There had been a need for a newspaper to be the official journal of Vermilion Parish ever since it's creation in 1844. Father A.D. Megret, the founder of Abbeville recognized this need (since Abbeville was made the parish seat in 1854). In about 1849 Megret brought in a merchant from Vermilionville. When this gentleman died in 1850, his printing business was bought by Emile and Valsaint Veazey. The Independent may have developed, with Megret's direction, from this printing shop. Two months before Megret died in 1853, Megret sold the Independent to these brothers with the stipulation that the newspaper had to remain in Abbeville even if new owners purchased it. Valcourt Veazey was named publisher circa 1855.
Mr Veazey, a native of St. Martinsville had come to Abbeville with Father Megret as his assistant and protege. He hoped to become a priest but abandoned the idea most probably due to the death of Father Megret in 1853. He married Carmelite Blanchet and lived to a ripe old age.
The Independent was published in French and was Republican in politics. In 1856 the Independent was sold to Judge Eugene Isadore Guegnon who changed the name to "Le Meridional" and the first issue appeared in December 1856.
Many people ask about the origin of the name. The word "Meridional" means "a native of the South of France" which Judge Guegnon was. It of course is the only newspaper in the U.S. with that name. Judge Guegnon's wife was Valerie Nevue Baily a native of Rouen France, grandmother to Judge W.W. Baily whose daughter was Mary Mathilde who married Dr. F.D. Young whose many descendants remain Abbeville still today.
"Now it seems that old Judge Guegnon expressed himself freely in his columns and as a result was challenged to several pistil duels, in two of which he was wounded."
The paper was first published in a small building on Valerie Street. Judge Guegnon edited the Meridional until his death in 1862 when his son Eugene, a prominent lawyer, became owner and editor. He made Eugene Isadore Addison, a namesake and godchild of his father, publisher.
When Eugene Guegnon died in 1877, his widow sold the paper to Mr. Addison. E.I. Addison had been there at the birth of the Meridional as an apprentice, and had remained with the paper, except for the years during which he fought in the Civil War. The paper continued to be published in both French and English until 1886. In 1890, Mr. Addison sold a 1/2 interest of the paper to Dr. C.J.. Edwards who became editor. When Mr. Addison died in 1901 Dr. C.J. Edwards purchased his 1/2 interest. Under Dr. Edwards management, the paper gained a wide reputation for his able and often brilliant editorials which were quoted and commented upon by editors everywhere.
"Dr. Edwards had come to Abbeville from New Orleans with his parents Judge and Mrs. W>W> Edwards. He attended the Kentucky School of Medicine at Louisville and graduated there with honors. He later married Kate Young granddaughter of Mr. Guegnon and settled in Abbeville to practice medicine. But he loved journalism so much that when the opportunity occurred for him to own 1/2 and later all of the Meridional, he couldn't resist."
It was said of Dr. Edwards that he was a rare personality, eminating a human warmth and kindness which won him many friends and he had an attitude compounded of respect and love of all who came in contact with him. In 1893 he was elected to the State Senate and his brother Mr. William P. Edwards became editor for one year. It is noted that Dr. Edwards took an active part in the fight against the Louisiana Lottery and espoused the cause of prohibition. He also had a canny way of picking the winners for Governor. Le Meridional was democrat in those days.
Le Meridional became the Abbeville Meridional in 1905. Dr. Edwards son Floyd assumed management duties and ownership at the death of his father in 1920. Dr. Edwards had been editor for 30 years.
In 1920 Mr. E.J. Hoffpauir became editor and served as such until 1934 when Mr. Ralph R. Bienvenu became editor. For the next 50 years Mr. Ralph served the Abbeville Meridional in one capacity or the other. He served as editor until April of 1947 when he purchased the paper from Mr. Edwards. He served as editor and publisher until he sold the paper to Louisiana State Newspapers in 1969, and remained publisher until 1980 when he was named Publisher Emeritus.
Mr Ralph came from a newspaper family. In fact the Bienvenu Family has the honorable distinction of the only family in the history of the Louisiana Press Association to have had three members serve as president. Mr. Ralph, his brother Marcel "Blackie" and his nephew Henri Clay Bienvenu both from St. Martinville. Mr. Ralph's father Laizaire owned a newspaper in St. Martinville and was considered a pioneer publisher. Mr. Ralph is best remembered for his weekly column "The Pilot Light", he was a gifted writer with a great sense of humor.
The Abbeville Meridional is now one of many newspapers under the banner of La. State Newspapers. The Abbeville Meridional has over 15 full time employees and 10 part time employees.
Unlike the old days the Abbeville Meridional strives to be as unbiased as humanly possible in covering the news of our parish and our motto is "Serving the information needs of our community by providing a quality product while recognizing our civic responsibility."