Founded In 1854 By Pioneer Editor Jordan Woodrum – Paper Sees And Records Development Of Roanoke County During 84 Of Its Years Of Progress
From the 1938 centennial edition of The Times-Register
Just sixteen years after Roanoke County was formed the present Times-Register had its beginning, and for eighty-four years has served the county, emerging from some of the greatest crisis which ever faced the United States, always struggling to maintain a continuity of information for the citizens of his section, and of later years bringing an intimate picture of surrounding community life in all of it phases-this the function of the modern weekly newspaper.
In 1854, Jordan Woodrum, grandfather of Congressman Clifton A. Woodrum, gave Salem its first permanent newspaper and with the exception of a few years such a paper has been published each week at the county seat. Weekly, the happenings in the town have been recorded with a personal touch that is foreign to daily papers. The pages of the home paper have chronicled the birth, graduation, marriage, highlights in the career of the Salem luminary and finally when the race was run the obituary notice. If it were possible to have access to all those old files what a glorious history could have been written concerning this county. These old files would have been a history in itself that would have been most interesting and even thrilling to read.
An Early Editor
When Mr. Woodrum established the first paper here; it was a strong democratic organ and the Whigs were singing their swan song. After the paper changed hands in 1861 it became the mouthpiece of the secessionists so that it is seen that all the political conflicts down through the years were reflected in its pages.
The first real paper established here was The Salem Register which Mr. Woodrum founded, together with Milton J. Jones, M. V. R. Jones and G. W. Kyle. Mr. Woodrum had previously operated a paper in Fincastle. He had studied law but was more interested in newspaper work, so that he gave up the practice of law. He later moved to Bent Mountain where he became the pioneer orchardist of the vicinity.
In 1857 The Register was sold to James W. Palmer and Jacob Keister. After operating the paper for four years they sold it to F. J. Ribble and George Landon. Under their management they made a call to rally support to the Confederacy, and over one thousand men responded to this call. Finally one of the editors was summoned to arms together with three members of the mechanical force so that the publication of the paper had to be suspended. Before quitting business the paper carried a number of interesting articles about the first battles of the war.
Mr. Webber Enters Field
On June 8, 1866, a practical printer, Charles M. Webber together with Peter Whitsell established The Roanoke Times and for a period William Barnitz, later a judge, was the editor of the publication. Under the editorial direction of Mr. Barnitz, the paper advised a policy of conciliation with the North.
In 1868 the newspaper was taken over by William E. Hubard and Edward A. McCauley and they advocated a conservative policy as opposed to the radical military regime.
In 1870 Charles M. Webber again acquired control of the paper and the name was once more changed to The Roanoke Times. Soon John A. McCaull became associated with Mr. Webber in the operation of the paper, and a cylinder press was purchased. This was one of the first cylinder presses in the entire region as a great majority of papers were printed on a hand press which was a slow and laborious process. With the purchase of this cylinder press the paper was enlarged to a nine column folio instead of a seven column one. A nine column paper today would be a curiosity in a country shop but at that time it was not strange.
Frank G. Webber, brother of Charles Webber, who had learned the printing business under his brother, purchased an interest in it in June, 1873. In October of that year Charles Webber had disagreed with Mr. McCaull over the editorial policies and Webber established The Salem Weekly Register. Soon after this the Roanoke Times suspended publication but it was revived by William A. and Charles Griffith who called it The Conservative and Monitor.
More Changes Made
John S. Patton, who later became librarian at the University of Virginia, resumed publication of the Roanoke Times in 1881. While Mr. Patton operated the paper Charles D. Denit joined the force to learn the printing trade and he continued with the paper in one capacity or another for twenty-five years.
In February, 1883 the firm of Crabtree & Denit was formed to take over the publication. Professor Crabtree was a member of the faculty of Roanoke College. In that same year Charles Webber became sheriff of Roanoke county and his paper, The Register was combined with the Times to form The Times-Register with Frank G. Webber being added to the firm of Crabtree & Denit. In 1890 Professor Crabtree retired from the publishing business leaving Messers, Denit and Webber in charge of the paper.
In 1890 two brothers from West Virginia, W. W. McClung and M. G. McClung came to Salem and they, with Alfred White formed a partnership for the publishing of a new paper known as The Salem Sentinel. Those were boom days in Salem with industries flourishing and real estate values shooting skyward. This new paper was published in the rear basement of the old Lutheran church which stood where the Farmer’s National bank is now located. Under the editorial management of M. G. McClung this paper became a vital force for community betterment and the publication became a competitor of The Times Register.
Publishing Company Formed
In 1902 the Salem Printing & Publishing company was organized with Chas. D. Denit, president; Colonel A. M. Bowman as vice-president; W. W. McClung and J. J. Wertz as directors. The final consolidation was brought about by this organization for the two papers were combined to form The Times-Register Sentinel. In 1908 Mr. Denit, who was clerk of court, sold his interest in the paper to W. W. and M. G. McClung.
M.G. McClung severed his connection to the paper in 1912 but W. W. McClung continued to operate it until 1921 when it was sold to Marvin J. Anderson of Marion, Virginia. Under Mr. Anderson’s management, a linotype machine was purchased to facilitate the type setting as previously all the type had been set by hand.
In September, 1927 the newspaper was purchased by J. A. Osborne and he ran this paper until it was purchased by the present management in 1933. In 1930 a fire necessitated the removal to the present site.
In stating that Jordan Woodrum established the first permanent newspaper here, we are not unmindful of the fact that some others were started before 1854. The Roanoke Gazette was established in 1849 but largely as an advertising medium for one store. George Baughman was the publisher. The Roanoke Beacon was established in 1851 by David A. Carter and J. W. Shields as a democratic mouthpiece. Dr. George P. Terrill bought the paper in 1853 and named it The Roanoke Republican which was a Whig organ. In 1854 William G. Miller started The Mountain Signalas a champion of the Know Nothing party but this paper too soon passed out of existence.
This is the bare history of the Times-Register as it has walked through the avenue of years, but so much of the rich human-interest connected with the history of any newspaper is missing. Much is gone because newsmen as a group are migratory, and with the destruction of the precious files by fire, was wiped out the last trace of many of the colorful characters who chronicled the happenings of the day.
The Times-Register has housed, fostered and developed the journalistic ambitions of hundreds of young men. It has in its past given freest opportunity to youngsters with a yen for creative writing, guiding and training many who have risen far in the profession.
A cross-section of the printing office itself through the years which have gone, would be an education. Even today, from time to time, people drop into the office to relate their former experiences in turning the presses by man-power. All of the type was set by hand, a process so long and tedious that it defies the comprehension of the average citizen. News stories of past days were usually well-salted with individual opinion, lending a style to each newspaper not found in the present era of terse, factual reporting. All helped make up the papers of years long since gone.
Many changes in its dress have been evolved throughout four score years, but The Times-Register today, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of its county, is underneath, the same as it has always been; it is serving the same purpose as it served in 1854 when Jordan
Woodrum made arrangements for printing the paper-a localized means of expression for the residents of Roanoke County.
-Prepared by Lisa King