The Washington Missourian
About the Washington Missourian
Bill Miller Sr. is the editor and publisher of the Washington Missourian. His daughters, Susan, is associate editor, and Jeanne, is photo editor. Bill Miller Jr., a lawyer, is on leave to be an assistant in the office of Governor Jay Nixon. The Missourian has been owned and published by members of the James L. Miller, Sr. family since July 1937.
The Missourian has won many national and state awards. It is published twice weekly, Wednesday and Weekend. The Missourian Media Group has editions for Washington and three nearby towns—Union, St. Clair and Pacific. Total paid circulation is more than 13,000. The company also owns the Warren County Record in Warren County, Missouri. The Media Group operates a large central publishing plant, with an 18-unit newspaper press and several sheet fed presses. The commercial plant prints more than 60 publications from the area, including St. Louis. The publications include weekly and monthly newspapers and three small daily newspapers. The company has two locations—Downton and a commercial printing plant on Bluff Road in Washington. The company employs about 120 people, full- and part-time. The Washington Missourian has a good relationship with the Postal Service, especially with our local postmasters. Their cooperation is vital to our operations. The newspaper and our readers depend on the Postal Service.
Washington Missourian History
July 2012 was the 75th anniversary of ownership of the Washington Missourian by members of the James L. Miller, Sr., family. The Missourian actually dates to 1860. It began as the Franklin County Gazette Jan. 5, 1860. In April 1861, the name was changedto the Franklin County News. In April 1867, it became the Franklin County Observer. That name lasted until August 1926 when the namewas changed to the Washington Missourian. That name has prevailedfor the last 86 years. All of the newspapers had their offices and pressesin Washington.
It was in July 1937 when James L. Miller, Sr., acquired The Missourian and assumed the positions of editor and publisher. Those years were difficult economic times with the Depression. It was followed by World War II when there was a labor shortage of men due to the draft. During the war, boys and women helped in the back shop and pressroom to publish the newspaper. The older Miller boys worked after school and on Saturdays. In the early 1940s, the company began to print shoe labels for International Shoe Co. and that helped to subsidize the newspaper operation.
Son Bill, Sr., joined the newspaper full time in November 1953 when he returned from military duty with the Army in Korea. Prior to that, he had graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in history and a minor in political science. He began as sports editor, then became news editor and then editor in the 1950s. Tom Miller joined the company in the late 1950s after college and after serving in the Army in Korea. He began in the circulation and classified ad department, then sold display ads before becoming advertising director. John E. Miller, another son of James L., Sr., came to the company in 1961 after college and after working at a paper company in St. Louis. He also served in the Army Reserve. He later became the commercial printing manager. Jim Miller, Jr., joined The Missourian in the 1960s as photo editor. After college, and military service in Korea, he worked in classified advertising for the Kansas City Star and Times. He left the Star to sell advertising for a radio station, then for a television station. He also sold television advertising in Dallas, Texas, Buffalo, N.Y., and Indianapolis, Ind. During those years he also worked as a freelance photographer. Jim, Jr., died in 1987.
When James L. Miller, Sr., died in 1989, Bill Miller, Sr., and Tom Miller, Sr., became co-publishers. Tom continued to serve as advertising director until he retired in 1996. When Tom retired, Bill then became editor/publisher, a title he holds today. Under restructuring of the company in 1996, John left The Missourian to operate his own commercial printing company. All of the Miller brothers worked part time at the paper from their late grade school years, through high school and college. At one time, with the third generation included, 10 Millers worked full time at The Missourian at the same time. Also working part time at the paper during other periods were other children of the sons of James L. Miller, Sr. With the restructuring of the company in 1996, the family of Bill, Sr., became the owners. Bill, Sr.’s daughters, Susan Miller Warden and Jeanne Miller Wood, who already worked at the paper, were joined by Bill, Jr. Susan became assistant managing editor and Jeanne continued in her role as photo editor. Both Susan and Jeanne joined The Missourian in 1989 after college. Bill, Jr., became general manager when he returned to the company in 1996. He was a reporter for the paper after college for several years and before he went to law school. He worked as a lawyer for a St. Louis law firm before returning to the paper.
