Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Press Release

Books Shares Reports & Quips of a Small-Town Newsman

Although Freeland Dexter wrote about Lone Rock, Wisconsin, the characters and situations are instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with small-town life.

By - Oct 4th, 2016 09:26 am
The News from Lone Rock: Observations and Witticisms of a Small-Town Newsman.

The News from Lone Rock: Observations and Witticisms of a Small-Town Newsman.

If Thornton Wilder depicted a real place in his sensational play “Our Town,” then Freeland Dexter would have been the newsman who covered it. At the turn of the twentieth century, this real, wise and witty correspondent reported all the news in the bustling railroad town of Lone Rock, Wisconsin — from the significant to the trivial, the tragic to the comical — for the Weekly Home News of neighboring Spring Green. This fall, the Wisconsin Historical Society Press teamed with Dexter’s great granddaughter Deanna R. Haney to publish a collection of his most fascinating, amusing and poignant reports in The News from Lone Rock: Observations and Witticisms of a Small-Town Newsman.

Whether he was recording who grew the biggest watermelon, teasing the local lovebirds, or taking a side on the ever-controversial question of whether the town should go dry, Dexter wrote with distinctive mirth and with an obvious affection for his town and its people. He could rail against the cruel treatment of horses in one paragraph, bemoan a lack of news in the next, and then clue readers in to the latest developments, including slang-once clarifying to readers that “dude” refers to a “50 cent man in a $50 suit of clothes.” His column did more than just inform or poke fun; he took great pride in the advances of his town, commiserated in its losses, and ruminated on universal themes.

Although he wrote about Lone Rock, Wisconsin, the characters and situations are instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with small-town life. Looking back on Dexter’s work lends a living voice to the developments of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from electric lighting to cars to international conflict, and takes readers on a journey to a world that was both simpler and changing fast.


Freeland Dexter, 1847-1912, lived most of his life in Lone Rock, Wisconsin. In addition to being the Lone Rock correspondent for the Spring Green Weekly Home News, Dexter worked as a farmer, beekeeper, and school teacher, played the drums in the Lone Rock Brass Band, and at various times operated a shoe store, ice cream parlor, and millinery store in town. Dexter’s work might have been consigned to historical obscurity, were it not for the efforts of his great-granddaughter Deanna R. Haney, who spent hours sorting through nearly 30 years of Dexter’s columns. She wrote two books on the family’s genealogy before curating this collection and lives in Spring Green.


Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 — Book Talk & Signing
Time: TBA
Location: Sterling North Book & Film Festival, Edgerton, Wis. 
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 — Book Launch Event
Time: 3 p.m.

Location:  Arcadia Books, Spring Green, Wis.
Join Spring Green resident Deanna R. Haney, the great granddaughter of Lone Rock newsman Freeland Dexter who will share some her grandfather’s work as well as the stories of how she came to collect and share it in the new Wisconsin Historical Society Press book, “The News from Lone Rock.” A book signing will follow.

The Wisconsin Historical Society Press has been publishing the best of Wisconsin history and culture, as part of the Wisconsin Historical Society, since 1855

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