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The paper under several different titles dates back to 1817, beginning as Democratic, swinging to Republican in the 1890s, and back to Democratic—closely reflecting political developments in its northern Shenandoah Valley community. By the early 1900s, the Shenandoah Herald’s circulation within the county seat of Woodstock (population 1,069) and throughout the 507-square-mile Shenandoah County (population 20,253) had reached at least 1,300, or approximately 25 percent of households. John H. Grabill, a former Confederate cavalry captain, acquired the Herald soon after the Civil War and continued as editor of the weekly until his death in 1922—“through the columns of his paper . . . habitually promot[ing] the uplifting forces of the community and seiz[ing] every opportunity to preserve and disseminate” its history.
To further that aim, the Shenandoah Herald throughout the late 1880s to 1910 also served as an enthusiastic publisher of local and regional history—serializing excerpts and then issuing the work in book form. For example, the editor’s own remarkable memoir, Diary of a Soldier of the Stonewall Brigade, appeared in three issues in January 1909, to be followed by the book version that same year. Particularly noteworthy was the Herald’s part in the publication of the revised 1902 third edition of Samuel Kercheval’s landmark History of the Valley of Virginia.
During the early 1900s most issues of the Herald included a bit of fiction, anecdotes of local history, or spirited commentaries on behalf of education (Grabill, indeed, served as school superintendent). The paper also carried accounts of local events, focusing especially on the economic vagaries of the local stave and flour mills, cooperages, lime kiln, stone quarry, and the Liberty Furnace mine and its narrow-gauge railroad. (The mine and railroad failed in 1905 with significant repercussions for the area.) In a rural county of farms, orchards, and small businesses, there were also occasional major pieces of news—such as the coming of electricity to Woodstock in 1903 and the collision of two Southern Railway freight trains in 1908.
Provided by: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA