The St. Tammany Farmer
The town of Covington, Louisiana, is located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain approximately 40 miles from New Orleans. It was founded in 1813 and is the seat of St. Tammany Parish. Sparsely settled during the French colonial period, the area was part of the British colony of West Florida (1763-1783) and Spanish Florida (1783-1810). At the time of the Civil War, most of Covington’s 500 residents were engaged in the lumber and brick trade. The products were shipped to New Orleans via the neighboring town of Madisonville, a regional center for the construction of wooden barges, tugs, and sailboats. By the 1870s, the once-rich timber resources of St. Tammany Parish were nearing depletion. The construction of the East Louisiana Railroad in the 1880s facilitated the transportation of timber from outlying areas to Covington for milling and aided in the town’s recovery, as did a 22-mile rail line built across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, which, along with a lively steamboat traffic, helped turn the North Shore into a popular vacation and weekend destination for New Orleanians seeking respite from the summer heat. Several resorts and sanitariums sprang up in Covington, and by 1909, electric streetcars were running to nearby Abita Springs, believed by some to be the site of Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth. Sailing excursions could be taken from the lakeshore towns of Madisonville and Mandeville.
The St. Tammany Farmer was founded in 1874 by Scottish immigrant George Ingram (ca. 1829-1875). John Edis Smith (1809-1893), an English immigrant, acquired it in 1878. His daughter Susan V. Kentzel (1855-1953) and her husband William G. Kentzel (1847-1907), a native of Philadelphia, owned and edited the paper for many years. David H. Mason, Jr. (1856-1928), son of a Chicago journalist and writer on economic policy, succeeded William Kentzel as editor and eventually became proprietor.
Democratic in its political leanings, the St. Tammany Farmer took its motto from President Andrew Jackson: “The Blessings of Government, Like the Dews from Heaven, Should Descend Alike upon the Rich and the Poor.” The paper described itself as “a weekly journal devoted to agriculture, railroads, commerce, manufactures, and education.” From the 1880s onwards, it contained advertisements for hotels, boarding houses, pleasure excursions, and other businesses associated with the local tourism industry. By the turn of the 20th century, the Farmer had expanded to eight pages and included an extensive fiction section (later removed). As early as 1906, it was bringing deforestation issues to light and calling for regulation. During World War I, it reported on local Red Cross activities, war lectures, and the influenza epidemic. Its first page also carried a regular column titled “Items of Interest at Jahncke Shipyards in Madisonville,” which reported on the construction of several large vessels for the U.S. Navy. Also of interest are accounts of regattas and yacht clubs, as well as brief sketches of “Prominent People and Progressive Enterprises of St. Tammany Parish.”
The St. Tammany Farmer is still in publication as of 2012.