Explore the Magic of Natchitoches, Louisiana and Its Alluring History Thursday, Dec 29 2011 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN

Bust of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis

“The Renomee, Frigate of King Louis XIV’s navy, floated ghostlike through veils of fog toward the mysterious, broken shore line.  The captain, Pierre La Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, called a junior officer to his side at starboard. The younger officer was the captain’s cousin and uncle-in-law–a man who, like himself, bore a distinguished Canadian name–Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. The captain pointed a bold hand landward: ‘Louisiana!’, he announced with a ring in his voice. This was a magical word to Frenchmen, a will-o,-the wisp name that had become alluring but not quite real.”
 
{Ross Phares: “Cavalier in the Wilderness”,Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, 1976}
 
Louisiana retains its magical and alluring quality that attracted these adventurous French Canadians. We who live here may venture out to others places but there is something that beckons us to come home to Louisiana. St Denis found Louisiana to be a playground for brave and romantic hearts. He planted his life and destiny firmly in the rich soil of Louisiana. Except for brief periods, he was never to leave again. (“Cavalier in the Wilderness).
 
St. Denis found one place in Louisiana that has proven to be uniquely magical and attractive. It is the French Colonial City of Natchitoches. The founder of Natchitoches, St Denis first met the Natchitoches Indians in 1701. Flooding of the Red River in 1705 destroyed their crops. St Denis invited the tribe to move to an area he controlled near Lake Pontchartrain. The Natchitoches Indians returned his kindness by giving him tattoos from the tribe that permitted him to cultivate strong trade ties and also to summon numerous Indian warriors in times of great need.
 
The year 2012 marks the Bi-Centennial of the State of Louisiana. In future posts I will share some of the dates and events to be celebrated throughout the entire year.
 
Speaking of Natchitoches, Kathleen M. Byrd entitled her excellent book “Colonial Natchitoches: Outpost of Empires” (Xlibris Corporation, 2008). Indeed it was!
 
In 2014, this old French Indian trading post will celebrate its Tri-Centennial year. It promises to be a great opportunity to hear the story, live the magic of its diversity and celebrate the promise of an even greater future for this enchanted “City of Lights”. As the saying goes; “the rest is history”.
 

Bust of St. Denis, Red River in background

 
 
 
 
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Explore the Enchanting Mushroom House at Melrose Plantation Monday, Dec 26 2011 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

Francois Mignon

After visiting Melrose, Francois Mignon moved permanently there in the Fall of 1939.  From his papers we read about a Sunday morning (October 29) at Melrose.

“After coffee and mc (sic, much?) talk, Robina (Robina Denholm) and I decided to explore the gardens, visiting the famous old African musroom (sic, mushroom) house,–once used to encarcerate obstreperous slaves  in the old days when when the mulato (sic) Metoyer family owned Melrose. I was enchanted with Robina’s remark that she thought it good that the folks  there had the feeling of security sufficiently developed to dare bring this African item (the African House) from their distant past and blandly bring such architecture into being again”.

 

African House, MelroseMelrose Plantation, the Big House Managed by APHN

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Several obervations need to be made about Mignon’s comments.
 
First: Mignon seems to be the one who dubbed the African House with the name “The Mushroom House”. It does have an obvious resemblance to a mushroom. 
 
Secondly: Mignon gave no documentation in regard to the African House ever having been used as a jail for slaves. I have found no other source for this claim.
 
Thirdly: His use of the word “mulato” (sic) needs some comment. The Metoyer family would never use the word to describe themselves nor would I. The Metoyers are a proud Creole family with a marvelous heritage in the Cane River area of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. I regard this term as pejorative (derives from the Spanish word for “mule”) and refuse to use it. It appears here only as an accurate expression of usuage in the period in which Mignon lived and wrote.
 
Robina’s mark is true that the African House is an enchanting example from the “distant past”. The fascination is only enhanced by the fact that you can view the spectacular Clementine Hunter murals on the upper floor of the African House. Explore the enchanting mushroom house at Melrose Plantation.
 

African House Murals by Clementine Hunter

 
 

 
Melrose Plantation, the Big House Managed by APHN

Melrose Plantation welcomes you for a Tour you will always remember.

