The Hillsborough Recorder of Hillsborough, North Carolina published weekly from 1820 to 1879 under the leadership of Dennis Heartt. Heartt was born in 1783 in New Bradford, Connecticut, and by age 15, he was working as a printing apprentice in New Haven, Connecticut. After working as a printer and publisher of a literary magazine in Philadelphia, Heartt moved to North Carolina in 1820 in hopes that the warmer climate might help his recovery from smallpox.
Heartt published the first issue of The Hillsborough Recorder in February 1820. Readership quickly expanded beyond Hillsborough, as there were few news outlets in the central and western parts of the state at the time. Within a tightly packed four pages, the Recorder included local news as well as reprints of reports and letters from other U.S. newspapers. A poetry section often graced the back page, and Heartt was keen to publish local literary talent. Over time, the Recorder‘s editorial stance reflected the political view of the Whig party.
In 1828, Heartt increased the size of the newspaper’s pages and adopted a more modern typeface. He also added to the title on the front page an engraving of the robed figures of Liberty and Plenty underneath a bald eagle bearing a shield and the motto “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” The Recorder continued to publish under that title for about five years. With the November 19, 1834 issue, Heartt revealed a new title without an engraving and with the changed motto, “Union, the Constitution, and the Laws—The Guardians of Our Liberty.”
As the U.S. headed toward the Civil War, Heartt was slow to warm to secession. Writing in the April 24, 1861 The Hillsborough Recorder, a week and a half after the battle at Fort Sumter, Heartt noted that “We have not changed our position as to the impolicy of secession as a measure of redress, or a security of our peculiar institution, nor of the value of the Union as the source of the unexampled prosperity of all portions of our country.” But, he added, Lincoln’s call for troops “for the avowed purpose of coercing the seceded states into obedience to Federal law, is an aggravation of the existing difficulties which has sufficed to arouse the whole South as one man in resistance to his usurpation, and war with all its horrors is upon us.” While covering the war and remaining sympathetic to Southern grievances, the Recorder continued to bear the motto “Union, the Constitution, and the Laws—the Guardian of Our Liberty.”
In 1869 Heartt sold the Recorder to the father and son publishers of The Milton Chronicle of Milton, NC, Clayton Napoleon Bonaparte Evans (1812-1883) and Thomas Clancy Evans (1839-1890). Writing about Heartt in 1897, William Kenneth Boyd, a North Carolina historian, noted that under Heartt’s direction the Recorder was the best-known newspaper in central North Carolina. “For years, some of the oldest citizens have declared, the only literature found in their homes was the Bible and The Recorder, and they would ‘swear by either.'”
In 1872, the Evanses sold The Hillsborough Recorder to John Donald Cameron (1820-1897), who continued to run the newspaper under that title until 1879, when he moved the publication to Durham, N.C. and renamed it The Durham Recorder.