The Cassville Democrat recently donated all existing bound volumes of the Wheaton Journal to the Cassville Branch Library. The local newspaper, with permission from its parent company Rust Communications, also donated issues of the Wheaton Journal that were placed on microfilm.
The collection includes issues of the Journal dating back to the 1970s and continuing through July 26, 2005, which was the last issue of the Wheaton Journal printed. Rust Communications, based in Cape Girardeau, made the decision to cease publication of the Wheaton Journal due to financial reasons.
The donation will enhance an effort currently underway by Wheaton High School graduates to preserve the Wheaton Journal newspaper as a legacy for future generations. Joe Higgs, who is helping spearhead the effort, asked if Rust Communications would consider making the bound issues of the Journal more accessible to area residents.
This request was honored, and the newspaper staff decided to donate its bound issues and microfilm to the local library.
Joann Fox, daughter of long-time Wheaton Journal owner Wally Fox, was on hand when the issues were officially donated to the library on Oct. 27. Wally Fox bought a fourth of the Journal in 1924 and then became sole owner in 1925. He was forced to sell the newspaper in 1967 due to health reasons.
According to Joann, the newspaper was founded by M.V. Lamberson in 1919.
Joann shared news clippings from old issues of the Journal that she has preserved in several scrapbooks.
"I still love the smell of ink and newsprint today," said Joann. "I can remember falling asleep on the newsprint in the office while my parents worked."
The exchange was also witnessed by Joe and Jackie Higgs, Betty and Ralph Lamberson and Kay Lombard, who was a long-time employee of the Wheaton Journal under several owners. Most recently, Lombard worked for Bill Howsman, who owned the Wheaton Journal from 1971 to Jan. 6, 1994.
Kay said Howsman paid for two sets of bound copies each year he owned the newspaper. One of the copies was kept at the newspaper office and the other was donated to the Wheaton School library.
The Higgs, the Lambersons and the Lombards are among the Wheaton High School graduates from the 1950s who are working diligently to save the Wheaton Journal legacy.
Currently, the group is lobbying the Missouri State Historical Society for approval to digitize available microfilmed copies of the Wheaton Journal beginning with the first issue published in 1929 through the last and final issue published in July of 2005.
According to Joe Higgs, the digital files will allow on-line access to old issues of the newspaper. The cost of converting the microfilm to digital files will be covered by WHS graduates.
This same group of graduates already raised enough money to purchase a complete set of Wheaton Journal microfilm from the Historical Society. This collection also has been donated to the Cassville Branch Library.
Donations for the project are still being accepted and can be mailed to Joe Higgs, Box 129, Wheaton MO 64874. The group estimates it will take approximately $1,500 to produce and set up the digital files necessary for computer access to the Wheaton Journal.