I debated with myself on whether or not to mention this here, but decided to go with it. Saturday was my last day at the Neosho Daily News.
While I have personally told a lot of folks, we had intended to have a little story in the newspaper on it, but between vacations and the Thanksgiving holiday and all, well, it just never quite happened. Things won't get back to normal around here until this week and then, of course, I'll be gone.
So I figured I'd just tell you all here. Yes, I'm taking a public relations/event coordinator position with the City of Neosho. I start Monday. I'll be doing some interesting things that I hope, and believe, will work out for the betterment of our community. However, the name of this column isn't "What-is-Wes-up-to-now?" so I won't write about all of that here. By the way, I will continue to write my weekly "History Guy" column for as long as my friends at the newspaper continue to print it.
I don't like goodbyes (but who does, really?) so I won't take up a lot of space on it. This isn't the solemn "goodbye column." All of my friends at the Neosho Daily News, especially the newsroom folks — John Ford, Todd Higdon, Whitney Saporito and Levi Payton — know how I feel about them and about this newspaper, where I first came to work eight years ago, when I was 22 years old. There was a one-year hiatus, in 2009, when I became full-time director of the Newton County Historical Park, but I still wrote some for the paper during part of that time, and never quite felt as if I had completely left it. No matter where I go or what I am doing for the remainder of my life, I imagine this place will always feel like home to me. I haven't always agreed with certain decisions, but I'd like to think it was for the Neosho Daily News itself that I was arguing on behalf of. I love this paper. That will never change.
The folks here threw me a little farewell party the other day, with a nice cake, but I should have apologized to them for not sticking around very long. As I said, I don't like goodbyes.
And so, instead of getting sentimental, which would be very easy for me to do right now, I'll rerun part of a column I wrote earlier this year, giving a little history of the Neosho Daily News. My newspaper.
The Neosho Daily News can rightly trace its genesis to 1905, with the establishment of the Neosho Daily Democrat. However, since today's Daily News is the child of a merger, the newspaper can also claim another ancestor, the Neosho Times. That weekly newspaper was established much earlier, in 1869 by Archibald M. Sevier (incidentally, Sevier's home still stands across from the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, with Mr. Craig Jones, who until lately was the city planner, being a recent owner).
The Times was not Sevier's first newspaper in Neosho. He had purchased the Neosho Herald a short time after coming to Newton County from Tennessee in 1858, but ceased publication when he joined the Union Army in June 1861, the first year of our War Between the States. In the meantime, Missouri State Guard General Sterling Price confiscated the defunct Herald's disused printing press when he was here in Neosho in October and November of that same year for the purposes of publishing his army's own newspaper, the Extra Missouri Army Argus. By 1862, the press had wound up in Fayetteville, Ark.
One last word about the Herald: It can claim lineage to Neosho's first known newspaper, The Neosho Chief, which was published as of at least 1843, and later changed its name to The Neosho Herald when it was sold (though not yet to Sevier) in 1858.
Sevier returned to Neosho after the war, in 1865, and started the Times four years later. The Times continued publication until it was sold to the Neosho Daily Democrat in 1952. That's quite a press run.
By the way, take a look at the top of one of the buildings near the southeast corner of the Neosho Square. You'll see "The Times" inscribed. That building was constructed around 1902, so it was a later location of that newspaper office.
The Neosho Daily Democrat changed its name to the Neosho Daily News shortly after its purchase of the Neosho Times in 1952 to reflect the views of the entire community, according to secondary sources.
The Neosho Daily Democrat, as mentioned, was established in 1905 as the first successful daily newspaper in Newton County, according to our historical society's published "bible" of county history, from which most of this information comes from.
Our book doesn't say who the first Daily Democrat publisher was, though it was sold in 1910 to Will Anderson and Will Hargis. Anderson was a former employee at the Neosho Times, and Hargis had worked at another weekly newspaper in town, the Miner & Mechanic.
The Daily Democrat remained in the Anderson family until the notable year of 1952 when it was sold to Howard Bush (who the street is named after, of course). At the time, the Daily was located on the corner of Wood and Hickory Streets. Bush moved the paper to its present location at 1006 W. Harmony St. in 1958. The building used to be a poultry hatchery.
After Bush died in 1969, his son-in-law, Kenneth Cope, became publisher. By 1983, Ken and his wife Anne (Bush) Cope were sole owners of the paper, having bought all other shares.
In 1987, the Neosho Daily News took a turn down the road of corporate ownership when it was sold to Chicago-based American Publishing Company. American sold the Daily to Liberty Group Publishing in 1998. Liberty, which at the time was based out of Downer's Grove, Ill., was sold to Fortress Investment Group the same year I started with the paper, in 2005. Liberty was renamed GateHouse Media, Inc. in 2006, and today is headquartered in Perinton, N.Y.
And that's the basic history of the Neosho Daily News, up to the present. Of course, there have been many other community newspapers, all weeklies, throughout the last century and a half in Newton County and Neosho in particular. In Neosho alone, there was the aforementioned Chief, Herald, Times and Miner & Mechanic, as well as the Newton County Tribune, Investigator, Journal, Gazette, Republican, Call & Argus, and Sun. Of late, there was also the Neosho Post, which was established in 1998 by Jimmy Sexton but was later purchased by Liberty, the then-parent company of the Neosho Daily News. For the last several years, until 2010, the Post was a weekly, rural-focused publication. It is no longer published.
In other parts of the county there were the Seneca News-Dispatch (which is still in publication, and owned by Jimmy Sexton), the Newton County News (now based in Neosho and also still in publication, and owned by Chad and Jennifer Hayworth, the latter being Jimmy Sexton's sister), the Fairview News-Herald, Southwest Independent (Granby), Diamond News, Granby Record, Granby Miner, Seneca Observer, Amicus Curio (Stella), Stella Weekly Record, Stella Enterprise, Stella Leader, Newtonia Herald and the Fairview Globe, to name but several, many of which merged into each other. There were probably other newspapers as well, that I have inadvertently missed.
Today, only the Neosho Daily News, the Seneca News-Dispatch, and the Newton County News and exist in Newton County, with the Neosho Daily News being the only daily newspaper, though we have had to cut Monday's paper and there has been no paper on Saturday for at least 20 years or more.
I don't know the future of community newspapers. My personal belief is that they will all convert to online publications within five to 10 years, and be a different multi-media animal altogether. No matter their form, however, there will always be newspapers, even if they are web-based. And to the person who all too gleefully informed me of the pending death of newspapers altogether, I say, just stick around and see, pal.
Wes Franklin serves on the Newton County Historical Society board of directors. He can be reached at 658-8443.