Natchitoches (pronounced /ˈnækətəʃ/, nak-ə-təsh) is a city in and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States. Established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis as part of French Louisiana, the community was named after the Natchitoches Indian tribe. The City of Natchitoches was first incorporated on February 5, 1819. It is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches's sister city is Nacogdoches, Texas. The population was 17,865 at the 2000 census.
Nickname : The Destination of Travelers Since 1714 Ducournau Restaurant on Front Street
Natchitoches is the principal city of the Natchitoches Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Natchitoches Parish.
Carnahan Store Outside View
Carnahan Store Inside View
Louis Antoine Juchereau de St. Denis (17 September 1676 - 11 June 1744) was born in Beauport, New France (Quebec, Canada) to Nicolas Juchereau and Marie Thérèse Giffard, the eleventh of twelve children. St. Denis was a French-Canadian soldier and explorer most known for his exploration and development of the Louisiana and Texas regions.
Monument to St. Denis in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
His parents apparently were able to send St. Denis to France to further his education. In late 1699, St. Denis sailed from La Rochelle with the second expedition of Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville (a relative by marriage), arriving in Louisiana. St. Denis commanded a fort on the Mississippi River and another at Biloxi Bay. He also explored to the west of the bay and upstream, where he journeyed to the lower Red River. These expeditions brought St. Denis into contact with the Karankawa and Caddo tribes and taught him invaluable wilderness skills specific to the area.
Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, sent St. Denis and a company of men from Mobile in September 1713 to travel up the Red River and establish a French outpost. St. Denis arrived in Natchitoches later that year and built a fort. He traded with the Indians and freely sold them guns. The French learned many hunting and trapping skills from the Indians.
Caspiana Plantation Store
Caspiana Plantation Store
Inside Caspiana Plantation Store
Soon after founding Natchitoches, St. Denis traveled to the lands of the Hasinai Confederacy and from there to Spanish outposts on the Rio Grande. At San Juan Bautista, Coahuila, Commander Diego Ramón placed St. Denis under house arrest and confiscated his goods while awaiting instructions from Mexico City on what to do with the foreigner charged with violating Spanish trade restrictions. In the meantime, St. Denis courted and won the promise of marriage from Ramón's beautiful step-granddaughter, Manuela Sanchez. St. Denis was ordered to Mexico City and defended himself well enough to be appointed the commissary officer of the Ramón expedition charged with founding Spanish missions in East Texas.
Cedar Bend Plantation House
Inside Cedar Bend Plantation House
St. Denis returned to San Juan Bautista and married Manuela in early 1716. In the years 1716-1717 he traveled to East Texas to participate in the founding of six missions and a presidio. He returned to San Juan Bautista in April 1717, but with the death of Louis XIV and the conclusion of the War of Spanish Succession, French-Spanish cooperation had ended. St. Denis was then sent to Mexico City for a second time but escaped before being hauled to Spain as a prisoner. St. Denis made his way to Natchitoches by February 1719. Spanish officials permitted Manuela to join him in 1721 and the couple spent their remaining years there at the French outpost on the Red River.
Natchitoches was established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It is the oldest permanent settlement within the borders of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches was founded as a French outpost on the Red River for trade with Spanish-controlled Mexico, with the French presence beginning as early as 1699. The settlement's site was established near a village of Natchitoches Indians which give the city its name.
After the Louisiana Purchase, Natchitoches experienced a population boom, and several plantations were built along the Red River. However, the course of the river shifted, bypassing Natchitoches and cutting off its lucrative connection with the Mississippi River. A 33-mile (53 km) lake was left in the river's previous location.
Alex Cloutier House
Alex Cloutier House (side view)
Alex Cloutier House (rear view)
It became known as Cane River Lake. The lake runs through the city’s downtown historic district and Plantation Country. It serves as the spring break training location for numerous crew teams, such as Kansas State University, University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Murray State University and Washington University.
Natchitoches Historic District
Natchitoches was the site of the 1973 plane crash that claimed singer Jim Croce's life. Croce had just performed a concert on campus for Northwestern State University students at Prather Coliseum.
Natchitoches Historic District
The Natchitoches or Natchitoch were one of the indigenous tribes in Louisiana of the Caddo Native Americans. In the early 17th century they were joined by some of the remnants of the Cadodaquiou, a tribe that had been largely killed and enslaved by the Chickasaw. They settled on the Cane River around present-day Natchitoches Louisiana.
Natchitoches Historic District
Cane River Lake (French: Lac Rivière-de-Canne) is a 35 mi (56 km) oxbow lake formed from a portion of the Red River in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States. It runs throughout the Natchitoches' historic district and is famous for the numerous plantations on its banks.
Natchitoches Historic District
The Cane River National Heritage Area is a United States National Heritage Area in the state of Louisiana. The heritage area is known for its spectacular Creole architecture as well as numerous other sites that preserve the multi-cultural history of the area. The heritage area includes the town of Natchitoches, Louisiana, the oldest community in the territory covered by the Louisiana Purchase. Cane River Creole National Historical Park also lies within the heritage area.
Natchitoches Historic District
The park and the St. Augustine Catholic Church (Isle Brevelle) in Natchez have been included as featured destinations on the state's Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Natchitoches Historic District
The roughly 116,000 acre (469.14 km²) Cane River National Heritage Area begins just south of Natchitoches and extends south and west for about 35 miles (56 kilometers along Cane River Lake and Interstate 49 to Monette's Ferry. Other sites in the heritage area include the Kate Chopin House and the state commemorative areas of Los Adaes, Fort Jesup, and Fort St. Jean Baptiste.
The Kate Chopin House
Kate Chopin House, also known as Bayou Folk Museum or Alexic Cloutier House, is a house in Cloutierville, Louisiana. It was the home of Kate Chopin, author of The Awakening, after her marriage.
The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993 for its association with Kate Chopin's life and her use of area happenings as source for bayou life covered in much of her writings.
It is located on Main Street (Louisiana Highway 1) in Cloutierville, in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.
The house was destroyed in a fire on October 1, 2008.
The architecture and landscapes of the Cane River region are enchantingly “Creole”.
Square Crib & Cistern
Wander thoughtfully through the grounds of Oakland and Magnolia Plantations. While admiring a hand-wrought door hinge or a cleverly-worked wooden gate, we might reflect on the social and agricultural practices that built these tenant houses, pigeonniers, carpenter and blacksmith shops. The hand-hewn cypress beams, ancient bousillage walls, and weathered fencerows may remind us of the people who not only left us this legacy of rural landscapes and farm buildings, but also labored to bring the United States to the country it is today.
Did You Know?
Because of the integrity of the resources at Oakland and Magnolia Plantations, both sites have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. In 1994, Cane River Creole National Historical Park was established, insuring that the resources will remain protected and accessible to the public.
An overseer was responsible for management of the plantation’s laborers, stock, land, and tools. The overseer's residence at Oakland was constructed in 1861 by enslaved labor for an overseer named Seneca Pace. Pace kept a daily journal of work and weather at Oakland.
The resources of Cane River Creole National Historical Park illustrate the process of Creolization through the convergence of French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, African, American, and American Indian cultures and the adaptations of those cultures to each other in the New World.
The cultivation of cotton by traditional methods required a large workforce, and until recently this was composed of African American and Cane River Creole workers. It was the departure of these workers in the 1950s that signaled the end of the plantation system.
After the emancipation of enslaved people in 1863, farming continued under different conditions. Many of its newly freed workers remained at or near the plantations. In time they worked under Freedman's Bureau labor contracts, then as sharecroppers or tenant farmers.
NPS Photo by Jarred McCauley
Portrait of Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud'homme, (1762-1845) painted in Paris in 1822.
The roots of Oakland Plantation can be traced to Jean Pierre Phillippe Prud'homme, a second generation Frenchman from Romans, a French province of Dauphine. Born in 1673, Jean Pierre became a soldier of France assigned to the French colony of Louisiana. At the age of 52, Jean Pierre married Catherine Picard and acquired part of the land that became Bermuda Plantation, now known as Oakland Plantation, through a land grant on the Red River. Jean Pierre and Catherine became parents of seven children, including Jean Baptiste Prud'homme, father of Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud'homme who built Bermuda Plantation in 1821.
Old Slave Quarters
The African American and Creole peoples who worked on Oakland created their own multifaceted lifestyles, institutions, and community values. Sometimes these were similar to those of their owners/employers, and sometimes dissimilar and uniquely their own.
Cane River Creoles, Camille and Leo Metoyer Sr., occupied the Oakland Plantation overseer's house throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
Magnolia Gin Barn
NPS Photo by Jarred McCauley
Prominently marking the edge of Magnolia Plantation is the cotton gin with its wooden screw-type press. The press is the last one of its kind in the United States that remains on its original site.
Secession, Civil War, and Reconstruction brought about many changes in the Cane River area; politically, economically, and socially. Crops, lands, and lives were lost. Enslaved workers found new opportunities as freed people to stay, move on, or re-establish themselves on new plantations. Planter families, including the LeComtes and Hertzogs, were forced to negotiate labor contracts with freedmen that gave way to agricultural systems of sharecropping and tenant farming.
As Magnolia's ginning equipment and general farm equipment were modernized, sharecropping and tenant systems were phased out. This signaled the beginning of the end of the area's plantation system.
History of the Oakland-Prudhomme Store
The Oakland-Pruhomme Store
The Oakland Plantantion store is the most important surviving structure for the interpretation of plantation life in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. According to Ann Patton Malone, "the post-bellum rural merchant was all things to the community ... the store was the marketplace, banking and credit source, recreation center, public forum, and news exchange."
Prud’homme’s Store before the Civil War
While a few general stores were established in rural areas before the Civil War, the clientele of these stores and their contribution to the local economy remained quite limited.
Although railroads began to make possible widespread distribution of a growing tide of manufactured goods and produce, cash was scarce for white Southerners and virtually nonexistent for enslaved African-Americans. Infrequent purchases were generally limited to such staples as salt and coffee, which were not produced locally.
Oaklawn Plantation House
There is no evidence for the existence of a commissary, J. Alphonse Prud'homme's store, per se at Bermuda during the antebellum period. The plantation remained relatively selfsufficient before the Civil War. In those cash-poor times, there was simply little demand for "store-bought" goods. In rural areas, especially, an "economy of scarcity" was the rule for almost everybody, black or white, and the foodstuffs and clothing that were doled out by the Prud'hommes to their slaves simply did not require a specialized building out of which to operate. The same was true in the years immediately after the war when corn meal and pork were the only items that the Prud'hommes routinely supplied to their sharecroppers. The corn meal may have been produced on the plantation using a steam-powered mill like the"Felton" grist mill that Phanor Prud'homme installed at a new gin on the plantation in 1860.
The earliest certain proof of a store at Oakland Plantation is found in the business licenses that Alphonse Prud'homme was issued in June 1873. On June 3, the State of Louisiana and Natchitoches Parish issued retail merchant licenses to Prud'homme; and, on June 30, the Federal Internal Revenue Service issued him licenses to sell tobacco and liquor, two of the most popular items sold at the store in the nineteenth
century.14 Although it is possible that the store was in existence before 1873, that does not seem likely. Certainly the store was not in existence before 1868, when Prud'homme began keeping a record of the rations of meat that he dispensed to his
workers.15 If it had been constructed before that date, as Dr. Malone points out, it would almost surely have been noted in the plantation journals that were regularly kept through 1867.
Since the store ledgers begin in 1873,the first licenses were issued then, and that is the year that Alphonse and Emmanuel Prud'homme formally divided their father's old plantation, it is probable that the store opened that year as well.
The first documented reference to the store that I’ve located was in an 1874 ledger item: "1874, Feb. 15 "Paid act in Store $18.151” regarding the account of Seraphin Edmonds. However, the store was probably built in 1868 when the switch to sharecropping commenced. If it had been built in 1867, references would surely have been made regarding its construction in that year's journal.
