what is now Dotsero and traveled over the Flat Tops.
Lyttle liked what he saw in Meeker, so he and fellow newspaper man Jack Houston packed up all their printing equipment and brought it to town. According to local legend, the press got stuck in the mud on a pass, delaying the first issue by about two weeks.
The Herald was officially born August 15, 1885. The Washington hand press and some of the type used in publishing that first issue are now on display at the White River Museum in Meeker. Be sure to check out the full Herald display the next time you visit!
It was a very time-consuming job to hand set all of the items that were put in the paper, but there wasn’t enough revenue to support two individuals, so Houston quit to become Meeker’s postmaster, leaving Lyttle a one-man newsroom.
The Herald building was originally located in an adobe building where Mountain Valley Bank is now, then moved to a frame building across the street in 1887. This location at 4th and Main Street in downtown Meeker is where the current Herald office is now located.
HOW WAS THE PAPER PRINTED?
In the beginning, the Meeker Herald was a hand-set paper. Each individual letter of type was assembled in frames and placed on the bed of the press (boy, does that make us thankful for keyboards!) The type was inked with a big roller, then a sheet of paper was placed on top. The operator of the press used a crank to place the page under the press, then pulled a lever to press down.
The process was repeated on the other side of the paper, and then the whole thing was folded in half to create one four-page edition.
This time-consuming process lasted until the 1920s when a Linotype was installed and a much faster process took its place (to see how a Linotype works, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5slfQizimtg
The hand press eventually gave way to a Hoe printing press. During the spring, the Hoe press was operated by water power from Sulphur Creek. (Back then, Sulphur Creek flowed southwest behind the Herald building on 4th and Main Streets.)
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 made available throughout the town, the Hoe press was run by electricity.
The paper continued to be printed two pages at a time 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.
The paper is not printed in-house anymore. It was printed in Gypsum from 2000 to 2018, then at the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction from 2019 to July 2021, when the Sentinel shut down their press. Check out a cool video of the Herald being printed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFW7ottJyic&t=1s
The Herald is now printed each week at the Montrose Daily Press in Montrose, Colorado.
OWNERS, PAST AND PRESENT
There were only three owners of the Herald until the 1990s. They were:
• James Lyttle, who ran the paper until his passing in 1925.
• His son, R.G. Lyttle, Sr. assisted by Rich Lyttle, Jr.
• the Cook family, who bought the paper in 1964
When James and Leota Cook retired in 1992, they sold the business to a woman named Sureva Towler. She published the Herald for a little more than a year. Then, Mike and Lisa Cook, James and Leota’s son and daughter-in-law, had the paper for a little more than a year before selling to Glenn and Donna Troester.
The Troesters moved the location to the former school administration building at 6th and Garfield and ran the paper for about five years.
The Herald 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 Bettis family sold the paper to Niki Turner and daughter Caitlin Walker in September 2016.
Another Leadville man named Jim Riland had planned to come to Meeker with Lyttle but took a job in Aspen instead. In 1900, however, Riland set up his own rival publication, The White River Review. Riland’s paper ceased publication in 1934.
One other publication popped up in 1964. The White River Press was run by Robert F. Sweeney and did not last long, folding after just two years.
THE RANGELY DRILLER AND THE RANGELY TIMES
The Rangely Driller published its first edition Sept. 29, 1949. The first publisher was Charles Baker and first editor was William Lahman. The Library of Congress lists the first owner as Cliff Neumann.
The publication changed hands numerous times before landing in the lap of local business entrepreneur Bernard F. Yaeger in the early 1950s. Yaeger rebranded the publication as The Rangely Times and used the funds from his other businesses to keep the presses running. Yaeger was owner and publisher until his death in 1995. A news entry in that week’s Times read: “Bernard F. Yaeger, one of Rangely’s greatest and most revered fathers, passed away at Colonial Minor Nursing Home in Glasgow, Missouri on Christmas morning. He parted this world at age 76, leaving behind an impressive legacy to his credit.”
After Mr. Yaeger passed away, the business was sold to his relative, Michael Prewitt, who appointed Peggy Rector as business manager.
The paper was printed as a small tabloid on the Herald press in Meeker.
In 1996, the Troesters, owners of the Meeker Herald, were approached by Rector and asked to purchase the struggling newspaper. They signed the contract Oct. 9, 1996, and switched the Times to a broadsheet format the following week. The Troesters published one edition for Rangely and one for Meeker with basically just the front pages changed each week.
In 2000, the papers were combined into one print product and the name was changed to Rio Blanco Herald Times.
Today, the paper is owned by Niki Turner and daughter Caitlin Walker. If you ask them why, they’ll tell you they went temporarily insane (we’re kidding, sort of.) Turner and Walker want to keep local journalism sustainable in Rio Blanco County. “We believe in the power of local journalism to accurately record our shared history, connect people, create a sense of community, hold power to account, and foster a healthier, happier, more informed Rio Blanco County.”
Turner and Walker brought another family member, Lucas Turner, on board in 2019 to help the Herald add media-rich and digital storytelling methods, like a podcast and news show created in our in-house studio. Lucas’s wife Haley joined the team in 2021 to provide specialized marketing and social media services to local businesses. Several regular contributors help fill out the newspaper each week, telling the story of Rio Blanco County for future generations.
In their spare time, you will probably find HT staff working on the next edition of the paper, chasing the littlest HTers around (Caitlin has four kiddos and Lucas and Haley have two, which makes a total of six grandbabies for Niki), and hollering at office mascots/Golden Retrievers Nellie ‘the Newshound’ Bly and Carl ‘Bernie the Broadcaster’ Bernstein.
By RICH LYTTLE AND THE HT STAFF