Los Adaes State Historic Site Included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program Thursday, Sep 13 2012 

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

 Los Adaes State Historic Site Included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program

Natchitoches, LA, September 13, 2012 –

 Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc. (CRNHA) announced today that anthropologist Rolonda Teal, co-founder of the heritage organization Cultural Lore, Inc. was successful in nominating Los Adaes State Historic Site to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.

Teal began researching this project as part of an undergraduate class assignment. While delving through research materials, she ran across a story about freedom seekers who left plantations from the southern portion of Natchitoches Parish in route to Nacogdoches, TX. “This one story compelled me to want to know more. Was this a one-time occurrence? Did they just go to Nacogdoches?” remarked Teal. “As I attempted to find answers to those questions, a larger story unfolded that included many escape attempts – some of which were successful while others were not.”

 Los Adaes State Historic Site’s successful nomination for inclusion in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program (NURNF) is a result of more than seven years of research by Teal. The NURNF is a subsidiary of the National Park Service whose involvement with the Underground Railroad began in response to Public Law 101-628, enacted in November 1990, which directed the agency to study alternatives for commemorating and interpreting the Underground Railroad. The National Park Service’s mission is to promote programs and partnerships to commemorate, preserve sites and other resources associated with, and educate the public about the historical significance of the Underground Railroad.

 Currently, there are only three sites in the state that hold this designation, one in South Louisiana known as the River Road African American Museum and the other two are located in Natchitoches Parish. In 2008, Cammie G. Henry Research Center located on the campus of Northwestern State University received honors from NURNF for its collection of archival material that supports research on slavery and attempts at freedom. The inclusion of Los Adaes SHS offers the second site in the region.

 Having these two sites located within Cane River National Heritage Area offers a way to interpret the multicultural legacy of the colonial Spanish fort. In addition, residents of the parish will benefit from a better understanding of our unique – and at times difficult to understand – history of slavery in the region. Educators, the tourism industry, and state park officials can all benefit from this new perspective when discussing African American and American history in the state.

Anthropologist Rolanda Teal









Every Day Is An Opportunity For A New Discovery At Melrose Wednesday, Mar 21 2012 

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

Guest Blogger, Adam Foreman, Executive Director, APHN

New Discoveries in the Collection at Melrose

Recently there have been several new discoveries centering on the Clementine Hunter Collection at Melrose. It all began with the stove in the Clementine Hunter house located on the Melrose Property. I do not know when the home was moved to the Melrose property however according to Tommy Whitehead, Clementine Hunter moved from the home in 1977.

For the last 35 years, items have remained in the stove undiscovered and unexplored. When I discovered these items in late February I quickly contacted Dustin Fuqua with the National Park Service to assist me with an assessment, inventory, and documentation of these [no longer hidden pieces of our collection.

What we found was truly amazing. We found items dated between 1972 and 1977. Two of the neatest items were an Avon product box and a St. Augustine Church raffle ticket from October 7& 8 1972. Several other paper documents including a receipt from Roques auto garage, newspaper sections, a Natchitoches Parish water bill, and even an empty pack of Pall Mall cigarettes (According to Tommy Whitehead, Clementine did not smoke but her daughter did.)

Also were various bone fragments possibly from beef and pork ribs and chicken bone fragments. We also found carbonized wood and a large amount of construction nails.
The second big discovery is more of a “re-discovery”. While inspecting broken glass doors in the Melrose Library I uncovered a large blue binder with a full inventory of items received by APHN from the Hunter family after her death. Once this re-discovery was fully realized, I began attempting to identify and find the items listed. One such item was an “artist box”. When I found this box and opened it- I was amazed to see Clementine’s paints and brushes still inside. With the help of supplies from Dustin and the National Park Service, I was able to identify and inventory the contents of the Artist box.

Every day is an opportunity for a new discovery at Melrose. The large blue binder has nearly 300 sheets of paper, so this project has just begun.


Adam Foreman
Executive Director, APHN

See Photos


What Would Clementine Hunter Feel, Think Or Say? Wednesday, Aug 24 2011 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

A confession. I was within 5o miles of the African-American artist Clementine Hunter when I was at Louisiana College and she was living at Melrose. I had never heard of her and did not until coming back to the United States after many years in Costa Rica and Argentina. Another part of my confession. I took “Music and Art Appreciation” in college but I probably would not have “appreciated” the work of simple genius that characterized Clementine’s art work. I would not have been intelligent enough to drive one hour to meet this remarkable person and maybe even purchase one of her works. What an unaware and ill-informed dummy I was!

Clementine Hunter, lived and painted at Melrose

Older now, and hopefully wiser, seven framed prints of Clementine’s work are in my office. More importantly, I recognize that a rather unique and remarkable person lived and “marked” her paintings at Melrose Plantation. I only “know” Clementine Hunter through her work, which was truly “Art From the Heart” (excellent book on Hunter’s work by Kathy Whitehead and Shane W. Evans) and from friends like the late Bobby DeBlieux and Tom Whitehead. Both men were friends with the artist. I remember Bobby’s stories about her and Tom continues to enlighten and inform the preservation community about her. Tom Whitehead is a “Natchitoches Treasure” of information.

