La Feria News

The La Feria Leader and La Feria News

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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 as the city celebrates its 100 year anniversary.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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 newspaper.”

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.

(l-r front) Michelle Villarreal, La Feria News Publisher Don Wright, Mayor Steve Brewer, La Feria News Editor Mary Beth Tankersley Wright and (l-r back) Commissioners Angelica Baldivia, John Betancourt, John Hernandez, Mayor Pro-Tem Lori Weaver and Victor Gonzalez, Jr.  Representative Longoria’s office also presented a Texas flag that was flown over the State Capitol at Austin to the newspaper.

(l-r front) Michelle Villarreal, La Feria News Publisher Don Wright, Mayor Steve Brewer, La Feria News Editor Mary Beth Tankersley Wright and (l-r back) Commissioners Angelica Baldivia, John Betancourt, John Hernandez, Mayor Pro-Tem Lori Weaver and Victor Gonzalez, Jr. Representative Longoria’s office also presented a Texas flag that was flown over the State Capitol at Austin to the 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 work to promote the positive activities of the city and its residents. Married for almost 40 years, the couple works as a team with Don handling the sales and Mary Beth running the editorial side of the business.

In 2013, Mayor Steve Brewer and Michelle Villarreal of State Representative Oscar Longoria’s office presented the Wrights with a resolution from the State of Texas House of Representatives celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the community newspaper.

The La Feria News is published weekly and has a circulation of 5000. The paper is available online at www.laferianews.net. The Wrights expressed their appreciation for the support of the city, school and local residents throughout the last sixteen years.

 

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