Place of publication: Farmville, VA
Located in Prince Edward County on the Appomattox River, 68 miles west of Petersburg, Farmville was the fourth largest tobacco market in Virginia by 1836. During the Civil War, tobacco warehouses were converted into military hospitals and production sites for war-related materials, but the town remained relatively unscathed during the conflict. By the 1870s, Farmville had regained much of its pre-war prosperity, thanks in large part to the tobacco industry and to an influx of both white- and black-owned businesses.
Originally published on the first floor of the old Opera House, the Farmville Herald was established on November 14, 1890 "in conjunction with the Farmville Coal and Iron Company" and under the leadership of Colonel R. B. Berkeley. The weekly served Buckingham, Cumberland, and Prince Edward counties and by 1900 had reached a circulation of 750--within a town of 2,404.
James L. Hart purchased the Herald in 1893. Born in Farmville in 1863, Hart published the Herald for 30 years until his death in 1921. Described as "a born newspaper writer," Hart also served as secretary of the Virginia Press Association from 1889 to 1915. He took an active interest in community affairs and served as postmaster during Woodrow Wilson's administration. A lengthy remembrance printed in the Herald stated, "By his energy and ability, [Hart] made [the Farmville Herald] one of the leading weekly papers of Southside Virginia, and of the state; and under his control, it has always stood for the progress and welfare of his community, his state, and the country at large."
Front-page content often included vivid stories and intensely emotional poems related to the Civil War--works such "A Dark Secret: The Story of a Tragic Life Drama," or "A Southern War Story, How an Aged Judge Saved His Scanty Supply of Meat from the Soldiers." The newspaper's second page included editorial comment and "Local Briefs," with dispatches from such papers as the Lynchburg Daily Advance, the Petersburg Index-Appeal, the Staunton Spectator , the Virginia Citizen, the Spirit of the Valley, and the Richmond Dispatch. Also published were "Washington Letters," primarily notes and opinions on national politics. Columns such as "News of Old Virginia," "Buckingham Notes," and "Briefs and Personals" were popular, too. There were also frequent notes on Farmville's State Female Normal School (later Longwood College) and nearby Hampden-Sydney College. Fourth-page space was regularly given to advertisements and farm-related topics such as "Draft Horse Points," "Erecting a Barn," and "Facts for Farmers." For the most part, the news was local and highly relevant to its rural readers.
Although it called itself "Independent," the Farmville Herald routinely endorsed Democratic candidates for public office. The Richmond Dispatch once described the Herald as "one of the brightest, newsiest, and brainiest of our State exchanges, and ... Democratic to the Hart's core."