The Onida Watchman, Inc. has been reporting the news in Onida, Sully County and the surrounding area since 1883. The first building completed in Onida housed the Onida Journal. Then owned by Frank Everts, the building also served as the Everts’ home.
When John H. Gropengieser came to Sully County in the spring of 1883 he located at Clifton, the county seat at that time. He and William C. Walter established the Sully County Watchman in April of that year. In late 1885 Gropengieser became full owner. Onida had become the county seat in 1885 also so he moved the newspaper to Onida. He purchased a competitive paper, the Onida Journal, and consolidated the two papers in July 1894, changing the name to The Onida Watchman.
Gropengieser had the Onida Journal building moved to Lot 13, Block One, Original Onida at the time of the merger. The Watchman had been located in that same building since late 2002. Over the years the building housed at least three different barbers, three beauty shops, three jewelry shops and a Rawleigh household products store.
In 1894, the Onida Watchman was one of six newspapers in the county, namely: Onida Watchman, Clifton Sun, Carson Herald, Okobojo Times, Norfolk Spy and another Norfolk paper by Maud Major. One history book states that there were at least 15 newspapers in the county at one time.
Gropengieser sold the paper to the Onida Printing Company in 1905, where it was published for only a few months, selling to J. A. Livingston on Nov. 23, 1905, who also owned the Okobojo Times (1894-1929). Livingston moved the office to the second block of South Broadway in what was known as the Phares Building in 1958. After Livingston’s death in 1909 at the age of 38, the family sold the paper to James E. Temmey who moved it to the building (later occupied by the Bakery Cafe that burned in 1995). For over 27 years the Watchman had been printed by foot power. In May 1910, a gasoline engine was installed making "press day" a pleasure. Temmey died in 1918.
In June 1919, Carmon L. Bates purchased the Watchman. It was during his management that the Watchman saw its period of greatest expansion and growth. Those were the years of the financial boom following World War I, and a period of financial harvest for the small town weekly.
In 1927, a business deal was completed whereby the Watchman and the Redfield Journal-Observer exchanged owners and editors, Mr. Bates going to Redfield and George J. Zimmer coming to Onida. Zimmer purchased the building where the Onida National Bank had done business (now the south part of Lamb Motor Co.)
Zimmer published the paper about six years when Mrs. Zimmer assumed ownership. In September 1942, she leased the newspaper to Phillip Hess and his wife Una who published it for 11 years. Mrs. Hess wrote a column entitled "Day by Day" and it was said that many subscribers would invariably turn to her column before reading any other part of the paper.
A fire on Jan. 3, 1944, impaired production but the staff continued to get the paper out on time through the cooperation of printers in Pierre.
On October 1, 1953, the Watchman was sold to E. L. "Spud" Thompson whose goal was to make the Watchman one of the best equipped newspaper and commercial printing plants in central South Dakota.
Alice and Dick Olson purchased the paper in May 1972 and sold it to Parker and Di Knox in July 1978. Alice worked for Parker and in 1996 reassumed ownership, publishing it until her death March 15, 2005. Dick Olson and family continue to own the paper and Marileen Tilberg, who worked with Alice since 1996, was the former Managing Editor.
Since 1972 the paper has moved from the Lamb Motor Co. building to the front of Ken’s Kafe (now the Bakery Cafe), to the Fosness Cleaners building (recently used as a laundromat, then clinic), to the Gamble’s building (now Ultimate Team Sales south of Sunrise Bank), and then back to the original Onida Watchman location that housed several barber and beauty shops over the years.
In December of 2008, The Onida Watchman moved half a block north from their historic building. They are presently located at 106 S. Main Street.