Press patriarch E.L. Peterson died 1962; newspaper’s 65th year

Pelican Rapids Press publisher, from 1906 to 1962, E. L. Peterson making his weekly trip to the post office with newspapers to be mailed in the early 1940s. Peterson always walked and rarely drove—even though he owned a car. (Photo provided by Eric Peterson)

With this issue, the Pelican Rapids Press launches its 125th year of continuous publication. 

By hand of fate, April 2022 also coincidentally marks an anniversary of the death of the newspaper’s “patriarch,” E.L. Peterson, April 10, 1962.

The first issue of the Press hit the streets of Pelican Rapids on April 9, 1897. The startup proved to be a shaky one, however, and Mr. C. Cranston, the first publisher, didn’t hang around for long. In fact, the first four publishers didn’t stick with it.

It wasn’t until 1906 that the Press became more stable, but of course it took a few years to prove the point. E. L. Peterson became the publisher on December 6, 1906 and expressed confidence when he published his first issue by writing, “I wish to say that I am here to stay, and that I shall use my best efforts to give the people of Pelican Rapids a paper they will feel like supporting.”

Years later, it became clear that he meant what he said. “E.L.” remained publisher for over 50 years, finally relinquishing the post to his son, Ellis who by that time had already spent 30 years in his apprenticeship.

Ellis remained as publisher until 1972, when two of his sons, Gary and Richard, representing the third generation of ownership, became co-publishers.

The city park, next to St. Leonard’s Church, is named after Peterson. 

“It gets in your blood” is the usual explanation offered when someone asks what is the attraction of community journalism.

While immediate gratification is rare, a sense of accomplishment can be felt by looking back through old issues, realizing after the fact that, “You know, we did a pretty good job on that particular story.”

The Press is observing the 125th year throughout 2022, and we are planning a special souvenir edition this summer—with history of the newspaper, and also local-area history pieces.  

The staff and management at the Press are anxious to continue for another century. We thank readers, advertisers, customers and the greater Pelican Rapids area for the past, present, and future support of your local newspaper. 

—Louis Hoglund, Managing editor 

Related: E.L. Peterson’s original obituary, published 60 years ago