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Historic Walking Tour of Boone
Item 8 of 18
The Rivers Printing Company building on West King Street in Boone, North Carolina housed the offices and print shop of the Watauga Democrat from 1933 until the mid 1980s. Initially published in 1888, The Watauga Democrat served the Town of Boone and Watauga County as the leading local newspaper, documenting the life of the small town and advocating for civic improvement projects such as highways, railroads, electricity and schools.

  • Rivers Printing Company in 1988
  • Bob Rivers Sr and Staff at the printing office in 1930
  • Murphy's Restaurant and Bar

The Watauga Democrat began as a partisan newspaper for the 1888 election.  Although the newspaper folded after the election, the equipment and masthead were soon revived by Robert C. “Bob” Rivers and Daniel Baker “D.B.” Dougherty in 1889.  Rivers was an experienced newspaper man who had previously been the publisher of the rival Watauga Enterprise.  Dougherty was one of Boone’s most prominent citizens, serving the community as Postmaster and Justice of the Peace before joining Rivers in the newspaper business.

For the first ten years of operation, Dougherty and Rivers worked together as Editor and Publisher, respectively, to produce a weekly newspaper for the town of Boone.  They advocated for better roads, the extension of the railroad, and an increase in funding for Education.  In 1899, Dougherty’s two sons opened Watauga Academy, a training schools for teachers which would later evolve into Appalachian State University.  The elder Dougherty also retired as Editor of the paper, selling his shares to Rivers.  D.B. Dougherty died a few years later in 1902.

Gregarious and hard working, Rivers was a natural newspaper man.  He was born at the dawn of the American Civil War and grew up in Boone during the era of reconstruction.  After taking sole ownership of the paper, Rivers did all the jobs.  He sold advertisements, wrote all the articles, hand set the type and printed all the copies.  The paper came out every Thursday and usually consisted of four pages.  If the paper shipment was delayed, he would get on a horse and ride down the mountain to Lenoir to get enough paper to print an edition.      

Bob Rivers served as publisher until his death in 1933.  At his funeral, every minister in town wanted to be part of the official ceremony.  He was succeeded by his son, Bob Rivers Jr.  The Rivers family owned the paper until 1994.  

Today the newspaper is owned by Jones Media which also owns The Mountain Times and the Rivers Printing Company building is home to Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub.

Covington, Howard E., Jr., and Marion A. Ellis. The North Carolina century: Tar Heels who made a difference, 1900-2000. Charlotte, N.C. Levine Museum of the New South, Chapel Hill, N.C. Distributed by the University of North Carolina Press, 2002., North Carolina Newspapers Collection, Watauga Democrat, September 28, 1933.

Mitchem, Pamela Price. Appalachian State University: Charleston, South Carolina:     Arcadia Publishing, 2014.

Oakes, Anna. "A look back at 125 years: A history of Watauga Democrat", The Watauga Democrat. Last modified July 3, 2013. Accessed October 4, 2016.

“Watauga Democrat c. 1930”, circa 1930, Images of North Carolina, Historic Boone, Watauga County Library, Boone, NC.