Monthly Archives: June 2013
New Market, established 1796 in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and settled largely by German Lutherans and Mennonites, was home to Our Church Paper, a Lutheran weekly published from 1873-1905 by Henkel & CO.’s Steam Printing House. Founded in 1806 by the Reverend Ambrose Henkel who, according to A History of Shenandoah County, got his start in the printing business when in 1802, at the age of 16, he walked to Hagerstown, Maryland from New Market to apprentice with a printer by the name of Gruber, who was known for almanacs. Shortly thereafter he purchased his own press and “hauled it up the valley to New Market” where he set up and began printing a German newspaper called The Virginia and New Market Popular Instructor and Weekly News. From 1806 to 1925 the press was operated by various members of the Henkel family, printing works in the interests of the Lutheran church.
Our Church Paper was perhaps the most well-known publication by the Henkel press. The paper was “devoted to the interests of the Evangelical Lutheran Church” and offered ”articles of faith and doctrine, it will contain much of admonition, besides matter of general interest to the family.” The first page was always a printed sermon, followed by local and national news of particular interest to Lutherans on pages two and three, and then a bounty of recipes, home remedies, household wisdom and light humor on page four.
From that last page today’s reader can get a sense of how it was to run a household around the turn of the last century. It certainly wasn’t easy; take for example the article on achieving the perfect cup of coffee at the top of the page. We can take for granted modern food processing and household improvements such as precise temperature control on … read more »
In recent years, Greg McQuade, morning anchor of WTVR in Richmond, Virginia, has produced award winning news segments on local Richmond history. Some of the stories have focused on people who are now all but forgotten, but who were, during their lives, groundbreaking members of the community. John Mitchell, Jr., “fighting editor” of the Richmond Planet is a perfect example.
Often, McQuade uses historic newspapers to accompany his reports and the Newspaper Project is always happy to assist him when he visits the Library of Virginia. Recently, he highlighted another pivotal, and, sadly, largely forgotten figure of Richmond’s past, Elizabeth Van Lew.
Van Lew, abolitionist and fierce opponent of succession, risked her life as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. Surrounded by Confederate sympathizers, she lived in Richmond’s Church Hill district and carried out activities that would have been considered treasonous had they been discovered. None of her neighbors, though, ever suspected her of any wrongdoing during the conflict.
Because of Van Lew’s daring and heroic deeds (which included helping prisoners escape Libby Prison), she was appointed Postmistress of Richmond by the US government after the war’s end. As her wartime activities came to light, she was maligned by many in the community as a traitor.
“The most hated woman in Virginia changed state’s course” tells the tale of a heroine who risked her life, her wealth and her social status to assist the cause of the Union. Historians elaborate on why she has been forgotten and if she will re-emerge with the recognition she is due for her role in shaping the course of the war.
To learn more about Elizabeth Van Lew, check out Elizabeth R. Varon’s comprehensive history, Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A … read more »