About the Herald

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The Concrete Herald was actually the second generation of another Skagit County newspaper. F. J. Wilcox launched the Hamilton Herald on Nov. 23, 1901, west of Concrete in the town of Hamilton. Hans J. Bratlie, a Norwegian immigrant, took over the paper in 1903 and it soon evolved into the Hamilton Herald-Recorder. Sometime in 1912, Bratlie moved the newspaper to Concrete, which was booming rapidly with the payrolls from two cement plants.

On March 13, 1915, Bratlie’s three-story Concrete Herald building on Main Street burned to the ground, and on July 2, seven more buildings burned. They were rapidly rebuilt of fireproof concrete, but Bratlie, frustrated with these events, moved his family to Ridgefield, Washington.

During the next 14 years, Bratlie sold the building, equipment, and newspaper to a series of transient buyers. The town experienced a boom from 1923–26 with the construction of the dam on the Baker River, but by 1929 the publishers moved on and that is when Charles M. “Chuck” Dwelley came into the picture.

Dwelley and his first wife, Helen, had settled in Concrete permanently by the time of the 1930 Federal Census. They lived on West Main Street with their son, Arthur. They published the Herald weekly in a small building that now houses the town’s dentist. During the Depression years, an old Ford dealership failed and Chuck took over the building and remodeled it into a modern printing plant.

Dwelley served as the publisher-editor of the Concrete Herald for more than 40 years, reaching a readership that stretched from Lyman to the west, all the way to the North Cascades and elsewhere in Washington, via subscriptions. He began publishing in 1929 and sold the paper in late 1970 to Robert and June Fader. The Faders kept the community institution in print till 1989, handing the editorship to Anne Bussiere in 1984.

Bussiere served as editor till 1989, when the town was shocked to discover that the paper had been sold to John and Mae Falavolito. Bussiere left the paper shortly after the exchange of ownership, and within a couple of years, the Herald failed.

For a brief time from 1992–93, the Skagit Argus newspaper tried to publish a special alternate “upriver edition” out of the Mount Vernon Argus office, with Anne Bussiere again covering news in the town. The re-plating of the Concrete pages turned out to be an awkward construct and that idea faded after a couple of years, with Bussiere eventually opening Annie’s Pizza Station in Concrete, which she currently owns and operates.

In 1990, Ken and Pat Betts moved to Concrete and bought the Herald building, setting up a print shop and providing print services for eastern Skagit communities. From 1996-2005, Pat Betts produced a popular community newsletter, East Skagit Community News, which effectively filled the gap left by the loss of the Herald. In late 2005, tendonitis forced Pat to stop publishing the newsletter. She handed control of the venture to Philip Johnson in early 2006.

Philip Johnson eventually renamed the publication Upriver Community News and published it as a monthly, small-format newspaper since January 2006. In late 2008 he began to seek a buyer for the publication, asking $4,000 for its purchase. Jason Miller, a local freelance writer/editor, citizen activist, and member of the Concrete Town Council, began a grassroots fundraising effort to raise the money needed to buy Johnson’s paper; purchase the Mac-based computer equipment and software needed for effective, streamlined design and production; and promote the new venture adequately.

On March 3, 2009, Miller purchased Upriver Community News from Johnson, who published an April issue and then stopped publishing. Miller picked up Johnson’s schedule with the Concrete Herald, beginning with a May 6, 2009 issue.

Portions of this account excerpted and adapted from Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, by Noel V. Bourasaw.

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