The Lowell Tribune, loyally serving the community for 116 years, was founded in 1885 by early settler Yates Vosburg (1842-1918), who quickly sold the business to Horace Beebe. During that first year, Beebe sold out to Henry H. Ragon (1837-1918) and his partner A.A. Winslow. In 1890 Ragon's eldest son, Elmer E. Ragon (1862-1939), purchased Winslow's share. In 1948 Charles Surprise, grandson of Henry H. Ragon, became the sole owner of the paper.
In the early days, type was set by the light of kerosene wall lamps, and the paper was printed on a lever-operated Foster Printer, typical of the Ben Franklin model. Then came the Vaughn Ideal, a small hand operated printer, with Cordie Ragon as the "printer's devil" (apprentice).
Gasoline power was used when a Country Campbell printer was purchased, replace in about 1900 by a drum cylinder Babcock printer when electric lines came to the Lowell community.
In 1922 typesetting was speeded up with the purchase of a Linotype machine, and a second one was added along with more modern equipment for the production of commercial printing. The Babcock printer was used until the 1950's, replaced by a new automatic Miehle printer.
In 1950 the Tribune acquired from the Wood estate a building 26-by-70 feet that was attached to the south wall of their plant. Extensive remodeling doubled the work area. The addition had been Lowell's first garage, built by Merriman Castle in 1908.
In 1961 The Lowell Tribune was purchased by Lyle H. Pilcher, who began his career in radio and moved into the newspaper business in his native Illinois, where he was the publisher of the Woodstock Daily Sentinel in Woodstock, Ill. That same year he moved to Lowell with his wife Mary Jeanette (Woods) Pilcher and their children Gary, Jan and Craig.
In the 1960's Pilcher Publishing Company established the Cedar Lake Journal and the Southlake Advertiser to cover the market areas both north and south of Lowell with a weekly publication. In 1978 Pilcher purchased The Northern Star, a weekly newspaper serving Lake Village in Newton County to the south.
Perhaps the biggest and most expensive innovation by the Pilcher firm came in 1967 when they converted from letter press to offset printing and became one of the very few newspapers of their size to own their own offset press. This conversion involved the purchase of an adjacent house and lot north of the offices and the construction of a new, attached building. The purchase and installation of a new Goss offset press offered color capabilities along with regular black and white printing, combining speed and quality. Still another addition provided storage room for newsprint and other supplies.
In 1987 still another addition was made. The former Indiana Bell switching station building south of the office was purchased to accommodate expansion.
This month of October 2001, the Pilcher Publishing Company is celebrating its 40th anniversary as publishers of The Lowell Tribune. On the front of the October 9th issue was written a very nice "thank you" to the community for its continued support of their hometown newspaper.
"The Lowell Tribune was founded in 1885, and we are proud that it is one of the oldest businesses in south Lake County," said the Pilcher family. Now publishers of four weekly newspapers, two of which they founded (The Lowell Tribune, The Cedar Lake Journal, The Southlake Advertiser and The Northern Star), Pilcher Publishing Company remains one of the community's biggest boosters.
Following Lyle Pilcher's death in 1997, Mary Jeanette Pilcher became the publisher of Pilcher Publishing Company. All three of Lyle's children are currently working in the family business. Gary is the advertising manager, Jan works part-time and compiles the "By Gone Years" column, while Craig is the production manager. Craig's wife Christine is an account representative in the advertising department and their son Matthew works in the production department.
Pilcher Publishing is resolved to continue to invest their money and their best efforts here in the community where they live and pay taxes. They are proud of the Town of Lowell and proud to be a part of its rich history as the community readies to celebrate 150 years in 2002.
They have written history all through the years, printed news of long ago with the popular "By Gone Years" column, and shared valuable space for the monthly "Pioneer History" stories. A big thank you to the Pilcher Publishing Company from a grateful community. Happy Anniversary!
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