Semi-weekly Natchitoches Times

Natchitoches Parish

In 1859, Ernest Le Gendre, a French political exile, began publishing a bilingual newspaper, the Natchitoches Union, in Natchitoches, Louisiana, an important cotton shipping center on the Red River, near the state’s western border with Texas. Upon his death in 1862, Le Gendre was succeeded as editor by another French immigrant, Louis Dupleix (1820-1900). Arriving in Natchitoches in 1848, Dupleix worked as a farmer, businessman, and teacher before turning his attention to journalism.

Dupleix changed the title of the Natchitoches Union to the Natchitoches Times in April or May 1864, probably out of anti-Union sentiment (Henry W. Allen, the Confederate governor of Louisiana, wrote to Dupleix in June 1864 listing atrocities committed by Union soldiers and complimenting Dupleix on his paper’s new title). In late 1865, the name was changed again to the Semi-Weekly Natchitoches Times when it began to be issued twice a week. Reporting focused on post-war conditions in Louisiana, including Reconstruction, the establishment of local Freedman’s Bureaus, and efforts to educate former slaves. Dupleix frequently printed news and literary notes from his native France as well as commentary on diplomatic and trade relations between the United States and Mexico. A regular letter from New Orleans reported on various subjects ranging from art and industry to business and society news. Agricultural reporting was concerned chiefly with the cotton trade; also of interest are reports on Chinese laborers brought to Natchitoches Parish in 1867.

The Semi-Weekly Natchitoches Times was an English-language newspaper. However, many notices and letters to the editor, as well as the minutes of the police jury (the governing body of the parish), are printed in both English and French.

In January 1867, Dupleix was joined by a co-editor, Mary Edwards Bryan (1842-1913). Born in Florida and raised in Georgia, Bryan was a relative of Alexander H. Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy. Her husband, a wealthy Louisiana planter, was ruined by the Civil War. To make ends meet, she began working for the Semi-Weekly Natchitoches Times as a journalist, a vocation she had practiced as a teenager in Atlanta in the 1850s. Bryan contributed more than 150 items to the paper, including political articles, poems, and original fiction, much of which is written in the “Lost Cause” style. Around 1868, Bryan returned to Atlanta, where she served for many years as editor of The Sunny South. She later became a prominent literary editor in New York and wrote several novels, including one set in Reconstruction-era Louisiana, Wild Work: The Story of the Red River Tragedy.

Dupleix sold the Semi-Weekly Natchitoches Times in 1868 and returned to farming. Charles J. C. Puckette, the paper’s purchaser, continued publishing it as the Weekly Natchitoches Times. Puckette’s political agenda was more reactionary and solidly Democratic than Dupleix’s had been. A biographical sketch written in 1890 states that Dupleix “was formerly a Whig, but is now a Republican.”