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Robert T. Lowery’s last newspaper folds

Updated: Aug 6, 2018

The first newspaper Robert Thornton Lowery was involved in — and the last still in business — is folding after 139 years.

This cartoon, showing editor Robert T. Lowery and his pet bulldog mauling a delinquent subscriber, first appeared in The Ledge in July 1900.

Lowery (1859-1921) was West Kootenay’s most prolific newspaper publisher during its 1890s and early 1900s mining rush. He founded the Kaslo Claim (1893 and 1895-96); the peripatetic Ledge (Nakusp 1893-94, New Denver 1894-1904, Nelson 1904, Fernie 1904-05, Greenwood 1906-29); the Paystreak (Sandon, 1896-1902); Lowery’s Golden Claim (Rossland, 1898), Slocan Drill (1900-05), Lowery’s Claim (New Denver, Vancouver, Nelson 1901-06), Ozonogram (Vancouver, 1903), Float (New Denver and Nelson, 1903-04), and Nugget (Poplar, 1903-04), as well as the Similkameen Star (Princeton 1914-18). Most of these were weeklies; a few published more erratically. He was not involved in the day-to-day operations of all of them, and eventually sold some titles.

Lowery was a colourful character whose caustic pen often caused outrage — he never hesitated to pick fights with the CPR or any person or organization he deemed guilty of hypocrisy. Today, however, he would be condemned for his overt racism toward the Chinese (something common to most small-town newspapers at the time, which invariably presented a white, male, Eurocentric point of view).

But before he came to West Kootenay, Lowery and brothers William and Samuel founded the Petrolea Topic in an oil town in southwestern Ontario. They published the first issue on March 20, 1879 and sold the paper in 1886. Within the next few years Robert began his westward march, but the Topic kept going. It amalgamated in 1917 with the Petrolia Advertiser (founded in 1869 as the Petroleum Advertiser), but I don’t know when the spelling changed from Petrolea to Petrolia.

News is out today that the Petrolia Topic is one of six newspapers to be closed by Postmedia, while four others will become online-only publications. The Topic’s last day is July 11 — nearly 90 years after the last edition of the last paper in our area with Lowery’s DNA on it.

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