Chapter XXXI - Notes on Newspapers

History of Hampshire County West Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present
By Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher
Morgantown, West Virginia; A. Brown Boughner Printer; 1897

PART 2 County History
CHAPTER XXXI - NOTES ON NEWSPAPERS
BY H. L. SWISHER
Pages 356-360

Hampshire's newspaper history is long but not so varied as that of many counties a century younger. We find in many counties numerous newspapers of an ephemeral nature. They grow up as suddenly as Jonah's gourd and like it perish in a night. Such is not the history of newspapers in Hampshire. This county seems to have never had a paper but met with a reasonable degree of success and accomplished in a certain measure the purpose for which it was established. In the year 1830 William Harper set on foot the Hampshire and Hardy Intelligencer This paper served the people of both counties as a newspaper as there was no other paper nearer than Cumberland. The name was in a short time changed to The South Branch Intelligencer and under this head it was run for two generations. This paper when established was a six-column, four page paper 14x20 inches in size. It was, however, soon enlarged to seven columns and later to eight. At first it was printed on an old Franklin press, and the printing of one thousand to twelve hundred copies, which was its circulation at that time, was no small job. The ink was distributed by means of buckskin-covered balls filled with some absorbing substance. Such a thing as a composition roller was unknown. This paper was whig in politics during all its career up to the war, but after the war it lent its support to the regular democratic party. Mr. Harper continued as editor of the Intelligencer until his death, which took place in 1887. During his long connection with newspaper work in the county he became acquainted with most of the older inhabitants, and they looked upon him and his paper as indispensable friends. After his death the paper was conducted, for about three years, by his widow until 1890, when Mrs. Harper sold the paper to a stock company who placed C. F. Poland at the head, and he continued as editor until January, 1897, when the stock and fixtures were bought by Cornwell Brothers, of the Review. With this event the old South Branch Intelligencer, which had visited the people of the county regularly, except during the civil war, for almost three score years, passed out of existence.

The Virginia Argus, a democratic paper, was established in Romney in the month of July, 1850. Its founder was A. S. Trowbridge, who had formerly followed the profession of teaching in New Orleans. The measure of success was not such as he thought ought to be meted out to his enterprise, so in the year 1857 he sold the paper to Samuel R. Smith and John G. Combs, who held it for three years and nine months and in turn sold it to William Parsons. A few months' experience satisfied Mr. Parsons that he did not need the paper, so he in turn sold it to Colonel Alexander Monroe and Job N. Cookus. These gentlemen continued as editors and proprietors until the first year of the war when they laid aside the pen and took up the sword and substituted for the noise of the printing press the din of battle. The paper was not revived after the war.

The Review, the strongest paper ever in the county, and one of the most ably edited local papers in the state, was established in 1884 by C. F. Poland, who conducted the enterprise with considerable success until 1890, when he sold out to the present proprietors, Cornwell Brothers. The Review has a comfortable home, built in 1895, and is steadily increasing in circulation and influence. When established it was a seven column folio, but has recently enlarged to eight columns, and is now printed on a new steam press. In politics it has always been democratic.

The latest journalistic enterprise in the county is the Romney Times, established March 25, 1897. James Wirgman is editor and proprietor. The paper is republican in politics and has thus far received a fair measure of support.

The Tablet is an educational paper supported by the state and published at the Institution for the purpose of teaching printing to the pupils. It is issued weekly, on Saturday, during the school session of forty weeks. Parents of pupils attending the Institution receive the paper free. Others pay fifty cents a year for it. In size it is four column, 16x22, and its makeup is chiefly of such matter as concern the school and pupils. This paper was established in January, 1877, by A. D. Hays and has remained under his management for the greater part of the time since.

There is nothing that so minutely mirrors local sentiment and current history of a community as its local papers. In after years the chaff of weekly news, as recorded in the columns of a county's papers, yields the golden grain of history. Some of the incidents and happenings of former years that we find recorded in those old papers seem trivial enough, but, in fact, they were once matters of moment.

The oldest paper published in Hampshire which the author has seen, is a copy of the South Branch Intelligencer of April 4, 1845. It is a seven-column folio. The title is in moderately-sized letters, but without display. The paper is filled up largely with descriptive articles and foreign news. Some local items, however, are of interest. There is a list of unclaimed letters remaining in the Romney postoffice April 4, 1845, signed by E. M. Armstrong, P. M. This paper and several other very old ones were furnished the writer by J. N. Buzzard. They bear the name of James Larimore. In this issue John Green and Joseph Davis give notice that they do a general business in carding and fulling. There is also a column and a-half article on the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, showing the probability of its being built and the benefits to be derived there-from. In an issue of the same paper for 1847 we find this notice:

"TEMPERANCE.

"George Gilbert contemplates delivering" a temperance address in the court house in Romney on Saturday night, 23d inst., at early candle lighting."

We see thus that active war was waged against intoxicants fifty years ago even in our midst. In the market reports for this year wheat is quoted at one dollar and forty cents to one dollar and fifty cents a bushel; corn sixty- nine to seventy cents; oats forty to forty-five cents, and rye seventy to seventy-five cents. Here is a notice that must have caused consternation among the small boys:

"NO BALL PLAYING AGAINST THE COURT HOUSE.

"Hampshire County.

"September Court, 1847.     

"Ordered, That Joseph Poling, keeper of the court house, prevent all ball-playing against the court house and defacing and injuring the same; and that if any person or persons shall hereafter play ball against said court house, or deface or injure the same, it shall be the duty of the said Poling to report to the court the names of all such offenders in order that he or they may be proceeded against for said offence.

"This order is ordered to be published.

"A copy: Teste."

There is also an advertisement of "The most brilliant lottery ever drawn in the United States." It was located at Alexandria, and no doubt attracted many an adventurer by its brilliancy. There is, however, no local mention of any fortunate ticket-holder in this county. Another copy of the paper for November 15, 1850, is very much improved in size, appearance and makeup. There are numerous professional cards and many business notices. Two schools of academic grade are advertised, showing that educational advancement kept pace with material progress. Two year later still greater progress is manifested and the. paper becomes in tone much like the local paper of today. A couple of peculiar notices from these old papers will close. this chapter:

"HALF A CENT REWARD.

"Ran away from the subscriber on 22 of February of February, a bound boy by the name of James C____, about 13 years of age. The above reward will be given to any person who may bring him back to me.

"Washington Park.     

"Hamp. Co., Mar. 5, 1852."

We have no record of who captured the prize. There are. also several advertisements of slaves for sale and for hire, which read to us of the present generation like tales from a foreign land.

Times were not then so prosaic as one might suppose, for in an old paper printed in 1852 a shoemaker thus pours forth his soul in a poetic advertisement:

"Each lady, too, will please to recollect
Men have for pretty feet a great respect.
Many a time the foot a beau will gain,
E'en when a pretty face has tried in vain."

But let us drag into the light no more of the peculiarities of times and people so long past. Who shall say others will not in time to come, smile at those things we now consider sum and substance?

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