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Virginia free press. : (Charlestown, Va. [W. Va.]) 1832-1916
Alternative Titles:
  • Free press July 29-Aug. 5, 1841
  • Virginia free press and farmers' repository
  • Virginia free press, the old family journal
Place of publication:
Charlestown, Va. [W. Va.]
Geographic coverage:
  • Charles Town, Jefferson, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
John S. Gallaher
Dates of publication:
  • Ceased in 1916.
  • Vol. 25, no. 21 (July 19, 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.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Available on microfilm from the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service.
  • Sometimes published as: Virginia free press and farmers' repository, <Jan. 21, 1851> <Mar. 4, May 6, 1852> <Aug. 10, Nov. 23, 1854>.
  • Suspended 1862-Aug. 24, 1865.
  • Vol. numbering has New ser. beginning with Vol. 1, no. 1 (Aug. 24, 1865).
sn 84026784
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Virginia free press. July 19, 1832 , Image 1


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Harpers-Ferry free press and Virginia free press.

Few papers in Charles Town had the longevity of the Virginia Free Press. It began as the Harpers Ferry Free Press in 1821 and subsequently became the Virginia Free Press in 1824. The Virginia Free Press merged with another local paper, the Farmers' Repository, in 1827. Five years later, the Virginia Free Press and Farmers' Repository dropped the second half of its name. The senior editor, John S. Gallaher, and his successors published the Virginia Free Press until 1916. Upon its discontinuation, the Shepherdstown Register admitted that it was "sorry to see the passing of this good old weekly." The Virginia Free Press had been a staple of West Virginia publishing for nearly a hundred years.

Gallaher had a career that was only surpassed in duration by the paper itself. "On the 4th of April 1809, sixty-two years ago, I entered the office of the Martinsburg Gazette … as an apprentice. What changes since then!" he cried. "Millions of people, born since that day, have gone down to the tomb, and millions more are fretting to get food and raiment." Gallaher wrote in the troubled times of Reconstruction. Suffrage for black men and the implementation of military districts in the South had raised the ire of Southern Democrats, including Gallaher's relatives. His brother, Horatio, and Horatio's son, William Wallace Beeler, deemed territorial governments "both wanton and wicked," adding "[that] the Devil himself could not concoct measures more mischievous in intention and tendency than those introduced" by Radical Republicans. Horatio and William assumed control of the Virginia Free Press from Gallaher in 1865. Their avowed support for Southern Democrats marked a distinct shift from Gallaher's earlier politics.

Gallaher had been a journalist "of the old Whig school" for a large portion of his career. But the politics of the antebellum period were constantly in flux. The dissolution of the Whig Party in 1854 forced those of Gallaher's persuasion to align with other parties. In 1856, he used the pages of the Virginia Free Press to support Millard Fillmore, the presidential candidate for the Know Nothing Party. Gallaher took it upon himself to defend the Fillmore advocates with whom he allied. The Spirit of Jefferson, a local Democratic paper, had accused French S. Evans of being a "black Republican." A "black Republican" in nineteenth-century parlance was a Republican who supported abolition and other measures that benefited African Americans. Gallaher took the affront personally; he claimed Evans was "just as far from being a black Republican as it is possible for any man to be." No one could accurately call Gallaher and his readers "black Republicans." They were, rather, anti-Democrats, searching for a party that upheld their Whig views. They sought political stability in an era that had little to offer.

The presidential election of 1860 eliminated what stability remained. Gallaher defended the cause of Unionism and attacked the Fire-Eaters who seemed to threaten it. "Be not diverted from the path of duty by the clamor of demagogues and secessionists who talk about a 'United South,'" he exclaimed. "They first divide their own party [the Democrats], and endanger the Union, and then have the effrontery to ask you to save them from the effects of their own folly." Gallaher believed Southern Democrats were responsible for affording "new life and vigor to the Anti-slavery party" and weakening the Union. He hoped John Bell would win the presidential election for the Constitutional Union Party. It was not to be. Lincoln claimed the presidency, and Gallaher had to shutter the Virginia Free Press when Virginia seceded in April 1861. He did not publish another issue until August 24, 1865.

Provided by: West Virginia University