The administrator's account for 1868 indicates that on December 28, 1868, “tohands --their pay & share for 1868,... $3,449.98" and for 1867, pay for hands was $594.33.
The ledger does show, however, that after all deductions were made for the
sharecroppers, most were slightly in debt to the Prudhomme estate at the beginning of the 1869 season.
No record of the store's construction has been located, but it is likely that all of the lumber in the building was sawn at Alphonse Prud'homme's saw mill across Old River in the Kisatchie Hills. In operation before the Civil War, the saw mill resumed
operation after the war and supplied lumber for the Prud'hommes' reconstruction of their plantations' buildings as well as to Matthew Hertzog, the Metoyers, and many others.
The modes of transporting goods to the plantation store changed over the years. Alphonse II recalled that "when it first started, it [the supplies] used to come up the river with barges way back yonder before the steamboats' time. And not only that,
Papa [Phanor Prudhomme II] said they had an old overseer here and an Indian guide that used to leave here with wagons and go down to what they call Rapides, down where the rapids were in Red River, and meet boats there and get supplies."
Prud’homme’s Store after the Civil War
After the Civil War, however, as the South's agricultural economy devoted more and more of its resources to cotton, even food staples like flour and meat were being imported from the Midwest and elsewhere. Salt pork was the other great staple,
but, after the Civil War, nearly all of it was shipped from New Orleans in barrels, an indication that Prud'homme, like most other Southern planters, was devoting virtually all of his resources to cotton production. This reinforced a growing
dependence on outside markets to supply local needs. More and more manufactured goods also poured on to the market, including new products like kerosene, which quickly became necessities.
The advent of wide-spread sharecropping and tenant farming after 1868, however, brought the freed slaves into the market place for the first time and gave rise to plantation stores like the ones at Magnolia and at Oakland, where goods and produce
could be bought on credit.
The commissary store evolved into a general store patronized by all races of sharecroppers and tenant farmers as well as by the dwindling number of independent small farmers. Even after Emmanuel Prud'homme built his own store at Atahoe in the 1890s, the Oakland store continued to be a center for community life, especially for residents on the west bank of Cane River. At least until after World War II, when widespread use of automobiles brought increased mobility, the Oakland store remained a focal point for the entire community. Throughout the 1870S, most of the plantation supplies and goods for the store were brought in by river boats to a large warehouse that stood between the road and the west bank of Cane River just south of the present bridge at Oakland. Although river boats continued to ply the river until it was dammed in 1908, low water frequently prevented river transport above the Red River rapids at Rapides, necessitating laborious overland transport to points north, including Oakland.
Even before the arrival of the railroad, however, Prud'homme carried a surprising array of goods at his store, including such specialties as sherry, salmon, and oysters. While some of these items were special orders, Prud'homme took full advantage of the flood of material goods that were widely available and, at least for some, affordable in the years after the Civil War. In 1873,the store carried not only staples like salt pork, flour, rice, sugar, coffee, and lard, but also whiskey, tobacco, candy, cheese, crackers, sardines, salt, pepper, and molasses. Prud'homme also carried hardware like tools, hinges, skillets, padlocks, looking glasses, brooms, pocket knives, and fish hooks, as well as a variety of fabrics and other dry goods. "Coal oil;' or kerosene, was also on sale, although in 1873 it was still sold in bottles and five-gallon cans.
After the advent of the railroad through the parish in 1882, the array of goods and produce expanded significantly. A variety of clothes and household goods was available along with some fresh produce, especially apples and oranges, and an expanding array of canned goods, including pineapple, milk, and "potted meat.” Berkson Brothers, Prud'homme's regular wholesale grocer in New Orleans, was even able to supply him with claret, lobster, and other delicacies that the Prud'hommes as well as some of their tenants enjoyed.27 Cologne, Castile soap, tooth brushes, iodine, and paregoric were some of the toiletries and medicines sold in the store in the 1880's.
By the 1890's, many store keepers, perhaps including Alphonse Prud'homme, were also showcasing luxury items like cuckoo clocks, chromo lithographs, and stereoscopes. At the same time, manufacturers provided all sorts of product dispensers such as Burpee Seed Company's chromolithographed exhibits that changed with the seasons. Some store owners even set up "five and dime" counters, imitating the merchandising concept pioneered by F.W Woolworth in 1879. In addition, bulk goods like eight- pound
sacks of Quaker Oats and forty-pound loaves of plug tobacco gradually gave way to packaged products, especially after 1900, as advertising and a "packaging push" began to consolidate a consumer-driven economy. Even the proverbial cracker barrel
began to disappear as the National Biscuit Company, organized in 1898, pushed its pre-packaged Uneeda Biscuits in a prototypical campaign of mass marketing and distribution. Still, dried beans, rice, lard, coffee and sugar continued to be sold in bulk at Prud'homme's Store until well into the twentieth century.
By the first decade of the twentieth century, Alphonse Prud'homme II recalled that the store had everything from something to eat, to something to work, to something to wear.
Those old country stores were really what you'd call department stores. You could go in there and buy groceries...clothes...implements, tools, and everything else."32 In addition to cane fishing poles and cotton picking bags, Mayo Prud'homme also remembered the big old pink flannel bloomers that women used to wear and shirts without collars for the celluloid collars. We had the collars in there also and the cuffs, high button-up shoes for women, reading glasses, dyes, bric-a-brac-, you name it. In addition to food stuffs and dry goods, the store carried "Varsol;' a heavy- duty cleaning fluid, as well as kerosene, which was one of life's essentials in the days before rural electrification brought power to the Cane River valley in
the late 1930's.
S. F. Bowser of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, produced the first pumps that would dispense precise quantities of oil and kerosene in 1885 and, by 1889, had a thriving factory and a sales force of fourteen. The wood-framed kerosene tank and pump still in the
north shed (003) of the store comprise one of these early Bowser- manufactured systems; it probably dates to the 1890's.
Motor oil and gasoline were also sold at the store, even before World War I; but, not until the late 1910S were modern gasoline pumps using underground tanks perfected. Around 1920, the Prud'hommes installed one of the early "visible pump" systems (invented in 1918)for gasoline, which remained in service until around 1950 when it was replaced by the present pumps. The store also provided another outlet for local produce, including pecans that Prud'homme would purchase from area residents "on halves" and store until picked up by L. S. Johnson Pecan Company
in Natchitoches. In the yard to the north of the Big House, Alphonse Prud'homme even created two small ponds where he raised "shiners" that he sold for fish bait in his store.
Collapse of South’s Economy
The collapse of the South’s slave-based labor system and the wide spread destruction and neglect of railroads, factories, and plantations that had occurred during the Civil War left the South’s predominantly agriculture economy in shambles and forced
planters like Phanor Prud’homme to renegotiate their relationships with their former slaves.
The collapse of the South’s slave-based labor system and the wide spread destruction and neglect of railroads, factories, and plantations that had occurred during the Civil War left the South’s predominantly agriculture economy in shambles. That forced planters like Phanor Prud’homme to renegotiate their relationships and contracts with their former slaves, at least with those “who did not leave with the Yankees in the spring of 1864”.
Tenancy (i.e., renting of land on which to produce crops) offered some semblance of freedom, but few of the freed slaves, most with nothing but the clothes on their backs, had even the modest resources required to consider tenancy. Instead, they
contracted with planters to produce a crop, almost always cotton, to which they would be entitled a certain "share;' usually no more than half, at the end of the season.
While sharecropping did not require a cash outlay for land rental, it did require seed and equipment, which most "croppers" could not afford to buy.
Neither owners nor workers liked the systems. Former slaves aspired to “setup for themselves”, instead of working in the constant shadow of whites.
With no chance of land distribution freedpeople (as well as thousands of landless whites) opted for a half-way measure which allowed them to work individual farms on shares to obtain capital for eventual land ownership.
At Oakland the sharecrop system began about l868 and was in full operation by the early l870s. At Oakland and throughout the plantation South, plantations were divided into small units and were "rented" to individual owners.
Share-crop tenants were generally provided by the landowner with land, tools, work animals, and seeds. For this, the owner would receive one-half of the crop as payment. Most of Oakland's tenants worked on this arrangement and called themselves "halfhands” and croppers. If the farmer could provide his own tools,
animals, and seeds, he received three-fourths of the crop he raised, giving the landowner one-fourth for use of the land.
Tenants call those who worked under such an arrangement “renters" rather than croppers and were "fourthhands", or worked on fourths. In both arrangements, additional deductions from the prospective crop were taken for charged supplies and food--from the supply merchant who was often the landowner.
In many cases, the crop lien system and credit merchant system bound black families to the land; they would become indebted for the next year’s crop, and it proved to be a cruel, oppressive system for workers and unprofitable for owners as well. In the plantation South, the vast majority of Southern workers started the new century, nearly thirty years after emancipation, still a landless, agricultural labor force,
operating tenant farms, with little chance to obtain the land, literacy, money, and skills necessary for advancement.
Interestingly, at least one worker labored on a share contract in 1866, just after the war. This was Rene Plaisance who received $163.62 on December 31, 1866, "his wages being a share of one fourth of mares which should go to the horses” and
"a portion of his share on the horses."
In family papers, a sample lien form was found, as follows:
"Whereas I has or have received from J A P advances of necessary supplies to enable me to cultivate during the current year A D 1873 on the plantation known as J. Alp P’S Plantation in Cane River.
Therefore in order to secure said A P the reimbursement of such necessary supplies as he has already advanced ad furnished me and also to secure him payment for any other necessary supplies and for any advances he may make to me in supplies and in money to purchase necessary supplies and defray necessary expenses of said plantation during the said year A D 1873 I hereby acknowledge his lien and privilege on all the crop on said plantation, during said year 1873. Shipment to be made by
said J. Alp P. from time to time as the cotton is gathered, ginned & pressed--to be sold by A. M & P and proceeds thereof applied by them to payment of any amount and all amounts which I may then be indebted to J. Alp P for advances made & necessary
supplies furnished by said J Alp P. the balance of any to be held subject to my order.”
The Railroad at Oakland Plantation
The New Orleans & Pacific Railroad (later called the Texas &Pacific) was organized shortly after the Civil War; in 1871, Natchitoches appointed an agent to negotiate with the company to have the rail line brought through the parish. In 1875, Alphonse
Prud'homme and others, including Benjamin Metoyer, even donated rights of way for the railroad through their property; but, when the line was actually constructed in 1882, it bypassed the town of Natchitoches entirely. Nevertheless, with a station at
Cypress, railroad transport quickly replaced the majority of river-borne transport after 1882.
Threatened with economic ruin as a result of the routing of the railroad, the business leaders in Natchitoches incorporated their own railroad company in 1885 and, two years later, levied a special tax to commence construction of a "Tap Line" railroad from the Cypress station north to Natchitoches. Surveyed by Alphonse Prud'homme, the spur line paralleled the present route of Louisiana Highway I, bringing rail service through the heart of Isle Brevelle and within a couple of miles of Oakland Plantation. By 1895, and probably before, Brevelle Station (sometimes called Prud'homme Station) had been constructed near the railroad crossing at Bayou Brevelle, about half-way between Natchez and Cypress. According to Mayo Prud'homme, Alphonse Prud'homme "put a side track there [to] pick up cotton, or
anything else that had to be shipped." Eventually, however, Prud'homme closed the station to reduce cut- through traffic on the Oakland farm road that began near the store and Big House and ran southwesterly to the railroad station.
By the early 1900s, a new station was built west of Oakland at the growing community of Natchez, which provided somewhat more convenient railroad access for the plantation. This also may have contributed to Prud'homme's decision to close the
Prud’homme’s Plantation Store
The range of goods available at Prud'homme's store expanded through the first half of the twentieth century, and the store remained a center of community life into the 1950S. By then, however, improved roads (La. Hwy. I was paved from Alexandria to
Natchitoches in 1936) and widespread use of automobiles greatly expanded how and where people shopped and supplied their material needs. Many if not most of the Prud'hommes' clientele recognized the relatively high cost of goods at country stores
and used the store less and less as better options became available.
