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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Doctor Rivers

Doctor James Gray Rivers, father of the founder of the 'Watauga Democrat' newspaper.

“Dr. James Gray Rivers

He made house calls only, usually by horseback rather than buggy when going out of town. Dr. james Gray Rivers was one of the town’s earliest physicians, arriving here in 1865 –  a sympathizer with the Confederates upon whom depended the economic survival of the South. He owned no slaves, however few mountain people did. He had sought political asylum from Union threats in Tennessee. (Quite possibly, these mountains harbored more Union soldiers than Confederates. Some sources even suggest that ‘Mr. Lincoln’s Poor Man’s War’ had far more backers here than the Rebels.) Dr. Rivers’ son, Robert Campbell, became involved in promoting the Watauga Democrat as a community newspaper – with the father of the Dougherty Brothers who started the institution now known as Appalachian State University. The two began operation July 4, 1889, the summer after the Democrat was begun as a political paper to see the Democrat Party through the fall election. Rivers published the Watauga Democrat until his death in 1933, at which time, his successor (his son R.C. Rivers, Jr.) was 33 years old. Having worked in the business since the age of 6, the younger Rivers was publisher until his death in 1975, when he was succeeded by his daughter, Rachel Rivers-Coffey. She was 33 at the time. Today she is publisher emerita – “Still doing the same job” – and her husband, Armfield Coffey, is publisher – also, “still doing the same job” – and loving it. Dr. Rivers, a Mason, was a son of Samuel and Rebecca Rivers, born in Virginia.”

(This caption, apparently a clipping from the Watauga Democrat newspaper, is affixed to the reverse of the image of Dr. Rivers in the archives of the Historic Boone society. No date or issue number accompanies the narrative excerpt – perhaps it is from the late 1980s…?)

Courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone society, held at the Watauga County Public Library, Boone, North Carolina.

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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Uncategorized