December 26


Four men in military uniforms and a canine companion, possibly taken during the American forces occupation of Germany after World War II. Courtesy of the Harrison-Boone-Grimes Family Home Collection / Junaluska Heritage Association and the Digital Watauga Project /

December 20, 1900

“Friend George A. Bryan,” began a local news item in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat, “who has been at the State Hospital in Morganton for some months, undergoing a course of treatment, returned home Sunday, and it gives us much pleasure to state that he is almost his old self again, his physical strength, though, has not yet returned in full. George has many friends here who are glad to see his smiling face again.”

“Vases, toys, a variety of dolls, fruits, candies, and a full line of other Christmas goods just in at Holsclaw’s,” announced another notice.

 “THE BEST PLASTER,” the heading to an advertisement this week, was followed by details which promised, “[a] piece of flannel dampened with Chamberlain’s Pain Balm and bound to the effected (sic) parts is superior to any plaster. When troubled with lame back or pains in the side or chest, give it a trial and you are certain to be more than pleased with the prompt relief which it affords. Pain Balm also cures rheumatism. One application will give relief.” Concluded the ad, “for sale by Blackburn.”

“The American soldiers in China cannot be too careful of their actions,” warned a world news item, reproduced from the Concord Tribune. “The world’s eye is on China and the behavior of some of the allied forces is a disgrace to civilization,” opined the Concord paper’s writer. “They have outdone the Boxers in committing deeds of violence and murder. We have long since learned that their ways are not ours. We have a different mission in China, different views and ideas. Above all let’s keep our hands clean regardless of what the European powers do. Let murder and outrages be at other doors.”

December 28, 1933

“BETTER BUSINESS THIS CHRISTMAS THAN LAST YEAR,” proclaimed a bold headline in this edition of the newspaper. Under the byline “New York,” the accompanying article related that, “it’s a merrier Christmas in the business world this year. Holiday festivities find leading industrial indices not only well above their 1933 lows but also above 1932 minimums, most of which were recorded late last December as the country began to sink into the troublesome situation that lead to the banking holiday.”

Local reporting of the upturn in holiday spending was found under the heading, “HOLIDAY TRADE BEST IN YEARS, SAY RETAILERS.” According to the story, “[t]he last days of the week comprised the busiest period for Boone merchants since the panic got going, according to general belief among the shopkeepers, and sales forces were glad when late Saturday night they could retire from the milling throngs and began to make delayed preparations for their individual Christmas festivities.” The article reported that, “many merchants report a one hundred per cent increase in holiday trade over the same period a year ago.”

“CHRISTMAS TREE EVENT,” a short local news item, told that a “neighborhood Christmas tree and appropriate program combined to make a pleasant affair for the people of the Cool Springs school district last Saturday evening. Under the leadership of Mr. Dewey Mitchell, the teacher, local talent was used in presenting ‘The Prodigal Son,’ and the audience was large.”




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

December 14 / 19

December 19, 1889

The front page of this last issue of the Watauga Democrat in the year 1889 included a lengthy letter to the newspaper which began, “Editor DEMOCRAT: I find Watauga county in a prosperous and thriving condition, notwithstanding hard times, but the mail facilities are in a worse condition than any place I have ever been. Since I have been here I have not been able to get mail through from Bakersville, a distance of 50 miles, in under 10 days.” Continued the complainant, “there is a through mail from Boone to Plum Tree 3 times a week, I have received my mail from there in 6 days; I have been here 3 weeks on business connected with my office and have not yet been able to get mail through to Greensboro, N.C. and return. There is neglect and violation of the Postal service somewhere among P.M.’s (postmasters). I think it would be well for a U.S.P.O (United States Post Office) Detective to look up matters in general as the public cannot endure such treatment any longer.” The open letter was signed, “W.H. Greer, U.S. Deputy Marshall.”

“We have a private letter,” began a short local news item in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat, “from Bristol, Tenn., stating that the Atlantic & Ohio R.R. (Railroad) Co., will soon survey a line for R.R., from Bristol up the Watauga River through Ashe, or Wataug[a] county, to Wilkesboro. Both lines will be surveyed and the most practicab[l]e one will be adopted.”

“A few days since,” began another notice, “Boone was visited by quite a number of young people on horseback, and [they] repaired to the residence of Rev. I.W. Thomas where Mr. Stephen Holsclaw and Miss Maggie Bryan were united in marriage,.” Immediately after the ceremony was ended,” concluded the article, “they mounted their horses and went on their way rejoicing.”

December 28, 1944

“TIGHTER REIGN ON RATIONING DRAWN BY OPA” was a prominent headline in this final newspaper edition for 1944. “A tightening of belts for millions of Americans was decreed Monday by OPA (Office of Price Administration) officials when instructions were received here invalidating five sugar stamps, returning point values to a number of canned vegetables, cancellation of a number of red and blue stamps and the boosting of point values on butter to 24 points.”

