Place of publication: Lewisburg, VA [W. Va.]
The four-page Greenbrier Era first hit the streets of Lewisburg in Greenbrier County, Virginia (later West Virginia), in August 1851. Despite the near constant changes in ownership and editorship over the subsequent decade, the Greenbrier Era nevertheless developed into one the largest and most influential antebellum newspapers in western Virginia.
The Greenbrier Era was initially published by William F. Farish and Joseph S. Crane, with Charles Hamilton as editor; Crane had prior experience managing the earlier Western Era newspaper in Lewisburg. Over the next several years, however, the paper changed hands multiple times, with Joseph Crane weathering these changes to remain the sole continuous link in the Era's early years. In 1854, the weekly newspaper was renamed the Greenbrier Weekly Era, which would remain the publication's title for the remainder of its existence.
The front page of the Greenbrier Weekly Era usually entertained its readers with bountiful short stories, humorous anecdotes, and poetry. The second page offered local, state, and national news, along with editorial columns. Much of the remainder of the paper was filled with advertisements for various goods and local services. The Era enjoyed a wide circulation and healthy advertising revenue.
Politically, the Greenbrier Weekly Era worked to remain "independent as the wind," noting that "the Whig and Democratic Parties are "dead" to us." Yet while the Era's editors spurned the mainstream political parties of the 1850s, they embraced the new Know-Nothing movement wholeheartedly. The Know-Nothings were a nativist political organization that opposed foreign (notably Catholic) immigration and influence within the United States. By the mid-1850s, the Era's editors enthusiastically trumpeted the Know-Nothing platform, proclaiming "Let Americans rule Americans. Let the influence of foreigners be ignored- let their votes be forgotten at the ballot box." The Weekly Era's editors backed these words with action, supporting the nativist American Party and Millard Fillmore for president.
By 1861, the reality of Southern secession and the possibility that Virginia would leave the Union shook the nation and the Era's editors at the time, Adam C. Snyder and J.S. Johnston. "The present is dark and lowering," the Era's editors mourned, and they urged politicians to work towards a compromise and preserve Virginia's place in the Union if possible. Yet with Virginia's eventual secession and with war looming, the Era's final two editors made their loyalties clear. In May 1861, Adam Snyder left the paper to join the Confederate army, writing in his final editorial that "The justice of our cause insures our success...Abe Lincoln, his diabolical advisers and sycophants will enjoy the superlative torments of a special and intense hell." Snyder survived the war and practiced law, eventually becoming a justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court.
With Snyder's departure and the outbreak of war, the Greenbrier Weekly Era ceased publication. Its presses, however, would be used at least once during the Civil War. In the summer of 1862, Union soldiers of the 44th Ohio Infantry occupied the offices of the press to briefly publish a regimental newspaper entitled the Yankee.