A Servant Girl Who Became a Famous Artist Wednesday, Apr 4 2012 

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

Clementine Hunter  (pronounced Clementeen)

Possibly Louisiana’s most famous artist, Clementine Hunter, was born in 1886 at Hidden Hill Plantation. At the age of fifteen, Clementine and her father moved to the financially successful Melrose Plantation. Melrose had been acquired in 1898 by John and Carmelite (“Miss Cammie”) Henry. Miss Cammie turned Melrose into an artist colony that was a haven where artists and writers came to live and work. Clementine worked in the cotton fields and the pecan orchards.  When she was middle-aged, Miss Cammie brought Clementine into the Big House to cook and clean. Here she met a New Orleans artist, Alberta Kinsey, who inspired Clementine to paint. With no formal training, she produced colorful and from memory paintings. She depicted every day life on Melrose Plantation. In 1939, Francois Mignon arrived at Melrose.  Mignon  began a life-long encouragement and promotion of Clementine Hunter. Today the story of the servant girl who became a famous artist is known around the world.

Clementines’ paintings are:

  • recognized as a narrative of plantation life during the time before grueling labor in the fields was replaced by mechanization. 
  • considered the works of one the most important self-taught American artists of the 20th century.
  • shown at the Smithsonian Institution, The Museum of American Folk Art and countless other museums and private collections around the world.

Clementine Hunter died on January 1, 1988 at the age of 101


  • She was the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Delgado Museum (now the New Orleans Museum of Art)  achieved a significant amount of success during her lifetime, including 
  • an invitation to the White House from U.S. President Jimmy Carter (which she declined).
  • Radcliffe College included Hunter in its “Black Women Oral History Project, published in 1980.
  • Northwestern State University of Louisiana granted her an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 1986.
One of the more well-known displays of Hunter’s artwork is located in a storage building called “African House” on the grounds of Melrose Plantation. (African House is often referred to as slave quarters, however the building was built for, and always used for storage.) The walls are covered in a mural Hunter painted.
Visit Melrose Plantation and see examples of Clementine’s art, including the murals in the African House.

Clementine Hunter, lived and painted at Melrose

Melrose Plantation Big House

Please take note of change in Melrose Festival dates for 2012.

Sat. April 21 and Sun. April 22, 2012.

Melrose Arts and Crafts Festival Vendor Information. 

Begun in 1941 and chartered as a non-profit organization in 1944, the APHN is a volunteer organization. At present, APHN operates two historic properties: Melrose Plantation and the Lemee House. The organization provides educational opportunities to children and adults through the Children’s Walking Tour of Natchitoches, the Fall Tour of Historic Homes and daily 12pm-4pm (closed on Mondays)  guided tours of Melrose Plantation, which includes the Big House, Yucca House and the African House. 

     Customer Service Information:
                                       email: info@aphnatchitoches.net
Phone: 318-379-0055

Explore, Experience, and Enjoy Natchitoches Parish Sunday, Apr 1 2012 

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

NATCHITOCHES, LA – The 38th Annual Melrose Plantation Arts & Crafts Festival will be presented Saturday and Sunday, April 21 & 22, 2012.

Melrose Arts and Crafts Festival

Artists and craftsmen from Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and as far as New Mexico and Illinois will be displaying handcrafted work on the beautiful grounds of historic Melrose plantation, located 18 miles south of Natchitoches. The festival is one of the largest arts & crafts shows held in Louisiana. Painting, drawing, whimsical portraiture, photography, unique pottery, clothing, furniture, candles and fragrances, whistles, clocks and pens, preserves and relishes, as well as objects made for home and garden of metal, wood, cloth, wire and  glass, meat pies and other regional foods will be available.

Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for children under 12 years of age. In addition to the festival, guided tours of the Main House and African House will be available for $5.00.

Melrose plantation is a unique complex designated as a National Historic Landmark. The original colonial residence, Yucca House, was built in 1796. The Big House was for many years the residence of Cammie Henry who offered accommodations and a working environment for artists and writers.

Vendor applications are still being accepted. Vendor inquiries call Susan Davidson at (318) 379-0800 or email carriedavidson@hughes.net.  Applications are also available online at http://www.aphnatchitoches.net/. The event is sponsored by The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches.


