Cooper's Clarksburg Register
Place of publication: Clarksburg, VA [W. Va.]
William Pope Cooper, a newspaper publisher from Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, purchased the Clarksburg Register of Harrison County, Virginia, changed its name to the Cooper’s Clarksburg Register and published its inaugural issue on November 12, 1851. Eager to be more than the publisher of a small newspaper, Cooper helped establish the Mechanics Association of Clarksburg in 1853, was elected a Clarksburg trustee and town president in 1856, and then Clerk of the Harrison County Court in 1857. In that year, Cooper acquired a partner, C.T. Bruen, in order to balance his dual endeavors of publishing and politics.
Cooper’s Clarksburg Register was four pages long, seven columns per page, and maintained a consistent format that included literary compositions, government and business affairs, national and local news, and advertisements. Cooper founded his weekly newspaper during a period of political polarization between the North and South, which would eventually lead to the separation of the western counties from the rest of Virginia. The Register was fully engaged in debates over the contentious issues shaping antebellum Virginia. Cooper placed his motto, “We stand upon the principles of immutable justice, and no human power shall drive us from our position -- Jackson,” prominently under the title to reinforce his newspaper’s rejection of federal sovereignty over the states. Cooper strongly supported the Democratic Party, regularly editorializing in favor of the party’s candidates for elected office. He frequently wrote editorials opposing the American or “Know-Nothing” Party, rejecting abolitionism, and condemning proposals for the creation of a new state in western Virginia. Like many other newspaper publishers in Virginia, Cooper closed down his paper when war began to answer the Confederacy’s call for soldiers.
William F. Gordon, Jr., Clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1859 to 1865, took over the newspaper and changed its name back to the Clarksburg Register after Cooper stopped publishing sometime between July 1860 and March 1861. Gordon added an image to the paper’s nameplate and masthead featuring a mountaineer, an eagle, the American flag, and the Virginia state motto, “Sic Semper Tyrannis.” Editorializing in the final issues in spring 1861, Gordon lamented the efforts in western Virginia that ultimately divided the Commonwealth into two states. His sentiments served as the eulogy for Cooper’s Clarksburg Register.
Meanwhile, William Pope Cooper was promoted in July 1861 to first lieutenant in the 31st Regiment Virginia Infantry. In October he was elected to the Virginia secession convention. He advanced to the rank of major and was wounded twice in his nearly four years in the Confederate Army. Cooper survived the war and returned to newspaper publishing and to the new state of West Virginia when the conflagration ended. He published the Clarksburg Conservative from March 1866 to September 1868, the Parkersburg Gazette in the early 1870s, and the Fairmont Index from February 1874 until its destruction by fire in 1876.
Provided by: West Virginia University