The weekly Santa Cruz Patagonian was published from December 1912 to July 1929. It had five owners during its 17 years of existence. J. B. Price and Wilfred Waddell, “two newspapermen from Douglas” established the newspaper to bring the news to the rapidly growing community of Patagonia. [The Oasis, 11/30/1912]. In September 1917 Howard Keener, an experienced linotype setter and San Rafael Valley farmer, took over as owner and editor. In May 1920 Keener sold the paper to H.R. Sisk, who also managed the Nogales Herald. Eighteen months later Sisk sold the Patagonian back to Keener who resumed his role of editor and publisher until 1929 when he sold the paper to J.H. Fitzpatrick, a newspaperman from New Mexico. [Border Vidette, 3/30/1929]. The first issue of the Patagonian under Fitzpatrick was to be published on Saturday August 10th, but locals instead discovered that Fitzpatrick left town, leaving the keys hanging on the office door. Digital images of most of the Patagonian issues can be viewed on the Patagonia Museum website.

This cartoon of Howard Keener from the Sept. 23, 1934 Arizona Republic suggests he performed as a tumbler in the Floto circus show. The “days before it became Sells-Floto” was between 1902 and 1906, when Keener was in his late 20s and living in California.

Howard Keener was born in Ohio in 1874. In 1880 he was living in Akron with his widowed mother Jeannette and three brothers. His career as a typographer and a labor union supporter began in Ohio; at age 22 he was a delegate of the Akron Typographical Union. [Akron Daily Democrat, 1/6/1896]. Howard left Ohio in early 1900, probably relocating to California. The 1910 U.S. Census lists him as living in Los Angeles with his aunt, Grace Van Osdale. Grace is working as a seamstress. Howard’s occupation is linotype operator, and he is active in the International Typographical Union (ITU).

Grace and Howard moved from Los Angeles to the San Rafael Valley in 1912 where each filed homestead claims. Howard claimed 200 acres in Township 23S, Range 17E, Section 9 & 10, and Grace claimed 120 acres in Section 9. Howard and Grace continued to live together and managed their farming operations jointly. 

Howard also worked as a linotype operator for the Arizona Daily Star, commuting by train to Tucson. [The Border Vidette, 5/1/1915]. He continued his ITU activities and opposed the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) influences in the ITU. [Arizona Daily Star, 8/5/1917]. 

When Howard published his first issue of the Patagonian he wrote: “the editor wishes to impress on the mind of the people the fact that the newspaper is not a business, but an institution, and as such should receive the hearty support and cooperation of the community in which it is published.” [Santa Cruz Patagonian, 12/14/1917]. During his long tenure as editor Howard participated in community activities and Democratic organizations. When Fitzpatrick abandoned the Patagonian Howard did not try to save the paper. He sued Fitzpatrick and sold the printing equipment to a Buckeye publisher. He and Aunt Grace sold their San Rafael properties and moved to Tucson. Howard returned to work at the Arizona Daily Star and resumed his labor union activities, including leading a strike against the Tucson Citizen. [Arizona Daily Star, 10/7/1931].

In December 1929 Howard married Grace Farrell, former Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools who was working for the Arizona state educational department. [Nogales International, 3/7/1930]. The marriage was short-lived. In 1933 Arizona governor, Benjamin Moeur, appointed Howard to the state Industrial Commission, which oversaw the newly established state workers’ compensation system. Aunt Grace died in Tucson in 1939, age 67. Howard returned to Ohio to live with Grace’s sister but by 1950 is back living in Los Angeles. He died in 1963, age 89.