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The Morgantown monitor. [volume] : (Morgantown, Va. [W. Va.]) 1863-1864
Alternative Titles:
  • Semi-weekly monitor May-June 6, 1863
Place of publication:
Morgantown, Va. [W. Va.]
Geographic coverage:
  • Morgantown, Monongalia, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Geo. C. Sturgiss & Wm. P. Willey
Dates of publication:
  • Ceased in 1864?
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Feb. 14, 1863)-
Weekly, June 1863-1864
  • English
  • Morgantown (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • West Virginia--Morgantown.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01205436
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
sn 86092176
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The Morgantown monitor. [volume] February 14, 1863 , Image 1


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The Morgantown monitor

Published for exactly one year between February 1863 and February 1864, the The Morgantown Monitor constituted an "experiment" by William P. Willey and George C. Sturgiss to "demonstrate the feasibility of a successful newspaper enterprise in a border State during a great war." Believing a newspaper for Morgantown and the local region an "absolute necessity," Willey and Sturgiss used the Monitor to comment on local and state political affairs, opine on national politics, promote local business, and report on the course of the Civil War.

Despite being one of West Virginia's largest towns, Morgantown lacked a newspaper during the Civil War's early years. At the urging of local citizens, William Willey and George Sturgiss launched the Monitor with one year's financial backing. A recent graduate of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, William Willey was the son of Unionist Senator Waitman T. Willey of Virginia and later West Virginia. Sturgiss hailed from Ohio, where his father was a Methodist Episcopal minister. Both young men were in their early twenties; Sturgiss wasn't even of voting age at the paper's onset.

With its inaugural issue, the Monitor staked out a clear conservative platform. While the editors fully supported the Union's preservation, they had no qualms with slavery. In their view, political extremism was to blame for the Civil War: "Abolitionism and secessionism are like the blades of a pair of shears, it is only by contact with each other that any effect can be produced." Although they wanted a vigorous prosecution of the war against the Confederacy, they decried Abraham Lincoln's willingness to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. They especially opposed emancipation, which they believed transformed the "the policy of the war, the avowed object of which is, the restoration of the Union, into a war for the negro."

Beyond national politics, the paper kept its readers abreast of military developments, including campaigns of national importance such as Gettysburg and Vicksburg, along with military affairs closer to home, such as the Confederate raid through Morgantown in April 1863. The paper also reported on local state politics, including the creation of West Virginia and its first state government. Local civic affairs and business news also dotted the Monitor's columns. For a few months in 1863, the paper experimented with a semi-weekly, two-page variant (entitled the Semi-Weekly Monitor), but quickly reverted back to the standard four-page, weekly edition.

In February 1864, William Willey and George Sturgiss ended their experiment. They claimed to have succeeded in their goal of producing a successful local newspaper. Yet their conservative politics ran counter to the pro-Republican leanings of the region, and they struggled to connect with their readership. As a local judge noted, the short-lived Monitor was akin to "a gun boat that shot blank cartridges." Both Willey and Sturgiss passed the bar later in 1864; perhaps they were eager to move onto legal careers. Both men emerged as prominent West Virginians in subsequent years. Willey practiced law in Baltimore, Maryland, followed by a long tenure as a history and law professor at West Virginia University. Sturgiss also pursued law and eventually entered Republican politics, running unsuccessfully for West Virginia governor in 1880 and serving as a Congressman between 1907-1911.

Provided by: West Virginia University