The First Black Newspaper In West Virginia

William Calvin Chase of the Washington Bee praises Publisher George Washington Welcome of West Virginia (September 1883)

William Calvin Chase, pictured above, of the Washington Bee apparently knew George Washington Welcome of West Virginia. Chase’s paper praised Welcome’s editorial and career on several occasions in the early 1880s.

Over the past year or so researching the lost history of Frederick Douglass in the Mountain State I subsequently stumbled into the lost history of George Washington Welcome, who attended a private banquet with Douglass in Wheeling, West Virginia in the fall of 1884.

Upon discovering this association and connection between Douglass and Welcome I pondered, who was George Washington Welcome?

I can now confirm with a significant portfolio of evidence that Welcome, buried in present-day Martinsburg, West Virginia, was the publisher and editor of West Virginia’s first Black newspaper in 1882.

In 1884, Welcome sold his investment in his second newspaper venture, the Pioneer Press, to John Robert Clifford.

Somehow and some way while the history of J. R. Clifford has been recognized and uplifted across the state, region and country in the past fifteen years or so Welcome has remained lost, hidden and forgotten.

Utilizing the extant archival record and investigating this lost history as a detective it is evident that over a brief period in the early 1880s Welcome was known throughout West Virginia and the region as an influential political organizer and respected newspaper publisher.

While I have yet to confirm existing copies of Welcome’s first publishing enterprise an examination of contemporary newspaper archives reference the Wheeling Times, launched by Welcome and an associate in West Virginia’s capital city in either August or September 1882.

Some of the more interesting appearances of Welcome and references to his groundbreaking newspaper publishing can be found in the pages of the Washington Bee. Mentions of Welcome in the Washington Bee, published in Washington City for several decades by William Calvin Chase, Esq., are telling.

In September 1883 the Bee reprinted a short biographical entry on Welcome from a newspaper in Michigan with commentary that is presumably from the editorial desk of W. C. Chase.

Knowing Mr. Chase as we have over the past decade or so of related Frederick Douglass research we can confirm that Mr. Chase did not suffer fools and was reluctant to offer praise. Chase’s brief commendation of Welcome is revealing. As T. Thomas Fortune could attest, Chase was more likely to spar, critique and even admonish other newspapers and their editors than offer approval.

And mind you, this excerpted clip from the Bee from 1883 is nearly an entire year before J. R. Clifford, who Chase would come to know well, purchases the ownership of the Pioneer Press from Welcome.

Washington Bee. September 1883.

Did Welcome and Chase know each other? The record indicates they clearly did.

Did Welcome and Chase both know Frederick Douglass privately? They did.

More specifically how did Welcome and Chase know each other? From Black political networks of the Republican Party? From annual conventions of the Black Press? Through mutual associations and connections within the Black Press, such as editor emeritus Douglass?

Some of these questions have yet to be answered and/or will remain open-ended as the research continues.

With the recent launch of the print and online publication Black by God: The West Virginian by West Virginia University journalism graduate Crystal Good and supported by a statewide group of correspondents I have been inspired to look further into the lost history of George Washington Welcome.

Originally published on The Lion Of Anacostia

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