Sunday, August 28, 2016

History of the St. Tammany Farmer Newspaper


Click on the 1905 article below for the early history of the Farmer's editor.



Here is the history of the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper, re-printed from the St. Tammany Farmer webpage.

St. Tammany Farmer Newspaper History


More than 142 years of continuous publication – from the last days of Civil War reconstruction to the 21st century – is an achievement few newspapers can claim, but The Farmer has been St. Tammany’s hometown newspaper since 1874, when it was founded by George Ingram, a Scotsman who came to New Orleans in 1855 and to Covington in 1866.

The front page of the issue dated February 13, 1875, describes The Farmer as “a weekly journal devoted to Agriculture, Railroads, Commerce, Manufactures, and Education.” Subscriptions were $2 per year and paid “invariably in advance.” It is assumed that Ingram’s desire to promote St. Tammany’s agricultural interests was the inspiration for The Farmer’s agrarian-themed name.

Ingram died in 1875, and by October 1878 ownership of the paper had passed to W. C. Morgan, a prominent resident of Covington and a descendant of David B. Morgan, a general in the War of 1812 and an influential early settler of St. Tammany Parish. Morgan’s tenure was short, since one month later the masthead listed J. E. Smith (founder of a well-known local hardware business) as proprietor and W. G. Kentzel as editor.

Kentzel eventually became the paper’s owner and served as editor until his death in 1907. A book by the late Carol Jahncke, titled Mr. Kentzel’s Covington, recalls Kentzel’s years as editor of The Farmer, and includes photographs and facsimiles of advertisements and articles that appeared in his many editions.

After Kentzel died, the family continued to operate the paper for several years, with D. H. Mason serving as editor. Mason was the son of a Chicago newspaperman, and though he studied law, his ties to the newspaper industry were strong.  He became a reporter and worked at several newspapers before coming to The Farmer.

Mason became the owner of The Farmer in 1916 and moved it to its current location, at 321 N. New Hampshire St. in downtown Covington, in 1924. He used the paper to promote the idea of a bridge across Lake Pontchartrain as a way to encourage economic development and he avidly encouraged his readers to spend their money in St. Tammany, rather than at south shore businesses.

In 1911, Mason hired a young Linotype operator, Howard Keener “Nat” Goodwyn, who hailed from Colfax and was the son of the publisher of that town’s newspaper. Goodwyn soon married Anna Thomasine Frederick, daughter of Emile “Boss” Frederick, a prominent local businessman and saloon keeper, who served two years as Covington’s mayor.

Mason died in 1928, and Goodwyn bought The Farmer from his heirs. It remained in the Goodwyn family for many years, with Nat at the helm until his health began to fail in the mid 1940s. At that time his son Howard Keener Goodwyn joined the business and became The Farmer’s editor and assistant publisher.

Howard married a Folsom girl – Vera Fay Booth – in 1947 and their daughter Karen Booth Goodwyn was born in February 1949.

On December 1, 1949, while standing outside The Farmer office chatting with an acquaintance, Howard suffered a heart attack and died at age 29. Nat died two years later in 1951.

1970's

Nat’s widow Anna became the publisher of The Farmer and continued in that capacity until her death in 1984, although she was not involved in its day-to-day operation. That responsibility fell to Vera, who took over management of the business. She was joined in 1957 by Anna Natalie Goodwyn Hebert, Howard’s younger sister.

While Vera and Natalie worked side-by-side to handle the business end of the paper, a long line of editors continued The Farmer’s long-standing tradition of providing in-depth coverage of the lives and events of St. Tammany Parish.



Natalie Hebert at left, Vera Hardman at right, with Mr. and Mrs. Paul Cordes

Natalie retired in 1997, and that same year Nat’s granddaughter and Howard’s daughter, now Karen Goodwyn Courtney and the wife of William V. Courtney, became publisher of The Farmer. She had practically grown up in The Farmer’s New Hampshire Street office and began working there in the early 1990s when her young sons began school.

Since its founding in 1874, the newspaper has focused on the events that are the fabric of the history of St. Tammany Parish – the brickyards – the schooners that plied Lake Pontchartrain bringing goods and people to our communities –  the shipbuilding – the timber industry that came from the felling of the virgin pines that once covered the parish – the coming of the railroad and electricity and telephones – the hospitality offered to visitors who came to escape the heat of the city and to enjoy the benefits of the ozone air – the boys who went to war – the construction of the Causeway and the boom that followed ­– the opening of schools, hospitals, and businesses and the expansion of government services to meet the needs of a growing population – the devastation of storms like Betsy and Camille and Katrina and the recovery that followed.

The above history is re-printed for informational purposes from a webpage that is no longer accessible. 


Here are some photos of staff members of the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper through the years. Click on the images to make them larger.




1990's


1980's


1970's


Natalie Hebert and Vera Hardman in 1976


Jean Taylor of advertising sales and Clarence Byers.


Bob Taylor, left, served as linotype operator, composition room director, and crime scene photographer. Sue Biggers, right, worked in the composition room. 





In 2012, a gathering of Farmer staff members from across the years.


Karen Courtney and Vera Hardman in 1996




This is the old letterpress that was located in the back of the Farmer office in 1976. It had been used for many years, along with a couple of linotype machines (below), to publish the newspaper. 







Above is a photograph of the Farmer office at 321 N. New Hampshire Street before the exterior renovations done in the 1970's. 

Using articles from the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper over the years, Carol Jahncke wrote a book featuring the history of Covington. It was called "Mr. Kentzel's Covington" and is available at the following link:  


In 2012, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge provided the following version of the history of the St. Tammany Farmer to the Library of Congress "Chronicling America" project.

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.”