The Caldwell Watchman

Caldwell Parish

Located in rural northeastern Louisiana, Caldwell Parish is divided into two distinct geographical regions by the Ouachita River. The parish’s flat eastern half, lying in the river’s floodplain, has traditionally been devoted to cotton production. The western half, in contrast, is hilly and densely forested; intensive logging operations began there around 1900. In the nineteenth century, Caldwell Parish was populated primarily by subsistence-level white farmers. Lacking a large class of slaveholding planters, it was one of the few parishes in Louisiana that did not support southern secession in 1861. The parish seat is Columbia.

In November 1885, A. B. Hundley and J. O. Williams purchased the Columbia Herald from Charles Smith, brother of its former owner, the late John A. Smith, a native of London, England. The paper was renamed the Caldwell Watchman. By 1894, Samuel D. S. Walker was editing thefour-page weekly. Later editors included Samuel Pearce Walker, H. A. Turner, H. C. Baker, W. P. Watson and Roy M. Hundley. Reporting covered both local and national news. Proceedings of the town council and parish school board, the minutes of the police jury (the governing body of the parish), and reports on other official bodies such as the parish levee board were combined with personal briefs, news of entertainment venues, and announcements of public sales. In addition to supporting the Good Roads movement, the paper endorsed a “Clean up Columbia” campaign. Agricultural reporting was progressive and included a regular column on the activities of the Farmers’ Education and Co-Operative Union of America. A garden and household tips section appealed to housewives, while young readers found a weekly Sunday School lesson and serialized fiction. The Watchman strongly supported the temperance movement and reported on the social effects of Caldwell Parish being declared “dry” in 1905, fourteen years before the beginning of nationwide prohibition in 1919.

Although it was nominally a Democratic newspaper, proprietor Samuel P. Walker stated in 1915 that the Watchman would continue its policy of remaining neutral in local politics. This changed after Roy Hundley bought complete control of the paper in 1917, whereupon it became outspokenly Democratic. Publication continued under various owners until 1946, when the Watchman was reorganized under new management as the Caldwell Watchman and Progress.