The first issue of the Charlotte-based Western Democrat launched on July 10, 1852. Robert Payne Waring (1827-1906), an attorney, served as editor and Rufus M. Herron (1822?-?) was publisher. In text below its title, the weekly newspaper proclaimed itself “A Family Paper—Devoted to Politics, Literature, Agriculture, Manufactures, Mining, and News.” Under Waring and Herron, the Democrat dedicated a considerable amount of space to advertisements for local goods, services, and property (both land and enslaved people) and included weekly wholesale price lists.
By fall 1854, Waring and Herron were ready to sell the Democrat. Under the heading “Printing Office for Sale,” the North-Carolinian of Fayetteville, N.C. noted in its November 4, 1854 edition that the pair was seeking buyers for the newspaper and its associated printing operation. The North-Carolinian reported that Waring and Herron stated “the subscription list pays all the expenses of publication, and is increasing, and the job work and advertisements yield a net profit of $2,300.” On June 8, 1855, Waring informed readers that he had bought Herron’s share of the newspaper, and on July 27, he announced that Henry Moody Pritchard (1824-1872) had joined him as a partner. However, their partnership lasted only a few months. In a column on December 4, the pair wrote that they had sold the newspaper to John J. Palmer (dates unknown) in October and that Palmer had decided not to place his name as owner and editor until the newspaper had “a new dress.” The December 4 edition featured a new typeface and a new title plate. The latter included a person in classical clothing sitting next to a globe with North Carolina at the center and the Latin words Verité sans Peur (truth without fear) on banners above them. The newspaper also featured a new slogan, which Palmer credited to the Enquirer of Richmond, Virginia, “A Family Paper, devoted to State Intelligence, the News of the World, Political Information, Southern Rights, Agriculture, Literature and Miscellany.”
Despite the time and money Palmer devoted to providing the Democrat with a new look, he held on to the newspaper for only 10 months. William James Yates (1827-1888) bought the Democrat in September 1856. Yates had a strong background in printing, having apprenticed in the business for seven years in Raleigh before securing work as a journeyman printer for the North-Carolinian and eventually assuming ownership and the editorship of the newspaper. Noting the need to better his health, Yates sold the North-Carolinian in June 1855. But he stayed away from newspapers for only a few months. His first issue as editor of the Democrat appeared on October 7, 1856.
Yates was known for his tireless dedication to print, strong work ethic, and a disinterest in political office, although he did serve in several state offices, including a term as member of North Carolina’s council of state, a group appointed by the North Carolina legislature to advise the governor. During the Civil War, the Democrat’s columns provided subscribers with information regarding battlefield casualties, mobilization, relief organizations, troop movements, and transportation. It also provided news regarding the post-removal Native American population, a topic of particular interest in the western portion of the state. In the years following the war, Yates limited coverage of Ku Klux Klan activities and acts of violence and vigilantism. He criticized the Weekly Standard of Raleigh, N.C., for reporting on such. The Standard was founded by William Woods Holden, who served as governor from 1868 to 1871 and supported the Republican party. Writing in the Democrat on October 4, 1870, Yates noted, “It is bad policy for any paper to undertake to array public opinion against the whole State simply because a few outrages have been committed in a few localities, which have been exaggerated, and because its party friends have been defeated in the late election.”
On November 17, 1870, fire destroyed the Democrat’s office, including its press, newsprint, and subscription lists. Yates worked with a company in New York to replace the equipment, and with the help of several fellow North Carolina printers, the newspaper resumed publication on December 22 under a new name—the Charlotte Democrat. Yates continued to steward the Democrat until September 30, 1881, when he sold the newspaper to James P. Strong, editor of the Southern Home of Charlotte. Strong merged the two titles and published the first issue of the Charlotte Home and Democrat on October 7, 1881. The combined title reflected the dimensions of The Southern Home, 26 x 40 inches, and consequently was several inches wider and longer than the Charlotte Democrat. The increased size allowed Strong to add a seventh column to each page.
In February 1884, Yates returned to the newspaper business, purchasing a share in and serving as co-publisher of the Charlotte Home-Democrat, the abbreviated title under which the newspaper began publishing. Three years later, on July 15, 1887, the newspaper appeared as the Charlotte Democrat, offering no explanation for the title change. Yates remained with the newspaper until his sudden death following a stroke on October 25, 1888. The Democrat announced William Edmund Christian’s purchase of 50 percent ownership in its January 4, 1889, edition. Christian (1856-1926) was the husband of Julia Jackson, the only child of Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Christian remained with the Democrat until March 21, 1890, when he sold his interest to Strong and moved to Philadelphia to work for the Press. Strong continued to guide the Democrat until March 13, 1896, when he sold the newspaper to Henry Edward Cowan “Red Buck” Bryant (1873-1967), a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina. Bryant is said to have earned his nickname while working for the Daily Charlotte Observer. A Democrat and red-haired, Bryant was covering a meeting of Republican party members when the group turned angry, and he had to flee quickly. The Observer’s editor and publisher, Joseph Pearson Caldwell (1853-1911), suggested that Bryant’s departure was like that of a deer.
Bryant announced on April 17, 1896, the addition of his college classmate, Ashbel Brown Kimball (1873-1920) as co-publisher and co-editor. But Kimball’s tenure at the Democrat was short-lived. He left the newspaper in July 1896 to serve as a math teacher at a school in Oak Ridge, N.C. Bryant remained with the Democrat until January 14, 1897, when William Carey Dowd, Sr. (1865-1927) announced his purchase of the newspaper and Bryant’s return to the Charlotte Daily Observer. Dowd had served as a business manager for the Observer and was publisher of the Charlotte News, which published six days a week, and the Mecklenburg Times, a Charlotte weekly. Dowd, also a state senator, continued to hold the Times and News while operating the Democrat. However, on October 7, 1897, he announced in the Times that he planned to merge his weekly holdings into a single newspaper, the Times-Democrat.