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December 7th/12th

December 4, 1941

Just days before the Japanese attack on the United States Naval Installation at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 4th, 1941, the regular Thursday edition of the weekly Watauga Democrat newspaper was published in Boone. Front-page news items that day ran the usual gamut of small-town local notes of interest. One headline told the events at a recent meeting of the Chamber of Commerce; another announced that “Miss Margaret Moore, registered nurse of Asheville” had just “taken over the superintendency of the Watauga Hospital, succeeding Miss Anna Hayes, who recently resigned.” An article told of the organization of a Farm Bureau for Watauga County, and news from the local high school announced, “Ten Youths Complete Defense Training Course.” (Interestingly, a follow-up to this course, open to “[a]ny young man between the ages of 17 and 25,” was scheduled to begin “Monday night, December 8”). “The class,” it was reported, “which meets at night[,] has had instruction in arc welding, sheet metal work, pipe fitting, forging and machinery repair.” Those who had completed the course were “awarded certificates for completion of an eight-week defense training course in metal work.”

December 11, 1941

In the next edition of the Watauga Democrat, the world had dramatically changed, following the surprise attack by the Empire of Japan against the United States. The pages of Boone’s newspaper both covered the shocking news of the event, and of the nation’s subsequent entry into World War II, while also continuing to focus on other items close to the hearts, minds, and livelihoods of the people of Watauga County. In a time when radio was the swiftest mass means of news coverage, and with the time difference between the Hawaiian Islands and the East Coast of the Continental United States, many citizens of Watauga County, and throughout the nation, heard news of the Pearl Harbor attack as an interruption to their usual Sunday afternoon family radio-listening time. By the time the Watauga Democrat next edition went to press, four days had passed since the event. The Democrat‘s pages from that issue offer a curious mix of announcements of the attack and its aftermath, including a prominent but not oversized headline reading “U.S. at War with Japan,” and assorted local town news, Appalachian State Teachers College items, Christmas shopping advertising, and an enthusiastic front-page story about the booming success of the local burley tobacco market.

In the fever pitch of national zeal after the sneak Japanese attack, the shorthand epithet “Jap” found its place in numerous headlines. “COMMERCE BODY CONDEMNS JAPS FOR OUTLAWRY” was a headline containing one example, introducing a story detailing how the local merchant’s group whose routine business meeting had been featured the prior week had made a special and explicit denunciation of the mass murder by means of a special resolution. Another, “May Burn Jap Toys,” told that, “[t]he bitter resentment felt in this locality over the assault by Japan on United States territory, is strikingly reflected by a conversation between some merchants on the street Tuesday. They agreed to sort out all toys and trinkets from their stocks, labeled ‘made in Japan’ and burn them in a demonstration on the town square. Other merchants will likely be approached on the bonfire proposition before the date and hour is definitively set. One large retailer stated that his firm had quit buying Nipponese [Japanese] goods many months ago, regardless of price consideration, not waiting for a major demonstration of Japanese infamy.”

The assault had, indeed, hit powerfully and tragically close to home, with one area serviceman already reported lost: “Ashe Man Learns of Death of Son in Hawaii” introduced a news item relaying that, “Winifred Hart of Lansing, Ashe county, member of the United States coast guard was reported to have been killed in action during the Japanese raids on Pearl Harbor.” In addition, Hart’s “life-long friend, Scott Gamble, also of Lansing, had been killed at the same time.” Hart’s father, “Mr. Ira T. Hart, well known Ashe county farmer” was “in the Mountain Burley warehouses here [in Boone] selling his tobacco, when the word of his son’s death reached him.”

The specter of war had already reached into the Northwestern North Carolina mountains, and would drastically affect its people and their way of life profoundly in the coming years.


Watauga resident and minister Rev. Eber S. Gragg, born about the time of the beginning of the Civil War, celebrated his 80th birthday around the time that the United States entered World War II.











This image and caption was among the leading news featured on the front page of the Watauga Democrat’s December 11, 1941 issue.


This advertisement for Christmas gifts from the local Farmer’s Hardware merchant was featured in the issue of the newspaper the week after the Pearl Harbor attack.


A movie ticket, issued for Downtown Boone’s Appalachian Theatre about a month before the entry of the United States into World War II. The film showing was a benefit for the local high school.

Published in: on December 12, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

December 12


This is a picture of a bridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a small group of unidentified men. The date of the photograph and the exact location of the bridge are unknown. Courtesy of the Historic Boone society and the NC Digital Heritage Center,

December 19, 1888

The “Town and County” section of local news items in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat newspaper included a notice entitled “A Narrow Escape,” which told that, “Mrs. W.C. Coffey came near being drowned in Yadkin River on her way home from a visit to her parents.” The article related that, “Her father, Mr. Curtis[,] concluded that the river was too deep for her team and buggy and so sent a boy with a tall buggy and a very large horse of his to take her across. This horse on striking the current choked and fell and broke the shafts of the buggy. The horse recovered and turned back for the bank from whence he came[,] leaving Mrs. Coffey in the buggy in the deepest part of a very swift and dangerous ford. Fortunately Fin was on hand with his buggy and drove in and took his Mother out[,] not hurt but badly scared.”

