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Rural Retreat times. [volume] : (Rural Retreat, Va.) 1892-1918
Place of publication:
Rural Retreat, Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Rural Retreat, Wythe, Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
[publisher not identified]
Dates of publication:
  • Began in 1892; ceased in 1918.
  • English
  • Rural Retreat (Va.)--Newspapers.
  • Description based on: Vol. 2, no. 3 (Feb. 17, 1893).
  • Editor:Chas. R. Pepper, <1893> ; Louis E. Pepper, <1895>.
sn 95079025
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Rural Retreat times. [volume] April 14, 1893 , Image 1


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Rural Retreat Times

Built through southwestern Virginia in 1856, the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad put Rural Retreat on the map. Its name, changed from Mt. Airy so as not to be confused with Mt. Airy, North Carolina, was coined by General William Mahone and aptly described the sparsely populated town with its mountain vistas and unspoiled natural beauty. Originally settled by German Lutherans, Rural Retreat is located 55 miles northeast of Bristol in the western section of Wythe County, an agricultural center known for livestock and dairy production. In 1957, O. Winston Link, a Brooklyn-based photographer, captured Rural Retreat's railroad depot in one of his iconic photographs documenting America's last steam locomotives as they travelled through Appalachia.

It was in this setting that the weekly Rural Retreat Times was introduced by Charles Robertson Pepper. Charles R. Pepper was born in Bristol, Tennessee on November 14, 1862, to Charles Taylor Pepper, a doctor, and Isabella McDowell Howe. Charles T. Pepper, also known in town as "Dr. Pepper," may have inspired the soft drink by the same name, but the drink's true origin story is unclear. Charles R. Pepper, the second oldest of Dr. Pepper's four children, began publishing a weekly newspaper for the town of Rural Retreat in 1892. Published every Friday by the Times Printing Company, a subscription to the paper cost one dollar per year.

Published from 1892 to 1918, the Pepper brothers were involved in various roles with the newspaper. Initially, Charles ran the paper, but by 1895, Louis Ervin Pepper, Charles's younger brother, served as editor. In the souvenir edition, published December 20, 1895, William Howe Pepper, the oldest Pepper sibling, wrote a front-page piece called "Our Town" describing the town's history, geography, commerce, and people. "Not all of the peaks of our mountains are equally beautiful and symmetrical; so with our people," he wrote, "some are rich. . .making beautifully rounded characters, whilst others, like the rugged cliffs, are devoid of all beauty." He went on to describe the land as abundant in timber, metals, and minerals, with the "choicest blue grass" and well-cultivated small farms.

A typical issue of the Rural Retreat Times contained the news of Rural Retreat as well as that of nearby towns such as Wytheville, South Fork, and Cedar Bluff. It also often included poetry, local briefs, short stories, sermons, national news, election returns, health news, and advertisements for business like the Norfolk and Western Railroad, and Pepper and Huffard's Drug Store. While the Pepper brothers were involved with the Times one way or another throughout the paper's duration, other local residents intermittently managed and edited the paper as well. In 1899, Haney & Terrell were listed as the publishers, then in 1902 William Pepper and W. W. Huffard held the position. Later managers included M. C. Steffey, Hugh L. Brown and Lee Umberger. By 1915, Dara Doak, only sixteen at the time, served as the Times manager and editor while his younger brother, Omar, mortally wounded during World War I, was listed as "assistant." At its peak, the paper's circulation was 750, but by 1918, it was only 400. This low circulation combined with the war may be the reasons for the demise of the Rural Retreat Times in 1918.

After working for the Times during its early years, Louis Pepper became a recognized newspaper editor with larger dailies, including the Roanoke Times, the Danville Bee and the Roanoke Evening News, but his career was abbreviated by his death at age 37 in 1908. At some point in the early 1900s, Charles moved to Texas and became a professor of French and Latin at Austin College. Though living and working in Texas, he was still listed as owner of the Rural Retreat Times in 1917. During a trip from Texas to Rural Retreat in September 1929, he became ill and died in Tennessee at age 67.

Provided by: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA