Francis Eugene Boner (1835-1859) and James Collins established the Western Sentinel in 1856 as a weekly Democratic newspaper serving western North Carolina. Published in Winston, the Forsyth County seat and one of the two towns later combined to form Winston-Salem, the Western Sentinel billed itself as “devoted to national and state politics, literature, foreign and domestic news.”
Collins’s involvement with the Sentinel was brief. His name had disappeared from the masthead by May 1857. Boner brought several years of experience to the newspaper, having joined The People’s Press of neighboring Salem, N.C. as a 16-year-old apprentice in 1851. With Collins’s departure from the Sentinel, Boner found a new partner in John Wesley Alspaugh (1859-1912). Alspaugh was a lawyer in Winston and, like Boner, was listed on the masthead as editor and proprietor.
Within two years of partnering in the Sentinel, Alspaugh was the sole owner and editor. On June 24, 1859, the Sentinel carried news of Boner’s death from “consumption.” Under Alspaugh’s leadership, the newspaper supported Southern secession in 1861 and championed the Confederacy during the Civil War.
In the November 22, 1866 Sentinel, Alspaugh announced the newspaper’s sale to George M. Mathes (1842-?). In the same issue, Mathes wrote that the Sentinel would support the Conservative Party, a coalition of Democrats who repudiated Confederate ideas and supported limited civil rights, though not voting rights, for Blacks.
Mathes served as editor and publisher of the Sentinel until February 15, 1883. On March 22, 1883, the Sentinel announced that Edward Alexander Oldham (1860-1948) would take “entire control” of the newspaper in early April. Oldham moved to Winston from Wilmington, North Carolina where, in 1882, he had founded and edited The New South.
During his four-year tenure at the Sentinel, Oldham introduced a number of changes and new features. The newspaper adopted a new title plate, which included an engraving of nearby Pilot Mountain, a distinctive 2,500 rock formation about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem. Just below the engraving, the title plate included the subtitle “Western North Carolina, the El Dorado of the World!”
Oldham published several special issues to increase circulation and revenue. The front page of the “Congressional Edition,” published on April 16, 1885, featured a four-column image of President Grover Cleveland, which Oldham boasted was the largest engraving ever printed in a Southern newspaper. The “Fourth of July Edition” in 1885 featured red and blue ink, which required three press runs, as well as an image of the Statue of Liberty and an account of its arrival in New York City in June.
On May 6, 1886, Oldham published the newspaper under a new title, The Weekly Sentinel, and changed the size from an eight-column folio to a six-column quarto. He changed the subtitle to “A North Carolina Family Newspaper for North Carolina People in the State and Out,” reflecting his desire to reduce the newspaper’s ties to the Democratic Party and appeal to North Carolinians throughout the United States.
Despite his seeming success in Winston, Oldham announced the Sentinel‘s sale to Vernon Watson Long (1867-1926) on June 16, 1887. Long was a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and had filed reports from the college for the Sentinel. Within weeks of his purchase, Long restored The Western Sentinel as the newspaper’s title.
Three years later, in the December 11, 1890 Sentinel, Long announced his sale of the newspaper to James Oscar Foy (1852-1918). He wrote that that newspapers “provide but scant remuneration for the enormous amount of work they require. This being so, I feel it my duty to retire myself from journalism.”
Foy, owner and editor of The Twin-City Daily of Winston, continued to publish both titles, telling readers of the December 11, 1890 Sentinel that combining the newspapers’ resources and management would produce a “better daily” and allow for “enlarging the proportions and extending the sphere of the weekly paper.” Foy retained the Western Sentinel as the title for the weekly, but he changed the daily’s name to The Twin-City Daily Sentinel.
In July 1892, Foy sold the daily and weekly editions of the Sentinel to William Freeman Burbank (1861-1916) of New York City for $10,000. Burbank added reports from the United Press service to the newspapers. On October 22, 1907, the Western Sentinel changed to publishing twice a week. A publisher’s note explained that “the people of today demand the news while it is news,” and that Rural Free Delivery allowed publishers to reach rural subscribers as easily as people of larger towns and cities.
On August 15, 1926, The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina reported that a Rochester, New York company headed by Frank E. Gannett (1876-1957), the predecessor to today’s Gannett Company, had purchased both editions of the Sentinel. The weekly Western Sentinel ceased publication in September 1926. The daily edition, titled the Twin City Sentinel since 1916, continued to publish until 1974.
Provided by: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, Chapel Hill, NC