Began in 1921
James L. Miller, Sr.’s newspaper career began in 1921 when he graduated from St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, Kan., with a degree in philosophy. He began as a reporter for the Atchison Globe, a daily newspaper. Later in the 1920s, he advanced to the Kansas City Star and Times. His reporting beats included city hall. In the early 1930s, he purchased the weekly Milford (Iowa) Mail. It wasn’t long after that he became aware of the Washington Missourian and he liked what he saw in the town and in Franklin and Warren counties. He tried to buy The Missourian at that time, but the owner, James N. McClure, wasn’t in the mood to sell. Miller never forgot about Washington and when he and a newspaper broker friend approached McClure in 1937, the latter was ready to sell. Thus began the Miller era at The Missourian.
Members of the Miller family have owned and operated the newspaper longer than any of the other owners in the paper’s 152-year history.
When The Missourian acquired the Washington Citizen in 1956, it was decided to continue to publish it, but on a different day. From that time forward, Washington has had a twice-a-week newspaper. The name Citizen was retained until 1984. Both publications then became The Missourian. Many national and state awards have been garnered by the paper under the leadership of the Millers and the talented staff. This year The Missourian won its first international award. The Missourian is the only newspaper to be awarded twice the coveted Honor Medal from the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.
Another significant time in the history of the paper was in late 1961 when the printing operation changed from hot metal to cold type and letterpress to offset printing, a photographic process with the plate on the press making an impression on a rubber blanket on another press cylinder and printing on the paper when it is pressed against the rubber blanket. The Missourian was among the first newspapers in Missouri to switch to offset printing. Then came the age of computers to compose the ads, write the stories, going directly from cameras to computers for photos, paginating the pages and sending them directly to the metal plates, bypassing the use of film. Darkrooms and film became history. The company built a 12,000-square-foot building on Bluff Road after the restructuring plan in the late 1990s to store newsprint, and later to use for a sheet-fed commercial printing operation. An additional 28,000 square feet were added in the early 2000s to house a new newspaper press and related equipment. The first edition of The Missourian was published at the Bluff Road plant in the summer of 2008.
That expansion was the largest in the company’s history, costing about $7.2 million. The newspaper’s offices are still located at 14 W. Main St., in Downtown Washington, the location since the mid-1950s. In 2012, the company had more than 100 associates, full and part time, a paid circulation of about 16,000, with offices and editions of the paper in Union and St. Clair. In 2001, the company acquired the Marthasville Record. That office later was moved to Warrenton and the name of the paper was changed to the Warren County Record, with a circulation of about 4,000 paid. Bill, Jr., is publisher of the Warren County Record. The company also publishes the free monthly Senior LifeTimes, with Karen Cernich as editor, and prints a number of newspapers and other publications on its Bluff Road press. Owners of the Missourian Publishing Co. are the members of the Bill Miller, Sr., family who are associated with the newspaper. Another daughter, Tricia, editor of the St. Louis Business Journal, helped in the editing of historian Ralph Gregory’s research of the history of The Missourian.
The History Prior to 1937
The Missourian has a long and interesting history, which has been researched extensively by Ralph Gregory, local historian. His research was published in a series of articles in The Missourian in 1965, the 106th anniversary of the newspaper’s founding. The following is based on Gregory’s research, J.L. Miller’s autobiography and an interview with James McClure, publisher of The Missourian from 1930 to 1937. McClure died in 1988.
