The Watauga Democrat

The Watauga Democrat Centennial

The Watauga DemocratThe Watauga Democrat is The High Country’s Top Source for Local News. Available in print Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Updated daily at

"Calamity Howlers" editorial advertisement in The Watauga Democrat from 1933imageimage
The Watauga Democrat is published in Boone, North Carolina. Features & News from Watauga County and surrounding area, classified ads, also features a photo gallery and updated calendar of local events. • HOMELOCAL NEWSNEWSSPORTSOPINIONCOMMUNITY

Watauga County, Arcadia Publishing
The Watauga Democrat has the High Country covered

Dedicated to providing the highest quality and most timely news coverage to Watauga County, the Democrat is located in picturesque Boone, N.C. The print edition is published on Mondays, Wednesday and Friday. The Democrat features local, state and national news; milestones (such as weddings, birth announcements and anniversaries), local and state sports, lifestyles, local opinion and commentary and award-winning photography.

Throughout its 100 year history, the Democrat has earned several state and national awards. Although we are called the Democrat, we are dedicated to covering the news in a non-partisan manner — providing fair and accurate content around the corner or around the world.

Watauga County, Arcadia Publishing
A brief history

The Watauga Democrat was launched in 1888 by the local Democratic party, with help from Joseph Spainhour and John S. Williams. The following year, R.C. Rivers Sr. and D.B. Dougherty took over the newspaper, which had folded after the fall election. Rivers then took over the paper himself by the end of the year, starting a century-long run of family ownership. R.C. Rivers Sr.’s son Robert Campbell Rivers took the reigns from 1933 until his death in 1975. During that time, The Blowing Rocket and The Avery Journal became part of the Watauga Democrat newspaper family. The Rocket was started in 1936 as a seasonal newspaper by Sen. C.V. Hinkle from Iredell County. Hinkle used journalism students from the University of North Carolina, who earned credit for putting together the paper during the summer. The Rivers Printing Company purchased it in 1956 and it became a weekly. The Blowing Rocket was the last National Press Association newspaper to sell for a dime. The company expanded outside the county when it purchased The Avery Journal from Sherman Pritchard in 1972.

Rob Rivers’ daughter Rachel Rivers-Coffey succeeded him as The Watauga Democrat’s publisher. Rivers-Coffey’s husband, Armfield Coffey, learned the family business from the ground floor up as a press operator, photographer and reporter before becoming Executive Editor.

Rivers Printing Company, Inc., was the first local business to buy property and build a production plant in the Watauga Industrial Park.

In 1988, the Democrat published a special insert to commemorate its centennial. In that insert, Rivers-Coffey published a speech she had recently given. She remarked on the old Washington Hand Press, which printed the first-ever edition of the Democrat. The metal press had to be fed one sheet at a time, and now is a relic at state museum in Raleigh.

"My people came here running from the Civil War and left by way of City Cemetery, and by the time of my father’s death in 1975, which is when I became publisher of the newspaper, we had gone to computers and offset printing," she wrote. "Since then, this little relic of our history has served little more purpose than to collect dust and scar the furniture, but it means something more to me. It tells me how slavish the work was when they wanted to put vegetables on the table in some way other than farming."

In 1994, the couple sold the newspaper to Eugene and Anne Worrell, owners of the Bristol Herald-Courier. At the time, Rivers-Coffey said, "We will deeply miss our daily associations with our family of co-workers, all of whom are very special to us both, but we will be cheering from the sidelines as they move confidently into the challenging future of journalism."

In 1997, Art and Fran Powers purchased the Watauga Newspapers group. Powers had been serving the Worrells as president and supervising manager of the three papers. William S. Cummings III served as publisher of the Watauga Democrat under both the Worrells and Powers.

The Watauga Democrat and its sister papers The Avery Journal and The Blowing Rocket entered a new era when Jones Media acquired them in 2002.

The year before, Jones Media had purchased The Mountain Times, a long-running weekly that publishes editions in Watauga Ashe, and Avery counties, putting most of the area’s newspapers under one roof.

A look at an 1888 edition of the Watauga Democrat revealed a bit about both the newspaper business and the community it served. A one-year subscription to the weekly paper was $1 and a one-inch classified ad would run for one issue at a cost of 75 cents. An 1894 reveals the same subscription price, but the classified ad had increased to a dollar. That issue offered a $250 reward for the capture of two bank robbers and contains an advertisement for Globe Academy, a high school operated by B.B. Dougherty, one of the principal figures involved in the formation of what is now Appalachian State University. Front-page advertisers were mostly lawyers and doctors, as real estate agents had yet to dominate the local professional scene. The Democrat has grown in complexity along with the surrounding business community.

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