By the first decade of the twentieth century, Alphonse Prud'homme II recalled, the store "had everything from something to eat, to something to work, to something to wear." In addition to its function as a retail outlet, the store housed the Prud'hommes' plantation office in a room added at the rear of the building around 1880. This is where plantation accounts were kept and settled with the sharecroppers and tenants who worked the land. Interpretation of this role is as important as
interpretation of the retail use of the store itself. Prud'homme's Store also housed the Bermuda Post Office sporadically after its establishment in 1877 and continuously
from 1924 until 1967, when the post office was finally discontinued. The presence of the post office reinforced the overall importance of the store to the entire community around Oakland Plantation, although the store itself continued to
operate until 1982.
Oakland Plantation History
The Significance of Oakland and Magnolia Plantations
Oakland Plantation is the plantation house of Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud'homme. It was most likely constructed by slaves beginning in 1821. It has been occupied by seven generations of the Prud'homme family. Many of the original outbuildings for
this plantation are intact. Many of the surviving structures including the French colonial main house are examples of bousillage construction.
Also important is the landscape, which contains an 1835 bottle garden, a formal entranceway, and intact agricultural fields.
The main house is set at the head of a short alley of live oaks behind a small formal garden.
The parterres are outlined in various kinds of bottles - crock bottles from Scotland, square bitters bottles, round bottom beer bottles from Ireland, torpedo-shaped bottles from England, and wine bottles from France.
The main house is a large hip roof, raised cottage, with surrounding galleries and 28chamfered posts. The three dormers on the front are original. Most rooms have double French doors.
The interior walls are paneled with random-width boards. Only one of the original mantels remains - a comparatively plain Greek Revival wooden mantel in one of the bedrooms. The finer marble mantels cracked and were replaced with plain wooden mantels in 1915. Most of the transom doors and floorboards are original.
The plantation includes several outbuildings. The old store - a frame, gable-fronted building - dates from the Civil War era.
Behind the store is the carriage house, an old but nondescript frame building, which was converted into a machine shop in 1960.
There are two frame hip roof pigeonniers at opposite ends of the access lane and a small log carpenter's shop with half dovetail joints at the corners.
Behind the carpenter's shop is an old frame barn that was once a smokehouse; the smoked and charred beams remain.
The overseer's house is a raised cottage that has been resided.
The largest residence other than the plantation house is the doctor's house, a five-bay frame cottage with a pitched roof. Though much reworked, it still contributes to the overall appearance of the plantation.
Magnolia Plantation was the main plantation house of Ambrose LeComte. It was most likely constructed by slaves in the 1830s. The large plantation house was burned in 1864 by the army of Union General Banks as they retreated to Alexandria after the
battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill. Construction of the plantation house was completed in 1899 in an amalgam of Greek Revival and Italianate.
Magnolia Plantation is set along Cane River Lake amid 10 acres of open flat farmland. The big house is surrounded by several 150-year-old live oaks and magnolia trees. The house itself is approached by means of a gravel driveway set on axis
with the central front door.
Although the present plantation house dates from 1899, it partially follows the plan of the house that previously occupied the site. The raised plantation house has one principal floor, under a large pitched roof garret. The five-bay plan has a central hall and double parlors with chimneys set between them.
There is also a front gallery and a rear gallery that encompasses not only the house but also a rear wing. The house, traditional in form and plan, is large and plain with square post galleries, transom panel doors, and simple Renaissance Revival mantels. The upstairs walls are entirely sheathed in narrow gauge wainscotting with plain mantels. All doors have four panels and windows are sash mounted. The 2½-story structure contains 27 rooms and an extensive collection of Southern Empire and Louisiana furniture.
The plantation includes a number of important outbuilding and dependencies, such as an overseer's house, slave quarters cabins, a plantation store, a corn crib, a
blacksmith shop, a pigeonnier, and a cotton press-gin building. The cotton press-gin building contains a rare cotton press and two types of gins. These remnants of a working plantation are invaluable in understanding southern antebellum agricultural
practices. The unusually large overseer's house is a hip-roof, raised Acadian cottage, which is almost completely surrounded by square post galleries. This structure served as the family residence after the Civil War to the reconstruction of the large plantation house. Modifications to the overseer's house include the tin roof and the interior, which is much reworked. The transom, doors, windows, and shutters remain. Of the original slave dwellings, eight remain in a double row in the southeast portion of the plantation.
These are brick, two-room, galleried houses with central chimneys and gable parapets - unusually high quality construction for slave cabins. Each fireplace has an iron lintel. There has been some deterioration, including the loss of several parapets, chimney tops, windows, and doors. In addition, some gallery roofs have collapsed. The cotton press dates back to ca. 1830 and is one of about five or six comparable examples in the South. This building also contains 19th century ginning
equipment. In addition, the landscape of fields and woodlands surrounding the plantation are intact.
Ambroise Lecomte and his wife, Julia Buard, established Magnolia Plantation in 1830. Lecomte had been acquiring land throughout the 1820s and 1830s, while at the same time shifting from food crops and small tobacco exports to large-scale cotton production. By 1860, the Lecomtes' were the largest slaveholding family in Natchitoches Parish. The enslaved laborers held by the Lecomtes had cleared 2,240 of the Lecomte’s total of 5,395 acres and were producing huge cotton crops. One of three plantations the family owned, Magnolia, was the home site. The original plantation house there was built in 1850.
Most of Magnolia’s structures date between 1835 and 1850. The main house lies outside the park’s boundary. It is an 1897 reconstruction of the original, which was burned by retreating Union troops during the Civil War. The park’s buildings include a blacksmith shop, a plantation store, a former slave hospital that at various times also housed the owners (while the main house was being rebuilt) and the overseer, eight brick cabins, and a gin barn. The blacksmith shop, workspace of enslaved workers, first Daniel and then Charles, would typically have been one of the structures in place to provide the developing plantation with wheels, tools, and nails.
Magnolia’s eight duplex-style quarters are the remnants of a rare masonry slave village. The cabins were initially built in the 1840s to house two slave families each. In the twentieth century, the two rooms were linked to form single-family tenant housing and furnished with electricity.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, fraternal organizations and freemen’s churches helped hold the community together. One African Methodist Episcopal Church, Saint James, stood on Magnolia itself until the 1960s, performing burials just across the river at St. Andrew’s Baptist Church. The influence of the plantation itself continued to be significant, and not just as an employer. Baseball diamonds and bush racetracks at Magnolia and other area plantations were common ground for local groups, as was the plantation store.
Magnolia’s huge gin barn houses a gin and a rare wooden screw cotton press. The 11 by 30-foot cotton press still stands in its original location and was used until the late 19th century, when the plantation converted to steam.
Magnolia Plantation Slave House
A Glimpse of Magnolia Plantation, 1851
During the early months of 1998, while inventorying Prudhomme family papers stored in the attic of the Oakland Plantation Big House, Dr. Ann Patton Malone discovered a number of documents pertaining to the Magnolia and Shallow Lake Plantations. She kindly shared a number of them with me, including the following seven letters written
by W. D. Eddins to Ambroise LeComte II. Eddins was the Magnolia Plantation overseer from January 1851 until September 1853 (Malone 1996:58).
The letters provide important, albeit brief, glimpses of Magnolia Plantation’s past.
Malone first reported (1996:55) that Ambroise II’s son-in-law, Matthew Hertzog, was running Magnolia to some extent after Ambroise II took up permanent residence in his Natchitoches mansion. In light of the newly discovered documentation, the change in management seems unlikely to have occurred before Eddins’s death. The letters reveal that Eddins was entrusted with the handling of real estate and commercial matters. His reports on the condition of crops, the health of the slaves, and requests for medicine and supplies were addressed directly to Ambroise II. So too, Eddins makes no mention of Matthew or his wife, Atala LeComte, in his dispatches. The letters also shed light on the construction date of the Big House. Family lore and other accounts set the date sometime during the 1830s. The letters dated March 21 and May 2, 1851, clearly indicate that LeComte’s “new” house was under construction at that time.
Magnolia Plantation Slave Houses
Mr. Lacomte ~
we have no sickness now worth relateing on either side – except the Boy & Girl who were in the Hospittle when you were down & the Old woman – on the other side – the River – she gets no better – the Boy & Girl are mending – The Boy has the dropsy – the Girl has a brest complaint which will take some time for them to get well ~ As you requested of me – I attended the sale on the 29th ult – and Bought the piece of land there for you, adjoining your’s above for $1200.00 dollars. I informed Mr. Taber that I Bought the Land for you – so I presume you may arrange it now with the Sheriff without my further assistance – if you cannot – and it requires my presants
there you must let me know ~ I received the articles – left at Boxton’s Landing for me – by Hecla a few days ago by sending for them. As the Hecla came down this River this last trip ~ I received from her the articles for the plantation – all – as per Bill of Lading Except one Box of Merchandise which she didnot put out[.] Mr. Armstad shiped on her 85 Bailes of cotton (with this mark L–) For which One Bill of Lading was enclosed to J. B. Planche & Co the other he kept ~ I am well pleased at my plows – they do finely. I commenced plowing on the 29th ult – last Monday morning – I will finish plowing in my cornland about wednesday night – Armstad commensed plowing on the 20th I beleave – he is getting on very well ~ I think – I have yet about ten days Ginning I pressed out – to day 22 Bailes of second quality cotton
Feb the 1st 1851 ~ W.. B.. Eddins
Magnolia Plantation Slave Houses
Appendix — A Glimpse of Magnolia Plantation, 1851
Friday Night 8 Oclock
Magnolia grove March 21st 1851
Mr.. A.. Lecomte
Our Levee holds the water back well ~ The River has fallon here in front – about 7 inches – and back of the Levee about 12 in ~ A good deal of our corn Land was over flowed though I think if the River continues to fall – our Land will be all dry in the course of 6 or 8 days more ~ We have but 2 sick in the Hospittle now one belonging to this place and one from the other side – all appear to be in good health Except these two – and they are not sick much[.] we commenced planting cotton on the 20th Inst and will finish to morrow by 10 Oclock all above your new house we will commence to morrow morning the 22 Inst to plant corn – in the little field adjoining Mr.. Hertzog’s place about 2/3 of the plantation on the other side was over flowed from the back part[.] Armstead has planted corn above the Quarters – and is now planting cotton On front b[e]low[.] we are almost entirely out of Medicine of all kinds – youwill pleas send us some by James ~
W.. B.. Eddins.
we received to night at a 11 Oclock of the Hecla 47 lbls Pork – Cook told me that he put off 20 lbls on the other place making 67 lbls Recd by Armstead and myself so there are 7 lbls yet coming to make 75 as is marked on the Bill of lading, which they promised to pit out as they come down
W.. B.. Eddins
A Comprehensive Subsurface Investigation at Magnolia Plantation
Magnolia Grove Cane River
Mr A Lecomte,
I have now to inform you of the death of one of your Negroes. Dannial the Black Smith from Armsteads side – he became sick on Thursday as I was informed. Dr. Scruggs happened to be there[.] Armstead got him to prescribe for him and give
him Medicine – On Friday Evening he was brought to the Hospittle – with the prescription and Medicine from Dr. Scruggs. I examined him I found his toung lightly coated white – his pults were agitated but did not indicate much fever. Though he complained of pain in his side and heaviness at his Stomac. I suspisioned at once that he had been eating something that he should not have eat[.] Consequently I had him locked up in one end of the Hospittle and continued the Medicine prescribed by the Doctor – Though it had no effect – Saturday Evening by operating on him with Clisters, I found that he had been eating ashes plentifuly[.] I sent immediately for the Doctor [;] he came[.] we done all we could for him But could do no good[.] he lived the Monday night and died the 24th Inst. All are well now and we are going ahead Planting[.] our corn land is very near all dry Though the water falls very slow The little Black Mair has got a fine Colt Folded [Foaled] on the 25th Inst.
