Clinch Valley News
Place of publication: Tazewell, VA
Established in 1869 in the small town of Jeffersonville (now Tazewell) in southwest Virginia, the four-page weekly was first edited by Dr. Henry F. Peery and James C. Nutty. Peery brought rough-and-tumble experience to the job. Twenty-two years earlier, he had printed the Jeffersonville Democrat and later the Southwestern Advocate. Both papers had staunchly supported the Democratic Party as did the new Clinch Valley News. After Peery's death in 1872, a series of editors retained much of the same political flavor. Together, the succession of the above three titles would serve as one of Virginia's oldest continuously published weekly newspapers.
The News ably reflected the community's economic and social fabric. Tazewell, located between the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains, was surrounded by small farms primarily devoted to cattle and grain and the center of increasingly vibrant lumber and coal mining industries. Despite its small size, Tazewell had a remarkable variety of businesses, churches, and large homes. In 1885, work began on a new opera house.
The Clinch Valley News showed the same steady growth. In 1872, the paper reached an estimated 400 subscribers, a good number considering that the population of Tazewell would not reach 550 until the early 1900s. By 1900, circulation had nearly reached 1,000 and by 1908 approximately 1,500. By then, too, the News was attracting readers in nearby Pocahontas, Graham, Marion, Lynchburg, Abbs Valley, Cedar Bluff, Shawver Mills, and Pounding Mill, as well as in Bristol, Tennessee.
Much of its success was due to the work of Joseph Albert Leslie, who first arrived as a minister for the "fledgling flock" of the Tazewell Baptist Church and who later served as a teacher at Tazewell College. In 1896, he and his son, W. Bland Leslie, purchased the Clinch Valley News, publishing it together until the former's death in 1932. The Leslie family continued to oversee its publication until 1961. By the early 1900s, an annual subscription cost as much as two dollars, with individual issues selling for a nickel. The paper's size varied widely, depending on the whim of the editors or the availability and price of newsprint. In 1890, for example, the News had a large 36-by-48-inch format; in 1916 it was a considerably smaller 15.5 by 22 inches.
The News contained brief local notes of town and country businesses, highlighting, for example, the activities of the Raven Collieries, Red Ash Coal Company, or Tazewell Planing Mill, while also covering local and state politics. For more general fare, the paper published columns devoted to science and agriculture as well as poetry, fiction, humor, historical anecdotes, and stories highlighting women's interests and fashion. These varied subjects mixed with other news of thecommunity proved so popular that the paper hired the talented J. W. Kidd as a regular columnist. The newspaper also included produce prices offered by Lynchburg buyers and detailed passenger and freight train schedules.
The Clinch Valley News regularly reprinted state and national news items from other newspapers. Some topics attracted particularly intense notice, including the march of "Coxey's Army" of unemployed workers on Washington, D.C., in 1894 and the debate over a silver- or gold-based national currency. Interest in these matters reflected the growing significance of labor issues in a region increasingly reliant on the coal and lumber industries.