The Southern Sentinel
Winnfield is the seat of Winn Parish in rural north-central Louisiana. Cotton was the predominant local industry there in the 19th century. The arrival of several railroads between 1901 and 1905 triggered a timber boom that caused the parish’s population to double, reaching its historic high around 1910. Other important industries included salt mining and limestone quarrying. Politically, Winnfield is significant as the birthplace of governors Huey and Earl Long, as well as Oscar Kelly “O. K.” Allen, an important figure in Huey Long’s political machine.
The Southern Sentinel was founded in 1883 by B. W. Ashwood (probably Benjamin Ashwood, who later printed the New Orleans Daily States ). It was the second newspaper of that title to be published in Winnfield, the first having gone out of business during the Civil War. In the mid 1880s, following Ashwood’s departure for New Orleans, the Sentinel was edited by Robert Edward Milling (1861-1947), who would go on to become a prominent New Orleans lawyer; William Allyn Strong (1847-1908), a former Louisiana Secretary of State; and Solomon Morgan Brian (1849-1888), a lawyer and merchant. Editor James Thompson Wallace (1850-1907) resigned in 1887 to found the Winn Parish Democrat, whereupon the Sentinel came under the editorship of 19-year-old Crockett Kelly Jones (1868-1894), a distant relative of frontiersman Davy Crockett. By the early 1900s, the paper was being edited by David Benjamin Coates (d. 1927), who later worked as a journalist in Texas and Los Angeles. Former editor Will Strong returned in 1906 and operated the Sentinel until his death two years later. It was then taken up by the well-known north Louisiana newspaperman William H. Tunnard (1837-1916). Publication ended in 1910, when the Sentinel was absorbed by the Winnfield Comrade.
Like virtually all Louisiana newspapers of its day, the Southern Sentinel supported the Democratic Party. It also promoted the economic development of Winn Parish, carrying news of the cotton and lumber industries, encouraging the construction of railroads, and, in the 20th century, printing the charters of local businesses. An agriculture column offered practical advice for farmers. In the 1880s, the Sentinel briefly carried a temperance column, and around 1903, it began reprinting selections from the works of nationally known authors on contemporary social issues. General and “society” news from the state capital, Baton Rouge, was reported in a regular letter from “Vivian” (Addie McGrath). By 1906, the paper had come to include fiction, but this was removed by editor Will Strong, who returned the Sentinel’s focus to politics and the promotion of Winn Parish.