Yours Truly March 26th 1851
W.. B.. Eddins
Magnolia grove Cain River
April 26th 1851
Mr. A.. Lecomte, all are well and doing very well here except 3 who are complaining though not much sick – we have a fine stand of corn and also of cotton – we have hoed
and thined our corn – and are now chopping out Cotton – The cut worms have not
injured us much as yet though they are at work in several parts of the plantation[.] I have hered of several of the neighbers having to plough up and plant over Our scrapers do finely Armstead is geting on very well – he is I beleave done planting
W.. B.. Eddins
Appendix — A Glimpse of Magnolia Plantation, 1851
Magnolia Grove – May 2nd 1851
Very Dear sir
I received from the L..B.. Hecla the Articles you sent as per Bill – and
I shipped on Board of her the Remainder of your cotton which was 249 Bales 129 of
which were marked in your full name and 120 marked – L – also 15 Beef hides for
which I took two Bills of lading[.] one I kept the other I directed to J..B.. Planche & co – New Orleans[.] Agreeable to your order – Baptist will have the floor on the inside of your house completed I think by next friday – he has already laid the floors of the Entry closet, Dining room pantry, and one of the bed rooms[.] he has now but one large room and store room to finish[.] The shead you asked to have made for the convenience of your cooking stove is already completed – The tables Mrs. Lecomte ordered to be made – are made – Though the press is not – as yet – The timber having been got of green Chiney I thought it best to have it season a wile before it should be made – the Matresses are all made and ready to use. The Negros are all well and doing very well except Ursin[.] he is worse off now than he has ever been before – and I have no hopes of his getting cured here – Though I think if you were to send him to Song’s Chalybeate springs at Minden Claiborne Parish – to stay about three months – he would perhaps get well As I have no doubt the Chalybeate water would be beneficial to him – Our crop begins to look well – Though the worms continue to cut it down – but not so bad as they have been doing – I shall begin next week to puting my cotton to a stand and hilling it – we have been sufering here very much for want of rain – Armistead had to plow up and plant over a good deal of his cotton ground in consequence of the worms – and also When I wrote to you before – I thought perhaps you would be down in a few days – and I neglected to mention to you of the Burglary that had been commited by your boy Charles Natchitoches – On the Evening of Easter Sunday the 20th April he made it conveniant to visit your new house and the way he proceeded to enter the building was by extending a ladder from the Ground to the floor of the back Gallery – up which he went on to the floor – he came to the last door on the end of the Gallery next to the Sugar Cain and (said) he found that door unlocked. he opened it passed through the room to the stairs – and down on to the lower floor he first went into the Clausit and then into the dining room and to the store room door which he found locked he passed then in to the pantry where he found the pantry key. he came back to the store room door and tried the key to the lock which he found to fit and unlock the door[.] he opened it and went in he took two liquor bottles (a small and large one) and, from the [illegible] he filled them with whiskey took 3 bottles of wine and two pieces of meat from the [illegible] and passed out locked the door replaced the key where he found it and returned by the same way he came in – This is a well done trick for Charles – Though he has the appearance of a thieving Negro – I did not think he had the impudence to venture so Boldly into such a place as that – I punished him for it though the fellow beged so faithfully and told me such a strait story of the way he had acted that I could not punish him as much as he deserved —
A Comprehensive Subsurface Investigation at Magnolia Plantation
Magnolia Grove Cain River
Mr. A.. Lecomte,
On Wednesday Evening last we had a fine rain – here – which we were needing very much. the last planting of our cotton is coming up very regular – Baptist tells me that he will not have lime enough for your ditching – he says he will want about 80 lbls More – so you would do well to have it brought before the water gets to low in the River. on last Tuesday the 6thInst we lost a little Negro. the child of Lucette. it had been sick for some length of time – and as I thought was getting well fast – at least the morning before it died it appeared prist and playfull - Ursin is getting better than he was – the rest of them are all well. Baptist commences this morning on the front Gallery floor – the floor is all finished on the inside. I understand by Joe that you have some [illegible] for me – which you will please send by James. Mr Taber tells me that you have a new Bell at Grandacore which might be brought in the wagon – that is if you will not have a chance of sending it in the Boat.
Give my respects to Mrs. Lecomte and the [tell?] her that her Garden is doing well ~
May 9th 1851
Dec 14th 1851~
This is to inform you, that all are doing very well, here, except ch
Hortence Cireaque & Jeanneah?, who have been a little sick since you left, but are
now nearly well – we have had a considerable shear of bad weather hear, so much so
that we have not picked cotton but three days in the past week – Though we are
getting on very well considering the stops and starts we have to make & take at it –
we are done with the Levy cut & have the other picked nearly to the Judge stand – we
think five more days of good weather will put us through the first time. we have two hundred Bales of cotton pressed and marked – Elwah came in with 17 heads of beaves– part of which I have picked up. Armstead – I beleave is done picking cotton, we are needing very much – for the Stable three good sized glass lanterns Which if you can procure you will pleas send by return of the wagon.
W.. B.. Eddins
Welcome to the City of Natchitoches, Louisiana
The City of Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches was established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. The French originally founded Natchitoches as an outpost on the Red River to trade with the Spanish in Mexico. It is believed the French first arrived in the area around 1699. Successful trading with area Indians prompted leaders to establish a trading post at the head of navigation on the Red River. The site was established near a village of Natchitoches Indians.
The Louisiana Purchase was the purchase of the French province of Louisiana by the United States in 1803. It stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.
People settled in the Natchitoches area in large numbers after the Louisiana Purchase. Several plantations were built along the river. Eventually, however, the river changed its course, bypassing Natchitoches. What was once known as the Red River is now Cane River Lake, a 30-something mile body of water that runs from the City’s downtown historic district through Plantation Country.
Natchitoches Parish was created by the act of April 10, 1805 that divided the Louisiana Territory into 12 parishes, including Orleans, Iberville, Rapides and Natchitoches. Several parishes were subsequently organized out of Natchitoches Parish.
Natchitoches Events Center
Located in the heart of the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District, the Natchitoches Events Center is a 40,000 square foot meeting facility featuring a 15,000 square foot exhibit hall, three meeting rooms, board room and full-size catering kitchen.
The building also houses the “Landmarks in Time” historical exhibit, a permanent display that will be housed in the Events Center lobby, highlighting the history of the Natchitoches area. The exhibit was funded by the Cane River National Heritage Area Commission and supported by the La. Division of the Arts, La. Division of Historic Preservation, Natchitoches Main Street Program and the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission.
For more information about the Natchitoches Events Center, please stop by the facility at 750 Second St., call (877) 238-7500 or visit us on the web at www.natchitocheseventscenter.com
Natchitoches is Naturally Perfect!
The slogan Naturally Perfect is more than a simple boast! It is the only way to describe Natchitoches, for a myriad of reasons. Let’s look at just a few –
Natchitoches is naturally perfect for history lovers. Established in 1714, we are the oldest continually occupied settlement in the entire Louisiana Purchase Territory. The parish is dotted with 18th-and 19th-century structures, some dating as far back as the American Revolution. Most of downtown Natchitoches, the largest town in the parish, is a National Historic Landmark District.
Natchitoches is naturally perfect because it is so beautiful. Chosen as the location for the motion pictures Steel Magnolias and The Horse Soldiers, few towns in America are our rivals. Cane River Lake, once the Red River, runs the entire length of downtown. Churches and buildings from the mid-19th-century line quaint French-named streets. The brick main street is lined with wrought-iron-laced buildings, stately oak trees, and of course, magnolias.
Natchitoches is naturally perfect for education. In addition to a progressive public school system and several excellent private schools, Natchitoches is the home of the Louisiana School of Math, Science and the Arts for the state’s most gifted juniors and seniors, and Northwestern State University.
Natchitoches is naturally perfect for business and shopping. More than 150 new businesses have opened in Natchitoches during the past three years. There are five shopping centers, and an assortment of individual business operators determined to make certain that everything you need is here when you need it.
Natchitoches is naturally perfect for fine dining. Per capita, no other town or city in Louisiana can boast of more great eating establishments. In addition to being the home of the world-famous Natchitoches Meat Pie, we are home to several widely acclaimed restaurants. The menus feature Creole and Cajun, steaks and fresh seafood, country cooking and ethnic favorites. Most menus feature several specialties of the house, and no other place in Louisiana takes more pride in its culinary treasures.
Natchitoches is naturally perfect for family fun. Our festival season runs nearly all year. We start with our own Mardi Gras and end with our world famous Christmas Festival, which is ranked as one of the nation’s top 25 family events. In between, there’s the Creole Heritage Festival, Natchitoches Jazz and Rhythm and Blues Festival, Natchitoches Folk Festival, Melrose Arts and Crafts Festival, 4th of July celebration, Natchitoches Folk Festival, Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival, a half-dozen fireworks shows downtown, and a dozen smaller festivals throughout the parish.
Natchitoches is naturally perfect for sports and outdoors. Northwestern State University provides quality collegiate-level football, basketball and baseball. The city provides youth baseball and soccer, lighted tennis courts and swimming pools. There are two golf courses in town and incredible golf courses nearby. Since Louisiana is The Sportsman’s Paradise, you can expect great hunting, and you can fish out your backdoor on the Cane River and in several other local lakes. For hiking, Kisatchie National Forest, the state’s only national forest, is within a few miles.
Natchitoches is naturally perfect for the arts. In 1998, Natchitoches was selected as one of the top 100 arts communities in America. In addition to our own symphony orchestra, there is live theater year-round, either through Northwestern State University or the Natchitoches Arts Council. There are two art galleries featuring the works of local artists, and opportunities for aspiring artists to take classes through the university’s Continuing Education Department.
Natchitoches is naturally perfect for retirement. In 1998, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine selected Natchitoches as one of the top six cities in America for retirement. In December 2001, Natchitoches was named one of the top 100 places to retire by Where to Retire Magazine. In 2002, it was named one of the eight great tax friendly towns by Where to Retire Magazine. In 2007, it was named one of seven Louisiana’s certified retirement communities by the Office of the Lt. Governor and the Louisiana Retirement Development Commission. Also, Natchitoches was presented the Preserve America Presidential Award for Heritage Tourism Initiative. And, it was named one of the top ten places in which to retire in the June 11th, 2007 issue of US News and World Report.
And there are plenty more reasons why Natchitoches is Naturally Perfect for You!
In 1714, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis traveled up the Mississippi and into the Red River to build Fort St. Jean Baptiste near a village of an Indian tribe of the Caddo family, the Natchitoches. This military trading post, 14 miles east of the Spanish settlement of Los Adaes, guarded French-Spanish empires, ending finally in American domination. Thus, Natchitoches became the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory.
Natchitoches Historic District
The Red River began changing course in 1825, finally leaving Natchitoches bereft of transportation advantages. It was not until the 20th-century that the river to Natchitoches was dammed, creating the serene Cane River that meanders peacefully through the center of this historic city and into the now Cane River National Heritage Area.
Natchitoches Historic District
Known as the City of Lights in honor of the world-famous Festival of Lights, Natchitoches became famous in recent years through the film industry. In 1988, the popular movie Steel Magnolias was filmed here, following the successful saga of The Horse Soldiers nearly 30 years earlier. In 1990, Man in the Moon occupied attention throughout the entire parish.
Natchitoches Historic District
Natchitoches continues to retain its magic, charm and heritage while maintaining a perfect balance with progressive industries. Coupled with scenic beauty and friendly hospitality, our quality of life makes Natchitoches a retirement haven. In this old-world, modern city and parish, both visitor and citizen can seek their heart’s desire.
