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Winchester gazette. [volume] : (Winchester, Va.) 18??-1826
Place of publication:
Winchester, Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Winchester, Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City State
William Heiskell
Dates of publication:
  • Began in 1809 or 1810. Cf. Brigham, C.S. Amer. newspapers.
  • Ceased in 1826?
  • English
  • Virginia--Winchester.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01202730
  • Winchester (Va.)--Newspapers.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format as part of the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Available on microfilm from West Virginia University Library Photoduplication section.
  • Description based on: Vol. 3, no. 187 (Dec. 4, 1810).
  • Publishers: W. Heiskell, -1811; J. Heiskell, 1811-1823, 1824-1826; T. Jones, 1823-1824. Cf. Brigham, C.S. Amer. newspapers; Cappon, L.J. Va. newspapers.
sn 84025997
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Winchester gazette. [volume] April 20, 1811 , Image 1


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Winchester Gazette

The Winchester Gazette, published from 1808-1826, was the descendant of a long line of Federalists newspapers that began in 1788 under English emigrant, Richard Bowen, with his Virginia Centinel, or, the Winchester Mercury. Bowen's paper changed titles five more times, surviving "five challenges from Jeffersonian alternatives" before becoming, finally, the Winchester Gazette.

Prior to his arrival in Winchester, Bowen helped produce Baltimore's first daily, Palladium of Freedom, or, the Baltimore Daily Advertiser, a short-lived venture of which few issues exist. In April 1788, he settled in Winchester, a commercial center of Virginia's northern valley, 75 miles west of Washington, DC. Bowen partnered with Pennsylvania trained printer Henry Willcocks, and they began publishing the Virginia Centinel, or, the Winchester Mercury.

Six months into his partnership with Bowen, Willcocks moved to York, Virginia to start yet another newspaper with his brothers, James and John Edie. Bowen's newspaper was more popular among local merchants than its Jeffersonian competitor, the Virginia Gazette and Winchester Advertiser, published by Matthias Bartgis. Though Bowen's Virginia Centinel caused Bartgis's Virginia Gazette to fold, and despite their political differences, Bowen and Bartgis joined in an unlikely partnership in 1790 to offer a new weekly in the Shenandoah Valley called the Staunton Gazette, or, Weekly Western Star. Not surprisingly, the Staunton venture ended after three months.

At the time of Richard Bowen's death on June 1, 1808, his twenty-year-old shop foreman, William Heiskell, took over operations of the Winchester Gazette. Heiskell's family had settled in Shenandoah County in 1792, and his father, Frederick, had established a dry goods business in Winchester. Frederick began apprenticing his six sons to different trades, which is how William found himself in the printing offices of the Winchester Gazette. In 1809, William bought the paper from Bowen's estate and kept it operational with family funds and the assistance of his two brothers, Frederick and John. In early 1811, he sold the business to his brother John, who ran the newspaper, with one brief interruption in ownership, until 1826.

During its entire run, the Gazette came out weekly at a subscription rate of "three dollars per annum." Typical content of each four page issue included coverage of congressional debates and proceedings, presidential addresses, state and foreign news, and ads for local businesses, auctions, livestock, and property sales. Heiskell also issued several conservative religious texts in the Gazette, and throughout its lifespan, it "remained a voice of the region's old Federalists," inspiring the editorial ire of its Jeffersonian competitors. In spite of the newspaper's religious leanings, fugitive slave advertisements were common in its weekly columns as well.

In late 1823, realizing his opposition to Jackson in the upcoming election could destroy the paper's financial stability, Heiskell sold his printing business to Thomas Jones. A year later, Jones sold the struggling Gazette back to Heiskell. "Owing to circumstances which it would be unnecessary minutely to detail," Heiskell wrote in a public address published Dec. 10, 1824, "I am constrained to resume my editorial duties." With his return in late November 1824, he began the numbering of the Winchester Gazette with volume one, number one.

Heiskell owned the paper for two more years, retiring at age 50 due to ill health. In October 1826, he sold the printing business to Joseph H. Sherrard, a district court justice he had known for many years. Sherrard changed the paper's title to the Winchester Virginian and shifted its political leaning from National Republican to Jacksonian. Though Sherrard's Winchester Virginian is cataloged as a successor to the Winchester Gazette, some consider it a distinctly new title given the change in name and perspective.

Provided by: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA