A glimpse of local culture as seen through headlines over the past 125 years
Long before 24-hour news and the internet, newspapers and word of mouth were how people got their news. Recently, Lynchburg Living visited Jones Memorial Library, a local history and genealogy library with newspapers on microfilm back to 1795.
Here are some of the local news stories we found there, looking back every 25 years, from 1993 to 1893: >>
On Feb. 2, The News & Advance reported that the Tour DuPont bike race would be “pedaling through Lynchburg in May.” The 11-day race would attract more than 100 cyclists from around the world.
The biggest news in local sports on Feb. 4 was that E.C. Glass High School’s star linebacker Cornell Brown had signed with the Virginia Tech Hokies. In fact, all of the stories on page B-6 that day had to with high school football signing day.
Brown told reporters, “I just really liked the players up there. That’s just the place that suits me the most and that’s where I think I’ll fit in.”
Then, there was this interesting tidbit: “Brown said he wasn’t bothered by the rumors that Tech coach Frank Beamer may only have a year left if the team doesn’t perform better.” Most people know how that went. Beamer went on to coach at Tech until 2015, a span that included a shot at the national championship and about two dozen bowl games.
Other sports stories that day included, “Hokies mop up on this year’s top Lynchburg-area recruits,” and a story about Liberty University’s freshman football recruiting class being the best it had ever seen.
The same day, on the bottom-right corner of the front page, was a story about the Rev. Jerry Falwell: “Falwell considers his role in revival of Moral Majority.” With the election of President Bill Clinton, after a more than a decade of Republicans in the White House, Falwell was thinking about re-launching the conservative political group he founded in 1979.
In the end, it wasn’t until 2004 that Falwell revived the group and renamed it the Moral Majority Coalition.
And showing that not much changes with the passage of time, two of the three letters to the editor that day were about gun control. The third letter, written by local nurse Doris Weiss, was in support building a women’s war memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial was dedicated in 1997.
The first baby born in Lynchburg that year was Lisa Carol Stegt, daughter of a couple identified as Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Stegt Jr. The Daily Advance reported on Jan. 1 that Lisa “made her grand entrance at 3:28 a.m. at Virginia Baptist Hospital.”
The sports page on Jan. 10 included a story about the Dunbar High School boys’ basketball team. The Poets would be facing “a tough band of Albert Harris cagers” that Friday night in Martinsville.
Five of the team’s starters had graduated the previous spring, giving Coach Harry Waters what the paper described as “little hope that his young Poets would even enjoy a break-even season.” Despite that dismal prediction, Dunbar went on to end the regular season with a 17-1 record and the Western District championship.
On Jan. 18, 1968, The Daily Advance reported that Pfc. David Harker was missing-in-action in Vietnam. In the end, Harker, a Brookville High School graduate, had been captured by the North Vietnamese. He spent three years as a prisoner of war in what he later told the newspaper were “the worst conditions you can imagine.” He still lives in Central Virginia.
Also reported on Jan. 18, four men were “accosted by the game warden” for spotlighting deer in Amherst County. State Game Warden Robert Chenault was dispatched to High Peak Orchard Road, where he reportedly saw a man standing on the roadside with a rifle.
“I asked him what he was doing there with the rifle,” Chenault said. “He told me he thought he saw a rabbit. They said they were out looking for mistletoe.”
The judge didn’t believe the story, fined each man $150 and confiscated their guns.
On Jan. 4, The Daily Advance reported that Sen. Carter Glass had turned 85. He was celebrating the event by “quietly receiving a few friends at his home, Montview Farm.” While some telegrams had been received by the senator, “the usual flood of telegrams was missing because of the wartime restriction of telegraphic communications.”
Montview Farm is located on what is now Liberty University. At LU, it’s commonly referred to as “The Mansion.”
On Jan. 13, under the headline “In the Courts,” The Daily Advance told the story of three local women sentenced for crimes related to prostitution. The house where the crimes occurred was at 1008 Fourth Street, in what was then a well-known red-light district.
Nancy Schoefield, found guilty of “operating a house of ill fame,” was “sentenced to a total of 15 months in jail.” Betty Lou Howell and Louise Collins, described as “inmates of the same house,” pleaded guilty and were sentenced to six months each.
Eleven years later, at the house next door—1006 Fourth Street—a well-known madam named Mamie Feimster and another woman named Tina Thompson were shot and killed by Lythia Brown Buckwalter. The sensational case was widely covered in The Lynchburg News.
On Jan. 2, an article in The News said that all “alien enemies” living in Lynchburg and the surrounding area had to register with the police department. This included non-naturalized Germans living in the U.S. and was later expanded to include female U.S. citizens married to these “enemy aliens.”
The order came down from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office. The News estimated there were about 50 “alien enemies” in the area who would “be required to carry a registration card with them and will not be allowed to leave Lynchburg without a permit.”
Another article that day told readers that two daring characters—“The Human Spider” and “The Human Fly”—climbed up the Krise Building. The Krise Building is still located at the corner of Main and Ninth streets and houses, among other things, Bowen Jewelry Company.
According to the story, “The ‘Spider’ went all the way to the top of the building and the crowd below greeted his climbing over the eaves with cheering. The ‘Fly’ went only to the sixth floor.”
“The Human Spider” was North Carolina native W.C. “Bill” Strother, known nationwide for his climbing stunts.
On Jan. 3, The News reported under the headline, “One Divorce in Eight” that there were “more than 60 divorces out of 483 marriage licenses” granted in Lynchburg’s corporation and circuit courts over the previous year.
The newspaper also thought it important to let readers know that six Randolph-Macon Woman’s College students had not returned to campus after the winter break, preferring to get married instead. This was reported on Jan. 5, under an all-caps headline: “SIX GET HUSBANDS WHILE ON HOLIDAY.”
The Daily Virginian reported on Jan. 3 that “theatre-goers have a dramatic treat in store for them at the Opera House” with the performance of “The Silver King.” The melodramatic play, written in 1882, was described as the “grand drama of a lifetime.”
Lynchburg’s Opera House was completed in 1879 and was located “on the east corner of Main and Eleventh streets,” according to “Lynchburg: An Architectural History,” by S. Allen Chambers.
It was built by what Chambers describes as “two public-spirited and wealthy tobacconists” named Hancock and Moorman at a cost of $55,000—about $1.3 million today. One of the things written about the Opera House was that its interior was “richly decorated with stucco and composition ornaments” and “painted with gilt.”
In the same column as the story about the Opera House, under the headline, “Fire in West Lynchburg,” is one paragraph about a storehouse that was “totally destroyed by fire.” It was located “near the Zink Works” and owned by a man named R.J. Hudson.
On Jan. 7, a column in The News—the city’s other newspaper, a competitor of Daily Virginian—reported local news and gossip “caught on the streets, at the depot and in the hotel lobbies.”
Among other things, “all water wheels on the river front were blocked with ice yesterday morning, and the machinery at the Glamorgan Works, J.P. Pettyjohn’s, Adams & Woodson’s, and other enterprises in that vicinity refused to move.
“The river froze almost from bank to bank, Blackwater creek was a sheet of ice, and all in all it was an Arctic day. Sleigh riding and coasting were the principal employments of the day.”
And at the home of longtime school superintendent E.C. Glass on Madison Street, Mrs. A.W. Carter, Glass’s mother-in-law, was reportedly seriously ill. Carter—full name Mary Isbell Carter—was unfortunately not long for this world and died two days later on Jan. 9, 1893.