Natchitoches Historic District
Thirty-three blocks in the downtown area are in the National Historic Landmark District that overlooks the picturesque Cane River Lake. Points of interest include the first French settlement, Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Commemorative Area, the American Cemetery, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the National Fish Hatchery and Aquarium, as well as sites used in the filming of the movie Steel Magnolias.
Normal Hill Natchitoches Historic District
The Cane River National Heritage Area, established by Congress in 1994, is a largely rural, agricultural landscape known for its historic Creole-style plantations and structures, and its unique people and culture.
Normal Hill Natchitoches Historic District
Kisatchie National Forest and freshwater lakes offer recreational opportunities to anglers, hunters, campers and hikers.
Natchitoches President's Home
In May 1998, the City of Natchitoches was named one of the top six U.S. communities in which to retire as published by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Adviser. Diverse recreation opportunities, low cost of living and taxes, weather, and cultural offerings attract retirees to our area.
Natchitoches President's Home
Whether for a weekend or a lifetime, you’ll enjoy everything Natchitoches has to offer. The natural sensations of a clear, fresh southern morning of an invitation to life like no other.
Natchitoches President's Home
Particularly when it’s drawn in the heart of the southland. Here, in a area steeped with tradition, sunrise signals the awakening of a particularly unique community spirit. A spirit that embraced people and potential with a quality of life unmatched in America.
Texas And Pacific Railroad Depot
Explore Natchitoches, the original French Colony in Louisiana, with its perfect blend of heritage, tradition, culture, natural resources and innovation and discover why Natchitoches has been the destination of travelers and settlers since 1714!
Women's Gymnasium Northwestern State University
Women's Gymnasium Northwestern State University
Women's Gymnasium Northwestern State University
Natchitoches Parish is home to three fort sites, numerous Creole plantation homes with four open daily for tours, the Cane River National Heritage Area, many museums with rotating exhibits, historic homes and churches, an alligator park, a fish hatchery, and many recreational outdoor activities including fishing, hiking, canoeing, touring pecan plantations, or walking through a nature preserve. Every day is filled with things to do around Natchitoches.
In 2004, Natchitoches was named as one of only two Preserve America communities in Louisiana by the White House and First Lady Laura Bush. In 2005, the National Trust named Natchitoches as a Dozen Distinctive Destination for Historic Preservation, the only site selected in Louisiana.
Downtown Natchitoches and the adjacent neighborhood is a National Landmark Historic District, that offers museums, trolley and boat rides, historic homes, cemeteries, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, art galleries, antiques, arts and crafts, books, libraries and more!
The thirty-three block Historic District of Natchitoches, which includes more than fifty centuries-old buildings, has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The reconstructed Ft. St.Jean Baptiste symbolizes colonial days in Natchitoches, while the mercantile buildings and houses with the cast iron grillwork galleries overlooking Cane River Lake are reminiscent of the days of the Cotton Kingdom and Natchitoches’ old river port.
Townhouses along Front and Jefferson Streets and beautifully landscaped interior streets served as second homes for the down-river planters who enjoyed “‘the season” in town or as comfortable domiciles during inclement weather.
These historic sites have also attracted the movie industry. Natchitoches is proud to be the home for the filming of Steel Magnolias, The Horse Soldiers and Man In The Moon. In 2005 and 2006, the movie industry returned filming soon to be released titles including American Standard and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Climate-controlled streetcar tours and walking tour maps are available upon request.
Location- No. 8 Ducournau SquareThe Ducournau Building, in which the Town House is located, stands on a portion of an 1818 land grant made to Joseph Tauzin, who came from France in 1776.
It is thought that this building was constructed between 1820 and 1847. When the present owners of Ducournau Square undertook to rescue a historic building that was totally without restoration, they embarked on an impressive pioneer project.
Acquiring the Ducournau building in the Historic District in January 1977, they immediately started demolition of interior areas damaged by an earlier fire and began rebuilding, retaining much of the old while adding contemporary features. Shops were to occupy the lower floors and a town house, the upper story.
The Ducournau Building, in which the Town House is located, stands on a portion of an 1818 land grant made to Joseph Tauzin, who came from France in 1776 and married Marie Chamard in 1791. In 1819, Aaron Coe and Bernard Leonard bought the property. It is thought that the building was constructed between 1820 and 1847, for in 1820 Francois LaFonte purchased the property and carried on a business there until 1847, living upstairs over the first-floor business.
LaFonte left his interest in the business and building to his partner Alfred Daugerot. There followed a succession of owners: Daugerot’s widow Adele (1852), F. Edward Cloutier and Pierre Lestan Prudhomme (1857), Victor Durand (1863), M. H. Carver (1869), John W. Cockerham (1878), and J. A. Ducournau (1881). The building’s iron nameplate came from a New Orleans store that Ducournau owned. Robert Smith and James Hearron acquired the property in 1974, the present owners in 1977.
Walking through wooden gates and down a carriageway, visitors find themselves in an Old World brick-paved courtyard. Behind dividing iron fencing, is a charming antique and gift shop, originally part of a carriage house. All the ironwork, including the fountain, was made at Starlight Plantation shop. The spikes atop the fencing are teeth from a mechanical cotton picker.
The American Cemetery Location - 321 2nd St Natchitoches
“The American Cemetery, is considered by many historians to be the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase. The American Cemetery contains graves that date to colonial times. Buried within its grounds are war heroes and villains, doctors, politicians, educators, a former mayor who was murdered and a plantation owner who had numerous children with a slave whom he set free by the time of his death.” -
The American Cemetery- The Oldest Cemetery In The Louisiana Purchase And A Shrine To God And History, by Payne Williams
In Natchitoches’ oldest preserved cemetery, visitors will find the names of those families who pioneered Natchitoches: Prud’homme, Lambre, Cloutier, Roquier, Buard, DeBlieux, Sompayrac and others.
Location - 5th St Natchitoches
Location - Martin Luther King Drive (formerly Lee Street) Natchitoches
Juchereau St. Denis Statue
Location - 781 Front Street
This bronze statue of Natchitoches founder, Chevalier Louis Antoine Juchereau de St.Denis was created by sculptor, Larry Crowder of Fort Worth, Texas. It was sculpted and cast in bronze in Texas. It was erected near the end of the El Camino Real in downtown Natchitoches as “a lasting memorial to the historic bond between Quebec, Louisiana and Texas.
The inscription is as follows:
Louis Juchereau de St. Denis 1676 - 1744
In 1700 explored & established trade with the Natchitoches Indians voyaging on Red River. In 1714 built a garrisoned post to repel the Spanish, promoted trade, searched mines. Married in 1716 at the Rio del Norte Pesidio. Leadership of Indians & victory at Pensacola won knighthood by Louis XV in the military Order of St. Louis. After 1720 he served as commandant of the Upper Cane - Red River - Natchitoches District for 24 years. Born at Quebec in 1676. His tomb (1744) is under the site of the first parish church.”
Kaffie-Frederick Hardware Store
Location - 758 Front Street
This company is the oldest continuously operated business in Natchitoches. Established in 1863, Kaffie Frederick has operated continuously as a general mercantile serving the hardware, houseware, and gift needs of Natchitoches and the surrounding area.
Founded by Jewish Prussian immigrants Harris and Adolph Kaffie, the business quickly grew to become one of the largest general department stores in North Louisiana. A second generation of Kaffies, Harold and Sidney, continued operations through the
mid twentieth century. In 1954, Titus Frederick who began working for the business in 1920, was allowed to purchase stock in the company. The name was then changed to Kaffie-Frederick. Throughout the years, the business was a supplier of basic goods needed to run a farm, household or a trade. Studebaker wagons, Moline and John Deere products, school books, groceries, clothing, and even caskets were just a few of the goods available.
Constructed in 1892, the property is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is noted as one of the best preserved properties in the Historic District.
Local historian Robert DeBlieux, in his book, “A Walking Tour of the Historic District”, states “It is one of three buildings in Natchitoches that exhibits the ornamental pressed metal front that was so popular in the late 19th century. The Kaffie-Fredericks building is one of the most significant commercial buildings because of its outstanding interior and exterior integrity.”
The interior of the store is relatively unchanged with only one update having been made in the 1920s. Original cash registers are still used daily as is a freight elevator that was installed in the 1890s. Large skylight openings are still present, reminders of the need for natural light prior to electrical service being introduced. A large collection of items sold yesteryear are displayed on the walls and shelves. In addition to still serving as a general store, Kaffie-Frederick has expanded by re-opening its upper level to house a Christmas Department from October to January.
Location - 225 Poete Street
The title to the property itself has been traced to a Spanish land grant made to Louis Lambre sometime between 1791 and 1797; the house was built probably about 1840 for Antonio Balzaretti by Trizzini and Soldini.
From 1840 to 1860, the house was held by a succession of owners. In 1860, however, it was purchased by Chichester Chaplin, Jr., who kept it for the next forty years; and its former name, the Chaplin House, was derived from the name of this early owner. After 1900, the Albert Voiers and the W.T. Cunningham families owned the building.
The brick house, painted a soft gray, has six square brick columns ivy-entwined; the dark green wooden shutters flanking the windows give privacy to the front rooms on the sidewalk porch.
Laureate House has been called a typical town house of the period with accommodating entrances for each room. The furnishings, color schemes, and faithfulness to the style of the traditional pattern reflect the culture of Natchitoches with its French, Spanish, and Colonial overtones.
Location - 358 Jefferson Street
The Levy-East House is a two-story structure with gabled roof and twin brick chimneys. The second story balcony is supported by four slender iron columns and encircled by iron lace of the same design as that of the old New Orleans Mint. From the front porch, an iron-grilled door leads to the century-old garden.
The big magnolia tree in the side yard is said to be over a hundred years old. A large gingko tree stands at the back porch. Bayou Amulet, the ravine on the south side of the yard, was originally called Bayou a Muler’.
In the 1830’s, Trizzini and Soldini built the old house as an office and home for Dr. Nicholas Michel Friedelezy, a French Canadian. To the original one-story red brick structure, and upper story of wood was added before the Civil War. Court records show that the house, lot, and two slaves of the late Dr. Friedelezy were sold at auction Jan. 10, 1840, the house for $3700 to John A. DeBussy. From 1854 to 1891 the Tauzin family owned the home. In 1891, Leopold Levy and his wife Justine Dreyfus Levy purchased the house. Of their six children, four were born in this house.
When present owners, Avery and Judy East, purchased the home in 1994, it was in a great state of disrepair. The house did, however, contain a multitude of furnishings. The East’s proceeded to restore both the house and the furnishings. Today the home serves as one of Natchitoches’ most luxurious Bed and Breakfast Inns, hosting guests from all over the world.
Metoyer-Brown Town House
Location - 366 Jefferson Street This house is located on property that was part of a 1723 land grant made to Frenchman, M. Barbier.
The property on which the Metoyer Town House was built was part of a 1723 land grant made to a Frenchman, Monsieur Barbier, and his wife. This grant, which extended from Bayou Amulet to what is now Touline Street, was one of the earliest in Natchitoches. One of Barbier’s duties was to serve as the Customs Officer, of “Douanier.” The Custom House was located on the Customs Corner, the present site of this home. This original land grant was recorded on Broutin’s map of Natchitoches, dated 1732.
In 1781, Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer claimed the five-acre portion of this property on which the Metoyer Town house was built circa 1850. In his forties, Metoyer had accumulated quite a fortune and needed a family to whom he could legally bequeath his wealth. In 1788, he married the widow Pavie, Marie Therese Buard, and of this marriage, three French children were born. It was their youngest son Francois Benjamin whose family were the original owners of this home.
