Satire turned against satirists was not uncommon, either. When debates dragged to excessive length, readers often responded with angry threats of canceled subscriptions.

More predominant was the long heavy prose on the state of the colonies or the world in general.

Native humor was found sparingly in the Gazettes. "Hasty Pudding, a Cure for the Quinsy," ostensibly informed the public of a new cure. Actually it was a farce recounting a tale of a doctor ordering two large bowls of hasty pudding for a patient suffering from an inflamed throat. A slight spill from one of the bowls resulted in a pudding fight, and the ensuing laughter cured the patient of his quinsy.

Minority views were also printed, as in the case of a grouchy character reflecting on "the Absurdity of various fashionable Customs."

"It is my Misfortune to visit some Houses where six Children dine at the Table, and Mamma, to show her good Breeding and Manners, has taught all her squeaking Brats to drink to every Person’s Health at the Table and therefore, we have nothing in our Ears but the dull Repetitions of these Children, to show their Observance of their Mamma’s Dictates."

Purdie’s Gazette, from which all these items have been extracted, continued to be a sparkling newspaper after it was formed anew in 1775 and Dixon was left with the original Gazette.

Perhaps because Dixon’s new partner, William Hunter Jr., was a loyalist, the original Gazette dragged its feet on covering the Revolution. In any event, Purdie continually scooped the other two Gazettes.

On Feb. 2, 1776, Purdie printed excerpts from Tom Paine’s pamphlet, "Common Sense," the famous statement of arguments for independence. John Pinkney ran it the next day in his Virginia Gazette.

Purdie also beat the competition on breaking the Declaration of Independence. He published a brief reference to it by way of the postmaster in Fredericksburg on July 12, just 10 days after Congress resolved that the united colonies were free and independent states. (It wasn’t declared until July 4.)

The following Friday, July 19, Purdie ran key passages from the Declaration, promising to print the entire document next week. Dixon and Hunter followed suit and the two Gazettes ware thought to be the first papers outside Philadelphia to print the Declaration verbatim.

What’s curious is how the two Gazettes played it up – or down. Purdie ran it as lead story on Page 1, which it consumed entirely before concluding atop page 2. There were also reports on the proclamation of the Declaration in Trenton, New York and Williamsburg.

Dixon and Hunter, on the other hand, ran the Declaration on Page 2, reserving Page 1 for lesser accounts about shipping, naval matters and a death. (Pinkney’s Gazette didn’t run it at all – it had folded the previous February.)

No one knew during these troubled times what the outcome of the Revolution would be. But the Gazettes and the other 34 colonial newspapers reported the excesses of the British government and the steps taken by the colonists to guarantee their own freedoms.

More than the political pamphlet and more than the sermons by political clergy, the colonial newspaper contributed the most to the propaganda of the Revolution. The Patriot press inspired the colonies to rebel against tyranny, and it worked.

1780-1929: The Dormant Period

Nothing, not even war, had such a disastrous effect on Williamsburg as the removal of the capitol in 1780 to Richmond. It was done to make the seat of government more convenient to the westerly counties of the state, including what is now Illinois and Kentucky.

Like other merchants and lawyers and doctors, John Dixon and John Nicolson moved their Virginia Gazette to Richmond, leaving Williamsburg without a newspaper for the first time in 44 years.

A case can be made that the Gazette did not die out since it was merely removed to Richmond, but the fact is Williamsburg was without its own hometown paper.

Furthermore, the original Gazette that did continue in Richmond was quickly dissipated by competition and an apparent disregard by Dixon and Nicolson for their paper’s historic title and identity.

Dixon and Nicolson published their last Gazette in Williamsburg on April 8, 1780. The first issue in Richmond appeared May 9, 1780. It continued until April 21, 1781, and then stopped until May 19, which is the last issue located. In December 1781, Nicolson established The Virginia Gazette, or Weekly Advertiser. Dixon was no longer partner; William Prentis was.