Tag Archives: Title History

Virginia Citizen

Published every Friday between 1891 and 1913, the Virginia Citizen (Check digitized issues at Chronicling America.) was the first paper to serve Lancaster County, part of the Northern Neck region of Tidewater Virginia. The paper’s office in Irvington—located on an inlet from the Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay—was just across the street from a landing for the Rappahannock River Line, one of several steamer services linking the region’s many villages and transporting farm produce and seafood between eastern Virginia and processing plants in Baltimore. From 1897 until 1913, the newspaper proudly stated its mission: “A Weekly Journal Devoted to the interests of Lancaster County in particular, the Northern Neck and Rappahannock Valley in general, and the world at large.” By the early 1900s, circulation totaled 1,827, a heady number considering that Irvington had but 750 residents and the county 8,949. In hard times, though, the editor was not above accepting vegetables or a load of hay—almost anything other than soft-shell crabs, strawberries, or peas—in lieu of cash.

Editor since 1892, W. McDonald Lee brought considerable prestige to the paper. Lee had served as county Commissioner of Revenue and president of the Virginia Press Association in the late 1890s and during the early 1900s served as a commissioner for Virginia fisheries and president of the National Association of Fisheries Commissioners. He was particularly interested in promoting the county’s oyster (“the succulent bivalve”) industry and the welfare of “the toiling masses of Virginia oystermen.”

Lee also brought a strong, sometimes sensational, editorial fervor to the Virginia Citizen—favoring the Democratic Party, the total abstinence of alcohol, and evangelical Christianity. His mastheads mirrored these positions. An 1897 banner-line declared that the paper was “Conservative in All Things, Neutral in Nothing.” He also vigorously prodded the paper’s readers never to be “mealy-mouthed or … read more »

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The Big Stone Post

Big Stone Gap Post Dec. 15, 1892

The setting for John Fox Jr.’s 1908 novel Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Big Stone Gap in Wise County is situated along the Powell River in a remote and rugged valley of the far southwestern region of Virginia. In the 1880s, the town (once known as Mineral City) had three farms, two small country stores, and a handful of mills. But the laying of several railroad lines into the Gap in the early 1890s–for the transport of coal and timber between Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee–transformed the isolated hamlet into a bustling gateway of industrial activity. As the region grew, eastern speculators promoted movement to and investment in the area.

In 1890, Colonel Charles E. Sears, first president of the Improvement Company, took over the Commercial Club and shortly thereafter established The Big Stone Post, a weekly newspaper. Colonel Sears unabashedly pitched the considerable advantages of Big Stone Gap, sending out prospectuses and placing advertisements in metropolitan newspapers throughout the East. One such prospectus, appearing in 1890 in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in New York City, described the Gap as a “wild and picturesque defile in Big Stone Mountain, an elongated spur forming a part of the Cumberland range of mountains just to the eastward of the Kentucky State Line.” The article also boasted of the town’s electric light plant, street railway, and waterworks.

In the first issue of The Big Stone Post, published on August 15, 1890, Sears explained that his purpose was “to advertise the material resources of the Appalachian district; [and] to show to the rest of the country that Big Stone Gap possesses paramount advantage over all other locations as a manufacturing and distributing point.” The same issue reported on railroads, coke plants, and other internal improvements … read more »

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The Free Lance

Located in Spotsylvania County, 61 miles north of Richmond and 60 miles south of Washington, D.C., between the Tidewater and Piedmont regions of Virginia, Fredericksburg was a major port on the Rappahannock River, a significant crossroads during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and an important center of trade and commerce. The town was also the scene of fierce fighting and considerable destruction during the Civil War.

In an attempt to offer an alternative voice in postwar Virginia and to help boost the slowly recovering regional economy, the Free Lance was established in Fredericksburg in 1885 under the leadership of William E. Bradley and John W. Woltz, a former chairman of Virginia’s Republican delegation. Thirty-four stockholders also contributed to the operations of the paper as investors in the Free Lance Newspaper and Job Printing Company. It was apparent from the earliest issues of the Free Lance that the war was deeply imprinted on people’s minds and that political divisions in the South were still bitterly contentious. The Free Lance characterized itself as an “Independent” paper “devoted to Agricultural, Commercial and Manufacturing Interests of Fredericksburg and its Vicinity.” Its chief competitors, the Fredericksburg Star and the News, were decidedly Democratic. The Star immediately questioned the political leanings of Woltz and the paper’s stockholders, prompting the Free Lance in its second issue to reply: “We repeat, we see enough already to convince us that the Star is disposed ‘to pick a quarrel’ with the Lance, which we shall be slow to enter, and which we now proclaim will be unprofitable, unwise and which, we shall avoid if possible and permitted.”

In fact, the Free Lance defended its mission–and its stockholders–with vigor. “Republicans, (even though they be unnatural human beings from the standpoint of the Star), don’t feel like … read more »

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