“What do we know about newspapers in Lynchburg?” is a frequent question from visitors touring Point of Honor, the 1815 federal style home of Dr. George Cabell located in Lynchburg’s Daniel’s Hill neighborhood. The general answer is that we know that newspapers in Lynchburg reveal the history and culture of central Virginia. More specifically, the answer points to newspapers such as the LYNCHBURG VIRGINIAN, a newspaper published semi-weekly every Monday and Thursday with an advertisement rate of 50 cents. This newspaper’s motto was “The Rights of the States and the Union of the States” and the issue on display at Point of Honor is dated April 28, 1845. In addition, John J. Cabell, M.D, (brother of Dr. George Cabell) edited a newspaper, JEFFERSONIAN REPUBLICAN. Dr. John Cabell was a man of “enlarged and cultivated mind, wielding the pen with power, particularly on political subjects” (Sketches and Recollections of Lynchburg). Reflecting his keen interest in political subjects, his newspaper’s motto was “Constitutional Liberty.” The newspaper on display at Point of Honor is dated Thursday, March 25, 1830. The power of the pen in Lynchburg newspapers shows her challenges and successes through the years. This article highlights some of these newspapers and their stories.
Local and Regional News: THE EXPRESS is said to have been Lynchburg’s first daily newspaper and was published by George Bagby, M.D. (1828-1883). While no known copy of his newspaper is available, Dr. Bagby did make news on his own by agreeing to a duel with an unnamed person in Maryland. Fortunately, Dr. Bagby and his challenger were reconciled without incident. Additionally, Dr. Bagby challenged a Union officer who questioned the accuracy of an article about prisoners of war; again, the conflict was reconciled when the officer refused to duel. “The last duel between Virginia newspaper editors was fought in June 1883” (Lynchburg, Virginia, The First 200 Years, 1786-1986). (Of course, the tradition of dueling is connected to our own Point of Honor as it is believed that dueling took place on the grounds before the house was built, but no documentation exists about these duels.)
Politics: LYNCHBURG VIRGINIAN: “An Inalienable Right” on November 22, 1860
When the reader first considers this headline, he is probably not thinking about a citizen’s right so clearly outlined in this editorial from the LYNCHBURG VIRGINIAN. The editor discusses the economic advantage of this right, the individual liberty to enjoy this right, and the patriotic duty to allow this right to continue. What is the right? Is it freedom of speech? Is it freedom of the press? Is it freedom to assemble? It is neither one. It is the right to chew tobacco! “The American people chew, and if it is a bad habit, it is their business” (Lynchburg, Virginia, The First 200 Years, 1786-1986). Throughout the early history of Lynchburg, tobacco was a major industry for economic success and, for this particular editor, a motivation to use the mighty pen in a newspaper editorial.
Obituary: THE PRESS: The Death of John Lynch on October 31, 1820
No discussion of Lynchburg history would be complete without a newspaper’s reaction to the death of the founder of Lynchburg. John Lynch receives praise from the writer in THE PRESS. According to the Library of Congress descriptions of early newspapers in Virginia, THE PRESS was a Lynchburg newspaper published from 1820-1822. It merged with the LYNCHBURG GAZETTE to form the VIRGINIAN in 1822. According to the obituary, John Lynch was named “one of the patriarchs of old,” and was seen as a man of “good…charity…and benevolence. To the poor his doors were ever opened” (Lynchburg, Virginia, The First 200 Years, 1786-1986).
Part 2 of this blog notes the contemporary history of Lynchburg’s current newspaper, THE NEWS AND ADVANCE.
By Tom Yarber, Staff
Lynchburg Museum System
Cabell. Sketches and Recollections of Lynchburg by the Oldest Inhabitant 1858.
Elson, James. Lynchburg, Virginia: The First Two Hundred Years, 1786-1986.
Library of Congress. Descriptions of Early Newspapers in Lynchurg, Virginia.