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C. R. Denson, 1882-1960

The following article was taken from the obituary of C. R. Denson in the Minonk News-Dispatch, July 7, 1960. The text was prepared by Donna Rae Eilts.
C. R. Denson, 78, dean of Illinois publishers and publisher of the Minonk News-Dispatch for the last 56 years, was stricken and died from a heart attack in Vissering's store in Minonk at 10:45 last Friday morning, July 1. He had been afflicted with heart trouble for the last 15 years, but death was sudden and unexpected, as he seemed to feel better than usual on the day of his death.

He was born Chester Rudolph Denson, at Ursa, Illinois on January 30, 1882, a son of John T. and Fanny Rudolph Denson. He was educated at Ursa elementary school and Minonk high school. He started his first newspaper at Ursa, 62 years ago, in 1898 and later traded it for the Minonk paper in 1904.

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He was united in marriage with Miss Jane C. Offill, at Ashley, Illinois, October 24, 1914, and they have always resided in Minonk. She survives with three sons, John O., Robert W., and William J. Denson, all of Minonk, and four grandchildren, Edwin M., John W., Penny and Gillian Denson, the children of Mr. and Mrs. John O. Denson, all of Minonk. Also surviving is a half brother, Ernest N. Denson of Wheaton. He was preceded in death; by his parents, a brother, Wayne C. Denson, and a son, Howard, who died in infancy.

Deceased was a member of the Christian Church, and was affiliated with the Minonk Presbyterian Church.

Denson first became interested in printing when the Ursa Trumpet was founded in his village in 1893; when he was 11 years old; but that paper expired after ten issues.

Shortly afterwards he purchased a small hand job press and did small printing jobs until May 3, 1898, when, at the age of 16, he founded the Ursa Times. After publishing the paper for a year, he leased it to another and went to Chicago with his family, where he was employed with a printing firm as a press feeder until March 1, 1900, when he returned to Ursa and again took charge of the Ursa Times until January 1, 1901, when he leased it out again.

Before he finally arrived in Minonk and settled down to his 56-year career as a publisher in this community, he operated a restaurant for a short time in Ursa, worked as a press feeder in St. Louis, and spent several months as a newsboy on the Southern and Pennsylvania railroads, out of St. Louis. For a couple of seasons he worked as a hand cutter with a threshing crew.

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He also did some farming on his father's place in Jefferson County, drove a span of mules on the job of building the Hodimont line to the St. Louis World's Fair, and had a job with a track construction crew for the Southern railroad. Finally, he became a door-to-door salesman for enlarged photos, traveling through the country on foot. He quit the job and arrived in Minonk in August of 1902. Denson's parents had recently moved here from Southern Illinois, and his father was employed in the Rawlings Drug Store, which he bought from Dr. Rawlings a few years later.

A new high school was just being completed here, and Denson was persuaded to enroll as a freshman here that fall. Prior to that time, his only formal education had been in the Ursa grade school, which he had left some four years before. Denson managed to complete the work for graduation in three years, receiving his diploma with the Class of 1905, of which he was Salutatorian.

Also, during his third and final year of high school, Denson purchased the Minonk Register from Al VonNordheim on November 1, 1904, using a small amount of borrowed capital and trading his paper at Ursa.

      A young C. R. Denson
He immediately changed the name of his paper to the Minonk Dispatch, and, with the help of a tramp printer and a couple of girls who set the type by hand, he managed to keep the paper going until he was out of school, the following spring, and could devote full time to it.

Denson's paper, the Dispatch, was the smallest of the two Minonk newspapers in those days, having only 102 subscribers, as A. K. Tate was well established with the Minonk News, which had 1,500. However, in May of 1906, less than two years after Denson bought his paper here, Mr. Tate sold the News to George Werkheiser of Flint, Michigan, and seven years after that, on November 1, 1913, Denson purchased the News from Werkheiser and combined the two newspapers under the name of Minonk News-Dispatch. At that time, he had built up the Dispatch so that it had 400 more subscribers than the News.

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The Ursa Times, which Denson founded 62 years ago, has been consolidated with the Mendon Dispatch, and is now published at Mendon under the name of Mendon Dispatch Times.

In the years after the consolidation of the two Minonk newspapers, the News Dispatch grew rapidly, as Mr. Denson was continually striving to improve the paper's quality, and no expense was spared in buying the latest printing equipment and keeping up with the largest changes in the printing and newspaper industries.

In 1922 Mr. Denson built the large brick building which the News Dispatch now occupies. It is one of the few weekly newspapers in the state which has a building specifically designed for it.

As a sign of Mr. Denson's success in newspaper management and production, the News-Dispatch, during the last 40 years, has won many awards for excellence, in competition with the other good weekly newspapers of Illinois.

