In a period when industry was growing exponentially in Russellville with such businesses as a lumber yard, roller mill, general stores and a bank to serve the community, there developed the need for an outlet to share stories of local happenings.
In 1895, Fulton Wilson chose to pursue this grand endeavor by establishing the first newspaper in Russellville, which would experience multiple owners and survive more than 50 years.
“(Fulton Wilson) informs us that he is making arrangements to begin the publication of a paper at Russellville … to be called the Russellville Rustler,” shared the Miller County Autogram-Sentinel on May 30, 1895. The newspaper boasted that Wilson, then a resident of Eldon, “… has the ability to get up a paper that will be a credit to the town.”
Wilson, who also pastored at local Christian churches, hired George W. Tremain to fulfill the role of editor for the Russellville Rustler. Recognized as a gifted musician, Tremain was an ardent proponent of the community and became a founding member of the Russellville Band, providing musical entertainment at several local events.
Tremain soon purchased the newspaper and fulfilled the roles of both owner and editor. In late summer of 1899, Marcus T. Tremain of Brussells, Illinois, took over the publication after his brother decided to become a practicing physician and moved to St. Louis.
According to the souvenir book printer for Russellville’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1988, after Marcus Tremain purchased the Rustler from his brother, he “put in a steam press and a job press. Also, when he took charge, he changed the paper to a four-page home print.”
While working to publish a quality newspaper, Marcus Tremain also taught classes for Russellville school and was active in the Modern Woodmen of America (MWA) — a fraternal benefit society. He sold the paper in 1903 to take a full-time position of leadership within the MWA.
“Editor L.L. Sullins, of the Russellville Rustler, was in Eldon Saturday and gave this office a fraternal call,” the Miller County Autogram-Sentinel printed in their November 19, 1903, edition. “Mr. Sullins has improved the Rustler in the few months he has had control.”
By 1907, B. Ray Franklin had purchased the newspaper, changing the name to Russellville Weekly Rustler and seeking to maintain the quality of local reporting that had been its hallmark throughout the years. Not only was the Rustler known for sharing local news, but printed stories of major national and international consequence.
“Much to the satisfaction of the present management, the Rustler is no longer looked upon by the intelligent people of this section of the state as a mere country newspaper but a county paper that gives the happenings of the county in a fair and impartial way,” Franklin printed in the June 7, 1912, edition.
“It is no longer looked upon as a charity institution but as a real necessity, and many of its readers claim that they would give up all the other papers coming to their address before they would let their favorite paper expire.”
Franklin edited and operated the newspaper through 1917, at which time he moved to Jefferson City and became business manager of the Daily Capital News and also secretary for the Missouri Press Association. He later retired from the newspaper profession and built a resort hotel at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The newspaper operated for the next decade under the name Central Missouri Leader, encouraging readers to subscribe at the bargain price of $1 a year in its edition printed on Sept. 26, 1924.
“Sometime after 1927 and into 1933, the name Rustler seems to have been used again,” noted Russellville’s sesquicentennial history. “By 1934, the paper had become the Central Missourian with W.E. Martin as the editor …”
Martin, who had long been associated with the newspaper industry in addition to being involved in several business endeavors, ran the Central Missourian for approximately 15 years, closing it in the late 1940s, thus ending the legacy of a newspaper in Russellville.
The building that was home to the original Russellville Rustler, located at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Brown Lane, was later torn down and a garage erected on the site by the late Ernie Glover. The garage burned several years later and a newer shop has been built for use by a backhoe service.
There have been attempts to resurrect a newspaper in the community, including the short-lived Russellville News in the late 1970s and a more recent newsletter titled the Russellville Rebel.
Famed American humorist Will Rogers once said, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”
No longer do the presses flow freely with ink in the Russellville community. But for more than five decades, subscribers to the various iterations of the local newspaper received their knowledge of activities at the local, state, national and international level through this diminishing format.
George W. Tremain may have become the second owner of the Russellville Rustler, but as described in the “Illustrated Sketchbook and Directory of Jefferson City and Cole County,” printed in 1900, his imagination and talents in managing such an enterprise helped elevate the public’s perception of the community.
“To Mr. Tremain’s four years’ residence and enterprising and well-directed efforts, greatly aided by his publication, Russellville is largely indebted for her present importance and unusual advantages for a village of its size and environments.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.