Lowry, a village situated about seven miles east of Bedford on the Norfolk and Western Railway, was named for Nelson Lowry, who donated land for the railroad in 1853. There were once five Lowry homes in the village of Lowry, built for Harry, John W., Richard, Lunsford and Henry Lowry, all sons of Nelson Lowry to whom he gave land and slaves.
John Lowry, Sr., the first of the name in Bedford County, came from Pennsylvania about 1753. His land extended from what is now the village of Lowry to the Peaks of Otter. He was granted this land for his service in the colonial wars.
By the time of the Revolution he was the largest tobacco grower and slave owner in the county. He served as a Justice of the county, from 1775 to 1779. He married a Miss Triplett. John, a grandson, was killed at the Battle of Antietam. William, another grandson, was known as one of the finest Latin scholars in the south. Another grandson, Henry Clay Lowry, graduated in law from Washington and Lee University.
The book, OUR KIN, states that William Lowry was the first to come to this section of the state. Other references state that those residing in Virginia previous to his settlement here had their homes in the eastern part of the state. Both William and John appear in the deeds of Bedford County in the 1760s. It is not known if or how these two might be related.
John W. Lowry, grandson of William and brother of Nelson Lowry, owned one hundred and sixty-seven acres of land, with his post office address being Lowry, Bedford County.
There is a tradition that John Brown lived in a cave in the timberland of a Lowry plantation and that he went out and talked with slaves living on this and other plantations. It is known that Brown did get several slaves to run away.
One of their meeting places was in the small cemetery (now owned by Dr. Freeman Jenrette). A black servant revealed Brown's activities but her son told Brown of the plan to capture him and he escaped. From 1853 to 1855 there was on Nelson Lowry's property a large tobacco warehouse, a blacksmith shop and a shoemakers establishment.
With the advent of the Civil War many young members of the Lowry family were called to arms in the defense of their homes and property. They returned from the conflict greatly impoverished. These residents liberated their slaves and strived to resume their peaceful, construcfive lives.
On the death of older family members, the old estates fell into the hands of strangers. Most have been sold and resold many times dividing each time into smaller parcels of land. Only one of the families once owning homes in the vicinity of Lowry, before the Civil War, have descendants still living at the homestead. This is John Byrne, Jr., the son of Lawrence Byrne. He owns and lives in the old Nelson Lowry home near the railroad and also owns a plantation three miles south of Lowry, originally the property of his grandfather some years before the Civil War.
Lawrence Byrne came here when only twenty-three years old from Baltimore with an older friend named Dunmeade, a contractor engaged by the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad, a forerunner of the Norfolk and Western, from Lynchburg to Bristol, Tennessee.
In 1853, Mr. Byrne purchased from Nelson Lowry a three hundred acre tract of woodlands which he intended to use as a source of fuel to sell to the A. M.& 0. Raikoad as Lowry was the fuel stop to fire the engines.
Mr. Byrne's home, a quarter mile from the road, was visited during Hunter's raid by retreating union troops. Mr. Byrne, a British subject, was not molested in any way during the course of the conflict. Actually a guard was posted to protect his home and family. A Lt. McKinley, troop commander, had an injured horse which he gave to Mrs. Byrne along with a sword. He later became President McKinley. When the war was over Mr. Byrne purchased a portion of the Nelson Lowry land nearer to the railroad and moved his family there. In 1880 Lawrence Byrne operated a brick kiln at Lowry. One hundred cords of wood were needed to make 100,000 bricks. Bricks from this kiln were used to build the structure at the comer of Bridge and Depot Street in Bedford and this is still standing today.
Timber Ridge Baptist Church was organized in 1805 in the Lowry community with forty members. The first building for the Lowry Meeting House was a one room log cabin on one and one quarter acres of land purchased from William Lowry for five shillings. At a later date possibly during the early 1820ís, the one room log cabin was taken down and the second building erected on the land. The first pastor of the new building was the Reverend William Leftwich. This building was later used as the meeting house of the Episcopal Church and still later as a school building. The name, Lowry's Meeting House, was later changed to Timber Ridge Baptist Church, taking the name of the William B. Lowry homeplace. Early ministers at Timber Ridge were Isham Fuqua, H. L. Moorman, William Leftwich and William Harris. Many names associated with the early church were Fuqua, Wilkerson, Hiewitt, Hudnall, Witt, Lowry, and Markham. Descendants of many of these are still active today in the church.
In the 1880-1881 period, in addition to aforementioned business enterprises, there was operating a post office, Byrne's General Merchant Store and Byrne's Liberty Distiller and Liquor Establishment.
In the later period up to 1899, J. B. Glass was a coach and wagon maker; Lawrence Byrne, a distiller; William Byrne, E. A. Lee and T. W. Staton, general merchants; John Lowry, an insurance agent; and Henry Wilkes, a corn and flour mill operator. Another mill was located at Everette's Ford near Timber Ridge. Dr. John S. Mitchell lived on present Route 460 and doctored the sick in this community. Listed under schools and colleges was Lowry Institute where black women were to be taught culture.
In 1911, the canneries in operation were C. W. Leslie, Spickard and Davis and J. C. Truxell. William H. Barger and W. E. Goodman were carpenters and builders. The general stores were operated by Miss Hannah Byrne, George Ford, Jesse S. Smoot and E. H. Whitten. Livestock dealers were C. W. Leslie and B. R Markham. T. C. Kincannon, now, was a lumber dealer and operator of saw and planing mills. Tom Hawkins also operated a saw mill and planing mill. Teachers were Miss Ellen Byrne, Miss Essie Gill and Mrs. Edmonia Lowry.
In 1930 only seven towns (incorporated and unincorporated) in Bedford County had a population of over one hundred persons and one of these was Lowry. Lowry has had a post office continuously since April 12, 1854 when Mr. Nelson Lowry served as the first postmaster.
Those who followed are:
William R Lowry November 22, 1865
A. M. Lowry October 23, 1867
Samuel E. Blankenship November 25, 1867
Miss Ann Powell November 24, 1868
Nelson Lowry November 4, 1872
Lawrence Byrne November 14, 1873
Walter T. Doss August 2, 1882
Edmund A. Lee August 19, 1885
John Bower November 13, 1896
Hannah Byrne August 17, 1897
Caroline G. Coffey February 1, 1940
Nancy Dooley Wilson October 1, 1971
For more than twenty-five years the growing and canning of tomatoes has been, an important industry in this community. Of the five companies
engaged in canning tomatoes, three were forced to close and the other two (Markham and Byrne) have in recent years combined. This company operates in Florida in winter and early spring and at Lowry during the late summer.
Feldspar was formerly produced from mines a few miles south of Lowry and many carloads were shipped from this place annually. The business in tan bark was active for a short while,but the lumber business is still promising. Lowry's two room school house closed when the county consolidated rural schools, and the children were bused to Liberty Academy in Bedford during the mid nineteen thirties.
At present, the Lowry Post Office is in operation in the Nelson Lowry Store where Nancy D. Wilson serves as postmistress. Nelson Lowry is buried behind this store. Mrs. A. R. Coffey now in her 90ís, operates the store, which she and her husband took over from his brother, Emmet H. Coffey in January of 1927.
Lowry has a coke plant operated by Green Ltd. and a saw mill operated by Mike and Mark Allen. Dr. J. T. Kincannon, who has been mentioned as having a saw mill and planing mill, was also a Baptist minister in Bedford from 1885 to 1924. He married Mildred Fuqua, and they lived at Knollwood, a fine brick home on Route 671, presently owned by Dr. and Mrs. Freeman Jenrette. William McGhee is credited with building this house. McGhee married Mary Green in 1827. In 1829, David Saunders conveyed to William McGhee three hundred and sixty-eight acres of land on the north side of Little Otter River.