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June 19, 2019

4/10/2019 3:57:00 PM
More on 'Mail' history

To the editor:
I’d like to commend Rachel Cram for her wonderful article on the history of La Conner’s newspaper. There was so much detail to feast on and it reminds all of us of how invaluable a town newspaper is. She especially captured the spirit of Pat O’Leary, the newspaper’s editor. His intellectual curiosity certainly informed the Puget Sound Mail and how it reflected the community.
I’d like to add a few lines however, about the earliest years of the newspaper. James Power began the Mail in 1873 as the Bellingham Bay Mail, the only paper north of Seattle. The weekly carried advertisements from Skagit farmers and merchants and covered the stories of the lower Skagit country, which was then part of Whatcom County.
As Bellingham’s financial outlook sputtered with the Great Recession of the 1870s, Powers made the decision to relocate his press in 1878 and the following year moved to La Conner. He rebranded his newspaper as the Puget Sound Mail and sold it in 1884.
Skagit County had just been formed out of Whatcom and Power entered state politics – and hop farming. The paper continued to be published under a variety of owners and editor, including F. L. Carter who published it for 38 years, until Pat O’Leary purchased it in 1940.
The 67 years of weekly Mail issues that preceded O’Leary’s purchase provide us today with a rich historical record of life in Skagit County found nowhere else. It is an invaluable primary resource for many who seek to understand the development of our local communities, the relations between different ethnic and socioeconomic groups, the changes to our environment as more people moved to our area. Had James Powers not started his printing press when he did, much of what we know today would not have been documented anywhere else. Then, as now, a town’s newspaper is the window into the community’s soul.
Theresa L. Trebon
Skagit County historian

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