Place of publication: Abingdon, VA
Located in Washington County in the Ridge and Valley section of the Appalachians, the town of Abingdon, Virginia lays claim to a rich publishing history. In November 1839, John W. Lampkin and Charles B. Coale formed a partnership and began publishing the South-Western Virginian, previously called the People's Friend under John N. Humes. On September 4, 1841, Coale formed a new joint venture with George R. Barr, and they continued to operate the four-page weekly, renaming it the Abingdon Virginian in 1849. During the 1850s the Virginian employed one of its more notable writers, James Dabney McCabe, Jr. Author of many works, including the popular Confederate drama, The Guerillas, one source claimed that McCabe briefly wrote for the paper when he was only 14, while his father was rector of St. Thomas Church.
As editor and publisher of the Abingdon Virginian, Coale, a native of Bel Air, Maryland, supported the Whig party and various community endeavors, including the construction of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad (V&T), which was to pass through Abingdon and run from Lynchburg to Bristol, Virginia. The completion of this line enhanced the economy of Southwestern Virginia, allowing for much easier distribution of the region's rich natural and agricultural resources. During the Civil War, the V&T became an essential transportation link for the Confederacy, hauling troops, weapons, and supplies, including most of the salt and lead used by the Confederate army mined from nearby Smyth and Wythe Counties.
As the Civil War approached, Coale, who owned no slaves, was opposed to secession until Virginia officially joined the Confederacy in April 1861. Once Virginia made its allegiance clear, his newspaper wholly supported the Confederate cause. Its proximity to the rich natural resources in the area and the fact that the V&T ran through it made Abingdon one of several Southwestern Virginia towns coveted by the Union army, but it was not until December 1864 that Union general Stephen Burbridge was able to occupy it successfully. After the occupation, a Union soldier under Burbridge's command, Captain James Wyatt, set much of Abingdon's Main Street ablaze, resulting in a suspension of the Virginian from December 15, 1864 until December 1865.
In 1873, Coale and Barr sold the paper to Major G. R. Dunn. "With this issue of the Virginian closes the editorial career of the undersigned," their farewell column explained. "A little over thirty-three years ago, without one dollar of capital and with a debt of $2,500 hanging over us for printing material, we took charge of the Virginian." Coale and Barr went on to graciously thank their readers saying, "When we look back over the long road we have plodded, with its ascents and descents, its rugged gorges and its windings, we forget all in reflecting upon the liberal support and kind indulgence of our subscribers." Coale's absence from publishing was not permanent though, and three years after his retirement from the Virginian, he began publishing the Abingdon Standard. In addition to his newspaper career, Coale authored The Life and Adventures of Wilburn Waters: The Famous Hunter and Trapper of White Top Mountain published in 1878. The Abingdon Virginian continued to be published in various incarnations until the 1970s.