Two developments that would likely trigger a reaction to the spunky little lady of Cane River are the following:

1. Forgeries of her work have appeared in recent years and the news on the internet has been jammed with reports of discovery and prosecution of the culprits. They have received ampy news coverage. My question is: what would Clementine think, feel or say about people forging her work and selling it? Would she be surprised, flattered, angry or just puzzled? Anyone who knew her, would you venture a guess by commenting below. If “immitation is the highest form of flattery”, forgery may be one of the crulest distortions of an artist’s work. What do you think?

2.Recently, Richard Rabinowitz, President of the American History Workshop in Brooklyn, New York, visited Melrose Plantation. He is on assignment for the Smithsonian Institute on the subject of African-American history and wanted to see the Clementine Hunter murals at Melrose Plantation. It was my priviledge to join the group as a board member of APHN and a member of the Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commisssion. The group included Whitehead , Northwester State University, who conducted the tour of the murals for Mr. Rabinowitz. Also present were Superintendent Laura Gates of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Dusty Fuqua, Park Ranger  and Scott Norton, curator of Melrose Plantation. Clementine is reported to have said, in response to an invitation to visit Washington and meet the President of the United States, that he would have to come to Melrose if he wanted to see her. It is unlikely that the artist would be overly excited about the Smithsonian exhibit. Who knows? The rest of us are excited for her. We are also pleased that the remarkable contributions of African-Americans in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana and the Cane River area are increasingly being recognized and reported.


Visit Melrose Plantation and See the Clementine Hunter Murals {Go here for details}

Tom Whitehead, Richard Rabinowitz at Melrose

Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud’homme Day in Natchitoches, Louisiana Tuesday, Oct 26 2010 


Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN) 

The following address was delivered by Kathy Prudhomme Guin on October 23, 2010 in the American Cemetery for Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prudhomme Day.

“My name is Kathy Prudhomme Guin. Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prudhomme was my great, great, great, great grandfather.

Emmanuel had a long and interesting life. He was born January 2, 1762 in Natchitoches, LA to Dr. Jean Baptiste and Marie Josephine Prudhomme. He was one of 8 children and father to 8 children. Also, in the year of his birth, 1762, Louisiana changed from (a) French to a Spanish Colony.

For a historical perspective of his life, Emmanuel was:

  •  7 when Capt. James Cook discovered Australia and named it for the British Crown
  •  8 when Marie Antoinette married Louis 16th
  • 31 when she was beheaded during the French revolution in Paris
  • 13 when Paul Revere made his famous ride to Lexington
  •  42 when Lewis and Clark made the Expedition to the Pacific Coast.

He married Catherine Lambre Prudhomme and initially lived in a small home on the banks of the Red River, later known as Cane River Lake.

Emmanuel served as a Rifleman in the Natchitoches, LA Militia, which served under Spanish Governor of LA, Colonel Bernardo de Galvez during his campaign against the British. (1780 – 1782)

Emmanuel was a planter. His first crops were tobacco and indigo and sold the indigo to France to use as dye for French soldiers uniforms. Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793, increased the cultivation of cotton. In 1797, he planted cotton, reputed to be the first crop of cotton grown on a large scale in the LA Purchase. His cotton venture was a great success and other area planters begin to grow cotton.

In the early 1800’s many inhabitants had developed close relationships with the native Indians. Emmanuel had an undiagnosed ailment that caused him considerable pain. It was perhaps arthritis. The Natchitoches Indians, who were friendly with Emmanuel told him of a place of “healing waters” and offered to take him there. In 1807, Emmanuel accepted their offer and with a servant and necessary provisions, headed for the springs now known as Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was one of the first white men ever to visit these ´healing waters´. He built a modest home there and visited frequently for a few years.

In February of 1811, an Act of Congress enabled the Territory of Orleans to form a constitution and state government. Emmanuel Prudhomme and Pierre Bossier represented Natchitoches at the Constitutional Convention in New Orleans. After Congress approved the Constitution, the State of Louisiana was admitted to the Union.

Upon Emmanuel’s return to his plantation, he found his home in need of repair. Rather than repair his home he chose to build a larger home set back from the banks of the Red River. This new home was referred to as the Big House at Bermuda Plantation, also known as the Prudhomme Plantation and later known as Oakland Plantation.

After the house was finished in 1821, Emmanuel and Catherine traveled to France to visit family, buy furniture and had their portraits painted in Paris. These paintings hang in the living room at Oakland today.

Upon his death in May of 1845, at the age of 83, he passed the Big House and substantial acreage to his son, Pierre Phanor Prudhomme, while his other children inherited other property. At that point in time the French tradition of “primogeniture” was followed and Oakland was passed on to the oldest living son of each generation.

His legacy continues today at Oakland which is now part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park”.A marvelous heritage and a wonderful family who are our neighbors and friends today in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana¨.

Come to Natchitoches and see Oakland Plantation and perhaps you will be fortunate enough to meet some of the Prud’homme family.

Big House at Oakland Plantation