December 18, 1941

“DUTIES OF CIVIL DEFENSE GROUP GIVEN BY BROWN,” a headline this week, introduced a story which began, “Wade E. Brown, chairman of the Watauga county committee on civilian defense, has issued the following statement relative to the duties and activities of the organization: 1. Aircraft warning service. Seven air raid stations organized in sections designated by army throughout the county, and which are now contacting army headquarters each day. Additional volunteers in this service will be needed to assist in the lookout for enemy aircraft, and for other warning and service activities along this line.” Other items in the statement included registration of volunteers “willing to give assistance when the need arises;” the appointment of “V Men,” who “are appointed to study local needs and conditions pertaining to civil defense and be available for public meetings and give instructions as the need arises;” the formation of a “Civil protection committee,” to be headed by the mayors of Boone and Blowing Rock; and a “Civil defense council, previously appointed.” Coming shortly after the entry of the United States into World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Brown’s pronouncement emphasized that, “[a]fter all, we are in war through no choice of our own or of our country. We are confident of ultimate victory, and the people of Watauga county will not be content to do less than their full share.”

In happier news, “KIDDIES XMAS PARTY SATURDAY” was an article which told that, “[n]ext Sunday afternoon at 2:00 o’clock, a Christmas program will be given at Appalachian Theatre for the benefit of the underprivileged children of this community. The program is sponsored by the Woman’s Club and the Lions Club of Boone.” As part of the charitable festivity, “[t]oys and confections will be given the children who attend,” reported the newspaper. “The toys were taken in at a special toy matinee sometime [sic] ago and have been repaired by the firemen and the staff of workers at the local NYA center.” The “NYA” was the National Youth Administration, a part of the New Deal programs of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration which sought to give work to young people between the ages of 16 and 25, during the time of the Great Depression.


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December 5

This picture shows a logging operation in about the year 1916, at the Whiting Lumber Mill in Watauga County. The logging crew are shown standing by a skidder, which is a machine used to pull felled trees from the site at which they were cut down to the mill where they are processed. Courtesy of Michael Lowery / the Lowery-Whiting Collection and the Digital Watauga Project,

November 29, 1923

A prominent headline in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat announced, “COOLIDGE ASKS NATION TO OBSERVE ‘GOLDEN RULE SUNDAY’ ON DEC. 2.” The headline was followed by a reproduction of the official letter bearing the Presidential decree and a small portrait of the Chief Executive. The President wrote, “It is with a great deal of satisfaction that I commend your proposal to observe an International Golden Rule Dinner Sunday, on the second of December, 1923. I feel sure that this suggestion will meet with very widespread approval and will bring more closely to mind the charitable requirements of those who are prosperous to those who are in adversity. It suggests not only a practical method for help, but the highest appreciation of sympathy, by sharing for a time the privation of others. Cordially yours, [signed] Calvin Coolidge.” A caption beneath the letter explained, “[t]he plans for the observance of Golden Rule Sunday call upon the people of America to serve a menu in their homes similar to that served in the orphanages in the near east, the difference in the cost of the orphanage menu and the ordinary meal to be contributed to orphanage work overseas. The observance is very appropriately fixed for the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Having on Thursday partaken from well-laden tables as a token of rejoicing in the prosperity of America, it is fitting that on the following Sunday people give special consideration to the needs and distress of those who are less highly favored.”
In local events, the “Stony Fork News” column reported, “Saturday afternoon Dec. 1 has been appointed by the men of the church to meet and haul wood for the church. Everyone who can is invited to bring a team and tools to help in this very necessary work. In a very few hours wood enough to last the church all winter can be cut and hauled.”

November 27, 1941
“WAR ON RODENTS NOW IN PROGRESS,” a banner headline this week, carried the sub-heading “Mayor Says That If People Continue Unresponsive Eradication Campaign to End.” In the details of the story, the public was informed that, “Messrs. Killough, Braswell and Helms of the Orkin Exterminating Company, Charlotte, are now in the city waging war on wharf rats about the city dump, creek banks and other public spots, and treating homes and business houses in cases where the people are willing to co-operate by paying the small fee of $1.50.  Mayor Gragg states, however, that since the announcement was made of the rat campaign, only about a dozen people have signified their willingness to co-operate by having their homes and other buildings treated for the rodents, and long experience of the exterminating company has shown that no campaign came be thoroughly successful without the full co-operation of the people.” Due to the tepid response, it was reported, “Mr. Gragg further says that the city is doing its full share toward alleviating the wharf rat menace, and that if the people are not interested, the campaign will close when the contract made with the company is fulfilled.”

Published in: on December 5, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment