Bernice Historical Society
People and Places
Early Newspapers in Bernice
It might come as a surprise to some that Bernice had a newspaper printed in town as early as May of 1900. The Farmerville Gazette ran a notice that “Mr. J. C. Shumaker has rented the defunct Herald (Farmerville) printing outfit and moved it to Bernice, where he will start up a new paper.” In September of 1899 Shumaker was associated with the Junction City Democrat and was described in a Farmerville Gazette item of September 27 of that year as “being a nice gentleman and a fine printer…with 20 years experience …for the past three years or more he has been at work in the office of the Farmerville Gazette.”
Shumaker christened the newspaper “The Bernice Enterprise” and circulated it statewide for just a short while. A south Louisiana newspaper noted it as a four column, four page paper. The Gazette ran snippets from the paper in the summer of 1900 but after that no record can be found that the paper continued publication.
The Bernice Times began publication in December of 1900 with N. T. Mayo as editor. This paper was a four column paper with 8 pages and was sold to the public ever Saturday. Several items from the Times can be found in early newspapers across the state and from them we gain account of the crime that faced the town in its earliest years as well as accounts of the growth of the business section of Bernice.
The Bernice Record began publication in 1902. It is not known who the earliest editors of the paper were but in 1904 Dismukes and Bennett were listed as editors. Both gentlemen had been associated with the Junction City Democrat prior to coming to Bernice. The life of this newspaper was also short with the Shreveport Times of December 5, 1903 stating “The Bernice Record has discontinued publication. Cause, lack of support.”
Although not a newspaper as such there was a newspaper printed and edited in Bernice from 1904 – 1906. The LOUISIANA SCHOOL REVIEW began publication in Bernice as early as 1904 with W. C. Roaten as editor. Roaten arrived in Bernice that year to serve as Principal of Bernice High School. In 1906 the paper was still printed in Bernice. The journal was a publication of the Louisiana State Teachers Association and gave news of members and events throughout the state.
1902 – 1937
The Bernice Journal was started in Bernice in 1902 by Mr. and Mrs. L. M. Nelson. The Farmerville Gazette quoted the Journal on two occasions in April of 1902. The first was on the ninth of April describing the strike of lightning that went down a fireplace chimney striking Willie Key who soon recovered. The second was on the 16th of April when the article stated: “Says the Bernice Journal –material is being put on the ground for the erection of a new Baptist Church.”
E. C. Lowman was the editor and publisher from 1907 until 1920. Lowman purchased a lot in Bernice in August of 1907 and was very active in the town throughout those years. He had experience in publishing having been editor and publisher of the Cabot Arkansas Guard prior to arriving in Bernice.
On December 9, 1917 the Shreveport Times reported “Editor E. C. Lowman announces that he has sold the Bernice Journal to T.W. Shields who, he says, will put more money and more brains in the Journal and make it a better paper. As for him he says he will return to the cultivation of the soil and help feed the hungry. Lowman’s brethren will suspect him of seeking a good excuse to get into an occupation which will insure him regular meals and a bank account.”
The next week the Times reported “E. C. Lowman and family left a few days ago to make their home near Shreveport” and “Professor T.W. Shields who is now editor of the Bernice Journal sent out his first issue last Friday. Professor Shields is an able editor, as well as a good educator and his friends feel assured of a clean, newsy and interesting paper. He is assisted in his office by Misses Fannie Robinson and Olive Roberts.”
(Note: I found a letter written by Olive in 1961 in which she stated she quit school before she graduated and her first job was with the Bernice Journal where she made $4.50 a week.)
Professor T. W. Shields equipped the Journal Office with new machinery and attempted to give the people of Bernice a far better paper than previous editors. Shields had purchased property in Bernice in 1917 and was on the faculty of the high school in the 1918 – 1919 school years. Prior to his arrival in Bernice, Shields had been the principal at Athens High School. He was a Union Parish native having been born and raised in the Downsville area.
In February of 1918 the T. W. Shields Printing Office was listed as an official business in Bernice and was located next door to Shield’s family home.
