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A. J. Underwood, Pioneer of Print: The Story of a Minnesota Newspaperman

ISBN: 9781643436326
Binding: Paperback
Author: Ben Underwood
Pages: 360
Trim: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Published: 02/27/2024

Minnesota, 1872. Tired from another fall corn harvest, forty-year-old A. J. Underwood wonders if there's an easier life. A. J. revels in the challenges of farm work, but his bleeding hands, the wear and tear of shucking corn, trigger doubts. The Civil War veteran and part-time legislator has recently met George B. Wright, a surveyor and land developer, in the halls of the state capitol. Wright has a civic mission—to convince A. J. to start a newspaper in Wright's new development, Fergus Falls, a fledgling frontier town in west-central Minnesota.

A risk-taker since his twenties, A. J.'s once-restless spirit has been tempered by the life he shares with his wife and their four children in Medina, Minnesota. Bountiful crops of corn, oats, and wheat are finally paying off after nearly a decade. But now, thanks to Wright, a new seed has been planted. With determination, A. J. embarks on a journey that reshapes not only his destiny but also the fate of a blossoming prairie town. Fueled by his encounter with Wright and armed once again with brimming aspirations, he envisions a beacon of truth amid the railroad towns of Minnesota—the historical Fergus Falls Daily Journal.


Ben Underwood is the great-great-grandson of A. J. Underwood, who founded the Fergus Falls Journal in 1873. After graduation from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism, Underwood worked at the Fergus Falls Daily Journal from 1978 to 1986. Following a stint as a financial planner, Underwood founded and was the publisher of Lake and Home Magazine from 1999 to 2015. Underwood lives in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, with his wife, Peggy, and their dog, Winnie. A. J. Underwood, Pioneer of Print is his first book.


"An engrossing, well-researched, humanized portrait of A. J. Underwood, his family, and the newspaper he founded in Fergus Falls in 1873. We see A. J. as a Civil War veteran, politician, farmer, husband, and father who becomes a highly respected, influential journalist. We also gain considerable insight into the city's early development, and how local journalism was deeply enmeshed in the process." - Robert Drechsel, emeritus professor of journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison, former city editor, Fergus Falls Daily Journal

"Ben Underwood's riveting account of his great-great-grandfather, A. J. Underwood, brings to life the adventuresome spirit of America's great post–Civil War push west. About a Civil War veteran and farmer–turned journalist whose newspaper formed the backbone of a fledgling town on Minnesota's prairie, A. J. Underwood, Pioneer of Print, provides a much-needed historical perspective for today's digital world." - Chris Schuelke, executive director, Otter Tail County Historical Society

"This engaging portrait of A. J. Underwood is also a vivid account of pioneer life in the 19th century and the importance of newspapers in building community on the edge of the nation's frontier." - Dave Hage, author of No Retreat, No Surrender: Labor's War at Hormel and Sea of Grass: Saving America's Greatest Landscape from Environmental Ruin