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Published: July 22nd 2017
Geo: 31.7277, -93.1531
The weather today was great. Cool when we started out but nice sunshine and the local temp was up to 66F by mid-day.
Our first stop was the Oakland Plantation which has 17 of the original buildings remaining. It is a National Historic Park and is one of only two such farms west of the Mississippi. There was a free tour of the main house and self-guided tour of the balance of the property.
Next stop was the Melrose Plantation. Only a few of the buildings - the main house, the Yucca House and the African House are original. The remaining buildings have been brought in over the years as the need for additional buildings to house artists and writers was needed and for many years it was an artists colony. The most famous painter was Clementine Hunter who was one of the South's premier primitive artists. Her house is located on the property. She died at the age of 101 and had been painting for 50 years. Today her work is very valuable and she is considered Louisiana's most famous folk artist. Her original role at the plantation was as a cook.
The history of the plantation is very interesting. Marie
Thérèze Coin-Coin, an enslaved woman and Claude Pierre Metoyer, her French owner had many children together. The land was acquired through land grants and the Yucca House was the first structure followed by the African House until the main house was built in 1833.
After 1884 the property was acquired by John Hampton Henry and Miss Cammie Garrett Henry and then became a haven for artist and writers.
There is a nominal $10 charge for a tour of the primary buildings. The tour was excellent.
We also visited the St. Augustine Church which was built on land provided by the Metoyer family who are buried in the church graveyard.
Our last stop was the Magnolia Plantation Complex. The main house is still a private residence owned by Betty Hertzog who is a descendent of the original LeComptes family.
These plantations are located a fair distance from town and the Red River was the primary mode of transportation. When the river changed its course it changed the economy of the plantations. Unlike what you see in the movies, life was not all that glamorous. These were working farms which were subject to droughts, floods, etc. they often farming activities included indigo, cotton, sugar cane, tobacco and
cattle. The cattle were on the ranges further from the river.
We returned to Natchitoches to visit the the house featured in the film "Steel Magniolas" as well as the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
This area is well worth a visit. We discovered there are many very pretty B & B's in town where we would have stayed if we had been aware of them.
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