I was having coffee one day last week with my friend (and former next-door-neighbor) and local history buff A.B. Russ, when he said something startling.
“You know,” he began, “one of the first editors of the newspaper in Blue Earth was shot in the face.”
That is just the kind of statement that can grab my attention – fast.
“What?” I responded, stupidly. “He was shot in the face?”
A.B. went on to explain that he had been doing some research on Blue Earth residents who were involved in the Indian uprising of 1862. He found three who were at Fort Ridgely and were wounded or killed in action.
One was named Frank A. Blackmer.
“I have been told he was the editor of the paper,” A.B. reported. “In fact, I think he was the very first editor of the very first newspaper here.”
That seemed to indicate some further research was needed. So, I did.
Turns out, A.B. is almost correct.
I found a column I wrote a while back about the first newspaper in Faribault County. Six years after the first settler, Moses Sailor, staked a claim in what is now Faribault County, a newspaper was started in Blue Earth. It was named The Blue Earth City News.
The editor and publisher was a man named Isaac Botsford, and he was assisted by a young man named Frank A. Blackmer.
A copy of the first issue is in the Blue Earth City Library. It is dated April 6, 1861.
In it, the editor wrote that the paper would be “devoted to the interests of the people of Faribault County.” That motto hasn’t changed much in 150 years – we still have the very same goal at the Register in 2011.
Subscription price was $1.50, and the editor wrote that he would “accept anything that grew or anything that was made – except counterfeit money – as payment.” That part has changed – we accept checks or plastic.
When the Indian disturbance started, the newspaper donated 100 pounds of printing lead to be made into bullets. That wasn’t all they did. Blackmer, the editor, enlisted. He was listed as being 19 years old in the army’s records. He was actually about 15 years old.
On Aug. 20, 1862 he was shot in the face while serving at Fort Ridgely. Details are sketchy, but he survived and was given a discharge for his wounds on Oct. 28, 1862.
Another Blue Earth man, Charles Rose, was wounded in that same battle and recovered from his wounds. He was also listed as 19 when he enlisted.
Mark M. Greer, also of Blue Earth, was 18. He was killed in that battle, and is buried in a mass grave about one quarter mile from what remains of that old fort.
Learning that one of the first newspapermen in Blue Earth was wounded brought up thoughts of the two journalists killed and two wounded recently in Libya.
Granted, Blackmer was a soldier, and not on assignment for his newspaper. The others were working newsmen and photojournalists, covering the war.
Every year there are many journalists killed or wounded while doing their job.
In fact, in 2010, 44 were killed around the world. There have been 16 killed so far this year. Since 1992, 861 have lost their lives while performing their jobs. Many more have suffered wounds or been kidnapped and held hostage.
You may wonder what happened to Frank A. Blackmer after he was discharged from the army?
One would guess he came back to Blue Earth and became the editor. However, that is not correct.
There is some more to the story.
Franklin Amos Blackmer was actually born in Amherst, Ohio on January 16, 1847 – or maybe 1848, the son of a doctor/farmer.
His family had moved to a farm near Albert Lea.
A good guess is he came to Blue Earth from Albert Lea at the age of 15 to work on the newspaper.
So, after being mustered out of the army, he returned home to Freeborn County, went to school and eventually became a doctor, surgeon and drugstore keeper.
He married a woman named Francis (Franc) Wedge and had one son, Raymond C. Blackmer.
Dr. Franklin Amos Blackmer died on July 11, 1900 and is buried in Freeborn County.