The History of Marceline and its Newspapers

by Hank Miller

This is my 1962 Mizzou School of Journalism term paper on Marceline’s History of newspapers. The paper covers Marceline’s first papers from 1888, until the interview with Joe Belic in 1962. It is interesting to read about the early days, the depression and War I and War II with the Santa Fe canteen, and other memorable events. The paper was typewritten and graded by my Professor with his corrections. Material was collected from microfiche and old newspaper articles found at the University library. Enjoy the history of our town.


A Term Paper Presented to the Faculty of the School of Journalism University of Missouri

In Partial Fulfillment of the Course Requirements History and Principles of Journalism

by Henry R. Miller Jr., 1962










CHAPTER IX – THE NEWS AND WORLD WAR II….. – Page twenty-five

CHAPTER X – THE NEWS AFTER THE WAR. – Page twenty-eight

CHAPTER XI – THE NEW EDITOR. – Page thirty-two

CHAPTER XII – THE NEWS TODAY. – Page thirty-seven

bibliography – Page thirty-nine


1888-1890 The United States exploded with the advent of new railways throughout the Midwest. One of the largest railroad systems in the plains, the Santa Fe, ran through North Missouri. The Santa Fe did more than build railroad lines; it had a by-product – cities.

One of these cities grew from a village of tents which boarded railroad employees. On January 28, 1888 a lot of land was sold (from Clarence M. Kendrick, The History and Biography of Linn County Missouri (Chicago: Henry Taylor & Company, 1912) pp. 213-214.) From this minute piece of property sprang one of the fastest growing cities in Missouri during the final years of the last century. On March 6, 1888, 2 a small town was incorporated (Ibid., p. 213.) Its name, Marceline, was in honor of the daughter of the chief civil engineer who had helped plan the layout of Marceline. His daughter’s name was Marcelina.

The layout plan of the city was completed and Linn County, Missouri, had its youngest member of the family to compete with Brookfield, Linneus, and Bucklin as the metropolis of Linn County.

A decade later, Marceline had grown to 3,500 population. These people were from all walks of life. The college student had discarded his college school song to bump elbows with an immigrant railroad worker. The eastern businessman had taken Horace Greeley’s advice, “Go West, young man, go west,” and moved to towns with promise as Marceline.

Marceline had few, if any, laws, and the city was clustered together by saloons and houses of ill-repute. Murders and robberies plagued the new establishment, but Marceline was determined to survive and possess the better mercantile stores of the 1890’s.

In 1888, when the city was established, records cite three newspapers which began to bring the news to the new settlement. These papers were the first in a long line to write the news of Marceline and become influential in the city’s future progress.

The following pages, which present the history of Marceline newspapers from 1888 to 1962, also reflect on the history of the city itself. The survey is written chronologically throughout the 74 years in an attempt to establish a coherent, interesting history of Marceline and its newspapers.


“A future as bright as the orb of day, as prosperous as Mark Hanna’s dreams, as full of hope and promise as the rosy visions of the morning of youth, stretches out in panorama before us, and at the end of another decade there rises a city of parks, of great schools, magnificent homes, a city of the twentieth century with a population of 10,000, standing on the site of Marceline of the 19th century where stood in 1888 a village of tents.”

This article appeared in The Marceline Mirror, May 6, 1898 in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the township of Marceline. The young, thriving town had reached a population of 3,500 and proudly boasted “all types of legitimate business represented. (The Marceline Mirror, May 6, 1898) It had grown from great coal interests, railroad interest, and was the fastest growing town in North Missouri.

The Marceline Mirror article continued, “Marceline is a better town at 10 years than Brookfield was at 25; a better town than Carrollton, Fayette, Lexington, Independence were at 50; a better town than Kansas City at the commencement of the Civil War.”

This synopsis of a town only a decade old relates but a portion of the public spirit and enthusiasm present in the town’s society and newspapers. Marceline, the youngest town in Linn County, the state of Missouri, had progressed rapidly since its birth in 1888. In that year, Marceline had three newspapers.

The Marceline New Deal, one of the papers established in 1888, will not be discussed in this paper. There is no available information on the paper with the exception of the date it was established, 1888; and the editors which founded it, S. W. Birch and S. G. McDowell. Birch and McDowell will appear in the coming pages concerning another paper, The Marceline Journal.


The Marceline Journal was the first newspaper to be established in the city, and was begun in early 1888 by the combined efforts of Dr. J. A. Smith and William C. Walker, who had purchased the equipment of the old Brookfield Chronicle (The Marceline News, June 15, 1934.) With the press moved to Marceline, they published the first issue. Walker became discouraged by the failure of the first edition and further plagued by the failure of Marceline’s streets to ever be dry. The streets were usually very muddy and would cover the boots of any man who dared to walk across them (Ibid.)

