La Feria News

One-Hundred Years

The following story is a chapter from a manuscript entitled The Bicentennial History of La Feria, Texas written by Eddie Gathings McNail in 1975. Throughout the coming year we’ll be reprinting
sections of her research into the history of La Feria. We will also be reprinting stories and photos
from La Feria New’s past as the newspaper celebrates its 100 year anniversary.

P. W. (Preston Webb) Smith Founder & Publisher of La Feria’s first newspaper.

La Feria’s first newspaper was published in 1913 under the title THE LA FERIA LEADER. It was an
“up and coming” newspaper with ads from San Antonio and Houston.

One ad read: “Texas Matrimonial Bureau in San Antonio. Enclosed 10 cents for particulars. High
class ladies and gentlemen, confidential.”

Another read: “Lydia Pinkham’s Medicine for Ladies’ monthly complaint. Order soon.”

The LA FERIA NEWS was established December 6, 1923 with L.S. Babo as publisher.

Anna Harpst came to the Valley from Ohio in 1924, a young widow with two small children. Earlier
her father had come to this section with a land company and had bought a citrus grove. After selling
insurance for a year, Mrs. Harpst went into partnership to lease the local weekly newspaper, the LA
FERIA NEWS. When the year’s lease expired in 1926, the partners bought the newspaper and
moved the business into the present location on 124 West Oleander. (in 1975 at the time of this
writing -ed.)

In 1946, Mrs. Harpst sold the LA FERIA NEWS to Kenneth L. Larson. R.W. Hunley and Max H.
Robinson bought the paper from Larson in 1947.

In 1948, Robinson and Hunley, publishers of the LA FERIA NEWS, sold the newspaper and printing
plant to a newly-formed corporation to be known as the La Feria Publishing Company. W.P. Briscoe,
city manager of Harlingen, Sam Gerald, Valley newspaperman, and Karl M. Gibbon, Harlingen
attorney, were members of the corporation.

As a result, Gerald resigned as Farm Editor of the Valley Morning Star. Prior to his connection with
the Star, he had been managing editor of the Valley Evening Review and before that, he had been
editor, publisher and advertising manager from time to time on various Texas and southwestern
weekly and daily newspapers.

Undated photo (circa 1930’s) showing the offices of LA FERIA LEADER and its printing facility next door to founder Preston Webb Smith’s home on Magnolia

He said, “The News is an old and well-established newspaper, and any change will be to enhance its
place in the community. La Feria is a good city and it deserves the continuation of a community

In 1952, nat Johnson became the business manager of the paper, which sold to the News
Publishing Company, Inc. of San Benito. The same year, Mrs. O.H. Lackenmeyer of Cushing,
Oklahoma headed the company as president while Mr. and Mrs. Steve M. Elam of San Benito were
the other stockholders. Mr. Elam was manager of the corporation.

The present owner (in 1975-ed.) of the LA FERIA NEWS is Steve M. Elam of San Benito, who has
owned the paper for some twenty three years, with Mrs. Glenna Elam Hayes as publisher and editor.
A worthy newspaper is a mirror of the activities, achievements and people of any city. The LA FERIA
NEWS is such a newspaper.

Editor’s note – As previously noted in the text, this summary was current to 1975 when Eddie
Gathings McNail initially wrote The Bicentennial History of La Feria.

Don and Mary Beth Wright bought the paper in 1997 and ran the newspaper until January 1, 2020 when new and current owner Landon Jennings took over the paper.

The La Feria News is published weekly and has a circulation of 5000. The paper is available online

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