Matthews Establishes Gazette
The Missourian roots can be traced back to the Franklin County Gazette, founded by 24-year-old James Matthews in Washington inJanuary 1860. The first issue of the Gazette was just four pages longand its front page was primarily poems and a speech given by the Rev.Chambers.The founding of the Gazette, like its predecessors, including the firstnewspaper in Washington, the Franklin County Courier, was createdon the issue of slavery. Washington, with its largely German populationand strong slave-holding element, was divided politically. The Gazette, according to Matthews, was to be neutral when it cameto politics, unless “circumstances shall occur, which would make it theduty of every good citizen of this Union, to speak and act in defense ofthe Constitution of the United States and the Supremacy of the Laws;in such a case, we shall not only speak but act.”Duty called in 1861 and Matthews acted. He sold the newspaper andjoined the Union Army. Many newspapers were suspended that year astheir editors and owners left to fight in the Civil War. Other newspaperswere suppressed by military force.
Franklin County News
James G. Magann bought the Gazette and changed its name to the Franklin County News. Daniel Crosby, a young teacher and law student from Maine, was named editor of the four-page newspaper. It was published every Friday evening on the east corner of Main and Jefferson. In 1862, Crosby was made a partner in the newspaper business. Crosby sold his half-interest in the newspaper to Pascal Stafford when Crosby became quartermaster of the 54th Reg. of the E.M.M. Magann and Stafford continued publishing the newspaper until March 1863, when Stafford sold out to Magann and ran successfully for state representative for Pettis County. John Pugh, a lawyer and war claim agent, and E.H.E. Jameson bought the newspaper in April 1866 and published it for only a few months before naming Louis Wehrman their assignee. Jameson eventually went on to the editorial staff of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. By 1867, the newspaper changed hands again coming under the direction of J. T. Jameson and Rudolph Bluemner.
Franklin County Observer
Later that year, a group of Democrats and a few Republicans who had become dissatisfied with local conditions, purchased the News, renaming it the Franklin County Observer and placing Col. David Murphy in charge. Murphy took in Bernard Mense as a partner. Mense, however, devoted most of his time to his mercantile business. Murphy was a radical unionist during the Civil War. His views had him arrested, jailed and tried twice for his alleged involvement in the murder of a county secessionist. After the war, Murphy used The Observer to denounce all his former associates in the Union Army and Union sympathizers who did not agree with him.
His condemnations of everything Republican led to a challenge to duel by Circuit Judge James Owens. Murphy accepted the challenge and wrote his will, appointing Mense as executor of the will and operator of the newspaper in the event he was wounded. The duel was set for Ming’s Island. But when Murphy arrived he found Judge Owens drunk — a condition Owens’ second had encouraged in an effort to stop the duel. The second’s strategy worked — the duel was called off. The Observer did not fare well under Murphy, who had difficulties in securing payments for job printing. He also faced stiff competition from a local German newspaper, Die Washingtoner Freie Presse, which was established by Henry Huhn. To pick up German readers, Murphy started his own German newspaper, the Volksfreund (People’s Friend), and hired C.F. Pohlmann to edit it. Murphy got out of the newspaper business in July 1870, turning it over to Mense and John C.S. Foss, his brother-in-law. Mense and Foss turned around and sold the newspaper to M.L. Yetter, a real estate manager in Stanton. Yetter published the newspaper for almost two years.
After some weeks of disappearance, the newspaper reappeared again under the ownership of Mense and Foss, who continued to publish The Observer until January 1875. In their last issue, Mense and Foss printed the following farewell under the headline “Au Revoir”: “With this number of The Observer, we have taken an affectionate leave of our many kind and indulgent patrons. The paper has been purchased by a joint stock company, composed of a number of the best and most prominent citizens of Franklin County and will be continued under their direction and management for the best interests of the county at large, as well as for the benefit and progress of local and business affairs . . .” The farewell was premature. Terms of the purchase could not be agreed upon and the deal fell through. So Mense and Foss continued publishing the newspaper with Foss contributing most of the editorials. Mense still devoted most of his time to his mercantile business, but did enlist his younger brother, Matthew, to help out with the newspaper, along with his nephew, Matt B. Mense’s foresight paid off in February 1876 when Foss bid farewell in a scathing article concerning fraudulent county bonds. In the article, Foss said he had fought “scalawags, vampires and scoundrels” during his newspaper career. Foss sold his half-interest to Bernard Mense, who named his brother, Matthew, editor. After Foss left the newspaper business, tension eased somewhat in the county press and The Observer continued with the Mense brothers as editors and owners. At that time, a seven-month subscription to the newspaper cost 50 cents. Other county newspapers teased and criticized the Mense brothers for their editorial inexperience and The Observer often exchanged verbal blows with those newspapers.
