History of Winn Parish Enterprise
History books place the first settlers in Winn Parish as early as the 18th century, but it wasn’t until 1859 those early pioneers began publishing a local newspaper for the news hungry populace. Since then, there have been many journals set up to serve the needs of Winn Parish people.
The Creola Mail was first published around June 1859 in the town of Montgomery. First publications were filled with announcements of candidates for office. Edited by H. Myers, it was called a politically “ hot” independent newspaper.
The Southern Sentinel Newspaper went to press just a month or two later, around September 1859, making Winn Parish a two-paper parish. The paper opposed Abraham Lincoln for president, backing Stephen Douglas instead. The paper floundered during the Civil War years. It was revived after the war for a short period but ceased publication again for a number of years. The Sentinel was re-born on Sept. 29, 1883, with B.W. Ashwood as owner. There was another break in publication until 1900 when D.B. Coates published the paper. The paper was eventually sold to W.L. Smylie, who already owned a rival newspaper, The Comrade. Smylie immediately suspended operation of the Sentinel.
At the end of the 1800s and the first quarter of the century several other newspapers arose and passed off the scene.
In 1901 the newspaper the Dodson Times was organized to serve the bustling town 12 miles north of Winnfield. The Excelsior was a paper published monthly during these years. Another publication, The Guardian, filled mainly with pages dedicated to religious instruction and guidance was also a monthly publication.
The history of the Comrade newspaper actually begins in 1887 when the Winn Parish Democrat began publication with J.T. Wallace as editor and O.M. Bevill as part owner. It was published until 1890 when Hardy L. Brian bought the paper. Brian sold out his share of the Comrade in 1893 and went on to other papers.
The Comrade operated until 1903 when it was purchased by the Winnfield Publishing Company only to be bought out three months later by W.B. Smylie and T. Parish. In 1907 W.L. Smylie bought the operation.
Around 1920 the name of the paper was changed to the Winnfield Times. Subsequent owners included Hardy Brian (original owner of the Comrade in 1890) who sold it to Joel T. Payne and H. Clay Riser.
Shortly after Riser acquired the paper it was destroyed by fire. In 1921, he sold the Winnfield Times to N.C. Dalton who changed the name to Sgt. Dalton’ s Weekly.
In May 1924 Estelle Tannehill bought the Weekly and changed the name to the Winnfield News-American. After 22 years of publication, Tannehill sold the paper in 1946 to Jack Tannehill, her brother, and Dennis Shell. Shell became sole owner in 1949. In 1952, owners of the Winn Parish Enterprise purchased the News-American and merged the two papers.
At the same time Miss Tannehill purchased and renamed Sgt. Dalton’ s Weekly, a group of 30 businessmen in Winn Parish gathered finances and began operation of the Winn Parish Enterprise. Mr. and Mrs. H.C. Riser began conducting the business of the new paper in mid-1924.
Riser had earlier been part owner, and then owner, of the Winnfield Times, selling the paper in 1921.
When Clay Riser died in 1937, Mrs. Riser and her two daughters continued publication. Except for a brief 18-month period, the family continued to publish until 1978.
In 1952, the Risers purchased the News-American from Shell and consolidated the two papers. At first they were published twice weekly. In 1953, the entire operation was sold to an Oklahoma publisher, Harry Kates. After only 18 months, the Risers changed their minds and repurchased their publishing company.
In January of 1978 Lovan and Pat Thomas, owners of the Natchitoches Times, purchased the Enterprise. The Thomas’ continue to publish the Enterprise.