Newspapers currently available in the West Virginia GeoExplorer Project were digitized by Harpers Ferry National Historical Park under a grant from The Harpers Ferry Historical Association. Publication of these newspapers online marks a major milestone in our effort to provide West Virginia residents access to their heritage. Additional issues of these newspapers, as well as other newspapers, will be added as they become available.
Farmers' Repository. First published in Charles Town on April 1, 1808, by Richard Williams and William Brown, it was the first agricultural newspaper in West Virginia. The Court of Trustees' records for Shepherdstown for May 5, 1812, ordered "publication of the laws in force" in its columns. It was merged with the Virginia Free Press in February 1827.
Harpers Ferry Constitutionalist. Begun about 1821. In May 1841, John J. Hickey established a Democratic newspaper, The Jefferson Banner, in Charlestown. The Harpers Ferry Constitutionalist establishment and the names of its patrons were handed over to the Banner.
Spirit of Jefferson. The first issue was published on July 17, 1844, in Charles Town by James W. Beller. It was started in opposition to the Federalist and Whig newspaper, the Virginia Free Press. In 1858 the office was destroyed by fire but was re-established under the control of Lucas & Donavin. It then passed into the control of Donavin & Douglass and then Benjamin F. Beall, the latter owners running it for several years before the Civil War and owning it up to 1869. In the February 15, 1870, issue the new owners Dalgran and Haines noted that “We Pledge To Uphold Standards of Beall's Spirit of Jefferson Newspaper.” Rivalry between the Spirit of Jefferson and The Virginia Free Press kept readers entertained. For example, in the October 14, 1873, issue of the Spirit of Jefferson, the editor asks "Where Does Virginia Free Press Get Its Harpers Ferry News From? Does It Have Special Correspondent To Clip It From Spirit of Jefferson?" It was not until 1872, nine years after West Virginia had been admitted to the Union, that The Spirit of Jefferson changed its mast-head from “Virginia” to “West Virginia.” Beginning in July 1, 1875, George W. Haines edited the paper. The paper was sold about 1930 to John S. Alfriend. It is still published as the Spirit of Jefferson - Farmers Advocate, making it the oldest newspaper in the state. It continues the numbering of Spirit of Jefferson from 1948.
Virginia Free Press. First published by John S. Gallaher and H. N. Gallaher at Harpers Ferry. In 1827, the newspaper combined with Richard Williams' Farmer's Repository. For a brief time, the newspaper was published simultaneously at Charlestown and Harpers Ferry under title Virginia Free Press and Farmers' Repository. The name later changed to the Free Press. The paper had strong Whig affiliations. Gallaher was twice elected to the Virginia house of Delegates and was editor or part owner of several Whig newspapers between Charles Town and Richmond. During the Civil War the newspaper office was entirely demolished by the Federal soldiers, with type, presses, and everything being consumed by fire. The Gallaher family continued publication until about 1910 when it was sold to State Senator William Campbell who operated it a few years and then sold the plant and equipment to Clayton Haines and Robert Rissler, publishers of the Spirit of Jefferson and Farmers Advocate, respectively. These two discontinued the publication of the Free Press on March 16, 1916. The subscription books, 1821 - 1884, 2 vols. (listing subscribers to the Harpers Ferry and Charles Town newspaper, Jefferson County, by locality) are located in The Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Individual newspaper issues can be searched using Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here for instructiions.
_______________________________________________________________________________ Constitutionalist [Harpers Ferry, Virginia]
_______________________________________________________________________________ Farmers Repository [Charlestown, Virginia]
_______________________________________________________________________________ Spirit of Jefferson - Farmers Advocate [Charlestown, (West) Virginia]
_______________________________________________________________________________ Virginia Free Press
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