History of the Charleston Gazette

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Establishment of the weekly Kanawha Chronicle by Charles B. Webb in April of 1873 marked the beginning of The Charleston Gazette. Publication began at Kanawha and Summers streets.

In 1877, James B. Pemberton, later mayor of Charleston, and John W. Jarrett, bought the Chronicle and changed its name to The Kanawha Gazette. About 1884, Moses W. Donnally, an oil well producer, acquired an interest in the paper and later purchased it from Pemberton. Operations were moved to15 Summers St., and ultimately to 79 Capitol St. The name was changed to The Daily Gazette.

About 1902, the newspaper moved to a location on the Kanawha River bank. Frequent floods in the basement forced a return to Summers Street.

George Byrne became editor about 1901. In 1905, with Byrne as an incorporator, the Charleston Publishing Company was formed. The paper's name was officially changed to The Charleston Gazette on Jan. 29, 1907.

The Chilton family first acquired formal interest in the paper about 1912. Listed, as incorporators of the Daily Gazette Company that year were J.E. "Mayor Joe" Chilton; Charles A. Ashcraft, later editor and business manager of the paper; T.S. Clark; and former Gov. William A. MacCorkle. Not listed was W.E. Chilton, who began a six-year term as U.S. Senator in 1911, and later became publisher.

On or about Nov. 21, 1912, the newspaper moved to 909 Virginia St. E., a location near the South Side Bridge. On May 18, 1918, fire consumed The Gazette building and for about three months The Gazette took up residence at 227 Hale St., where it remained and grew in prestige for more than 42 years.

W.E. Chilton Jr., son of the senator, became president of The Daily Gazette Company in 1922 and managing editor in 1924. The older Chilton continued as vice president and frequently contributed editorials. He died Nov. 7, 1939.

After World War II, The Gazette's reputation grew as a crusading newspaper. Robert L. Smith, Sr., who joined The Gazette as a boy of 10, and became its business manager as a young man, was elevated to publisher after the death of W.E. Chilton Jr., on Sept. 21, 1950.

On Jan. 1, 1958, The Gazette entered into a consolidation agreement with the Charleston Daily Mail to form Newspaper Agency Corporation. The name was changed to Charleston Newspapers on July 1, 1973.

On Sept. 6, 1960, The Gazette left its home at 227 Hale St., and moved into an addition of the Daily Mail Building at 1001 Virginia St. E. The move brought this headline: "Hale Street - Hail and Farewell."

W.E. Chilton III the son and grandson of former Gazette publisher, who since 1958 had been assistant to the publisher and chairman of The Gazette editorial board, succeeded Smith, following the latter's death on Oct. 6, 1961, as publisher.

Shortly thereafter, Chilton appointed Robert L. Smith Jr., until then a general assignment reporter in The Gazette sports department, as business manager.

William E. "Ned" Chilton III, the man whose self-professed sense of "sustained outrage" at government's shortcomings shaped The Charleston Gazette into a crusading newspaper that was either feared, hated or loved by those it covered, died in 1987 at the age of 65 of a heart attack shortly after he collapsed following a squash tournament in Washington, D.C.

Robert L. Smith Jr. was named publisher and president of the Gazette in March of 1987. In 1992, illness forced him to retire early. Smith was succeeded by Charleston Newspapers general manager Craig Selby as publisher, and by Elizabeth E. Chilton as president. Smith died in June of 1994 at the age of 65

In May of 2004, the Daily Gazette Company purchased the economic interest in Charleston Newspapers from Media News, followed in September of 2004 with the announcement from The Daily Gazette Company that Elizabeth Chilton would be publisher, Norman W. Shumate III, chief financial officer, and Craig Selby, general manager.

Thus, through fire, flood, war, merger, and changes in management and personnel, the Gazette has persisted to publish for more than 100 years.

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