Founded in the early 18th century as a French trading post, the town of Opelousas, Louisiana, had developed into a cattle and farming center of regional importance by the middle of the 19th century. It served briefly as Louisiana’s capital during the Civil War after the state legislature abandoned the more strategically vulnerable city of Baton Rouge, located about 60 miles to the east.
James W. Jackson (b. 1837), a native of North Carolina, established the Opelousas Journal in 1868. During its first year, it was printed weekly on a single double-sided sheet. Every second week, one page contained French-language content, under the title Le journal des Opelousas. In December 1868, the Journal expanded to four pages, with one page in French every week. Except for ads and occasional announcements, the paper had become English-only by 1871.
The Journal was a typical Southern small-town newspaper that offered miscellaneous news from around the world; brief editorials on various topics, especially local politics (the paper was affiliated with the Democratic Party); reports on political meetings and internal improvements such as the construction of roads, railroads, and levees; general-interest articles, fiction, and poetry, mostly reproduced from other sources; agricultural and domestic advice; advertisements; and marriage notices and obituaries. Also printed were acts of the Louisiana state legislature and letters chiefly on political topics from correspondents in Washington, New York, Philadelphia, and other cities. Like many French-language Louisiana newspapers of its day, each issue of the Journal contained a “feuilleton” (serialized novel or short story) until the paper ceased being bilingual around 1871.
The Opelousas Journal was published until January 1878, when it was sold and reorganized as the St. Landry Democrat [LCCN: sn88064537].