The Week of February 24


“Men Threshing Grain,” an agricultural scene from Watauga County in the late 1800s. Courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone society, Watauga County Public Library and

February 27, 1890

“Edison’s Inventions,” a front-page feature in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat, began, “‘Do you know.’ asked a well(-)posted man of a group of citizens today, “how many patents that man Edison, we are all talking about, has secured?’ ‘A dozen,” one man answered; ten or fifteen, answered another.’ ‘Just 498,’ was the reply, ‘He has 131 patents in telegraphy alone. He has 180 patents in electric lights; 32 patents on telephones; 8 patents on electric railroads; 21 patents on the phonograph; 4 patents on ore milling and 73 miscellaneous patents. Besides all that, he has 300 applications for patents on all sorts of things now pending.'” Continued the anonymous commentator in this article, “[t]here is perhaps no living man so well posted on electric affairs as Mr. Edison. What he does not know about the world of electricity is not worth knowing;” and, on another topic, “[t]alking in telephones, he says the longest distanced telephone is 750 miles, between Portland, Me. [Maine] and Buffalo, N.Y..” The article also noted that, “[t]here are 170,000 miles of telephone wire in the United States, over which 55,000 messages are sent daily, and there are over 800,000 telephones in use. Two hundred and fifty thousand persons are employed in the United States in business solely depending on electricity.”

“We are now trying to fix up the streets in our town,” reported a short article in the Local News section, “but it is rather a discouraging undertaking, when the streets are covered with hogs.” Exclaimed the author,”Oh! for the stock law,” apparently a reference to a wished-for (or existent, but not enforced) regulation of livestock roaming within town limits.

February 24, 1936

“New Ordinance Places Annual Levy on Taxis,” a banner front-page headline this week, introduced an article which relayed that, “[a]n ordinance passed by the city commissioners at their last meeting provides for the collection of $50 a year for each automobile operated in the city as a taxicab; and also levies a license fee of $25 on each truck used for hire.” Continued the item, “[i]n addition each taxicab owner is required to furnish a $10,000 policy on his car to protect passengers and property of others.”

“‘Briar Hopper Boys to Appear Saturday,” announced another headline. “The Briar Hopper Boys, whose musical renditions over radio station WBT have brought them national fame, are scheduled to appear in concert at the courthouse here Saturday evening at 8 o’clock. A second performance starts at 9 o’clock.” Noted the newspaper, “[t]he program is being sponsored by the Boone high school and the proceeds from a small admission charge will be used to aid the junior class in financing the junior-senior reception. Tickets will be on sale by students and later in the week at the Carolina Pharmacy.”

“$25,000 Allotted to Local College” announced that “George W. Coan, Junior, state WPA [Works Progress Administration] administrator, announced that $26,0010.13 had been allocated to Appalachian State Teachers College for the construction of six residences on the campus of the institution.” The new buildings were to be “modernly constructed from native stone,” and would consist of nine rooms each, for use by college faculty.


Published in: on February 26, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

The Week of February 17


“Cal Norris,” portrait of an early Watauga County citizen.

Courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone society and Watauga County Public Library.

February 10, 1898

“A cattle man who passed through town on Monday evening last rode his horse on a plank sidewalk on a back street for some distance,” reported a local news item in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat newspaper. “We suppose this was done by way of a joke, but it might have been a dear one,” continued the editorial author, presumably referring to the potential harm if a pedestrian had been using the sidewalk at the time.

February 17, 1898

“Capt. E. F. Lovill, with a number of teams, is off to Elk Park after the machinery for the ivy block plant here,” announced a local news item this week. “There are ten tons of the machinery and fixtures. M. Hodges took the contract to deliver it here, and Capt. Lovill went to superintend the loading and hauling.”

In other news, “On last Saturday night some rogue, who has a weakness for ham, broke into the meat house of Mr. M. B. Blackburn and took there from three very large ones. This is the fourth time meat has been stolen around here lately, and we hope to hear of the guilty person being punished.”

Another criminal new item noted, “We are informed that the telephone lines in some parts of the county are being damaged by lawless individuals breaking the insulators, etc. with rocks and even shooting them off. They are cited to Vol. 1, Sec. 1118. of the Code
of N. C. Aside from being a misdemeanor, it is a low, mean trick to be guilty of.”

 February 11, 1943

“To Assist Federal Income Tax Payers,” a headline in this week’s paper, made notice to local citizens that a “representative of the Internal Revenue Service will be at the post office in Boone, on February 17, 18, and 19, for the purpose of aiding taxpayers in filing their Federal income tax returns.” Reported the story, “Collector C.H. Robinson says that the period from February 15 through March 15 has been set aside as a period for aiding the taxpayers in filing their returns, and states that the Department is anxious to assist as many taxpayers as possible during the period.”

In world news, “Allies Blast Axis Lines of Supply” told this week that, “[t]he powerful allied air offensive in the Mediterranean area shook the Sicilian port of Messina yesterday with a two-hour barrage of blockbuster bombs and battered an axis harbor and airbase in Tunisia, official allied sources said. Ground action in the north African theatre continued to lag because of bad weather.”

“Allies to Invade Europe In 1943, Byrnes Asserts,” a related item, told that “[t]he first official statement that allied forces will invade Europe in 1943 was made Tuesday night, and coupled with it was admission that cost in American lives must be heavy.” According to the story, “[t]he statement came from James F. Byrnes, whose powers as director of economic stabilization are so great he has been dubbed ‘assistant president.’ His was the most definite indication of allied war plans since President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill planned the year’s campaigns at Casablanca.”