Gift Shop/ Bindery



Bindery/ Giftshop at Melrose Plantation

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

Our preservation of Melrose Plantation and its stories is to make it available to you as a wonder-filled present. Make your plans today for you and your group to visit Melrose Plantation. There is no history more intriguing and no time like the present  for a delightful excursion

Plan a Tour of the Melrose Historic Home and Out-Buildings of the Metoyer “Gens de Colour Libre”.
Miss Cammie Henry’s collection of hand woven pieces.  Visit the Clementine Hunter Murals in the African  House. Enjoy the lovely Gardens Take photos at the almost 400 year old Live Oak Tree. Shop in the Book Store Bindery for books and gift items.

For more information or to schedule a Group Tour please call: 318-379-0055

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

Tour Melrose Plantation, Meet Chance Harvey, Get Your Signed Copy of “The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon” Wednesday, Aug 31 2011 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

Make your Fall Tour of Homes Complete. Come to Melrose Plantation and meet Chance Harvey, author of The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon. Get your copy signed by the author.

Book Signing at Melrose Plantation   

On Sunday, October 9, from 9:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.mChance Harvey, who wrote the Foreword to the latest edition of Lyle Saxon’s Children of Strangers (1937) published this fall by Pelican, will be on hand to sign her work at the Bookstore of Melrose Plantation. Saxon’s novel, written when the author lived in Yucca House as a guest of Cammie Garrett Henry, vividly depicts the Louisiana Cane River plantation community in the early 1900s. Chance Harvey is the author of The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon (Pelican, 2003) and teaches in the English Department at Southeastern Louisiana University.

When you tour Melrose, remember to visit our Book Store and Gift Shop.

Plan a Tour of the Melrose Historic Home and Out-Buildings of the Metoyer “Gens de Colour Libre”.
 Miss Cammie Henry’s collection of hand woven pieces.
 the Clementine Hunter Murals in the African House.
 the lovely Fall and Christmas decorations.
 in the Book Store Bindery for books and gift items.

For more information regarding year-round tours please call: 318-379-0055.
(Bus tours by reservation only)


From North-South-East-West, Visitors Discover History in Visiting MELROSE in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana Saturday, Aug 20 2011 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

Melrose Plantation, the Big House Managed by APHN

The Louis Metoyer Plantation, now known as Melrose Plantation, is a 215 year-old cotton and pecan plantation. Located on the banks of the scenic Cane River Lake in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, is is a delight for visitors from the North, South, East, amd west as well as many other countries outside the United States.

The African House at Melrose Plantation


The plantation has nine standing historic buildings, three of which are of significant. The oldest of these is Yucca House, built after 1810. This French Creole cottage had many uses including serving as a nursery and hospital for enslaved workers. The second building, the Mushroom House, now commonly called the African House, was constructed about 1820. Many have speculated that it was built to resemble traditional African homes, however architectural scholars point out that its design is derived from French barns of that period. Finally there is the big house, which was completed in 1833. This bousillage (a mixture of mud, Spanish moss and deer hair) building has been remodelled numerous times and has several additions, including two distinctive hexagonal towers, known as garçoniéres, flanking the front gallery.

Louis Metoyer was given the land in a grant by the Spanish government in 1796. Louis was the second son of Claude Thomas Pierre Métoyer, a French military officer who was assigned duty at Fort Ste Jean Baptiste in Natchitoches, and Marie Thérèse Coincoin, an African slave owned by Metoyer and later freed by him. He and his descendents built and managed a plantation here until 1847, when it was sold to the Hertzogs, the family that owned neighbouring Magnolia Plantation. The Hertzog brothers named the place The Plantation of the Brothers Henry and Hypolite Hertzog.

 Joseph Henry later acquired the land in 1898 and renamed the place Melrose Plantation. He lived primarily at another plantation further south and resided at Melroseduring the harvest. He died soon after purchasing the property and the plantation was passed on to his son, John Hampton Henry, and his daughter-in-law, Cammie Garrett Henry. Miss Cammie, as she was known, was a college-educated woman who was fond of culture and society. She started an art colony at the plantation that became one of the most popular in the South, entertaining such famous names as Lyle Saxon and William Spratling.  

 During the Cammie Henry era, internationally known artist Clementine Hunter got her start at Melrose, where she worked as a cook and painted in her spare time. She  became the first African American to have a solo exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Her work depicts daily life in the rural South prior to the mechanization of agriculture. Melrose Plantation is one of about 2,430 places in America to have the designation “National Historic Landmark”.