Benjamin Metoyer and his wife, Marie Aurore Lambre, frequently referred to as “Madame Ben,” had twelve children who married into prominent families in this area. “Madame Ben” wonders abundant acreage on the Côte Joyeuse came to town on feast days and for various celebrations; therefore the well-to-do maintained country and town houses. A slave lived in the back quarters and cared for these houses when the families were in the country. Benjamin Metoyer died in 1845; Marie Aurore lived 32 years as a widow until her death in 1877. It is possible that this structure was begun before Benjamin’s death. Amelie Metoyer, their youngest daughter, married Winter Wood Breazeale and was the last Metoyer to won the home.
Cora Lee Henry, whose grandfather bought the house in 1885 from Amelie Metoyer Breazeale, wrote on the back of an original photograph of the house that it was built in 1850 by Triscini and Soldini for the Metoyer family at a cost of $17,000. The original roof was slate and was brought from England at a cost of $1,500.
The Metoyer Town House is a typical two-story Late Greek Revival house, with French influence. The house was extensively remodeled in the early 1900’s in a “Mission Bungaloid” manner: the open verandah was enclosed, the roof was made to project out at the gables, a coating of rough stucco was applied overt the original masonry. However, its original mass, many openings, and stair hall were preserved.
The original plan of the house, which encompasses approximately 7000 square feet, consisted of a center stair hall with three rooms on the left and, on the right, a double parlor which opened onto a back gallery. A unique aspect of the plan is that each first floor room had a glass-paneled door giving access to the street or yard.
Dr. and Mrs. Steve M. Brown, III, bought the house in 1974. All rooms on the first floor, except the hall, were cleared down to the brick and ceiling joists; certain areas of the masonry were left exposed in the remodeling of the interior. The restoration of the home’s exterior involved removing the enclosed front porch, rebuilding the verandah, replacing the columns and the grillwork banister and removing the overhang of the roof. The stucco was not removable; therefore, it was repaired and painted.
Location - Rue Beauport on the Cane Riverbank in downtown Natchitoches
This quaint old home is one of the most accessible examples the Creole style of French architecture in the Cane River area. Post in the ground, hipped roof, encircling gallery and central chimney exemplify this distinctive style of architecture. Constructed in typical French colonial fashion with hand-hewn cypress and a bousillage fill (a mixture of mud, Spanish moss and animal hair, much like adobe), the structure was topped with an oversize roof of durable cypress shingles. The overhanging roof forms a gallery around the house’s exterior. A close inspection of the house reveals the craftsmanship used in its jointing; it contained no nails.
The house has three original rooms and the plank lean-to in the rear, which was added as a tool shed. The room on the left was used as the parents’ bedroom and could be subdivided by partitions to provide sleeping space for the children. The middle room was the kitchen, children’s bedroom and visiting room. The pantry or storage room was the small room on the right. The double fireplace contains some of the original bricks, but many were broken in transit when the house was moved from its original site to its present location in 1967.
It is called the “Roque House” after its last residential occupant, Madame Aubert Roque, a newlywed, who moved into the house with her new husband. She was the granddaughter of Augustin Metoyer of the Isle Brevelle community, just south of Natchitoches. The house history has been traced to the year 1803, when a 60-year old freedman of color named Yves, but called Pacale, built the house where he owned 91 acres of land on Cane River, about 22 miles south of Natchitoches. Pacale died in 1818. Madame Roque acquired the home and occupied it until she died in October 1941. After her death, the house was used for storing hay until a local preservation group acquired the house, moved it, and began restoration work.
In the 1920’s, New Orleans author, William Spratling wrote the following description of the house and its owner: “Madame Aubert lived rather humbly in a small house of mud and half-timber which was built in the 18th century by some of her French forebears. All her life she had lived here on the Isle Brevelle…In front of bit of provincial France, an old fashioned garden, variously colorful, lay within the confines of a lichen-covered and battered fence of split palings. Madam Aubert, throwing open the blue-green shutter of the front of the house, hastened down to meet us.”
Taylor-Cook (Steel Magnolia House)
Location - 320 Jefferson Street
The Cook-Taylor House (Steel Magnolias House) Written history of this home states that it was originally built in the 1840’s by Italian architects, Trizini and Soldini, and was built for Louis Dupleix as a store. An earlier writer of Natchitoches history, J. H. Cosgrove, referred to it as a ”great business spot” and during the Civil War, it has been said it was used as a hospital. In the early 1900’s Mr. Jackson L. Bryan moved the home from its original location next to the sidewalk to where it now stands. The more recent claim to fame of this historic home is the on-site filming of much of the movie, ”Steel Magnolias”. Many of the scenes from the movie were filmed in the home and in the grand gardens, adding popularity to this already significantly historic home and quickly making it the “most photographed“ home in town Notable features include the circular brick columns along the facade of the home. Original wood floors, grand staircase, and antique In 2003, Karen and Paul Rinehart purchased the home, and it became the Steel Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast.
History And Culture
From early Native American Indian inhabitants to the French explorers and priests to the American arrival in the early-1800s, Natchitoches has lived through hundreds of years. We came into the United States in 1812 and to this day the Indian, French, Creole, African American and Anglo cultures mix their cultures, traditions, and talents, and yet they remain distinct.
Explore the history of Natchitoches Parish and discover the stories of the people of Cane River Country.
The Adaes (Atais, Atayos) were a Caddoan tribe inhabiting the Red River area north of the site of present Natchitoches, Louisiana. In 1699 Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville called them Natao. San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes Mission was established for them in 1716, destroyed in 1719, and restored in 1721. The Adaes were also found at San Francisco de los Tejas Mission. John R. Swanton said the Adaes spoke a divergent dialect and seemed to have had a more primitive culture than the other Caddoan tribes of the area.
MÉZI&EGRAVE;RES, ATHANASE DE (1719-1779)
Athanase de Mézières y Clugny, the son of Louis Christophe de Mézières and Marie Antoinette Clugny, was born to nobility in Paris and was baptized on March 26, 1719. His career as an infantryman in Louisiana began in the early 1730s. Over the next thirty years he served as ensign, lieutenant, and captain. In the 1740s he was assigned to the French outpost at Natchitoches, where in 1746 he married Marie Petronille Feliciane de St. Denis, the daughter of Louis Juchereau and Manuela Sánchez Navarro de St. Denis.qqv This brief marriage ended with the death of Marie in 1748, and Mézières later married Pelagie Fazende.
On September 15, 1763, shortly after Louisiana had passed from French to Spanish control, he was discharged from the infantry. Like many Frenchmen in Louisiana, he offered his services to Spain, and in late 1769 Alejandro O’Reilly appointed him as lieutenant governor of Natchitoches. Mézières, skilled in Latin, French, and Spanish as well as in several Indian languages, embarked on an extraordinary career as Spanish agent to the Indians of northern Texas. In 1770 he carried out the first of several expeditions to the Red River, and in the following year he successfully negotiated treaties with the Kichais, Tawakonis, and Taovayas, and by their proxy, with the Tonkawas. In 1778 Bernardo de Gálvez,qv governor of Louisiana, released Mézières for additional services in Texas, where he was to forge an alliance among the Spanish, Comanches, and Norteños against the Apaches. To this end Mézières traveled extensively over the course of a year-to the new town of Bucareli,qv to the Red River, and even to New Orleans. En route between Los Adaesqv and Nacogdoches, he suffered a serious head injury when thrown from his horse. After convalescence, he continued on to San Antonio, where he arrived in September 1779. In the capital he learned of his appointment as governor of Texas. But Mézières, some sixty years of age, remained gravely ill and did not assume office. He had one child by his first wife and eight by his second. He died at San Antonio on November 2, 1779, having never fully recovered from being unhorsed, and the proposed general alliance with the Comanches and Norteños was never realized.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed. and trans., Athanase de Mézières and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1768-1780 (2 vols., Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark, 1914). Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519-1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992).
Donald E. Chipman
The term “Creole” comes from a Spanish word meaning “born of the New World.” It was a label to sort colonials and their culture from that of native Europeans. The ensuing mix of cultures and races in the New World made them unique - it made them Creole.
John James Audubon was a white French Créole
By the 1780s, such a Creole community began on the Red River. A place of rich alluvial lands, covered with dense hardwood forests, it was already being transformed into a series of plantations by the eighteenth century. Families with mixed French, Spanish, Indian, and African roots were building homes, a church, and families - a true Creole way of life. The island trapped between Cane River Lake and Bayou Brevelle, was named for a French trader and his Caddo Indian wife.
Gumbo is a feature of Cajun and Louisiana Creole cuisine.
Louisiana Creole cuisine is recognized as a unique style of cooking originating in New Orleans, which makes use of the same Holy trinity (in this case chopped celery, bell peppers, and onions) as Cajun cuisine, but has a large variety of European, French, Caribbean, African, and American influences.
Gumbo is a traditional Creole dish. It was created in New Orleans by the French attempting to make bouillabaisse in the New World. The Spanish contributed onions, peppers, and tomatoes; the Africans contributed okra, where the dish gets its name due to the popularity of the vegetable in the stew; the Indians contributed filé, or ground sassafras leaves; and later the Italians blasted it with garlic. The Germans contributed potato salad as a side and even started the practice of eating gumbo with a scoop of potato salad in it. The Germans also dominated the french bread industry in New Orleans and brought the practice of eating gumbo with buttered french bread. The French gave the roux to the stew and spices from the Caribbean, and over time it became less of a bouillabaisse and more of what is called gumbo. It is a stew consisting of, but can vary depending on the family, seafood gumbo(shrimp, crab, sausage, and oyster) or chicken sausage gumbo(chicken, sausage), and all contain the "Holy Trinity" and are served over rice. It is often seasoned with filé by Cajuns and Creoles all over Louisiana.
History reveals that "Gumbo" (Gombô, in Louisiana Creole, Gombo, in Louisiana French) was the word used in West and Central Africa for the okra plant. Okra is from regions of Africa, and parts of the Middle East and Spain. The use of the word gombo was used to name the stew, due to its popularity for thickening the mixture before the roux was used. Thus, the stew was named Gumbo, because of the French accent used after first hearing Africans call Okra "Gombo", as in a shortening of the word kilogombó or kigambó, and guingambó or quinbombó, in West African.
Jambalaya with chicken, sausage, rice, tomatoes, celery, and spices.
Jambalaya is the second in line of fame of Louisiana Creole dishes. It finds its origin in the original European city sector of New Orleans (the French Quarter, or Vieux Carré, in colonial days), and combines ham with sausage, rice and tomato. Today, jambalaya is prepared two ways: in New Orleans and its immediate environment, in parts of Iberia Parish, as well as in parts of St. Martin Parish, jambalaya is red, and has for its base tomato, but owes its color also to the use of shrimp stock. Cajuns, generally speaking, prepare a "brown jambalaya", which is roux based with tasso. Jambalaya can combine chicken, sausage, and fresh shrimp tails; or chicken and tasso.
Creole music from the nineteenth century is represented in Slave Songs of the United States, first published in 1867. The final seven songs in that work are printed with melody along with text in French creole. These and many others were sung at plantations, especially in St. Charles Parish, and at Congo Square in New Orleans.
Jazz, born in New Orleans sometime around the turn of the twentieth century, is the first local Black Creole music to be popularized.
Amédé Ardoin, A Black Creole, made the first audio recordings of Zydeco music in 1928
.Zydeco (a transliteration in English of 'zaricô' (Snapbeans) from the song, "Les haricots sont pas salés"), born in Cajun and Black Creole communities on the prairies of southwest Louisiana in the 1920s, is considered by many, if not most, as the Black Creole music of Louisiana. Zydeco purportedly hails from "Là-là", a genre of music now defunct, and old south Louisiana jurés. As Cajun French was the lingua franca of the prairies of southwest Louisiana, zydeco was initially sung only in Creole or French. Later, Creole-speaking Black Creoles, such as the Chénier brothers, Rosie Lédet and others, added a new linguistic element to zydeco music. Today, most of zydeco's new generation sings in English or Cajun French with a few in Louisiana Creole French.
