Newspapers have a storied history in New West

New Westminster’s history includes the particularly interesting story of the newspapers covering the city’s day-to-day accounts. A few weeks ago this paper, the New Westminster Record, marked its 35th anniversary in this community.

Mentioned in the story was a reference to an earlier paper that forms part of the Record’s history and holds a dominant spot in the publication history of the Royal City. This paper was the Columbian or British Columbian, which started in the early 1860s and stopped its presses in the ’80s.

As we put this column together, we are looking at the last issue of that early paper with its front-page headline, “It’s all over for the Columbian.” That edition was published on Nov. 15, 1983 – almost exactly 33 years ago.

When this paper shut down, it was much more than just a New Westminster event. Part of its banner stated: “Suburban Vancouver’s daily newspaper serving Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey, North Delta, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, White Rock, Langley and Aldergrove.”

In that final issue there were a number of stories on the history of the Columbian as well as accounts of how its demise came about. Included in the reporting were the names of persons involved such as John Robson, the Kennedy Brothers, Richard McBride, J.D. Taylor, Vic E. Andrew, R.A. McLellan and others.

An article included an interesting quote from Robson when he initially closed his version of the paper. He wrote: “We thank our friends, forgive our enemies, and die in peace.” The article also noted: “That’s how Robson, the Columbian’s first editor, said goodbye after seven rowdy years when the newspaper first bit the dust in 1869. He brought it back to life in 1882.”

And so the Columbian ceased to publish and became another entry in the long list of local papers which have identified and reported on the local community. Its issues, except for a very few, are still found in hardcopy and on microfilm so that we can all review day after day, month after month, year after year, the local area’s stories.

In the work that we do to investigate the local and regional past, the province’s long list of papers often supplies the resources we need, and the Columbian is a highly useful and valuable example of such a source that frequently included vital factual information including births, deaths, marriages, businesses, successes, failures, and on and on.

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