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Next issue is one for the history books

Careful readers will notice a milestone in our Page One nameplate next week.

With the start of Volume 141, the Marion County Record is celebrating its 140th birthday.

No special celebration is planned. We can’t even sing ourselves a chorus of “Happy Birthday.” The Record is 24 years older than the tune. But we can recount a bit of our history.

Our first issue came off the press Sept. 24, 1869, just six months after Ulysses S. Grant had replaced Andrew Johnson as president and only eight years after Kansas had become a state.

It was the first newspaper in Marion County.

Founding editor and publisher A.W. Robinson called our paper The Western News.

The paper moved to Marion because of a community effort by J.N. Rogers, J.H. Costello, A.E. Case, Levi Billings, William H. Billings and A.A. Moore, who offered Robinson cash to relocate from Detroit in Dickinson County.

Robinson’s new hometown, then called Marion Centre, had just 700 inhabitants. His first editorial effort was to encourage better sidewalks on Main Street.

Robinson remained publisher for 19 months.

John E. Murphy purchased the paper in 1871 and re-named it The Western Giant.

Murphy sold the paper five months later to C.S. Triplett, who changed the name to Marion County Record.

At the time, Marion County included Walton and stretched to a mile northwest of present-day North Newton.

After three years of publishing the Record, Triplett sold the paper in 1874 to E.W. Hoch, who had learned the printing trade at the short-lived Florence Pioneer before moving to Marion.

Since 1874, two families have been involved with the Record. The Hoch family owned it for 124 years. The Meyer family began its involvement 61 years ago.

E.W. Hoch ran the newspaper until his death in 1925. Son Wallis Hoch and grandson Wharton Hoch also served as editors. E.W. Hoch and another son, Homer Hoch, were active in politics.

E.W. Hoch, a legislator from 1889 to 1891 and from 1893 to 1895, served two terms as Kansas governor from 1905 to 1909.

He is the namesake for Hoch Auditorium on the University of Kansas campus. Until Allen Fieldhouse was completed in 1955, the auditorium was the “House of Horrors” home for the Jayhawks’ perennially powerful basketball team.

Homer Hoch equaled or surpassed his father’s political accomplishments. A lawyer by training, he served as a member of Congress from 1919 to 1933 and as a justice on the Kansas Supreme Court from 1938 until his death in 1949.

During the Hoch family’s tenure, several other newspapers were folded into the Record — or simply folded.

Eighteen separate newspapers were published in Marion, each for fewer than two years, between 1880 and 1895.

The Marion Times, founded in 1890 by C.E. Foote and Henry Kuhn, became the Marion Headlight in 1899 when J.J. Buschlen purchased it.

Buschlen sold the paper to the Record in 1909.

The Marion Review, founded by D.O. Bell as the Lincolnville Lance in 1907, became the Marion County Lance, moved to Marion in 1908, and changed its name to the Marion Review.

C.C. Jones was the Review’s first publisher. Mr. and Mrs. T.B. Matlock, Mr. and Mrs. Burton Smith, and Mr. and Mrs. John Riddle followed him as publishers until, in May 1944, the Record and the Review merged to become the Marion Record-Review.

Wharton Hoch, who had taken over as editor of the Record in 1944, purchased the Riddle interest in May 1948. Three months later, Bill Meyer joined the staff as associate editor.

In October 1957, the paper’s name was changed back to Marion County Record.

Meyer became editor after Hoch’s death in 1967. He and his wife, Joan, and son, Eric, a journalism professor at the University of Illinois, purchased the newspaper from Wharton Hoch’s estate in 1998.

Joan Meyer, who continues to compile the Record’s popular Memories column, is the newspaper’s most senior staff member. She has worked at the Record for more than 50 years.

Three of the paper’s former editors are members of the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame.

  • E.W. Hoch was inducted in 1932.
  • Wharton Hoch was inducted in 1974.
  • Bill Meyer, only the second living inductee in history, was inducted in 2003, a year after becoming the second Kansan in history to win the Eugene Cervi Award for lifetime achievement from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

Donna Bernhardt, who remains a member of the board of directors along with longtime employee Melvin Honeyfield, became editor after Bill Meyer’s retirement in 2003.

Susan Berg succeeded her as managing editor last year.

Over the years, the newspaper was instrumental in building or preserving numerous public improvements, including Marion Elementary, Marion Reservoir, Marion’s dike and levy, Hospital District No. 1 (St. Luke), the Hill School, Butler of Marion, and Marion stadium.

The Record is the oldest newspaper in Marion County by only a small margin.

The Peabody Gazette-Bulletin, which the Record purchased in 2001, is 3 years younger. The Record purchased the Hillsboro Star-Journal in 1999.

Whatever became of Detroit, Kan.?

Detroit, which retained a post office but no longer is incorporated, managed to be home to just one more newspaper, called the Free Press.

It folded in 1898.

Last modified Sept. 24, 2009

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