nother year begins.
With last week’s May 6 issue, the Platte County Landmark, the oldest newspaper in Platte County, older than the Kansas City Star and one of the oldest in the state of Missouri, began its 156th year of publication.
Through challenges that have included multiple wars and global pandemics, The Landmark has never missed a week of publication since the first issue rolled off the press in the closing days of the Civil War.
On Sept. 28, 1865, the first Landmark was published at Weston with the motto “Remove not the ancient landmarks.” Harry Howard was publisher and C.L. Wheeler was editor.
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 Landmark moved to 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.
A printer’s box inscribed with the name of Thomas W. Park was found in the basement of The Landmark in 2017, when a team of Landmarkers dropped a ladder through the hidden doorway cut in the floor of the office and went spelunking into the basement.
The Landmark was moved from Weston to Platte City into what was known as The Fleshman House at the foot of Main Street.
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 the former headquarters of Wells Bank now stands in downtown Platte City.
On 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.
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 in downtown Platte City.
After the consolidation, The Landmark began to assume considerable state prominence. It was full of local news, correspondence, literature, and poetry.
The Landmark moved in March of 1899 into the building at 252 Main Street, where it is still located today.
This building had been 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 sheet-fed Babcock press that would be used until 1979. A Babcock press can still be found in place in The Landmark office today, with the pages from the Oct. 26, 1979 still loaded in the bed of the press.
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 had been the shop foreman, managed The Landmark for the estate.
On Jan. 1, 1918, Max 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. A Linotype machine is still located in the front window of The Landmark office today, visible to passersby.
After Max Jones’ death in 1956, his widow, Lucile L. Jones, took over as editor and publisher. In 1979, Mrs. Jones sold The Landmark to Dwayne Foley. Foley was the owner of weekly newspapers and a central printing plant in northeastern Kansas.
Mrs. Jones had become acquainted with Foley through the years, periodically asking him to come help run/repair the Babcock press, the Linotype and other Landmark equipment on those occasions it had broken down or her staff was shorthanded.
In the first issue under his ownership in November of 1979, Dwayne Foley switched The Landmark from the old hot lead (known as ‘letterpress’) style of printing to the 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, including the Linotype machine and several typecase chests with many drawers of handset type, along with the Babcock press and a couple of small job presses.
Dwayne 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 Kansas City area publications, served as editor of The Landmark from 1980 until 1993.
Ivan Foley, Dwayne Foley’s youngest son who had worked at The Landmark as reporter and general manager since 1982, added the role of editor to his duties when McGinnis’ died following heart surgery in August of 1993.
A few months later The Landmark then took the technological step into the computer world, buying two desktop publishing IBM-compatible units in November 1993.
The newspaper’s editorial positions soon took a more aggressive approach. Throughout the next decade, The Landmark steadily built a statewide reputation for editorializing in strong fashion and entertaining its readers at the same time.
Ivan Foley purchased the newspaper operation and The Landmark building at 252 Main Street in Platte City from Ethel Mae Foley in 2002.
The Landmark has become a regular winner in the annual Missouri Better Newspaper contest, has been honored in the contest for general excellence and eventually became the highest paid circulation newspaper in Platte County.
The Landmark has moved into the multimedia world in recent years, beginning a live video broadcast known as Landmark Live. The show, starring Landmark staffers and special guests, is broadcast on the Platte County Landmark Facebook page and at plattecountylandmark.com.
Among current Landmark employees are office manager/assistant to the publisher Cindy Rinehart, now in her 28th year at the newspaper; and senior reporter Valerie Verkamp, now in her ninth year with The Landmark. Contributors include columnists Chris Kamler, Hearne Christopher and Brian Kubicki, all of whom have been with the paper for many years; new columnist Guy Speckman joined page 3 earlier this year; and Debbie Coleman-Topi is in her fourth year as a contributing reporter.