From the Men About Town series, appearing in the Appleton (MN) Press. This article was written by Martin's friends as a surprise, appearing in the 1949 Christmas edition of the Press. The complete article is available here.
"Martin McGowan is a one hundred per cent Swift county, Minnesota, product. He was born at Kerkhoven on September 27, 1887. The next year he came to Benson, where he lived until January 1, 1914, when he, in partnership with his brothers, Allen and Joe - bought The Appleton Press from Homer Sigler. Thus, except for an interlude for war service in 1918, he has lived a year in Kerkhoven, 25 years in Benson, and 36 years in Appleton. He likes it here.
"It can well be said that Martin is a graduate of the College of Hard Knocks. He was just past twelve years old when his father, the late Patrick McGowan, died and he as the oldest boy in the family and his sister, Gertrude, took up the task of bread winners for a family of nine.
"He was forced to drop out of school in his sophomore year in high school, and for a time held the post of delivery boy for a grocery store. In 1900 he took the apprenticeship job--devil to the trade--in the Monitor, serving first under Julius Thorson and Leslie Matthews, then publishers of the Monitor. He was with the Monitor from 1900 to 1914 and in 1910 had acquired an interest in the paper, which he relinquished on coming to Appleton.
"During the world war, he served for a time [January 1 to September 1, 1918] as publicity director in the Federal Food Administration under A. D. Wilson and in August, 1918, went to Camp Grant, Ill., where he continued in training until the signing of the armistice.
"The Appleton Press is the oldest newspaper in Swift county, having been founded on April 1, 1880, by George Gray. Come next April 1, it will have served the community for 70 years, with Martin being in command just more than half of this period. The firm built the present plant in 1920, and it stands out as one of the finest in this section.
"Martin is a former president of the Seventh District Editorial Association as well as the Minnesota State Editorial Association. He is a former president of the Appleton Association, and a charter member of the Appleton Golf club and its first president in 1928. He is a past commander of Russell Johnson Post No. 72 of the American Legion. He served for a number of years on the Appleton library board and did much to develop its facilities. During World War II he was captain of Co. M, Minnesota State Guard, for a period of three years.
"He served one three-year term on the village council when, through his persistent efforts, Appleton secured its airport and the parks of the village came into being. At other times he also served as justice of the peace and acting postmaster. He is a charter member of the Appleton Branch Chapter, National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, and has been active since its beginning in 1934.
"He is a charter member of the Marsh Lake Social club and it is said that at its meetings he frequently leads the singing.
"He has been a consistent supporter of the Democratic party and was secretary of the Democratic State Central committee in 1924. He was one of the Minnesota electors chosen to cast a vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Nance Garner in the electoral college of 1932. During the campaign he served as chairman of the Seventh District Roosevelt-Garner campaign committee.
"Martin belongs to Sigma Delta Chi, honorary journalistic fraternity, and is affiliated with St. John's Catholic church, serving now as trustee.
"His hobby has been flower gardening and he is happy when he can talk of delphiniums, snapdragons and the numerous varieties of flowers that only the expert can pronounce with assurance. He has developed the grounds about his home and his flower garden to the point where it is known as one of Appleton's showplaces at 230 North Haven.
"In 1918 he married Olga W. Vieg, of Appleton. She died in 1922, leaving a son, Martin James Jr., now active head of The Press. On June 9, 1934, Martin Sr. was married to Elizabeth V. Kelly, of Grand Forks, North Dakota, and they have one daughter, Eleanor, a student in Appleton high school.".
Martin received notice in May 1918 that he was "liable to call for military service on very short notice." He was to report June 24 in Benson, Minnesota, to entrain for Camp Grant, in Rockford, Illinois, to begin army training.This was revised to August 28where he was assigned for Psychological Examiners duty and later to Officers Training School. After the armistice, he was among the first of the soldiers to arrive home.
Martin died in his home in Appleton, Minnesota at age 66. He is buried in Appleton Cemetery, Appleton, Minnesota. He received many editorial tributes from neighboring newspaper editors, including:
|Tribute to Martin McGowan Sr.|
"A Brilliant Editor Passes On
"In the death on Monday of Martin McGowan, editor and publisher for many long years of The Appleton Press, the state lost one of its more forceful editorial writers -- a man who pulled no punches, leaving the chips fall wherever they might.
"Although a staunch, tried and true Democrat from birth, Martin McGowan did not hesitate to point out party misgivings. His pen reflected a brilliant mind, filled, too, with natural-born wit and humor.
"In defending a friend, Martin McGowan never turned away. When he believed in a man or a cause, no amount of favors or patronage could sway him. He was an editor of the old school -- all too few of whom we have today. His Appleton Press during his many years at the helm won state and national honors for excellency and editorial content. His loyalty to Appleton was unswerving.
". . . His journalistic ability was acquired by self-education, experience and hard work. His newpaper was a true reflection of his personality and capabilities. Appleton benefited by his early decision to make that his home."
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