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The Landmark ready to start its 139th year

Platte County's oldest newspaper started publication shortly after assassination of Lincoln

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Much of this compilation of Landmark history will be printed in a millennium legacy book to be published by the Platte County Historical Society, due out in Spring 2004. Readers get a sneak preview this week. See the Between the Lines column on page 2 for additional comments.)

This newspaper will soon start its 139th year of publication.

The Landmark Newspaper, located in Platte City, is the oldest newspaper in Platte County and one of the oldest newspapers in the state of Missouri. To get a feel for the history of The Landmark, consider that its first issue came out less than six months after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The first Landmark was published at Weston on September 28, 1865 with the motto "Remove not the ancient landmarks" with Harry Howard as publisher and C.L. Wheeler as the editor. The Landmark was been published weekly without interruption since that time.

In its early days, The Landmark espoused the cause of the Confederacy and consistently promoted the Democratic party in politics.

On June 6, 1871 the first Landmark was issued at Platte City where it has since been published. The Reveille (another Weston paper) was consolidated with The Landmark with Maj. Thomas W. Park (father of the late Missouri Gov. Guy B. Park) and J.L. McCluer as editors.

The Landmark was moved from Weston to Platte City into what was known as The Fleshman House at the foot of Main Street. One interesting story handed down is that when the printing equipment was being moved from Weston to Platte City, Kansas Redleggers—a group on the opposite side of the newspaper on Civil War issues—intercepted and dumped the presses into the river.

In January 1873, The Landmark office was moved from the Fleshman House into the Wells and Woodson building in Platte City, on the lot where Wells Bank now stands.

In 1874, subscription price of The Landmark was $2 per year. In March of 1878, Thomas W. Park was the sole editor. The next year he sold it to W. C. Julian. On June 2, 1879 The Landmark was sold by the sheriff, under a chattel mortgage, with power of sale, on one undivided half interest and Norton B. Anderson purchased it for $450.

T. W. Park became the sole editor on July 11, 1879. Then on Oct. 10, 1879 an Episcopalian minister, Rev. T. R. Valliant, became the business manager. In a short time Valliant became proprietor and editor.

Feb. 4, 1881, The Landmark and the Advocate, another Democratic paper in Platte City, consolidated and kept the name The Landmark. Park retired in 1882 after 15 years as editor. Then Valliant and H.C. Cockrill edited the paper with James McClure as a silent partner.

About this time, the office of The Landmark moved again, into the upstairs of a brick building on the site where the Central Platte Fire District headquarters now stands near Second and Main.

After the consolidation, The Landmark began to assume considerable state prominence. It was full of local news, correspondence, literature, and poetry. In 1888 Valliant, determined to devote his life to the ministry, sold The Landmark to John B. Mundy who operated the business for two years, then sold it to W.T. Jenkins.

After Jenkins took over, The Landmark building burned. He then moved into a building especially built and designed for The Landmark by Gus Smith in 1890.

About 1898, the newspaper press broke down completely, forcing Jennings to buy a new one. The landlord and Jenkins disagreed over the installation of the press and engine. An increase in rent was demanded, so The Landmark moved in March of 1899 into the building at 252 Main Street, where it is still located today.

This building was built in 1869 by Dr. G.W. Smith as a drug store and a post office. In later years a grocery store and hardware store occupied the building.

In 1899, The Landmark installed a huge hand-fed Babcock press that would be used until 1979. That press can still be found in The Landmark office today. A gasoline engine originally furnished the power to run the press until an electric motor was installed in 1928.

Jenkins died in 1916 and Max Jones, who was the shop foreman, managed The Landmark for the estate.

On Jan. 1, 1918, Jones purchased The Landmark and became the editor and publisher. Jones had begun serving an apprenticeship in printing at The Landmark at the age of 16 in 1892. Jones served as editor and publisher until his death in 1956.

Until 1923, all the type had been set by hand. In May 1923, a Linotype machine was purchased. The Linotype allowed the operator to set in the same length of time more type than could ordinarily be produced by five or six men working by hand.

In 1933, Mary Hymer was employed by Jones as the Linotype operator. She continued to work for The Landmark for several decades.

In 1929, Roland Giffee began working in The Landmark office as a regular employee on an after-school and Saturday basis and became a full time employee when he finished school in 1932. Giffee was a proficient printer who continued to work for The Landmark until the early 1980's.

After Max Jones' death in 1956, his widow, Lucile L. Jones, took over as editor and publisher. She served in that role—with Giffee handling printing chores and Hymer running the Linotype—until she sold The Landmark in 1979 to Dwayne Foley of Wathena, Kan. Foley was the owner of weekly newspapers in northeast Kansas.

Mrs. Jones had become acquainted with Foley through the years, periodically asking him to come help run/repair the Babcock press and other Landmark equipment.

In the first issue under his ownership in November of 1979, Foley switched The Landmark from the old hot lead style of printing to the Compugraphic/offset method of printing, the modern thing at the time.

Much of the old letterpress equipment can still be found in The Landmark office today. The Linotype machine and several typecase chests full of many drawers of handset type are still on hand, along with the Babcock press and a couple of small job presses.

Foley, 50, died of a heart attack in July of 1980, just months after buying The Landmark. The paper continued to be owned and published by his widow, Ethel Mae Foley.

Veteran newspaperman Clay McGinnis, with previous experience at the Independence Examiner and other publications, was hired as editor. He served in that position from 1980 until his death in August of 1993.

Dwayne Foley's youngest son, Ivan Foley, who had worked at the paper as a reporter since 1982, took over as editor after McGinnis' death in August of 1993.

Soon thereafter, in November of 1993, The Landmark became the first newspaper in the family-owned group to make the conversion to desktop publishing computers, buying two IBM-compatible units in November 1993.

Today, the newspaper has five computer workstations.

Ivan Foley and his wife, Linda, purchased the entire Landmark operation and its building at 252 Main Street in Platte City. Ivan serves as editor/publisher.

Current Landmark employees include office manager Cindy Rinehart, who has been with the paper nearly 11 years; reporter Shana Haines; and advertising representatives Melissa Orcutt and Pamela Robison. Lindsey Foley, 17, daughter of the owners, gathers the weekly "Looking Back" feature, highlighting the news from 15, 30 and 45 years ago. Bill Hankins, a retired journalism instructor, contributes award-winning photographic features on a regular basis. Randy Foley, brother of the owner, helps out on press day by trucking copies of the paper to various news outlets and the post office.

The Landmark has built a statewide reputation for editorializing in strong fashion and entertaining its readers at the same time. In the last decade, The Landmark has broken from its earlier stance of only endorsing candidates/policies of the Democratic party.

The Landmark has been the fastest growing paid circulation newspaper in Platte County for several consecutive years.

In 2001, the newspaper unveiled its site on the worldwide web, plattecountylandmark.com, which quickly became a hot spot for Internet users. An interactive community forum, where opinions and thoughts can be posted by those visiting the site, and features by columnists Greg Hall, CK Rairden, Brian Kubicki and Foley have helped the site grow a weekly audience of more than 11,000 page view visitors.

The Landmark is the official legal notices publication for Platte County and also continues to provide printing services.