The first newspaper in the small town of Williams, MN, was printed in 1916 by Sam Sherman.
Because of the beautiful sky effect often seen in Northern Minnesota, Sherman named the weekly newspaper the Williams Northern Light. The publication sold for $1.00 for a one year subscription. That first Northern Light office was located behind Lundsten’s Store on Main Street.
Sherman sold the paper in 1922 to John R. Norris and his son Robert. The father/son duo successfully published the Williams Northern Light for four years. Robert bought out his father in 1926 and operated the business until 1951 when Mr. and Mrs. Ed Lockhart bought the newspaper. During the Norris years the Northern Light moved to a new office building located on Highway 11.
Joyce Lockhart continued to print the paper for six years after her husband’s death but eventually retired and sold the newspaper to LaRae (Kroeze) Prosser in December, 1979.
During the Lockharts’ tenure at the NL, the newspaper switched from hot metal to offset production and were the first in the area to do so, using phototypesetting.
On January 1, 1985, the Williams Northern Light again changed hands when it was sold to Julie (Nordine) and Paul Gillie. The Gillies built a new office building on the corner of Meloney and Main Avenue and switched to the desktop publishing process, one of the first newspapers in the region to do so. In 1994 Paul Gillie sold his interest in the newspaper to Page 1 Publications owned by Rollin Bergman and Julie Nordine.
After many years of operating two offices, one in Williams and one in Baudette, the main office of The Northern Light was moved to Baudette in 2000.
One interesting fact about The Northern Light is that of the four of the publishers were under the age of 21 when they purchased the newspaper (Robert Norris, LaRae Prosser, Paul Gillie and Julie Nordine Bergman)
In May of 2013, Rollin and Julie (Nordine) Bergman purchased the Baudette Region from Red Wing Publishing Company. The two newspapers were merged to become the Northern Light Region.
The Baudette Region was started in 1903 by Carl Dahlquist and George Davis and originally published under the name The Rainy River Region.
The name of the paper was changed to The Baudette Region when editor Bill Noonan purchased it in 1912. Known for his editorial quips — “Noonanisms” — he served as editor until suffering a stroke in 1955. He died on February 14, 1957 at the age of 66.
After Noonan’s stroke, Bill Kellogg became acting editor and would eventually run The Region until 1970, when he sold it to Harry Davey of the International Falls Journal. Forest Abbott took over and served as editor until 1974, when Bill Beck bought the paper from Davey and the Daily Journal. Beck ran the paper briefly, from 1974-76, and then sold it back to the Daily Journal — soon to be owned by Red Wing Publishing.
John Oren served as editor from 1976 to 2001, making him the second-longest-tenured Region editor behind Noonan. After leaving the Region, Oren continued to work as an independent contractor for the Northern Light, reporting on government, sports and many other events throughout Lake of the Woods County. Oren passed away in January 2014.
Penny Hirst followed as Region editor from 2001 to 2012 before Brian Peterson took over in July 2012. Peterson served as editor until the Region merged with the Northern Light.
Doris Knutson has served as editor of the Northern Light since January 2013, and continues as the editor of the Northern Light Region.