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The last issue for the Union and Star-Press

By JUDY SCHLESSELMAN, Union/Star-Press reporter

Due to staff reductions mandated by Gannett Co. Inc. and fueled by the country’s worsening economy, this will be the final issue of The Belle Plaine Union and the South Benton Star-Press.

Beginning with the Jan. 7, 2009 issue, the two papers will be combined into one newspaper, The Star Press Union, serving all residents of southern Benton County.

Subscribers to both the Union and Star-Press will begin receiving The Star Press Union next week. The newspaper will continue to be published on Wednesday.

The Belle Plaine Union has served the community since 1866. As we bid it goodbye, if in name only, a brief look at its history seems a fitting farewell.

A number of newspapers have served Belle Plaine from its earliest days. Forerunners of The Belle Plaine Union were the Benton County Banner and The Belle Plaine Transcript, founded in 1866.

The newspapers went through a series of owners and name changes throughout the years. The Transcript was renamed The Belle Plaine Union, then the Every Other Daily Union, which published Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. A subsequent owner changed The Union to a semi-weekly publication.

O.C. Burrows purchased the newspaper in 1910 and managed it with his sons Robert, John and Richard.

Burrows bought out other city papers – The Belle Plaine Herald in 1919 and The Belle Plaine Gazette in 1943, a paper started in the early 1920s.  Since 1943, The Union has been the city’s only newspaper.

 After O.C. Burrows death in 1952, The Union remained in the Burrows family until 1969, when Don Magdefrau, then editor, and the late James Turnbull, publisher and owner of The Marengo Pioneer-Republican, purchased the paper. 

The Marengo Publishing Corporation (MPC) was founded in 1963, with the purchase of The Blairstown Press and The Marengo Pioneer-Republican. The Belle Plaine Union and The Norway Star were purchased in 1967 and The Star, The Press and the Benton Community Forum, Van Horne, combined to form The South Benton Star-Press.

The Belle Plaine Union and The South Benton Star- Press formed the Newspapers of Benton County in 1975.

MPC president Mike Simmons and partners, Don Magdefrau and G. Alan Sieve, purchased controlling interest in MPC in 1987. Another partner, Dan DeBettignies, was added in 1990 when MPC expanded into Poweshiek County.

In 2000, MPC was sold to The Des Moines Register and Tribune Co. and Gannett Co. Inc.

Magdefrau retired in 2007 as publisher of the Newspapers of Benton County. His journalism career with The Belle Plaine Union spanned more than 55 years. His column, As I See It, ran for 40 years.

DeBettignies was named publisher of MPC earlier this year, overseeing operations of seven newspapers and three shoppers in Iowa, Benton and Poweshiek counties.

The Star Press Union office will remain in Belle Plaine at 502 7th Ave. The phone number is 319-444-2520 or 866-601-3131. The fax is 319-444-2522.

To reach the Star Press Union staff by email, send information to:

Jim Magdefrau: or

Judy Schlesselman:

Susan Svoboda:

Tammy Rinderknecht:













UPDATED December 30, 2008 10:37 AM

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