Zydeco is related to Swamp Pop, American Blues, Jazz, and Cajun music. An instrument unique to zydeco is a form of washboard called the frottoir, or scrub board, a vest made of corrugated aluminum, and played by working bottle openers or caps up and down the length of the vest.
Slave Songs of the United States was a collection of African American music, published in 1867. It was the first, and most influential, collection of spirituals to be published; the collectors were Northern abolitionists, William Francis Allen, Lucy McKim Garrison and Charles Pickard Ware. It is a "milestone not just in African American music but in modern folk history". It is also the first published collection of African American music of any kind.
The music of the Blacks contained the flavor of eighteenth century Branch because as slaves, they were exposed to minuets, waltzes, polkas, operas, concerts, and ceremonial music. The African and Caribbean rhythms of their recent past also influenced their music.
Creole music lacks the emotional depth of the spirituals and blues, those outshoots of the Afro-American experience. But although Creole music occupies a different emotional plane, it also shares a bond with the music of American blacks: the bond of all blacks transported to American shores. . . Music and religion are intimately linked in black culture. . . Afro-Christian music was virtually unknown among Creole slaves. No attempt was made to "Africanize" the Catholic liturgical music, and the voodoo chants retained their original African character. . . The disassociation between sacred and profane music that we find among the Creole slaves is unique and surely attributable to their French Catholic heritage. (Crété, p. 139)
In addition, Black Creole music consisted of rounds, love songs, ballads, and laments. Improvisation was extremely important in this music.
Marcus Brinkmann-Slave Songs PDF File Link Click Here
Louisiana Regional Folklife Program, Region 2: Louisiana Division of the Arts and Northwestern State University.
For more information on the Cane River Creole Community visit CaneRiverHeritage.org
There were three general groups that made up Creole society: 1) whites who were Creoles, Americans, and inhabitants of European origin made up the highest class; 2) free Blacks, emancipated slaves and their descendants made up the middle class; and 3) slaves who were household property, were the lowest class. The Creoles were the majority of the white population. They had a complex social organization which included foreign groups such as Germans, Irish, and Spaniards whose names were given a French accent.
The people who could trace their noble ancestors called themselves “Creole.” Others were “chacas” or tradesmen, “chacalatas” or countryfolk (peasants), or “chacumas” for anyone with Black blood. All Creoles, no matter what level of society they were in, including slaves, looked down on the Americans.
El Camino Real
The Royal Road - El Camino Real
Runs roughly from the banks of the Red River on Highway 21 to San Antonio. It is also called the Old San Antonio Road. Roughly from Ft. St.Jean Baptiste des Natchitoches, Louisiana to Nacogdoches, Texas then through Bryan to San Antonio and on to San Juan Bautista, Presidio del Norte (Saint Jean Baptiste, Fort of the North) in Guerrero, Mexico, this route was built upon earlier Indian trade routes. The same route would have then followed into Saltillo, Mexico and beyond.
"The Royal Road","The Kings Highway", Old San Antonio Highway
The road was described as a ‘hard-beaten path as wide as any in Europe’ when the Europeans first came. After the coming of the Spanish and then the French, it became the trade route of the French and Spanish in modern-day Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. From San Antonio to San Diego, California and another El Camino Real- The King’s Highway runs to Mexico City, the capitol.
Derbanne, François Guyon des Pres (1671-1734)
François Derbanne (d’Erbanne or d’Herbanne), a French Canadian who explored the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers and was prominent in early Mobile and Natchitoches, is most often noted for his trek across Texas in 1717, of which he wrote an account. He was born at Quebec on February 6, 1671, and was with Le Sueur in his search for minerals on the upper Mississippi in 1698-99. He took part in the exploration of the upper Missouri in 1706. By 1710 he had moved to Dauphin Island, adjacent to Mobile Bay, where he had charge of Antoine Crozat’s company warehouse. In 1716 he was at the forefront of Bienville’s campaign against the Natchez Indians.
Later that year, when Louis Juchereau de Saint Denisqv returned to Mobile from his first journey to San Juan Bautistaqv and Mexico City, Derbanne became his partner for contraband trade with the Spaniards. With merchandise from Crozat’s storehouses, destined for sale in Nuevo León, the traders left Mobile in canoes on October 10, 1716, for the Natchitoches Indian villages on the Red River. They carried the merchandise thence on mules that had brought from Coahuila the effects of the six new Spanish missions of eastern Texas.
The traders spent two months among the Hasinai (Tejas) Indians, for whom the Spaniards were building missions. The journey from there to San Juan Bautista (Guerrero, Coahuila) extended from March 22 to April 21, 1717, on a route slightly at variance with the Spanish Camino Real (see OLD SAN ANTONIO ROAD). Derbanne’s “Relation” is a valuable account of the country, the flora and fauna, and Indian demographics. It also reflects the geographical understanding of the time. From a commercial point of view, the trip was a disappointment, as Derbanne saw scant prospects for a lucrative trade because of the distance and Spanish opposition. He and the other partners left San Juan Bautista on September 1 and returned to Dauphin Island on October 26, 1717.
In January of that year Derbanne took up residence at Natchitoches, where he managed the Company of the West’s warehouse at Ft. St.Jean Baptiste, acquired land and slaves, and became the second wealthiest resident. He had married Jeanne de La Grand Terre, who is believed to have been a Natchitoches Indian. They had six children. After some years there Derbanne wrote his “Relation du poste des Natchitoches,” dated June 12, 1724. He died in 1734 in New Orleans and presumably was buried there. His wife died two years later and was buried at Natchitoches.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Katherine Bridges and Winston De Ville, trans. and eds., “Natchitoches and the Trail to the Rio Grande: Two Early Eighteenth Century Accounts by the Sieur Derbanne,” Louisiana History 8 (Summer 1967). Jay Higginbotham, Old Mobile: Fort Louis de la Louisiane, 1703-1711 (Mobile, Alabama: Museum of the City of Mobile, 1977).
Robert S. Weddle
Juchereau St. Denis(1674-1744)
Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, the eleventh of twelve children of Nicolas Juchereau and Marie Thérèse Giffard, was born near Quebec on September 17, 1674. It appears that his parents were able to send him to France for further education. In late 1699, St. Denis sailed from La Rochelle to Louisiana on the second expedition of Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, his relative by marriage. In Louisiana St. Denis commanded a fort on the Mississippi River and another at Biloxi Bay. He also carried out important explorations to the west of the bay and upstream, where he ascended the lower Red River. These journeys brought him into contact with Karankawa and Caddo Indians and taught him invaluable lessons on how to cope in wilderness areas. In response to a letter received from Father Francisco Hidalgo,qv the French governor of Louisiana, Antoine de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, dispatched St. Denis and a company of men from Mobile in September 1713. The Canadianborn adventurer reached the Natchitoches villages in that same year and left some of his goods for safekeeping. From Natchitoches he traveled to lands of the Hasinai Indians and thence to Spanish outposts on the Rio Grande. At San Juan Bautista,qv Commander Diego Ramónqv placed St. Denis under a pleasant house arrest while awaiting instructions from Mexico City on what to do with an foreigner bearing goods banned by Spanish mercantile restrictions. In the interim, the Frenchman used the occasion to court and win a promise of marriage from Ramón’s beautiful granddaughter, Manuela Sánchez (see ST. DENIS, MANUELA S. N. DE). After being ordered to Mexico City, St. Denis defended himself ably and was appointed as commissary officer of the Ramón expedition,qv charged with founding Spanish missionsqv in East Texas.
After returning to San Juan Bautista, St. Denis married Manuela, probably in early 1716, and he subsequently participated in the founding of six missions and a presidio in East Texas during the years 1716-17. In April 1717 he returned to San Juan Bautista with a sizable amount of merchandise. But whereas he had been well received on his first visit, the death of Louis XIV and the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession had ended the era of FrancoSpanish cooperation. When sent to Mexico City for a second time, St. Denis fled the capital to avoid being hauled to Spain as a prisoner. He made his way to Natchitoches by February 1719. In 1721 Spanish officials permitted his wife to join him, and the couple spent their remaining years at the French Ft. St.Jean Baptiste on the Red River. From his command at Natchitoches, St. Denis was often a troublesome thorn for Spanish Texas.qv Controversy continues to surround his motives and actions. He insisted that his marriage to Manuela Sánchez indicated a desire to become a Spanish subject; suspicious Spaniards, however, saw him as a covert agent of France. His accomplishments are indisputable: St. Denis contributed to the expanded geographical knowledge of both France and Spain, brought Spanish and French settlements into close proximity, and made contraband trade a way of life on the borders of Spanish Texas and French Louisiana. On January 10, 1743, he wrote to Jean Frédéric Phélypeaux, Comte de Maurepas, at Versailles indicating that he could no longer perform his duties as commandant of Natchitoches. He also asked permission to retire to New Spain with his wife and children. That request was denied. St. Denis died at Natchitoches on June 11, 1744. He was survived by his wife and four or five children, one of whom was married briefly to Athanase de Mézières.qv
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519-1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Durand Collection, Eugene P. Watson Library, Natchitoches, Louisiana. Ross Phares, Cavalier in the Wilderness: The Story of the Explorer and Trader Louis Juchereau de St. Denis (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1952). Robert S. Weddle, The French Thorn: Rival Explorers in the Spanish Sea, 1682-1762 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991).
Donald E. Chipman and Patricia R. Lemée
Manuela St. Denis
Manuela Sanchez Navarro De St. Denis (1697-1758)
Manuela Sánchez Navarro y Gomes Mascorro, the daughter of Diego Sánchez Navarro y Camacho and Mariana Gomes Mascorro y Garza, was baptized in Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico, in 1697. Despite never having lived in Texas, she figures as prominently as any other woman in the early history of the region. Her paternal grandmother, Feliciana Camacho y Botello, was married first to Diego Sánchez and afterward to Commandant Diego Ramón.qv When Louis Juchereau de St. Denisqv arrived on July 19, 1714, at San Juan Bautistaqv Presidio (at the site of present-day Guerrero, Coahuila), Ramón placed him under house arrest in compliance with a 1713 viceregal order prohibiting entry of foreign traders or their merchandise into Spanish territory. Word of the Frenchman’s presence was forwarded to the viceroy, who did not respond until the following March. During the intervening months of St. Denis’s detention he became engaged to Manuela. News of the impending union reached the viceroy in Mexico City before St. Denis arrived there to face charges and defend himself. He no doubt knew his engagement to Manuela would enhance the chances for his successful outcome in Mexico, since the viceroy knew that Manuela was directly descended from several of the military, political, and financial elite of New Spain. After St. Denis’s exoneration, on August 22, 1715, the general junta appointed him conductor of supplies for the planned Ramón expeditionqv to Texas. Under the command of Domingo Ramón,qv the commandant’s son, the 1716 expedition was instructed to reestablish Spanish missionsqv in East Texas. This expedition was the first step in permanent Spanish occupation of lands northeast of the Rio Grande.
The year of Manuela’s departure from New Spain to join her husband is uncertain. Whether she joined him first in Mobile, Alabama, or Natchitoches, Louisiana, also is a unknown. Earliest census records for Poste St. Jean Baptiste des Natchitoches, where St. Denis assumed command in 1721, indicate that the first two of the couple’s children were born in New Spain. Manuela could have joined St. Denis in the French colony as early as 1719 but no later than 1721. They eventually had two sons and five daughters, including Marie Petronille Feliciane, who married Athanase de Mézièresqv on April 18, 1746. Whatever problems existed to keep St. Denis out of New Spain, they were resolved by 1743. In January of that year he wrote the French crown requesting permission to resign his command at Natchitoches, retire from the crown’s service and, with his wife and minor children, move to New Spain. Months later his request to retire was granted, but his request to move to New Spain was denied. To compensate him for the rebuff, the French crown assured St. Denis that his children would be placed as advantageously as possible in the royal service. St. Denis died in Natchitoches on June 11, 1744. Manuela, a widow at age forty-seven with three or four minor children, remained in Natchitoches. She continued to live in the house St. Denis built for her on property now occupied by the campus of Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She died in Natchitoches on April 16, 1758. The St. Denis children and their families played significant roles in the continuing development of Texas, Louisiana, and New Spain.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Eugene P. Watson Library Archives, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana. Eugenio del Hoyo, Historia del Nuevo Reino de León, 1557-1723 (Monterrey, 1972). Immaculate Conception Church Archives, Natchitoches, Louisiana. Monclova Baptismal Records, Latter-day Saints Microfilm Library. Max L. Moorhead, The Presidio: Bastion of the Spanish Borderlands (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).