Group Tours by appointment only.
For more information or to schedule a Group Tour please call: 318-379-0055  

A National Historic Landmark, c.1796, Melrose is rich in Louisiana history. The complex contains nine           buildings including African House, Yucca House, Writer’s Cabin, Bindery and the Big House. Many authors,    historians and artists resided and worked here.

A collection of work by primitive artist Clementine Hunter is is available for viewing.

Located at 3533 State Hwy. 119 Melrose, Louisiana 

From Manhattan To Melrose Plantation Tuesday, Dec 20 2011 

Francois Mignon

Posted by Doyle Bailey for The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

Francois Mignon describes a journey he made by train from New York City to Melrose Plantation in Louisiana.  His paper is dated October 26, 1939.

“If you are going to Louisiana for the first time, a good way not to make it is by bee line from New York via Knoxville, Birmingham, etc..–especially in the month of November. It is like slipping surreptiously into Heaven by way of the back door, and so missing the full effect of the Pearly Portals and whatever Spanish moss may be entangled in Saint Peter’s beard–if any.”

Melrose Plantation, the Big House Managed by APHN

Arriving by train in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mignon was met by Robina, with whom he had exchanged many “pleasant letters” but whom he had never met. Turning off the main highway, Francois and Robina headed up the three mile lane that led to Melrose Plantation. Reaching the big house, they stopped by the side (west) gate. Francois writes:

“From out of nowhere good old Frank, the family houseman in overhalls (sic) came to greet us. We went into the big house and found that Aunt Cammie (Henry) was upstairs with her little grandson. When she heard us, however, she came flying down, and it filled me with extasy to find her just as I left her the year before, looking so good and so wholesome in her neat white waiste, black skirt and her luxurant white hair.”

Then with obvious tender affection, Francois states:

Cammie Henry as a young woman

“Somehow she made it seem as though I were a long lost child who had wandered too afield and was blessing me for having come back. Such is her remarkable spirit which brings so much happiness and cheer to so many.”

Miss Cammie had the gift of hospitality and made so many people, including artists, writers, travelers and guests feel that when they came to Melrose they had come home.

How nice it would be to have someone welcome us at the end of a long journey and make us feel special. Maybe this is at the heart of all we hope for at the end of our pilgrimage.

SOURCE: Francois Mignon Papers # 3889, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Come for your tour of Melrose Plantation and our professional guides will welcome you warmly and show you where Miss Cammie lived and the place that was so dear to Francois Mignon.

For more information regarding year-round tours please call (318) 379-0055 or

visit our website: http://aphnatchitoches.net

Clementine Hunter of Melrose Plantation and Her Wig Tuesday, Dec 6 2011 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for The Association for the Preservation of  Historic Natchitoches  (APHN)

Lyle Saxon, a frequent visitor to Melrose Plantation from 1923 until his death, tells of an interesting incident concerning Clementine Hunter. Chance  Harvey,  in her  excellent read-every  word  (and  enjoy)  book,  The Life  and  Selected  Letters  of  Lyle  Saxon  records  his account of Clementine and her wig.

According to Saxon, Clementine was jealous of the wig he had bought Victoria, another cook at Melrose Plantation. Clementine had owned a wig but it came to an unfortunate end when her husband, Manuel, snatched it from her head and flung it into the fire one night after she had sent him into a rage.

Saxon wrote of the incident and the fact it “may not seem like an international episode to you, but on the plantation it almost caused a revolution”.

Mr. Henry (Cammie’s husband), bought Clemance (Clementine) another wig, it too eventually disappeared.

When Victoria, wearing her wig, fell out of a swing and died of a concussion, she was laid to rest at a funeral that Cammie Henry and Lyle Saxon attended. Saxon concludes his chapter with a remark made by Cammie Henry:

“I wish I could open that coffin. I would like to look at Victoria once more. I am sure Clemance has stolen her wig”.

Clementine Hunter, lived and painted at Melrose

Visit historic Melrose Plantation and tour the site where Clementine lived and painted. See the impressive mural she painted in the African House.

Go here for more information [           ]

African House, Melrose

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Melrose Plantation, the Big House Managed by APHN