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Virginia free press & farmers' repository. [volume] : (Charlestown, Va. [W. Va.]) 1827-1832
Alternative Titles:
  • Virginia free press
  • Virginia free press and farmers' repository
Place of publication:
Charlestown, Va. [W. Va.]
Geographic coverage:
  • Charles Town, Jefferson, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Gallaher & Daugherty
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 20, no. 1 (Mar. 7, 1827)-v. 25, no. 20 (July 12, 1832).
  • English
  • Charles Town (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • Jefferson County (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • West Virginia--Charles Town.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01217935
  • West Virginia--Jefferson County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01211991
  • Also available online.
  • Also issued on microfilm from the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
sn 84024746
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Virginia free press & farmers' repository. [volume] January 6, 1830 , Image 1


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Farmers' repository and Virginia free press & farmers' repository.

A flourishing newsprint culture bloomed in the streets of Charles Town, West Virginia, before the Civil War. The Virginia Free Press and Farmers' Repository (VFP & FR), one of several antebellum newspapers, devoted itself to a series of political topics, including slavery, congressional representation, and internal improvements. Richard Williams and William Brown edited its predecessor, the Farmers' Repository, from April 1, 1808, to February 28, 1827, before merging it with the Virginia Free Press in March. The new editors, John S. Gallaher and J.T. Daugherty, opposed the incumbent president, Democrat Andrew Jackson, and promoted the National Republican Party.

Gallaher was professionally and politically qualified to oversee the newspaper. He had previously edited the Virginia Free Press and the Ladies' Garland, an early women's magazine. Gallaher assumed full control of the paper after Daugherty "disposed of his interest" on October 6, 1830. Just two weeks later, Gallaher won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates with Edward Lucas, a future superintendent of the Harpers Ferry arsenal. The paper quietly mentioned Gallaher's political victory, noting the number of votes awarded without highlighting his role as editor. Astute readers understood the connection, and they accepted the paper as Gallaher's official mouthpiece. Within its pages, Gallaher shared his opinions on presidential candidates and internal improvements, advocating for the expansion of the railroad through Charles Town. The routing of railroads through the eastern panhandle of the state would influence the county's subsequent inclusion in West Virginia.

Another issue that facilitated divisions between eastern and western Virginia was congressional representation. The paper was at its peak in 1830 when Virginia was revising its state constitution. Two concerns dominated the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention: representation and suffrage. Western delegates petitioned for apportionment in the General Assembly on a white basis; they opposed a system of "federal numbers" that included an enslaved person as three-fifths a person, thereby granting additional representation to the eastern slaveholding counties. A "common man" writing for the VFP & FR deemed the system unjust. It is "the wish of the majority for representation to be uniform, according to the white population of the whole State, and not with regard to wealth," he wrote. The anonymous author continued, "In other words, not for slaves, who, as property, can be considered no more than so many cattle to give a man, where slaves are possessed, greater preponderance in the scale of politics, than one where there is little or no slavery."

Although that was true for western delegates, the rest disagreed. Apportionment according to the total white population failed by two votes, as did universal white male suffrage. Two western delegates, John R. Cooke and Richard H. Henderson, received backlash for voting against western interests. As late as 1910, historian Charles Ambler accused Cooke and Henderson of "disloyalty, approaching treason" for supporting the Gordon compromise, which gave the east a 24-person majority in the House of Delegates. Cooke countered similar claims in a series of letters reprinted in the VFP & FR. He argued "that Gen. Gordon's plan, adopted on the 19th of December … was the successful rival of the plan of white population and federal numbers, instead of being the plan itself." Gallaher and Daugherty did not challenge Cooke's assertions, indicating some level of agreement. They thought the new constitution was better than its predecessor, even though it did not "give the West all which we were justly entitled."

Gallaher continued to publish the VFP & FR until May 1832, when he announced impending changes for the paper. He promised "to make an addition to our form, and some general improvement in the appearance of the paper … in order to keep pace with the increasing patronage extended to the FREE PRESS." Within two months, the Virginia Free Press and Farmers' Repository became the Virginia Free Press, beginning a new chapter in Gallaher's publishing history.

Provided by: West Virginia University