Haywood County’s first newspaper, The Waynesville News, was established by owner and publisher W.S. Hemby on January 16, 1884. It was only four pages and printed on a six column format. A copy of the first edition is on display in The Mountaineer conference room. The Waynesville News was sold to J.P. Herren in 1887 but lasted only a few months.
In 1886, The Daily News was published by the News Publishing Company. There is no record of when it ceased but it is believed to have lasted less than two years.
The next paper to appear was the Waynesville Courier, the first ancestor of The Mountaineer. It began publishing on February 8, 1888. A copy of the first edition is stored in the Duke Archives. Frank Vaneil was the Courier editor in 1888; followed in 1889 by P.S. Ray. Around 1890 Jesse Daniel Boone and Z.V. Rogers took over and by 1891, Boone was probably the sole owner.
In 1902, Boone sold the paper to G.C. Briggs. Briggs modernized the paper by purchasing a linotype machine that formed whole words from molten lead as fast as the operator could type. In 1906, Briggs, an innovator, decided to go daily. After two years he concluded the town could not support a daily and the Daily Waynesville Courier reverted back to a weekly in 1907. That same year W.C. Allen became a 50 percent partner but sold his interest back to Briggs two years later.
In 1912, Briggs sold the paper to R.B. Wilson and Harry Hall. Hall sold his half to Wilson in 1914 and left to take over the Haywood Enterprise, a competing paper. Financial strain caused the Enterprise to fold in 1915.
The Courier soon felt the crunch of poor economic times and was sold at public auction two years later to previous owner Jesse Daniel Boone for $1400. Boone had started another paper in 1913, The Carolina Mountaineer. It was the first time Mountaineer was used in the name of a Haywood County paper. After purchasing the Courier at auction in 1917, Boone consolidated the two weeklies into The Carolina Mountaineer and Waynesville Courier. In 1925 Boone sold the now profitable paper to W.A. Band. Band changed the name to the Waynesville Mountaineer later that year.
In 1930, the paper moved from its old office on Church Street to the building on Main Street owned by the law firm of Morgan and Ward. The newspaper office was on the first floor, which is now the advertising and composing departments, and the press was in the basement. The lawyers occupied the second floor where our news department is today. Band sold the Waynesville Mountaineer to Wilbur T. Betts and Thomas M. Seawell later that year.
By the middle of 1931, Betts had moved away and Seawell was running the paper alone. It began to fall on shaky financial ground. Two employees, W. Curtis Russ, the business manager and ad salesman, and Paul D. Deaton, a linotype operator, leased the paper from Betts for one year to see if they could make it profitable. They assumed control of the paper on Nov. 5, 1931 and purchased it from Betts and Seawell on July 1, 1932.
In 1933, Deaton sold his interest in the paper to Marion T. (Buster) Bridges. The partnership of Russ and Bridges lasted until 1979. It was the longest tenure of any editor and publisher. In 1925, the paper’s name was changed to The Mountaineer. “Waynesville” was dropped from the name to coincide with the opening of an office in Canton and to reflect more countywide news coverage. The Mountaineer converted to offset printing in the 1960’s when they purchased a Goss press and installed it in the basement.
In 1979, the Mountaineer was sold to the Daniels family, owners of the News and Observer in Raleigh. Jack Andrews was named publisher. In 1980, Ken Wilson, previously publisher of the Mount Olive Tribune, a News and Observer subsidiary, was hired as publisher.
In 1990, Adelaide Daniels Key, daughter of Jonathan Daniels, long time editor of the News and Observer, purchased The Mountaineer in Waynesville, N.C., Haywood County’s newspaper of record, The Enterprise in Canton N.C. and The News Record in Marshall N.C., the Madison County newspaper of record, from the family chain. Her son, Jonathan Key, was hired in 1991 as General Manager. In 1994, the financially strapped Enterprise was merged with The Mountaineer to create The Enterprise Mountaineer and the News Record was sold.
Jonathan Key was named publisher of The Mountaineer on January 1, 2000 and purchased the Mountaineer Publishing Company from Adelaide D. Key in February 2002. The word Enterprise was dropped from the masthead of the newspaper because The Mountaineer had become the dominant name the paper was referred to across the county.
As technology progressed, the Mountaineer Publishing Company followed. Our first online publication, MPC Online, was launched in the mid 90’s. MPC shuttered the pressroom and sold its’ presses in 2011 and began printing in Bristol, Tennessee due to the limitations of their press and the demands of customers for more color in their printing. The old pressroom is now the Wells Event Center.
The Mountaineer Publishing Company continues to grow and innovate as we launch new products to meet market demands. The Mountaineer Website, The Guide, The Biltmore Beacon, our subsidiary paper in Asheville, and their corresponding websites and apps are example of new products we have created.