On these grounds, he sold his interest to John W. Northcott who had been living in Linneus. Northcott remained with Dr. Smith for 18 months and aided in molding the paper as an organ for the Republican party (Clarence M. Kendrick, The History and Biography of Linn County Missouri (Chicago: Henry Taylor & Company, 1912), pp. 216-217.)

The Journal remained Republican with the transfer of editorship to James Smith in 1891. Smith promoted the party in his paper by publishing the Republican State ticket as well as the congressional, senatorial, and county. Other columns were filled with large advertisements and many articles cut from other papers as The Chicago Herald or The Chicago News (The Marceline Journal, October 23, 1890.) There was little room remaining for local news, and Smith decided to leave local news out of the paper. This immediately decreased his circulation.

A year later, 1892, Hiram Long and A. E. Nell gained controlling interest in The Journal. They added more local news to the contents, and changed the size to a tabloid. The Journal was not to remain in this form many years before it was changed by another editor, S. W. Dodge.

Dodge purchased The Journal in 1899 and made changes in the paper’s editorial policies as well as the paper’s appearance. In his first edition, February, 11, 1899 he set forth the policies of the paper: “So far as politics are concerned The Journal will be neutral, showing partiality to no party or creed, but working for the best interest of the people of Marceline and Linn County.”

The Journal turned to local personalities for news although national news and cuts from other newspapers still were dominantly scattered throughout the paper. The front page was filled with events concerning the town and its individuals. The stories involving the local society were usually only one sentence long and had no headlines. Line etchings were favored over halftones, and the insides were filled with general news events as the article appearing in the March 2, 1899 issue: “Jesse James acquitted for Leeds train robbery.”

Charles Henry bought The Journal in 1900 and returned the Republican partisanship atmosphere to the paper. Henry was from the old school of journalism and presented Marceline with its first blanket editions. The Journal became eight pages instead of the previous four. These eight were actually one large, uncut sheet which folded into quarters. When spread out, it was the one sheet with print on each side (The Marceline Journal, March 30, 1900.)

The August 1, 1900 issue spread a three-column banner across the front page, “Republican County Convention.” This was the first edition by S. W. Birch and Charles B. McDowell who succeeded Henry. Birch and McDowell were blunt in their editorial which set forth their policies and those of the future Journal: “We are Republicans to the core.” The paper became a strong organ for North Missouri Republicans once again, and party politics was the main news story of the day.

Birch and McDowell soon sold the paper to William Hamby, an experimenter, and ran a semi-weekly from July 11, 1903 to December, 1903. The Journal‘s name was changed to The Semi-Weekly Journal when Hamby published his first edition, and he boasted to his 1,500 circulation that the Semi-Weekly Journal could be bought for only $1.00 a year while other papers, “not as good as The Journal” (The Marceline Semi-Weekly Journal, July 11, 1903,) were receiving $1.25 or $1.50. Hamby’s experiment failed because advertisers didn’t think their ads were serving any useful purpose by appearing twice a week. Hamby also decided that it was too expensive to publish two papers a week and changed the paper’s name back to The Journal.

Hamby welcomed L. P. Wakeman of Scranton, Kansas, as his partner in the editorial of March 24, 1905. These two men were to publish The Journal until November 23, 1906 (Beginning with the September 20, 1905 edition of The Journal, L. P. Wakeman and William H. Hamby also issued a magazine section separately within the paper. The magazine was comprised of fiction stories, feature stories, and halftones. The magazine was discontinued when Lyle became editor in 1906,) when Hamby decided to tour the counties and lecture at churches. At this time, Alden Lyle took responsibility as editor of The Journal (Lyle purchased The Marceline Mirror in 1912 and formed The Marceline Journal-Mirror. Records do not reveal any specific dates concerning the merger or details of the actual transaction.) Lyle immediately dropped the conventional front page advertisements of the paper and balanced the ads throughout the paper without disturbing the distribution of the news layouts. He emphasized local news and carried fiction stories in the form of weekly serials. Lyle continued to be the editor of The Journal until it was sold in 1929.


The main competitor of The Marceline Journal during this era was The Marceline Mirror, which was established August 9, 1888 by Ruede and Dodge as an organ for the Democratic party. Dodge sold his interest to Harry Brodrick of Osborne, Kansas and the paper rose to a circulation of 625 (The History and Biography of Linn County Missouri, p. 216-217.)

The Mirror at this time was a six-column edition filled with summaries of the daily news under headings as “World at Large” and “Missouri State News.” (The Marceline Mirror, October 30, 1890.) The publication printed its party ticket on the state and county level as did The Journal. Much of the paper was filled with large advertisements.

In 1894, Walter Cash of Macon, Missouri purchased Ruede’s interest in The Mirror. Cash was a minister of the old Baptist faith and a good businessman. He brought with him the Messenger of Peace, a secular publication which…

The History of Marceline and its Newspapers
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