Denson was very active in the Illinois Press Association, and served as President of that organization in 1933-34, and held various other IPA offices before and since then. He was historian of the association at the time of his passing. He had not missed a meeting of the association in the last 43 years, attending his last at St. Louis in the second week of June.

Publisher Denson was always very active in civic affairs in Minonk from the very beginning. He was twice elected City Clerk on the local Republican ticket, in 1907 and 1909, after which he declined to run for office again, but continued to be even more active as a promoter and booster of Minonk. He was an active member of the various business and civic organizations of Minonk, and had a leading role in promoting the establishment of some of this town's industry. Through the News-Dispatch, and personally, he was a strong promoter for all civic improvement projects such as the paved streets, water, and sewer system, establishment of the Filger Library, and, more recently, the expansion of the local school district, Minonk 's street lights and athletic field, and a long list of other local improvements.

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Also, although his friendship with the late Governor Len Small, he was able to help obtain some major paved road projects, particularly the connecting link from Route 51 to Flanagan, a little ahead of schedule. In recent years he was the most active promoter in the project whereby Minonk got its new post office building.

In politics, Mr. Denson was a lifelong active Republican and a convinced and convincing backer of the basic principles of liberty on which this country was founded. His editorial policies never deviated from the concept that the least government is the best government, and that the strength of our country lies in the individual freedom, the freedom of enterprise and the maximum amount of freedom of thought and action and self-reliance of every individual.

Mr. Denson's mother; a strong Republican, daughter of a Civil War veteran named him for Chester A. Arthur, who was President at the time of his birth, in 1882. By the year 1900, before he was old enough to vote, he was taking an active part in Republican politics in Adams County, as a newspaperman and printer, and was an honorary member of the delegation, which he helped organize, that swung Adams County Republicans to Richard Yates for governor.

C. R. Denson pictured with his wife Jane, parents John and Fanny, and sons John and Robert.
After coming to Minonk, he was active in party affairs and hardly missed a county, district, or state convention in the days when the party nominees were selected at conventions. In 1928 he was alternate delegate from the 17th congressional district to the Republican national convention at Kansas City, Missouri, and he was a delegate from the same district to the national convention of 1932 at Chicago. In 1948 he was a Republican presidential elector from Illinois. He remained active in politics to the last, having attended the Les Arends Day program and greeted Vice President Richard Nixon at Melvin, on May 27, only five weeks before his death, and only the day before he had written some letters making arrangements to attend the Republican national convention in Chicago, later this month. He was strongly in favor of Nixon to succeed Eisenhower as president.

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No account of Publisher Denson's career will be complete without mentioning his interest in baseball. He attended his first major league game in St. Louis in the summer of 1899, and saw that city's team play the Louisville, Kentucky team. At that time the National league was the only major league. Among the baseball greats playing that day were Denton (Cy) Young and Homas Wagner.

Mr. Denson was an ardent Chicago Cub fan and of their predecessors, Anson's Colts. In his younger days, he was a better than average player himself, and played second base on a team at Ursa as well as on the teams in neighboring towns. The catcher on the Ursa team at that time was Alva Williams, who later went to the major leagues, playing with the Washington Senators, where he caught the great Walter Johnson.

The Ursa team once defeated Carthage College, a team that had previously won all their games that season. They also defeated the South 8th Street team of Quincy, the latter's pitcher being Art Fromey, later a leading pitcher for the New York Giants. C. R. often recalled that he hit a double, a triple, and a home run off Fromey that day.

Publisher Denson had also recalled many times that he was playing second for the Mendon team at the Camp Point fair on the day that President McKinley was assassinated on September 6, 1901, and in that game hit the longest home run of his career, a ball which cleared the race track and stock sheds.

On coming to Minonk, Denson continued his interest in baseball, and although he rarely played, was secretary of a team organized here. Some of the other members of that team were Sandy Kelly, Will Kelly, Blackie Stokowski, Tom McKay, Joe Wypeski, Tom Krafchak and John Ryan.

Funeral services for Publisher C. R. Denson, who was stricken and died from a heart attack last Friday, were held Sunday afternoon at 4 o'clock from the Wilcox-Folkers Memorial Home in this city.

The Rev. J. R. Dirksen, pastor of the Minonk Presbyterian church officiated. Burial was in the Minonk Cemetery, the pallbearers being Joseph Kasha, Dean Stalter, David Oyen, Harrison M. Parks, E. P. Moran and John Wylie. Honorary pallbearers were Fred Parks, Art Zivney, Art Fort, Bert Goodwin, W. D. Hayes, M. H. McKee and E. E. Young.-