 However, the life and work of Clementine Hunter is significant enough that Melrose has earned the National Trust for Historic Preservation designation as an Historic Artist’s Home and Studio. Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios is a consortium of 30 of America’s most significant artists’ spaces that are open to the public and serve over 600,000 visitors each year.

 In 1971, the plantation was given to the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN). The APHN, is a not-for-profit organization which maintains the property and buildings and opens the house for public tours.

 NOTE: The name Yucca Plantation was thought to have been the original name given to the place by the Metoyers. However, recent scholarship shows that the name originated with the 1937 publication of Lyle Saxon’s Children of Strangers, a novel based on observations made while living at Melrose Plantation. As a work of fiction, it used fictional place names and surnames in place of the true names. “Melrose” was renamed “Yucca” and the “Henry” family was renamed the “Randolph” family.

SOURCE: APHN Draft Copy for Melrose History. This is a living document that will be revised and expanded as new information is discovered. APHN welcomes your comments or historical information on the subject.

Yucca. Melrose


For more information regarding year-round tours please call: 318-379-0055.
(Bus tours by reservation only) or go to the APHN website


Natchitoches Fall Tour of Homes, October 7, 8, 9, 2011 Friday, Aug 12 2011 

                                          Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchotiches (APHN)

       an Annual Event
OCTOBER 7, 8 & 9

 Plan a Tour of the Melrose Historic Home and Out-Buildings of the Metoyer “Gens de Colour Libre”.
Miss Cammie Henry’s collection of hand woven pieces.
the Clementine Hunter Murals in the African House.
the lovely Fall and Christmas decorations.
in the Book Store Bindery for books and gift items.


Melrose began life as The Louis Metoyer Plantation in 1796 and was named Melrose in 1884 when Joseph Henry bought the plantation. It is one of the first and is one of the best surviving examples of a Creole plantation built by former enslaved persons known as “free people of color.” There are out- buildings from the late 1700’s, one of which houses the 1955 murals painted by the internationally known African-American Folk Artist, Clementine Hunter, who lived and worked at Melrose.

For more information regarding year-round tours please call: 318-379-0055.
(Bus tours by reservation only)


Lemee House 1837

The Lemee House was constructed in 1837. In 1940 a group of concerned women convinced the City of Natchitoches to buy the house with the understanding that the women would restore and maintain the property and use it as a Club House. And so it remains today the meeting place of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches as well as other local organizations.



Cammie Henry and Social Networking Wednesday, Nov 24 2010 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches


Cammie" Garrett Henry (1871-1948) of Melrose, Louisiana



We frequently make the mistake of thinking that all things new are really new and that we are more advanced than those who came before us. We are wrong to do so. For example, take the case of social networking.  A social network makes it possible for people to connect online with others who share interests and activities and to interact. Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin are examples.


Long before any of these social networks became so popular, Aunt Cammie (Henry), to her younger friends, had an impressive social network. After the death of her husband, John H. Henry, Cammie picked up her life and work with even additional fervor. She reached out from Melrose. If she discovered something that was unclear for her, she determined to find the answer.


  • sought out the owners of estates.
  • reached out to schoolteachers or the Government.
  • asked who knew about Bank’s Red River campaign
  • inquired how could it be determined when a courthouse had burned
  • followed-up when a newspaper story appeared. She would write to a relative of the person mentioned, suggesting that he send additional information to her.
  • insured that each entry in her books or scrapbooks would generate others.  The clippings, letters and included annotations scratched along in the margins.

 Harnett T. Kane in Plantation Parade: The Grand Manner in Louisiana, 1945, writes:

“Word of her interest got about. People wrote to her now, seeking information or offering it. Cammie became known as a breathing repository of information.

She received at least fifty messages a day for forty years. Not many people have that many posts on their wall for Facebook.  People who knew her only through her loose handwriting would introduce others to her by letter thus starting a chain of correspondence. Cammie frequently spent half of her day to keep up with this part of her work. She considered it time well spent for it allowed her to stay in contact with her sources (ergo “social networking”).

Thank you Aunt Cammie. You did all of us a wonderful service in preserving the history and culture of Melrose, the Cane River area and Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. You “friended us all”.

Become a Friend of Preservation. Visit the APHN website to learn more about:

  • APHN
  • How you can join and help
  • Tours of Melrose

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