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In contrast to the Alexandria Gazette —a small paper with influence beyond its immediate environment—many Virginia newspapers served mainly single isolated communities. The Highland Recorder, for example, was published weekly in Monterey, seat of Highland County—a remote and heavily forested region of 416 square miles on the Virginia–West Virginia border, where there were few gaps, passes, or watercourses to cut through the Allegheny Mountains to provide access to the outside world. Founded in 1877, the Recorder was first an independent publication, turned Republican from 1887 to 1891, then remained Democratic thereafter.

Well into the 1900s the Recorder offered its readers a wide variety of material, serving as the county’s primary source for news and more. For example, page one traditionally included a poem, a short story, and a sampling of national and international news mixed with several anecdotes. Page two offered an editorial comment and additional news. Page three was devoted to the concerns of a local economy based primarily on general farming, sheep-raising, and the production of maple sugar. Page four featured the weekly sermon and usually included a large number of advertisements.

The relative isolation of Highland County magnified the paper’s significance. Within the town and county, there were few, if any, alternatives to the Recorder. The same pattern can be seen in other areas of southwestern Virginia as well as in the state’s far western reaches, including West Virginia before separate statehood. In this region, the number of newspaper titles was far out of proportion to the population served. Yet cut off by the severe features of the landscape, many of these scattered mountain communities, however small, ventured to support their own paper.

Provided by: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA