“Snow on King Street,” a view of Downtown Boone in the winter likely during the 1930s. Image courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone Society, Watauga County Public Library, and NC Digital Heritage,

January 12, 1933

“COOLIDGE AT REST IN VERMONT HILLS; DIED ON THURSDAY’ was a prominent headline on the front page of this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat, introducing a news article which gave details about the passing of the United States’ thirtieth President, who served from 1923 to 1929. Began the report, after a dateline of “Plymouth, Vt.,” “Calvin Coolidge said recently he hoped to spend more and more of his time in this obscure mountain village from which he had sprung to fame. Saturday that wish was consummated. He was laid to rest in the hillside cemetery beside six generations of his forebears.” The article noted that, “death occurred suddenly Thursday afternoon at Northampton, Mass., where he had resided since leaving the presidency four years ago.” Information about the presidential funeral told the newspaper’s readers that,”[i]n the Edwards Church where he had worshiped for many years, a funeral service of impressive simplicity was held Saturday… Although the nation’s great were present, the ceremony was marked by the same homely dignity that had characterized the famous New Englander’s political career.” Wrote the unnamed reporter, “President and Mrs Hoover, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and her son James were among those who paid him silent tribute. But there was no pomp, no display. The very atmosphere of the church was severe. In a pew close to the front of the church sat Michael Fitzgerald, former mayor, who was the city’s chief executive when Mr. Coolidge was formerly notified he had been elected vice-president. Fitzgerald, now a barber, made an address of welcome on that occasion.”

January 19, 1950
‘GUNMAN IS TAKEN AS CHASE ENDS,” a banner headline this week, was followed by a story relating that, “Carl Robert Ricker, one  of the gunmen sought for 30 hours in a Watauga manhunt conducted by the State highway patrol, federal and local officers, was captured last Wednesday afternoon near Rominger, and the following day the hunt for his companion ended, when it became apparent he had made his escape into Tennessee.” According to the report, “Ricker, of Midway, Tenn., with one or more companions had been the object of a (sic) intense search since the car which they were driving crashed into a ditch near Vilas Tuesday morning.” Allegedly, “[t]he automobile the gunman occupied had been stolen in Alabama and the Georgia license plates taken near Atlanta. They are believed to have robbed a Ford place at Thomasville, Ga., and Ricker is reported to have served time for a number of auto theft violations.” Interestingly, the story noted that the “wrecked automobile contained a sawed off shotgun, outboard motor, movie projectors, auto tires, car batteries, a variety of Notary seals, electric drill, typewriter and other items.”

“Burley Market To Close Today” was a brief notice of the seasonal end to business for the local exchange for tobacco growers and buyers. “The Boone burley tobacco market closes Thursday for the season, it is announced by Roscoe Coleman, warehouseman, who reports a splendid season, although the weight of the tobacco offered has been rather less than usual.” Concluded the short item, “Mr. Coleman states that through Monday night the market has sold 3, 750,000 pounds at an average of approximately $44.00 per hundred.”


From the Watauga Democrat, Boone, North Carolina, USA; page one; Thursday, January 12, 1933.

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January 16, 2017


“Belle Winkler House,” image of a two-story frame house in Boone (date unknown). First floor porch runs the front of the house. Gable roof with dormer windows. Courtesy of the Historic Boone society and the NC Digital Heritage Center,