Published in: on February 19, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

The Week of February 10


A small sepia-tone photograph of two young women. A note on the back reads, “Lin Sanders” and “Neva Brinson.” Clothing and a reference in the “Rhododendron,” the student annual of Appalachian State Teacher’s College, suggest that the portrait was taken on the college’s campus around 1930. Courtesy the Historic Boone society, Watauga County Public Library, and

February 13, 1889

“F.J. McMILLAN & SON of Mouth of Wilson, Va., Manufactures all kinds of woolen goods, which they will send to your door in exchange for wool,” announced an advertisement in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat. “They also keep a full line of goods on hand at SUTHERLANDS, ASHE Co., N.C.,” continued the notice. “They pay highest CASH prices for wool.”
A column entitled “Town and Country” included this reflection: “We are sorry to hear of so many of our good citizens leaving for the west, but we hope they may better themselves by the move.” At this period in Watauga County’s history, raising sheep was a staple of farm life, although many local inhabitants were moving to areas such as the Pacific Northwest states in search of grazing land.

“Gaston Barnes was tried in Taylorsville, at the recent term of court there, for his life, for the killing of Wheeler Robinet, and found guilty of man-slaughter and sentenced to the penitentiary for four years,” according to another article. “Messrs. Robbins, Linney and Burke appeared for the defense.”

Reported another short item, “[w]e have had a hard, cold and very uncomfortable week here in the printing office. The room has been too cold to set type and the ink too thick to spread readily.”

February 8, 1906

“Lot W. Greene,” read a front-page heading to an obituary on the front page of this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat. “The subject of this tribute was born July 6, 1833, and died Sept. 22, 1905, aged 72 years, 2 months and 16 days,” began the notice. “He served in the war between the states in the 1st Reg. N.C. Cavalry in Co. D, under Capt Folk and J. C. Blair, and was seriously wounded in the left shoulder on the 9th day of June, 1863, on the Rappahannock river near Brandy Station, Va.”
“We now come to lay an offering of affectionate sorrow upon his grave, with a sadness such as falls upon the heart when a life-long friend whispers that last earthly farewell as the Spirit’s frail bark puts off into the dark; but with an abiding consciousness and unwavering faith that we shall meet again. For the Redeemer in His teachings on the sea shore and along the hillsides of Judea bade the desponding of earth’s pilgrims to take courage, for the grave is not the end of man.
He told his wife that he was prepared to go: that he had been praying all summer and everything was bright before him. He often said, while suffering intensely that he had rather die than suffer thus. And now, we bid our kind, benevolent, loving friend a tender farewell, until we meet again.”
The tribute was signed by “Z. T. Watson.”

Published in: on February 12, 2016 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Week of February 3rd, 2015


“Cloudburst, 1880s;” a sparsely-captioned early photograph of Downtown Boone after, apparently, a great storm. Research by Gary R. Boye suggests that the building in the background may be the second Courthouse built in Watauga County (see to learn more). Courtesy the Historic Boone society, Watauga County Public Library, and

February 6, 1896

This week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat included a news item noting that it had been “a few days since the little son of John T. Winkler accidentally inflicted a painful wound on the hand of his little brother with an axe.” Fortunately, continued the report, “the little fellow is getting on nicely, and bids fair to be rid of his wound in a few days.”

In other news, “Dr. Parlier informs us that the measles is abating, that there are no new cases on New River or surrounding sections.”

A Letter to the Editor published under the heading “A Correction,” signed by H.A. Davis, stated, “In your last issue where you state that McGuire and Phillips were turkey hunting when McGuire shot Phillips, is an error. Young McGuire claims to have been so engaged, but the Phillips boy was merely strolling around the plantation, a few hundred yards from his father’s house and had sat down upon a small log eating an apple, apparently, when shot, as claimed by mistake. These are facts taken from a statement by one of the jury of inquest.” Continued the writer, “[i]t is certainly heart-rending enough to parents to have their child thus shot down, without it being falsely announced to the world that he was desecrating the Sabbath at the time of his death.” The newspaper followed this open letter with a response: “[t]he facts were published as we received them and there was no intention on the part of the informant or the DEMOCRAT to do the unfortunate boy an injustice.”

February 4, 1943
“Minimum of 53 Men from Watauga in Feb. Draft Quota” was a banner headline on the front page of this week’s newspaper. The headline bore a sub-heading, “Numbers May Be Increased Later, Pending Further Volunteering of Registrants; The List of Those Who Will Definitely Go to Induction Center.” The news item detailed that “at least 53 men, whose names are given below, will be sent to an army induction center in the month of February, according to advices from the local selective services board.” The final total of Watauga County men was “rather indefinite,” the article told, “since men volunteering in the last few days will be added to the list later.” Among the lengthy list of draftees were Coy Hartley, Kenneth Clyde Watson, Wilmer David Moretz, Eddie Don Wellborn, Stewart Henry Simmons, Joseph Delbert Triplett, Don Clay Cook, and Paul Dixon Hagaman.

In other news of the week, “Rationing dates for Canned Goods Are Set by O.P.A. In Order of Tuesday.” The story, with a dateline of  “Washington, Feb. 2” told citizens that, “[p]ublic sale of canned fruits and vegetables will stop throughout the nation at midnight February 10th, and will resume n a tightly-rationed basis on March 1.” According to the newspaper’s report, “these official dates for starting the dramatic innovation in grocery shopping were announced tonight by the office of price administration [“O.P.A.”]. The order also applies to all frozen fruits and vegetables, dried fruits (but not dried vegetables), canned soups and canned baby foods.”

Published in: on February 5, 2016 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment