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The Opelousas Courier

St. Landry Parish

Founded in 1852, the Opelousas Courier / Le Courrier des Opelousas was published in a small but historically significant town on the so-called “Cajun Prairie” of south-central Louisiana. Established in 1720 as a French trading post, Opelousas developed into a regional cattle and farming center. In 1862, during the Civil War, it served briefly as Louisiana’s capital after the state legislature abandoned Baton Rouge. In April 1863, occupying Union forces took over the Courier and edited it for a week. A shortage of newsprint resulted in it suspending publication for short periods during the war; some issues were printed on wallpaper. The 1870s and 1880s in Opelousas were marked by reactionary racial politics and a stagnating economy (according to one editorial in the St. Landry Clarion in 1908, “For a number of years Opelousas was known to the surrounding new towns, that rose like mushrooms on every side, as the ‘peaceful slumber’”). However, largely owing to railroads, the town’s population slowly grew and by 1910 had reached 4,000.

Throughout its existence, the Courier was associated with the Sandoz family. Joel Henri Sandoz (ca. 1817-1878), a native of Switzerland and formerly coeditor of the Opelousas Gazette, founded the paper with André (or Andrew) Meynier, the town mayor, and edited it for many years. He was succeeded by his son Leonce Sandoz (1844-1909). Although originally neutral in politics, in the presidential election of 1860 the Courier endorsed secessionist Democratic candidate John C. Breckinridge. After the war, it remained Democratic. Local reporting focused on politics, railroads, immigration, education, and agriculture. By the 1870s, the paper had become a typical “home journal,” carrying fiction, essays, a farm and garden column, and domestic advice. Articles of a literary nature were dropped around 1908 in favor of more local reporting. French-language content, which originally took up two of the paper’s four pages, had also disappeared by the early 1900s.

Publication appears to have ceased in February 1910, a few months after the death of Leonce Sandoz.