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Where did The Shepherdstown Chronicle come from?

By Staff | Nov 9, 2018

The Lehman's home, which John built for Mary on Shepherd Grade Road. The house burnt down during a lightning storm, after the couple had moved out of the home, before moving away from Shepherdstown in 2012. Submitted photo.

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Although many community members are familiar with The Shepherdstown Chronicle and have even read it since its first edition was published in 1991, some may be unfamiliar with the newspaper’s origins.

In the early 1980s, The Shepherdstown Chronicle’s founders, John and Mary Lehman, decided to explore career avenues outside of their current careers, as an English teacher/guidance counselor and social worker, respectively.

“There used to be a newspaper in Shepherdstown called The Potomac Guardian, and my husband did a couple of freelance articles for them,” Mary said, mentioning this experience fueled the couple’s interest in owning their own business.

“We were looking for a business to start. We are very independent people, and we wanted to be our own boss,” Mary said, during an interview on Oct. 15.

Before deciding on what type of business they were interested in running, the Lehmans drove to Washington, D.C., where they researched small business opportunities.

“We went to Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle, and found a little paperback book called ‘How to Start a Newspaper.’ After we read that, we decided that’s what we wanted to do. When The Potomac Guardian went out of business, we bought all of their printing equipment from them,” Mary said. Although the Lehmans were interested in starting a newspaper at some point, they chose to take their time working towards their goal.

“We didn’t start the paper right away, because we were both working,” Mary said.

In 1982, the Lehmans established the Lehman Media Company out of an office on Charles Street in Charles Town. Mary quit her job to run the company full-time, while John worked at the company part-time and continued working his full-time job at Shepherdstown Junior High School until 1985.

“We went into publishing, and published a tourist guide, an automobile guide and a real estate guide,” Mary said. “We sold the Eastern Panhandle Real Estate Guide for a quarter-of-a-million dollars, and that gave us the funds to start our own newspaper company.”

In 1991, the Lehmans moved their business to its current location, 123C South Duke Street, where John continued running Lehman Media Company for another year, while he and Mary began developing the newspaper. They became a two-person show — John worked in sales and graphics, and Mary worked as the editor, publisher, accountant, circulation manager, photographer and reporter, and communicated with the community and the newspaper’s weekly columnists and cartoonists.

Although the newspaper kept them busy, Mary said they enjoyed working together.

“John and I worked well together, we were a good team,” Mary said. “It was hard work, we worked for 60 hours a week. We would put the paper to bed, and would start with the next paper.

“When we started the paper, John Doyle (who was a legislator at the time), told us we would succeed if we concentrated on the community of Shepherdstown. And our idea was to make The Shepherdstown Chronicle the community bulletin board,” Mary said. “I wrote feature stories about Shepherdstown residents, and covered every single community meeting, town council meeting and Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting, because development was just starting in the area at the time.”

After about 10 years running the business, the Lehmans sold The Shepherdstown Chronicle to its current owner, Ogden Newspapers, with whom they had a prior relationship.

Although the Lehmans were ready to slow down and enjoy their 60s together, they decided to explore one last publishing venture. In 2004, The Shepherdstown Observer published its first monthly issue, and continues to be published today under different ownership, as The Observer.