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The town of Berryville lies west of the Blue Ridge in the northern Shenandoah Valley, 20 miles southwest of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and 60 miles west of Washington, D.C. As the seat of Clarke County, Berryville by 1860 had at least three newspapers. However, all were casualties of the Civil War. The last of these, the Berryville Conservator, disappeared in March 1862, when newsprint from a partially printed issue was used to produce copies of The First Minnesota, published by a Union Regiment occupying the town for “circulation among their friends in the Great Northwest.” Two weeks later, the 27th Regiment, Indiana Volunteers, followed suit, printing at least two numbers of the Haversack.
William N. Nelson launched the Clarke Courier on February 19, 1869. A former captain of the Nelson Guards, Company C of the 2nd Regiment, Virginia Volunteers, who had been wounded at First Manassas, Nelson purchased the printing plant of the defunct The Clarke Journal. The four-page weekly opposed Reconstruction and the agenda of the Radical Republicans. In its “Salutatory,” the editor described occupied Virginia as “despoiled, conquered, torn bleeding” and wanted the state to “resume her rightful position.” Conservative and unwaveringly supportive of the Democratic Party, the paper in 1870 trumpeted a local election victory as “Radicalism Routed . . . White Men Triumphant!”
In 1870, Nelson relinquished the editorship of the Courier to John O. Crown, a Marylander. A former Confederate, Crown held fast to a Democratic outlook. Much discussed in the Courier during the 1870s and early 1880s was the critical question of whether to repudiate some portion of Virginia’s immense public debt and refinance the remainder or, instead, to face fully Virginia’s fiscal responsibilities. Proponents of the first course were the “Readjusters” led by William Mahone. Their opponents were known as Funders. In November 1880, Crown placed the Courier squarely behind the latter: “Virginia Takes it Straight. She wants no Mahone in it.” A week later, after Mahone won a seat in the U.S. Senate, the paper with considerable regret announced “with feelings of sorrow and shame the success of the coalition party of this state.” The Courier also voiced outrage that enfranchised African-Americans were a part of the successful coalition.
The mid-1880s also found the Courier closely following the business practices of Virginia’s railroads and supporting the establishment of a Railroad Commission. “We do not advocate extreme legislation in regard to railroads,” the newspaper commented, “but we think laws should be enacted that will confine them to their duties as public carriers, and to prevent unjust discriminations against local traffic.” Crown was, as a Clarke County historian later noted, widely acknowledged as a “practical printer as well as an accomplished writer, one of the best editorial writers in the State.” Crown edited the paper until his death in 1902. Two of his sons ran the paper from 1917 to 1927, years when prohibition became a major topic. In 1907, the Courier, a pro-temperance paper, quoted an unnamed resident who compared alcohol to an “awful demon polluting our land,” and in that year five saloons in Berryville closed.
Under changing ownership in the decades that followed, the Clarke Courier became the Clarke Times-Courier in 1997 under Arthur Arundel, who had purchased the paper in 1981.
Provided by: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA