Among the forgotten personalities of early Morrison county history shines the eccentric and outspoken Arthur DeLacy Wood, pioneer newspaperman who founded 48 newspapers during his controversial lifetime, including the Little Falls Courier in 1874. A. DeLacy, as he was known, was born in Sauk Rapids in the 1850’s, son of William H. Wood, a prominent Sauk rapids lawyer and newspaper editor, and Julia A.Wood, a famous novelist and newspaper editor in her own right. A. DeLacy followed the path of his parents by starting his first newspaper in Wisconsin by 1872 when only 19 years old. In 1874 he moved to Morrison County and established the Little Falls Courier. It was a “small but spicey paper”, according to county historian Nathan Richardson, who compared Wood “to a sailing vessel” found to “carry too much sail for the ballast”. A. DeLacy sold the Little Falls courier in 1876 to H.C. Stivers who changed the name to the Transcript and that paper would live until 1982.
After leaving Little Falls, A. DeLacy Wood went on to establish a pattern of establishing newspapers in small communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and both Dakotas. After getting a paper up and running, he would sell it, then move on to another locale and repeat the cycle, often being the subject himself of news items which appeared in papers around the region, due to his outspoken nature and love for John Barleycorn. The Transcript would report on his exploits over the years which, taken together, read like an index of regional newspapers founded by none other than A. DeLacy Wood. In 1881, he operated the Caledonia “Northern Signal”, but by 1887 had started the Gogebic “Mining World” and the Two Harbors “Iron Port”. He founded the Grand Marais, Minnesota “Pioneer” in 1891, and went to Grand Marais, Michigan, in 1895 to start the “Herald”. This led journalists to wryly comment, “By going to this place the versatile A. DeLacy overcomes the necessity of purchasing a new heading and date lines … it is current rumor among the newspaper boys of his acquaintance that Mr. Wood can now start a paper at nearly any town in the West and dig up the appropriate heading out of his accumulated stack.”
Wheaton Fuller, publisher of the Transcript, made no attempt to hide his disdain for Wood, commenting in 1894, when A. DeLacy moved back to St. Cloud, that “it is pretty tough luck on that locality”. Yet the Transcript printed a lengthy letter from Wood in 1896 when he spent several months in the inebriate asylum. The following year found him launching the Finley, North Dakota, “Golden slope”, which led the Transcript to report, “He has started only three new papers during the year, and not being satisfied with this record is looking around for new fields.” The roll call of his efforts is impressive and includes papers at Foley, Ronneby, Pelican Rapids, Milaca, Carlton, Frazee, Sauk Centre, Beaver Bay, Breckenridge, Herman, Biwabik, and numerous other Minnesota locales – not to mention a long list of Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan papers. After his death in 1911, his son reported that A. DeLacy had founded and then sold a grand total of 48 newspapers, a feat probably never to be equalled. When he started the Ely “Iron Dynamo” in 1903, the Transcript noted “as is customary with new newspapers, A. DeLacy Wood is its editor.”
A. DeLacy would struggle through his long battle with alcoholism, was committed to asylums, and at one point even became an evangelist, while his wife was left to operate his newspaper. However, he was widely known in the five state area for his journalistic accomplishments, and if he was not busy establishing a paper, he managed to be the subject of humorous newspaper articles. A. Delacy Wood may have been forgotten by history, but his legacy lives through the newspapers he created.
By Bruce Mellor
Copyright 1993, Morrison County Historical Society