On April 15, 1998 a new newspaper hit the streets in Iredell County. The paper was called the Iredell Citizen created, published and edited by Robert “Bob” Plyler. Volume 1, Number 1, began its run with the headline, “Hello Iredell” in large black letters across the top. The first photograph, taken by Plyler, also on the front page, showed the backs of two Iredell County farmers wearing Bib overalls and sitting on a cannon outside the old court house on Center Street.
The first paragraph read, “Congratulations Iredell —You have just given birth to a bouncing 24-page weekly newspaper!” The new arrival was described as a girl, “easy to hold, delightful to look at, and easy to read.” It was a community newspaper without wire stories or headlines from around the world and its first story was on efforts to save and preserve the old railroad depot in Statesville.
The Iredell Citizen would continue for a little over ten years until the Great Recession and a reduction in advertising revenue forced the paper to shut down in 2008. The last issue was Volume 11, Number 11, published on June 26, 2008. The headline, again in bold black, read “Good Bye Iredell,” and once again featured the same photograph of the two farmers sitting on the cannon that graced the papers first cover page. Bob Plyer referred to his last editorial sadly as an “obituary.”
I have good news though. The Iredell Express has in a manner been brought back to life. On June 3, 2021 all 533 issues of the paper went online at https://www.digitalnc.org/newspapers/iredell-citizen-statesville-n-c/. Images of each page of the paper along with a search engine to help find articles that appeared can now be viewed online for free. You can also get to it by going to www.digitalnc.org and clicking on “Newspapers” and just scrolling down the page until you see the Iredell Citizen listed.
The digitalnc.org website is the creation of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center located in the University of North Carolina’s Wilson Special Collections Library. The Heritage Center works with North Carolina cultural institutions such as libraries, archives, museums, alumni associations, historic sites, historical societies and other groups to scan, describe, and publish materials online from their collections.
The N.C. Digital Heritage Center is North Carolina’s hub for the Digital Public Library of America at www.dp.la. The Center is supported by the State Library of North Carolina with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, and by the UNC-Chapel Hill University Library.
When the Iredell Citizen ceased publication Bob Plyer donated bound volumes containing each issue of the paper to the libraries’ Local History Dept. The library also has the Citizen on microfilm along with most of the other newspapers that have been published in Iredell County. Since 2008 those bound volumes and our microfilm have been the only source for people to look up past news articles in the Iredell Citizen.
Each year the N.C. Digital Heritage Center asks institutions around the state to nominate a community newspaper from their area to be digitized and placed on the Heritage Center website. I had nominated the Iredell Citizen year after year without success, but in October of 2020 Lisa Gregory, Program Coordinator with the Center, offered to digitize the paper provided we could loan them the microfilm and be in no hurry to get it back (they probably got tired of hearing from me.)
I have always said that todays newspaper is next weeks history book. In addition to our Iredell County newspapers running from 1858 to the present on microfilm the library also provides online access to Iredell County newspapers published from 1858 to 1977 on our website at www.iredell.lib.nc.us/167/Local-History-Genealogy. The addition of the Iredell Citizen provides online access to cover ten years (1998-2008) that has been missing.
Ten years, two months, and 11 days after the first issue of the Iredell Citizen appeared Bob Plyler thanked the papers subscribers for their support saying, “It’s been an honor and a privilege for us to attend, photograph and write about hundreds of your events and celebrations over the years.”
He also thanked his staff for “this special time we’ve had together.” Newspaper staff for the final edition of the Citizen were Neil Furr, Lisa Hagy, Michele Mitchell, Don Weber, Danny Hogan, Teresa Jordan, Sandy Parks, Lee Ann Sherrill, Shellem Cline, Kathryn Gaither, Meredith White, Asti Winston, Carl Ford and Ruthann Jacobs.