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Harper's Ferry sentinel. [volume] : (Harpers Ferry, W. Va.) 1887-1902
Alternative Titles:
  • Saturday sentinel 1892
Place of publication:
Harpers Ferry, W. Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Harpers Ferry, Jefferson, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
David Gosorn
Dates of publication:
  • Ceased in 1902?
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Sept. 24, 1887)-
  • English
  • Harpers Ferry (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • West Virginia--Harpers Ferry.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01212444
  • "Independent."
  • Available on microfilm from U.M.I.
sn 85059784
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Harper's Ferry sentinel. [volume] December 31, 1887 , Image 1


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Harper’s Ferry Sentinel

Editor David Gosorn began to publish the Harper's Ferry Sentinel in 1887 with the slogan "Pro Bono Publico" (Latin for "the public good"). The newspaper appeared every Saturday morning full of eclectic content: literature, advice for farming and gardening, scientific and industrial news, recipes, household affairs, local news, personals, and advertisements. The American Newspaper Directory describes the Harper's Ferry Sentinel as Republican in 1887-1888 and "Independent-Republican" from 1889 until 1902. The Republican content was usually relatively small in scope, confined to only one or two of the paper's eight pages. In the fifteenth edition, Gosorn promoted a policy of protection for wool and chastised the Democratic Party for its perceived spending habits (December 31, 1887). "The serious question before the first Republican President was how to fill a Treasury which the Democrats had empty," Gosorn remarked, and then continued, "After twenty-five years, the serious question before the first Democratic President is how to empty a treasury which Republicans have filled." Snide comments of this nature, and even benign observations, provoked Gosorn's Democratic counterpart, William Wallace Beeler Gallaher of the Virginia Free Press. Gallaher proceeded to fight with Gosorn when Gosorn suggested that Heyward Shepard, a free man of color, and the first person to die during John Brown's infamous 1859 Raid on Harpers Ferry, was not intentionally killed by Brown's men (October 20, 1887).

Gosorn left the Harper's Ferry Sentinel at some point between 1888 and 1889. The ambitious William L. Erwin succeeded Gosorn as editor and briefly transitioned the paper to a Friday evening schedule. Erwin was well-regarded among his peers in Jefferson County. The editor of the Shepherdstown Register conceded that he was "one of the most popular and capable young business men in Harper's Ferry" (November 29, 1900). Erwin competed with Jacob Rohr Grove for the title of postmaster in 1900. Grove, the incumbent postmaster, had actually replaced Erwin as editor by 1897. Although he was "an excellent postmaster," according to the Register, Grove also had a reputation for being politically duplicitous (November 29, 1900). Both the Register and the Spirit of Jefferson printed articles about Grove "becoming" Republican in exchange for the postmaster office. "The publisher of the Harper's Ferry Sentinel continues to show signs of irritability whenever his politics is mentioned or his postoffice referred to," the Register observed. "Wonder what Grove is most ashamed of—having been a Democrat a few years ago or of being a Republican now?" (October 21, 1897).

Grove dismissed the accusations, remaining loyal to the Republican Party and the Harper's Ferry Sentinel. He oversaw the Sentinel's publication until 1902, when he moved his family to Pennsylvania. The editor of the Shepherdstown Register suspected that Grove's departure was inevitable. "The Harper's Ferry Sentinel has suspended publication," he reported on May 15, 1902. "It died a slow, lingering death, and the mourners are not many." While that may not have been true, the reality of its "death" was. Without Grove, the Sentinel did not have a future in Harper's Ferry or Pennsylvania.

Provided by: West Virginia University