Diggs Put Other Newspapers on Edge
With the financial help of a St. Louis printing firm, Thomas P. Diggs took over The Observer in April 1877. Diggs, who had some college education and some practical experience as a newspaper publisher, soon had the other newspapers on edge. The newspapers in Pacific and Union reacted with more ridicule not only directed at the newspaper but at Diggs’ personality, small physique and morals. When the Pacific newspaper published an article calling for the grand jury’s indictment of The Observer for indecent, obscene and libelous publication, Diggs boarded a train and headed for Pacific, where he accosted J. H. Combes at the Franklin County Democrat newspaper office and demanded a retraction. A fight ensued which took both men to the floor. A friend of Diggs’ “pulled the two apart and Diggs left quickly with Combes following him with a office stool raised.” Other county newspapers picked up on the fight and reported it in scraps of poetry and prose. Criticism of The Observer and Diggs continued over the newspaper’s editorial policy, including its support of the Democratic Party, the minority party in the state. A scandal involving Diggs and a woman on a steamboat at the Washington landing added to the fury of the newspapermen’s pens. Nothing, however, compared to the fatal fight involving Diggs and John Coleman, an area lawyer and an outspoken critic of Diggs. The fight between the two ended with Coleman shooting Diggs in the knee and Diggs retaliating with a shot into Coleman’s abdomen. Ill feeling over the shooting led Diggs to turn over the newspaper to Col. Albert Paul Rittenhouse, a lawyer and former newspaperman. Diggs was later indicted for second-degree murder, but found not guilty. A mere week later, Rittenhouse sold The Observer to John Jacks, a newspaperman with considerable experience. Jacks held onto the newspaper for less than a year with Peter B. and Fleming T. Straaton taking up ownership in September 1879. Diggs assumed ownership of the newspaper again in 1881. After initial ribbing from the local newspaper — “While the lamp holds out to burn, the vilest sinner may return” — Diggs settled down in Washington and was elected to the office of city clerk. Washington was home to three of five county newspapers in 1881. In addition to The Observer, a German newspaper and the Franklin County Democrat also were published in Washington. Despite the competition, editorial strife between the newspapers was minimal. The other editors knew how easily Diggs was riled to violence and held up on their criticism so as not to provoke him. Diggs, determined to keep the newspaper since it was so well established, kept a level head. Politically, the climate also was more suited for his publication. The Observer, long the voice of the Democratic Party, fared well when the Democrats came to power with the election of President Grover Cleveland in 1884.
Observer Doubles in Size
Three years later, during a time of intense competition among county newspapers, Diggs turned The Observer over to Joseph Mintrup and William Kahmann. At the time, Washington was under the shadow of the city of Union, which was booming with the arrival of the railroad and the establishment of several county newspapers in that city. Mintrup and Kahmann reacted by buying up their competition in Washington. In September, they acquired the Washington Times, the Republican newspaper printed in English by the German Post. When the owner of Die Washingtoner Post would not sell its German counterpart, Mintrup and Kahmann started a German paper called Volksblatt. The Observer also doubled in size while in the hands of Mintrup and Kahmann — from four to eight pages in three years. The Mintrup-Kahmann partnership broke up in 1890, when Kahmann decided to run for state representative. James Jones, a third partner who purchased stock in the company the previous year, and H.M. Cornick, who purchased Kahmann’s stock, took over the newspaper for a few months. Kahmann later lost the state representative race and returned to Washington and bought back his interest from Cornick. The Observer then suspended its German publication, which had a subscription list of 600, two-thirds of whom did not pay, making for a loss of $12 a week. In 1891, Kahmann sold The Observer to T.E. Deffrey, “a Democrat with the reputation of being well-equipped in all the requirements of journalism and a man who would preach straight Democratic doctrine.” When Deffrey died a year later of typhoid fever, his wife took over the newspaper’s operations with the help of Louis Pues. After one year at the helm Mrs. Deffrey turned the newspaper over to C.B. Hyde and G. R. Gallemore. Under the partnership, the masthead was changed to read, “Pay Goodly Heed, All Ye Who Read.” It remained on the masthead for many years. The use of electricity in 1894 occurred under the Hyde-Gallemore partnership.
