The Lafayette Gazette
The Lafayette Gazette was a weekly, four-page Democratic newspaper published in Lafayette, Louisiana, from 1893 to 1921. Located fifteen miles west of the Atchafalaya Swamp and thirty-five miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, Lafayette is at the heart of Acadiana, a region settled in the eighteenth century by French colonists driven out of Nova Scotia during the French and Indian War. In the nineteenth century, most immigrants to the region came directly from France or from other parts of the United States. The population of Lafayette (the seat of Lafayette Parish) was about 3,000 in the 1890s.
By 1910, the population had more than doubled, due in part to the opening in 1900 of the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette). Several sugar factories appeared around the turn of the century, contributing further to the town’s growth. Natural gas was discovered at nearby Breaux Bridge in 1899, followed by oil at Anse La Butte in 1902; these resources, however, were not fully exploited until the mid twentieth century.
Homer J. Mouton (1870-1903), a son of former Louisiana lieutenant governor Charles Homer Mouton, founded the Lafayette Gazette in 1893 with Charles A. Thomas. Within year, Mouton had purchased Thomas’s share of the business and become its sole proprietor. Like his father (an officer in the White League, a Reconstruction-era paramilitary group formed to intimidate Republicans and black voters), Mouton strongly supported the doctrine of white supremacy. On economic issues, particularly during the election of 1896, he admitted the soundness of Republican over Democratic policy, but on account of his racist views could not bring himself to support the party of Lincoln. Outside of politics, Mouton’s reporting was moderately progressive. He showed great interest in the advancement of education in Lafayette, frequently reporting on the growth of the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute, local high schools, and the Chautauqua adult education movement. He supported Sunday (or blue) laws, which prohibited the conducting of business on the Sabbath, and devoted a column to the activities of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. An agricultural column sought to educate farm workers. While reporting on the local sugar industry (the mainstay of Lafayette Parish’s economy), Mouton also encouraged farmers to diversify their crops. After 1900 he printed occasional reports on oil exploration in south Louisiana.
A “Town and Country” column carried social news from Lafayette and nearby towns, including Carencro, Duson, Broussardville (now Broussard), and Royville (now Youngsville). The United Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Attakapas Literary Society, and the Lafayette Baseball Club were among the many social organizations reported on.
Upon Mouton’s death in 1903, the Lafayette Gazette came under the management of his brothers Jerome (1876-1919) and Philip Mouton (1873-1962). In 1921, having been issued as a daily for three years, the paper was absorbed by the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.