The Lake Charles Echo(weekly Echo)
Located in coastal southwest Louisiana near the state’s border with Texas, Lake Charles is one of Louisiana’s youngest cities. It is the seat of Calcasieu Parish, which in the 19th century was about four times larger in area than it is today. Neighboring Cameron Parish was formed in 1870 from part of Calcasieu Parish; another division in 1912 led to the formation of Allen, Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis Parishes. Though a few Europeans settled in this remote area in the late 18th century, it did not attract significant numbers of immigrants until after the Civil War, when grain farmers from the Midwest were lured to the region, largely through the promotional efforts of Northern land agent and railroad developer Jabez Bunting (J. B.) Watkins. Southwest Louisiana quickly became a significant producer of rice. The older lumber industry was also important, but by the 20th century the region’s principal source of wealth was oil and sulfur mining. Today, Lake Charles is the site of major refineries and offshore drilling companies.
David J. Read and Louis S. Leveque established the Weekly Echo in 1868, the same year Lake Charles was officially incorporated. The Echo’s first editor was Bryant Hutchins, who began his career at the age of 13 as an apprentice at the Opelousas Gazette [LCCN: sn83016696]. Hutchins moved frequently and left the Echo after about a year to work as a newspaperman in nearby Galveston, Texas, but later returned to Lake Charles and resumed his post at the Echo. The paper dropped the word “weekly” from its title in 1876, becoming the Lake Charles Echo, though it continued to be published once a week. John W. Bryan, Lake Charles’s first mayor, was the Echo’s most long-lasting editor; others included George W. Wrigley, C. W. Felter, Thad Mayo, Simeon O. Shattuck, and J. B. Marshall.
Neatly printed in four to eight pages, the Echo was a Democratic newspaper that in the aftermath of the Civil War supported the restoration of the Union but opposed Radical Republican rule. In addition to news of Democratic Party meetings and articles on Reconstruction-era politics, the Echo carried miscellaneous reports from around the world, minutes of the Calcasieu Parish police jury (similar to county councils in other states), ads for local and regional businesses (including Galveston, Texas), agricultural and domestic advice, and information on the lumber and rice industry, as well as a wide selection of general-interest essays and fiction. In 1883, the paper adopted a handsome masthead depicting the port of Lake Charles, a lumber mill, and grain harvesters.
Publication of the Lake Charles Echo ceased in 1898.