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Elmer, Missouri -Early History
(And a little info about Mercyville)
Elmer Has a Newspaper
Elmer grew rapidly early in the 20th century, with the population exceeding 500 by 1910. With its growth, numerous businesses were established to serve the people. And every town needs a newspaper; Elmer was no exception. The first newspaper, to be called the Elmer Journal, was established in 1906 by Harvey Baity. Baity was a bright and energetic man who was 22 years of age. His expectation was to install a first-class printing plant to match the spirit of the town at that time. The first issue of the paper occurred on March 15, 1906.
Misfortune was to hit the paper early as just four weeks after the first edition of the paper, Mr. Baity took ill, apparently stricken with an acute form of diabetes. On April 7, 1906, his brother, J. L. Baity, transported Harvey to the home of his mother in La Plata. He died there on April 12.
The newly established Journal was then sold to Mr. W. L. Clements of La Plata, who vowed to continue the publication and development of a world class paper. He continued this endeavor until July of 1907, when he sold the paper to J. Green MacKenzie. The sale was reported by the La Plata Home Press (July 18, 1907 edition) as follows:
“J. Green MacKenzie has purchased the Elmer Journal and will publish that paper in the future. Mr. MacKenzie is a first-class man, having had quite a little experience in the newspaper work. The people of “Elmer are to be congratulated on getting Mr. MacKenzie.”
Ethel also had a paper at that time, called the Ethel Courier, and reported the sale of the paper as follows:
“Professor J. Greene MacKinzie has bought the Elmer Journal. Mr. MacKinzie has had some experience in newspaper work; is a good hustler, and if given the support a country newspaper deserves, he will make the Journal a success om every particular.”
And so the paper continued to provide the town of Elmer with current news, although not without some mishaps, as reported in The Macon Republican on October 12, 1907:
“The other day the Elmer Journal editor missed his ready prints, which were in stock awaiting the day of issuance. A friend who helps the publisher run off his paper was in when a lady called to get some old papers to put down under a carpet. The friend, thinking the bundle of ready prints was old papers, gave them to her, and she had a nice soft cushion for her new carpet, and the Journal went to press shy its literary features.”
Notably, and seemingly uniquely, the Elmer Journal published special Christmas editions, printed in a magazine format with colorful, illustrated covers. These editions contained some 20 pages of pictures and write-ups of the business men of that city. As a side note, a considerable amount of the information contained on this site came from these holiday editions.
In April of 1909, Mr. MacKenzie sold the paper to L. B. Osborne of Green City, Missouri, who was formerly superintendent of the La Plata public schools. Mr. Osborne proclaimed that he would run it as “a strictly local paper, devoted first of all to promote the interests of the growing town of Elmer and its citizens.” Mr. MacKenzie then went to work for Editor Howlett of the Atlanta Express. In June of 1911, the La Plata Home Press printed “We have noticed a marked improvement in the recent issues of the Elmer Journal. L. B. Osborne, the editor, is giving the citizens of Elmer and vicinity a very newsy paper, a facat which should be appreciated by them.”
Sometime prior to December of 1911, Mr. Osborne sold his household goods in Elmer and moved to Illinois. Apparently, several businessmen in Elmer purchased the paper with the intent to continue its operation there. Their search for an editor turned out to be newsworthy in itself, because they hired a lady to be their editor, a profession traditionally occupied by men. The La Plata Home Press, on January 11, 1912, printed:
“To find the fortunes of a bristling little country newspaper presided over by a lady is rather unusual, a fact which makes the editorial announcement is last week’s issue of the Elmer Journal all the more noteworthy.
The Journal’s announcement reads: ‘Alpha Deane Moody, editress,’ and in additional to complimenting Miss Moody upon her distinction of being the only “editress” in the county, the Home Press extends its heartiest congratulations and best wishes for her success.”
The appointment of Miss Moody made news such that an article of the announcement was made in the St. Louis Star, with her picture included. The article is reproduced in the “Early Residents” page of this website. Click here to view that article. Miss Moody also gained some renown during her tenure as editor, as some of the writing for the paper was good enough to be noticed by other major newspapers in the state. One such article, written for an October, 1912, issue of the journal describes the death in Elmer of a wandering stranger and read as follows:
“He was found lying at the haystack on the farm of E. I. Dunham. He had lain for several days without food or drink; when found, his eyes were fixed and staring; the damps of death had already stolen down his weather beaten cheeks. He was some mother’s son, he was our brother in spite of his rags. He was not endowed with this world’s goods, yet he was a human being and in the long past, a mother’s song had sung him to rest. She had lulled him to slumber upon her breast. But he has played his part in the great drama of the world’s progress and the world’s history. Who he was perhaps will never be known till the great day when the sea gives up its dead. He perhaps had a wife and children who now at this moment are waiting and watching for the footsteps of the dead; for the one who will never come. What a sad commentary on the system under which we exist. Yet the good people of Elmer are entitled to lasting praise for giving him decent burial. But the evening wind will gently wave the grass above his unmarked grave.”
The article was referenced in the Kansas City Times as follows:
“In last night’s Star there was a literary classic by Miss Alpha Deane Moody, editor of the Elmer Journal. If you missed it, have your wife find the paper for you and read it now. Follow our instructions and you will go out into the world this morning with a heart mellowed by Christian charity.”
The Macon Republican, reported in their October 26, 1912, issue the following:
"The touching article in the Elmer Journal is about the interment of a tramp, who was found dying on Ed I. Dunham’s farm. The good people of Elmer cared for the poor derelict the same as if he were one of their own citizens, and when he died they gave him a Christian burial. There is more good in the world than we sometimes think.”
In January of 1913, it was reported by the Macon Times-Democrat, that the Elmer Journal had been sold to Mr. H. L. Osborne of Ottumwa, Iowa, who would succeed Miss Alpha Deane Moody. Miss Moody then moved to Newton, Iowa, where she took a position on one of the Newton daily papers. Mr. Osborne, the son L. B. Osborne, a former editor of the paper, remained as editor until May of 1916, when Mr. John R. Christian of Columbia leased the paper. Mr. Osborne was reported to have accepted a “lucrative position” at the La Jora Enterprise Publishing Company in La Jora, Colorado. Mr. Christian took charge officially on Friday, May 5, 1916. His tenure at the paper must have been short since the La Plata Home Press printed in there November 23, 1916 issue that a Mr. E. T. Barnes was editor of the Journal.
Information about the paper becomes a bit spotty after 1916. Apparently, Mr. Osborne returned as editor of the Journal, based on an article printed by the La Plata Home Press on January 25 of 1917. It read:
“Another Paper Ceases to Exist
With the issue of the Elmer Journal last week, that paper ceased to exist. The advancing price in print paper and the lack of support are given as the cause of its discontinuance. Since the return of Brother Osborne, the Journal has been a well edited and managed newspaper. We are indeed sorry that he has seen fit to suspend publication of that valued exchange.”
Then on February 1, 1917, the Home Press reported the following:
“Elmer Journal Will Continue
The citizens and business men of Elmer came to the rescue of the Elmer Journal last week, and that splendid paper will continue to do business at the old stand. The enterprising town of Elmer should not be without a paper and we are indeed glad to see the good people rally to the support of that institution.”
Finally, on January 4, 1918, the La Plata Home Press reported:
“Elmer Journal Suspended
With the issue of December 28th, Editor Osborne announces the suspension of the Elmer Journal. No reason is assigned but we surmise that the Journal died from the too common cause lack of support. Mr. Osborne is a skilled printer and we have often wondered why he did not choose a better field.”
The author could find no additional information about the Journal, but believes that it did actually continue to be published until 1922.