1933: Town of Sparta Gutted by Fire

January 6, 1921

“Mr. Brown Explains,” a heading to an open letter to the Editor printed in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat newspaper, began, “Mr. Editor: In reply to the report in the last issue of your paper our kind hearted nurse who has made a recent inspection of the county last August, and the writer who has demanded my expense bill for the month of December, I ask you to go to the merchant I have bought my supplies of, Mr. Mack Hopper [? – the name is unclear in print], and others, and find out my expenses for the past twelve months and if you think I am getting so much money be there when I demand my December check and I will give you a part of it, and besides this there is a grand jury that makes an inspection of this miss-named (sic) place twice a year and don’t find the inmates in such a suffering condition as the report is.” The “county home” was an institution for caring for orphans and other indigent persons, located near the current intersection of Highway 421 and the 105 Highway Bypass west of the Town of Boone. After this lengthy, indignant opening sentence, the correspondent, who signed his name “S.R. Brown, Keeper of County Home,” closed with a much more terse sentence: “So if you want my job[,] fill your bond[,] come over and get it on short notice.” The last printed issue of the paper, from December 23, 1920, had printed a report of county expenditures for the year first published in April of that year which included the budget line, “S R Brown keeping county home [$]108[.]00”. Upkeep of the county jail was, in that same notice, allotted eight dollars and five cents.

January 12, 1933

“TOWN OF SPARTA IS GUTTED BY FIRE,” a banner headline on the front page of this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat newspaper, related to area citizens this week that, “[a] fire that began when an oil stove exploded in a lunch room Saturday afternoon destroyed the Alleghany (sic) County courthouse and practically the entire business district of this little mountain town before it was brought under control early in the evening.” According to the article, “County officials informally estimated the damage would approximate $200,000.” Details of how the tragedy unfolded told that, “originating in Ray’s cafe about 1:30 o’clock, the flames, fanned by a fierce wind, spread to Joines’ garage, then to Hardin’s general store, and to the office of the Alleghany Times. Volunteer firemen, with no water supply to aid them, fought frantically but were powerless to check to conflagration, which ate its way from one business to another until practically every building on the main street was in ruins.” The reported noted that, “Sparta has no waterworks system and firemen fought the flames under a big handicap. The little river water they scooped up in buckets and this was of little help and, desperate, they seized upon other methods to check the conflagration.” Among these desperate attempts, “[a] quantity of dynamite was ignited, but it only succeeded in blowing two or three small buildings to bits.” “Persons in Ray’s cafe when the oil stove exploded said the flame flared up when a match was applied to the burner. Water was thrown on the fire and this caused the stove to explode, igniting inflammable material in the lunch room.” No mention was made of any casualties resulting from the large blaze, and, said the newspaper, “[t]he loss is said to be covered by a comparatively small amount of insurance.”

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January 9


Sepia image of students of Riverview School posing for the camera in 1914. Courtesy of the H.L. & Gladys Coffey Collection and the Digital Watauga Project /

1939: Local Resident Has Been Subscribing to The Local Paper Since Its Beginning

January 1, 1914

A feature on the front page of this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat, under the simple heading “OBITUARY,” began, “Enoch Fletcher was born February 19, 1845, and died December 11, 1913, aged 68 years, 10 months and 8 days.” Continued the notice, “He was married in the year 1872, to Miss Mary McGuire, to whom were born three children, all living. Some time after the war between the States, Brother Enoch Fletcher professed religion and united with the Methodist church at Henson’s chapel, which faith he prized very highly. He was a model of piety mild and kind, and his religion was exemplified by his everyday life. His theme was to live entirely agreeably with all men, ever believing that we ought to do good to others. He always took delight in the Sunday School work, believing that the Sabbath ought to be spent in religious training.” After further praise of the deceased, the obituary concluded, “[t]he funeral services were conducted by the writer, assisted by Revs. Hickman and N.C. Combs, after which, by kind friends, the body was laid in the grave to await the coming of the Lord Jesus.” The submission was signed, “JACOB YOUNCE, Watauga News [sic] please copy.”

