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Fayetteville observer. [volume] : (Fayetteville, Tenn.) 1850-1966
Place of publication:
Fayetteville, Tenn.
Geographic coverage:
  • Fayetteville, Lincoln, Tennessee  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Alfred H. Berry
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Dec. 17, 1850)-v. 116, no. 16 (Apr. 7, 1966).
  • English
  • Fayetteville (Tenn.)--Newspapers.
  • Lincoln County (Tenn.)--Newspapers.
  • Tennessee--Fayetteville.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01224996
  • Tennessee--Lincoln County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01229893
  • Archived issues are available in digital format as part of the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Merged with: Elk Valley times, to form: Elk Valley times and observer.
  • Publication suspended: Apr. 17-Sept. 11, 1862, July 2, 1863-Nov. 9, 1865.
  • Published: 100th Anniversary Edition, Jan. 18, 1951.
  • Publishers: Alfred H. Berry, 1850-1851; A.H. Berry & N.O. Wallace, 1851-1853; N.O. Wallace, 1853-1890; N.O. Wallace's Sons, 1890-1937; C.R. & R.M. Wallace, Jr., 1937-1941; Wallace Brothers, 1941-1962; R.M. Wallace & Herbert Gatlin, 1962-1965; R.M. Wallace & Knox Stewart, 1965-1966; R.M. Wallace, 1966.
  • Vol. 11, no. 46 combines Apr. 10 and Sept. 18, 1862 issues.
sn 85033395
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Fayetteville observer. [volume] December 17, 1850 , Image 1


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Fayetteville Observer

Alfred H. Berry established the weekly Fayetteville Observer in December 1850. Berry was an experienced newspaperman, having worked as editor and proprietor of the Lincoln Journal for several years,with his father William L. Berry (known as the "the oldest printer in Nashville”). Addressing the people of Lincoln County in the Observer’s inaugural issue, Berry declared the paper to be “unchanged, and unchangeable Democrat; and [maintained] that we shall, in our humble way, continue to advocate the Union of these federated States, just so long as forbearance continues to be a virtue – and no longer.”

On May 6, 1851, Alfred Berry announced that Nathaniel Odell “N.O.” Wallace would join the paper. Wallace, too, was experienced in newspapering; his previous employers included Democratic papers, the Nashville Union and the Shelbyville Free Press. Wallace was the first of three generations of his family at the Fayetteville Observer, the last one leaving the paper in 1966.

Berry departed in 1853, leaving N.O. Wallace as sole proprietor and editor until 1890 when Wallace’s sons--N.O., Jr. and Robert M.--took over. In 1937, Robert M., Sr.’s sons--Clinton R. and Robert M. Wallace, Jr.--became the publishers, until 1962 when R.M., Jr. partnered with Herbert Gatlin, and then briefly with Knox Stewart in 1965-66.

Representative of Southern Democrats of the time, the Fayetteville Observer was pro-slavery. It ran many editorials and stories from other papers discussing the “slavery question.” In its inaugural issue, the readers’ attention was drawn to the “Runaway Negro” list. The paper boasted that this was a new feature in newspaper enterprise and claimed to be “the first in Tennessee to adopt this plan.”

Beginning in March 1856, on page two, above its editorial, the Observer printed an image of an eagle bearing a banner with the word “Democracy” and in its beak, a ribbon that read “The Union – it must be preserved.” The image appeared for the final time on April 25, 1861, along with the news that the state of Virginia had seceded and a proclamation from Tennessee’s Governor Isham G. Harris, convening the Legislature for an extra session at Nashville that day. In the next issue (May 2, 1861), the eagle and slogan were gone, and the newspaper firmly positioned itself in favor of secession.

The Observer remained in publication until spring 1862. The paper reported: “When [Union troops] halted in front of our office, our workmen were busily engaged preparing the Observer of April 10th for the press. Of course, the establishment was closed without delay, and the present is the first opportunity we have had for completing the issue.” Consequently, page 1 of the paper is dated April 10, while pages 2, 3 and 4 are dated September 18, 1862: the date on which printing resumed and the paper was eventually published.

Unlike many Confederate newspapers in Tennessee, the Fayetteville Observer managed to continue publishing for several more months after the arrival of the Union Army. Publication was finally suspended in July 1863 and did not resume until November 9, 1865.

The Observer remained in circulation, under Wallace family ownership, for the next 100 years. In 1966 it merged with the Elk Valley Times, becoming the Elk Valley Times and Observer. In 1976, the Elk Valley Times and Observer merged with the Lincoln County News and became the Elk Valley Times, Observer and News which is still published today.

Provided by: University of Tennessee