Shields was selected as State Representative in 1920 and served in that capacity until 1924. He also served as Bernice Postmaster serving from July 1922 until the start of 1924. TheDecember 3, 1923 issue of the Shreveport Times reported – SHIELDS OF BERNICE JOURNAL SELLS PAPER – With this week’s paper the Bernice Journal, T.W. Shields bids the readers farewell as he has sold the paper to J. C. Phillips, a newspaper man. The paper was leased to Phillips in 1922.
J. C. Phillips took over publication of the Bernice Journal in 1922 while Shields was serving as state representative. In 1926 Phillips also began publication of the Dubach News. Phillips continued as owner of the paper until 1936 when it was purchased by Guy and Flora White who continued publication in Bernice until 1981.
The Herald 1904 – 1907
In April of 1904 G. C. Crichet of Indiana came to Bernice with the idea of establishing a newspaper. It was reported by the Shreveport Times “he was well pleased with the outlook and as the town has accepted his proposition, it is now practically assured that Bernice will soon have a live, up to date newspaper.”
Crichet arrived in Bernice in July of 1904 and the first issue of the Bernice Herald appeared in August. The paper gained the reputation as a Populist paper and the newspaper of The Farmers Union movement in Louisiana. The political views held by the editor may have led to his sudden departure from Bernice.
In 1906 New Mexico newspapers record his visit there to find a new location for his newspaper and to provide a better environment for his sick wife. Crichet however remained in Bernice until the winter of 1907. His departure at that time, in his own words was due to the fact that “I was run out of town”. The events leading to his departure were captured by newspapers across the state and appear as written:
The Times Picayune – September 12, 1907 – Loss for Newspaper Man -PRINTERY AND RESIDENCE OF EDITOR CRICHET AT BERNICE, BURNED – fire at Bernice, Louisiana has destroyed the printing office and residence of G. C. Crichet, editor of the Union Herald the official organ of the Farmers Union. Editor Crichet’s wife was caught in her bedroom and barely escaped cremation. Practically everything the family possessed was wiped out. The fire originated in the pantry in the residence which adjoined the printing office. Two other homes on either side of Mr. Crichet’s property were also destroyed. Crichet is partially covered by insurance on both.
Albuquerque Journal – December 28, 1907 –ALLEGES ENEMIES BURNT HIM OUT –EDITOR OF UNION HERALD OF BERNICE, LOUISIANA AFTER LOSING ALL HIS NEWSPAPER OUTFIT COMES TO NEW MEXICO – Mr. Crichet says that he was compelled to leave Bernice after enemies there had set fire to his newspaper plant which was entirely consumed by fire. This followed a persistent effort of certain persons in the community to “freeze him out” on account of a controversy in which he engaged with a prominent minister on matters of religion. “They made it uncomfortable for me as a Yankee Interloper for three years but I managed to hold my own until incendiaries burnt me out. I decided then it was time to leave.”
THE BERNICE NEWS/BERNICE NEWS JOURNAL
1937 – 1981
Shreveport Times –May 29, 1937 – NEW NEWSPSPER BEGINS PUBLICATION IN BERNICE – Union Parish has a new weekly newspaper, The Bernice News, just established in Bernice. The Bernice Journal was published at Bernice until it suspended publication. The only other newspaper in Union Parish is the Gazette which has been published in Farmerville continuously since 1878.
The Bernice Journal was acquired by Guy White who ran the paper as The Bernice News (1937) and later as The Bernice News Journal. Guy White died in 1961 at which time his son, Carlton White would become editor. The Bernice News Journal operated in Bernice until the 1981.
The Bernice Banner News
In 1993 Walter Johnson of the Junction City Newspaper began publication of what we now know as the Banner News. In 1996 Tommy Welch purchased the paper and that same year Jessie Boyett joined the staff. In 2001 Jessie and her husband Kent bought the paper and this June the paper celebrated its 17th year anniversary under the Boyett family leadership.
In 2003 Jessie changed the name of the paper to “The Banner” since it had become a parish wide paper with readers across the nation. Currently the paper is under the capable hand of Danielle Boyett Harkins and we hope it remains in Bernice for many more years to come.
Cathy Buckley is a native of Union Parish and lifelong citizen of Shiloh. She served as Principal of Spearsville High School for many years until her retirement. Cathy is now the director of the Bernice Depot Museum and a active member of the Bernice Historical Society.