January 5, 1939

“Enters His 51st Renewal To Paper,” a headline this week, introduced a front-page feature announcing that, “Mr. J.M. Shull, 80 years old, dropped in last Saturday to renew his subscription to the Watauga Democrat. Nothing strange about that — but the circumstance edges on ‘spot news’ when it develops that this is the fifty-first time Mr. Shull has made his way to the office of the county newspaper to keep his subscription in current condition.” Continued the story, “Mr. Shull was married and started housekeeping in August, 1888, one month after the establishment of the Watauga Democrat, and on his first visit to Boone after his marriage ceremony, dropped by and became a subscriber to the paper, and for more than half a century the journal has been a welcome visitor to the Shull fireside. For forty-four years Mr. Shull gave his subscription to the late Robert C. Rivers, but since his death in 1933, the present publisher has looked forward to the regular visits of this good citizen and close friend of the newspaper family.” Concluded the article, “[t]here are others who have read The Democrat for fifty years, but in the absence of complete early-day records, the publisher would like to hear from all those whose names have never been striken from the subscription records of the newspaper. There are quite a few of these old stand-bys, which the publisher holds in mighty regard, and he wants a list of their names. Thank you.”

Published in: on January 9, 2017 at 6:00 am  Comments Off on January 9  

December 28 / January 2




A photograph of an unidentified child sitting on a wall next to flowers. Date and exact location unknown. Courtesy of the Harrison-Boone-Grimes Family Home Collection / Junaluska Heritage Association and the Digital Watauga Project /

December 28, 1922

A front-page feature in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat bore the headline, “JUDGE OPPOSES DEATH PENALTY – Sentenced First Man To Die In North Carolina’s Electric Chair – Retiring After 16 Years Service.” The first-person account began with the perhaps surprising quotation, “‘After 16 years on the bench, during which time I sentenced the first man to die in North Carolina’s Electric Chair and have sentenced five others who were executed, I am more than ever opposed to capital punishment.'” The quote was from Judge C.C. Lyon, who was described as “now in Raleigh, presiding over his last term of superior court.” Although stating that he believed that some convicted criminal offenders who were “carrying long terms of imprisonment either escape or are [given] clemency within a few years,” the Judge stated, “still, I believe capital punishment has failed its purpose and is not humane.”

An article entitled “The Fox Farm,” attributed as having been taken from The Philadelphia Record, told local readers in Watauga County that, “[w]ithout personal knowledge it is difficult to realize how the industry of fox farming has grown in Canada. An exhibition was recently held in Toronto where 300 silver black fox were shown of an estimated value of perhaps half a million dollars.” The article stated that, “[t]here are about 800 fox farms in the Dominion [of Canada][,] all of them having their beginning in the act of a farmer’s boy at Georgetown, Ont. 15 years ago, who caught a pair of foxes and began to breed them. Some of the present fox farms represent large investments from which substantial profits have been made in supplying furs to the American market.”

December 27, 1945

A large banner wishing readers “Merry Christmas,” accompanied by an illustration depicting Santa Claus, adorned the top of this issue of the Watauga Democrat, the first post-Christmas edition since the end of World War II. “Tire Rationing Will End On January 1,” a headline announced elsewhere on the front page. “Tire rationing will end at 12:01 a.m. January 1, the Office of Price Administration announced in Washington Thursday night,” the news item related. “This will leave only sugar on the rationing list. Tire stocks were frozen on Dec. 8, 1941, and rationing began Jan. 5., 1942.” According to the story, “under the program 57,000,000 new passenger car tires – normally a 20-month replacement supply – kept almost 24,000,000 passenger cars rolling for four war years.”

“Mercury Rises to Give Slight Relief to Area,” another headline, introduced an article detailing that, “Watauga county residents got a slight respite from the frigid wave which has persisted here for the past two weeks here Friday, as clearing skies and higher temperatures permitted some thawing where the sun shone, but the weather man gives little promise of any appreciable relief from the cold wave.” According to the article, reporting on recent wintry weather, “[t]he storm of Wednesday night whipped the snow into drifts, which impeded traffic, particularly on some of the country roads, and temperatures hit the zero mark in different sections of the county.”


A 1922 advertisement from the Watauga Democrat newspaper of Boone, North Carolina


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