‘The Independent-Journal’ Begins Its 151st Year

January 06, 2023

With the new year of 2023, ‘The Independent-Journal’ ends its 150th year of publication in Potosi, bringing its 150th Anniversary year to a close and extending its record as probably the oldest continuous single business firm in Washington County as it enters its 151st year.

The founding of “The Independent-Journal’ dates back to 1872, when the ‘Weekly Independent’ was established in Potosi by Frank Harris. ‘The I-J’ is a continuation and consolidation of the ‘Independent’ and the Potosi ‘Journal,’ founded in 1892 by Frank M. Deggendorf.

‘The Independent-Journal’ is the sole survivor of at least eight newspapers which have been published in Potosi at various times.

The first paper in Potosi and in Washington County, was the ‘Miner’s Prospect,’ established in September, 1846, by Philip G. Ferguson and F.A. Dallan and published until 1849.

From 1856 until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the ‘Washington County Miner’ was published at Potosi by Napoleon B. Buck. In 1867, Maj. George Boardman Clark founded the “Washington County Journal,’ publishing it until November 1872, when he sold it to Eli P. Ake. Ake continued publication of the ‘Journal’ here until 1873, when he moved it from the county.

In 1872 the ‘Weekly Independent’ was founded by Frank Harris, who continued as publisher until his death in 1886. The paper was published by Mrs. Harris for several years and then Henry C. Bell became publisher.

Short-lived papers in Potosi included the ‘Free Press,’ printed for several months in 1886 by Jesse W. Hohman and the ‘Potosi Republican,’ published from September to December, 1887, by Oliver F. Utt.

In 1892, ‘The Potosi Journal’ was established by F.M. Deggendorf, who continued as publisher until his death in 1929. That year the ‘Journal’ was purchased by H.C. Bell and his son, Wilson Bell, who consolidated their ‘Independent’ and Deggendorf’s ‘Journal’ as the present ‘Independent-Journal.”

An interesting note that is most times overlooked is the hyphen in ‘The Independent-Journal’ name. When the Bells put the two papers together it was decided to put the dash in, ceremoniously joining the two papers into one.

The Bells continued as senior and junior editors until H.C. Bell’s death in 1936, when Wilson Bell became editor and publisher.

In November, 1935, the ‘Washington County News’ was established in Potosi by N.A. Gerig and Oscar Gibbons. The paper was continued until 1942 and its various publishers in that time included Roland Woods, Giles Ray and John Steinbeck.

In 1945, Wilson Bell, then Secretary of State of Missouri, sold ‘The I-J’ to Hugh Richards who had worked for the newspaper several years and his brother-in-law Lowell McFarland. Mr. Richards and Mr. McFarland were co-editors and publishers until Mr. Richards’ death in 1956, with Mrs. Ruby Richards and McFarland continuing as co-publishers.

In 1968 Neil Richards bought his uncle Lowell McFarland’s shares and joined his mother Ruby as co-publisher and in 2000, following the death of Ruby E. Richards, Kris Richards joined his father, Neil, as co-publisher until Neil’s death on May 26th, 2017. Kris Richards and Joyce Kathleen Richards became co-publishers at Neil’s passing in 2017 and continue to date.