Meaning of Natchitoches
Legend and local “historians” have for many years erroneously interpreted the word “natchitoches” as “chinqapin” or “chinqapin eaters”. The most accurate translation however, is believed to be as recorded by John R. Swanton in his early book “The Indian Tribes of North America”.
“The word “Natchitoches” is generally supposed to be derived from “nashitosh”, the native word for pawpaw, but an early Spanish writer, Jose Antonio Pichardo, was told that it was from a native word “nacicit” signifying “a place where the soil is the color of red ochre,” and that it was applied originally to a small creek in their neighborhood running through red soil.”
The Indian Tribes of North America by John R. Swanton
Melrose Location -
Marie Thérèze Coin-Coin, an enslaved woman, and Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, her French owner had many children together after Coin-Coin was freed. On land acquired by land grants, the Yucca House and the African House was built. The Yucca House remained the large structure on the plantation until 1833 when the main house, known as Melrose, was built.
After 1884, Melrose Plantation became a hub of art and education under the ownership of John Hampton Henry and “Miss” Cammie Garrett Henry. Miss Cammie, as she became known, made Melrose a haven for artists and writers.
At the time there was a field hand and cook at Melrose who also became known as a renowned artist. Clementine Hunter, one of the south’s most primitive artists, began painting the people, life, and scenes of Cane River. Hunter was in her 50’s when she began painting and continued until a few months before her death in 1988. Clementine is Louisiana’s most famous folk artist, and her paintings are on display at the plantation.
Phone - (318) 379-0055
Frenchie's Bar, Melrose, 1944
Melrose is an unincorporated community in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, including the Melrose Plantation and surrounding area, on Louisiana Highway 119. In addition to the historic plantation, the Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Heritage Area encompass the Melrose area.
Melrose is part of the Natchitoches Micropolitan Statistical Area.
Melrose Planation “According to the tradition preserved by her descendants, Marie Therese Coincoin was the recipient of the grant of land known as Melrose Plantation.”
The legend of Marie Therese Coincoin is not just the story of a woman but the story of a family grounded in African tradition, mellowed by French culture, this family developed in the briefest span of years into one of the unique societies in American history, a culture so distinct, so close-knit, that they have always termed themselves “The People.” According to legend, it was here that the story began …
History of Melrose
The Melrose story begins with Marie Therese Coincoin, a slave born in 1742 eventually she was sold to a Frenchmen, Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, in time Metoyer freed Marie Therese and ten Franco-African children. Evidence points to Metoyer as the Father of these children. Marie Therese and son Louis Metoyer received large grants of land including the present Melrose plantation. Marie Therese and her sons would eventually build Yucca House (c.1796) the colonial residence, African House (c.1800) slave-fort and provision house, Big House (c.1833). Early Louisiana plantation home. Marie Therese and her children purchased slaves to help in clearing the land, and cultivating indigo, tobacco, corn, cotton, and raising cattle. Marie Therese would see her children and grandchildren live prosperous lives, owners of thousands of acres of land and numerous slaves.
After the Civil War and years of southern reconstruction Melrose became the home of John and Cammie Henry in 1898. Under “Miss Cammie’s” influence Melrose became a colony for artists and writers. Many would live in restored buildings from the plantations’ colonial past. Miss Cammie’s guests included Lyle Saxon, William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Alexander Woolcott, Harnett T. Kane and Rachel Field, and many of their works were conceived or written while at Melrose.
It was at Melrose that Clementine Hunter worked as a plantation field hand and cook for the Henry family. Clementine was about 50 years of age when she began to paint scenes of plantation life in the late 1930’s, and continued to paint until a few months before her death in 1988 at the age of 101. Today Clementine is Louisiana’s most famous folk artist and her works are on display at Melrose. In 1970 the Henry family sold the plantation at auction, the Southdown Land Co. purchased the plantation and donated the buildings and the immediate land to the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches.
THE BIG HOUSE (c.1833): Early Louisiana type plantation home. It was begun by Louis Metoyer, completed by his son. The Henrys added the garconnieres.
YUCCA HOUSE (c.1796): The original colonial residence. The sills and uprights are of virgin cypress, the walls of mud mixed with moss and deer hair. Yucca has housed more of America’s notable authors and historians than any other single residence in the South.
THE AFRICAN HOUSE (c.1800): The slave-fort and provision house. Its lower story is of brick baked on the place , while the upper story is fashioned from thick the upper story is fashioned from thick hand-hewn cypress slabs. The walls of the upper story are entirely covered with Clementine Hunter creations.
THE WEAVING HOUSE: Cabin restored in 1973 in memory of Mrs. Nettie Hubier Russell by her daughter.
THE WRITER’S CABIN
GHANA: Cabin that originated, probably, on Metoyer land. It is generally believed to be almost as old as the other colonial buildings.
Owner: The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches. Title conveyed by Southdown Land Company in 1971.
The Metoyer Family
The threads of the Melrose story — a legend based on fact — go back to Marie Therese Coincoin, a slave born (in 1742) into the household of St. Denis, first Commandant of the post at Natchitoches. She became the founder of a large family, four of whom were black, the remaining ten of Franco-African lineage. Her son Augustin is the “Grandpere” to whom Cane River descendants trace their ancestry, and so to Marie Therese.
After the deaths of St. Denis and his widow, Marie Therese and her Franco-African children were sold to Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a Frenchman. Evidence points to Metoyer as the father of these children. In 1780 Metoyer freed her, and eventually he freed all her enslaved Metoyer children.
Metoyer deeded to Marie Therese a small grant of land. A larger grant on Old River was made to her in the name of the Spanish king. And in 1796, her son Louis obtained a large grant, the present Melrose Plantation , which presumably, Marie Therese held for Louis until he was free and thereby permitted to own property. Other sons were established on their own tracts.
Melrose historian Francois Mignon wrote, “Among other sterling attributes, Marie Therese was endowed with unusual energy and intelligence. This resourceful women, her sons, and her slaves worked valiantly, clearing the land, cultivating tobacco, corn, and other crops, raising cattle, to achieve a successful plantation operation.”
Marie Therese did not forget her black children. This remarkable woman worked to purchase the freedom of two of her black children and at least one of her grandchildren. She lived past the age of 73, to see her grandchildren prosperous and living good lives.
The Henry Years
Africa HouseThe second part of the story of Melrose revolves around another remarkable woman, Cammie Garrett Henry, wife of John Hampton Henry. According to Mignon, “When the Henrys moved to Melrose in 1898, "Miss Cammie" was brimming over with energy and enthusiasm that centered on bringing Melrose back to its former beauty and making it a repository of local arts and crafts, history, and legend.
“It was a fabulous program Miss Cammie laid out for herself — maintaining an extensive household, replanting and extending the Melrose gardens, rescuing the colonial buildings, accumulating a library, reviving local handicrafts. Less fortunate neighbors of color had to be looked after. Journal of old days, portraits, heirlooms, had to be preserved. A collection of scrapbooks had to be increased.”
The plantation became a Mecca for artists and writers — Roark Bradford, Rachel Field, Rose Franken, William Spratling, Harnett Kane, Gwen Bristow, Alberta Kinsey, among others. Here Lyle Saxon wrote his Children of Strangers. Here Clementine Hunter, Louisiana’s most celebrated primitive artist, worked and received encouragement to paint her scenes of plantation life. Here also, lived Francois Mignon, author of Plantation Memo, who arrived for a six-week visit and stayed thirty-two years. After Mrs. Henry’s death, Mignon furthered the cultivation of the gardens and helped foster the arts and crafts to which she had devoted her life.
Kate Chopin House
In 1899, Kate Chopin published what is considered her finest work — The Awakening. Yet because of its controversial nature, the novel was met with shock and outrage. The reaction prompted Kate’s gradual withdrawal from writing and contributed to her much delayed entry into the halls of literary fame. A master storyteller, she was 75 years ahead of her time…
Kate Chopin Portrait
History of Chopin House
Kate Chopin 1851 - 1904
In 1899, Kate Chopin published what was considered her finest work – The Awakening. Yet because of it’s controversial nature, the novel was met with shock and outrage. The reaction prompted Kate’s gradual withdrawal from writing and contributed to her much delayed entry into the halls of literary fame.
A master storyteller, she was 75 years ahead of her time. Kate O’Flaherty was born in St. Louis in 1851. Brought up by three generations of widows, she was strong and self-reliant. At the age 19, she married the man she loved, a French-Creole from Louisiana, Oscar Chopin. They settled down in New Orleans to a comfortable life and happy marriage. Oscar encouraged Kate’s independent, if somewhat unconventional nature.
She smoked, rode horses, and explored the streets of New Orleans alone. But by all accounts, Kate was also a faithful, loving wife and mother – charming, gracious, and witty. The Chopin’s pleasant city existence ended in 1879, however, when Oscar’s business failed. The family moved to his family’s plantation in Cloutierville and quickly settled into the society of Cane River country.
For four years, Oscar ran the plantation and general store, and Kate raised their children. In 1882, their life abruptly changed again, when Oscar died of swamp fever. Kate was left, at 31, with six children under twelve. For over a year she managed the plantation and store, finally yeilding to her mother’s pressure to return to St. Louis. Her mother died the following year.
Kate survived the next difficult years with the support of her remaining family and numerous friends and with a comfortable income from her mother’s and husband’s estates. In 1889, encouraged by friends, she published her first poem, and her writing career was launched. Many of her works first appeared in periodicals such as Vogue, Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s Young People, and were later published as collections.
Kate’s stories and poems reflected her open, independent nature. Many were drawn from memories of better times in New Orleans and the recollections of the bayou folks of Natchitoches Parish. When Kate published The Awakening in 1899, she was 48 at the time of her creativity and popularity. Her daring story described a woman’s sexuality and desire for self-fulfillment. She may have had some idea of the reaction her novel would cause in Victorian America, but she was hardly prepared for the total censure it brought. In St. Louis and other cities, the book was condemned and banned from public libraries. Many of Kate’s friends and acquaintances shunned her, and her regular publisher rejected a third collection of short stories without comment.
Chopin House Mural
In 1904, two days after a visit to the St. Louis World’s Fair, Kate Chopin died of a brain hemmorage. Her literary reputation lay tarnished and her writings almost forgotten. Not until many years after her death did she receive the recognition and acclaim she ahd long deserved. The first Kate Chopin biography was published in 1932 by Father Daniel Rankin. Twenty years later, a French translation of The Awakening appeared, followed by the first English reissue in 1964. In 1969, Norwegian Per Seyersted wrote wrote Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography and The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, both were published by Louisiana State University Press. A British edition of The Awakening appeared in 1978, followed by several other editions. In 1979, Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches published Seyersted and Toth’s third book, A Kate Chopin Miscellany.
Interest in Kate’s work continues to grow. Today she is acclaimed not only as a great woman writer but also as a classic nineteenth century American storyteller.
The Kate Chopin Home in Cloutierville was established in 1965 by Mildred McCoy as the Bayou Folk Museum and is now owned by the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches. The house built by Alexis Cloutier in early eighteen hundreds. Located on Hwy 1 twenty miles south of Natchitoches, LA.