Charles Lamoreaux purchased the newspaper in April 1895 and took in W. Gordon Kapp as a partner in September. Two months later, Lamoreaux committed suicide in St. Louis, leaving Kapp to run the newspaper until it was sold at public auction in January. With a bid of $500, Kapp managed to purchase the newspaper back through the financial help of Ruloff Purves. Few people bid on the newspaper due to the two large existing mortgages on the property, which was then at Main and Elm streets. Kapp bailed out of the partnership in 1897, and The Observer stabilized under the successful management of Purves. At that time, the newspaper was issued every Friday evening from the northeast corner of Main and Elm streets. In March, the newspaper operations were moved to 301-303 W. Main St. by Purves. Purves published the paper there until 1902 and publication at that location was continued by J. G. and J. R. Gallemore. Purves sold the paper to them. J. R. had published the paper before in 1893-95. J. R. published The Observer until 1906 when The Franklin County Observer Publishing Co. was formed. James booth was president. Cost to subscribers was $1 a year. J. G. Gallemore took over when his brother decided to retire in California and was publisher until the middle of 1909 when foreman M. H. Holtgrieve took over. He served until early 1910.
The first issue of The Washington Citizen was published Aug. 25, 1905. In February 1910 D. C. Anderson, who had been a publisher at Sullivan, was named managing editor of The Observer. He left in July 1912. At that time, The Observer, a stock company, was sold to Sam Adams, Dr. H. A. May and John E. May. Adams became editor and publisher. An editorial battle began between The Observer and Citizen. Adams sold the paper in 1914 to Fred L. Peitz, who had set type at the Citizen. He was well educated and had seven years of experience in newspaper work. In 1915 he acquired a linotype. In 1916 he moved the newspaper to the Bagby building on Main Street. Peitz adopted an independent position in politics for the paper in 1918. The Citizen criticized him for leaving the Democratic Party. Peitz called the Citizen “The Joke of Journalism.” The Observer published many stories of our troops in World War I. The paper continued to be independent until it was sold in 1923 to the Steinbecks of Union, who said they would continue the independent policy. In 1924, H. F. Steinbeck was managing editor under the ownership of the Franklin Publishing Co. of Union. A. A. Steinbeck later was put in charge. In 1924, A. H. Steinbeck bought the old Bank of Washington building on the south side of Main Street between Oak and Lafayette streets. The newspaper moved to that building.
In 1926, The Observer was sold to A. H. Breckenkamp, A. W. Breckenkamp and J. D. Webb, all of Washington. It became the Washington Missourian the same year and was published twice weekly. The new owners’ company became the Missourian Publishing Co. The first issue of The Missourian listed A. H. Breckenkamp as publisher, A. W. Breckenkamp as general manager and J. D. Webb as news editor. The paper became a tabloid. A major circulation campaign began. Later in 1936, Webb left the paper to care for his son. The Missourian became a daily newspaper in 1927, but it reverted to a weekly in 1928. James N. McClure of Oklahoma acquired The Missourian in February 1930. McClure had been editing a newspaper in Clinton, Okla., which he owned. After seven years as editor and publisher, he sold The Missourian to James L. Miller, Sr., who took over in July 1937, 75 years ago in July 2012.