Imagine Reading a Book From an Enchanted Cottage Friday, May 18 2012 


Bindery (Gift Shop) Melrose Plantation

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

Truth be told, it is not just the “Bindery” but the entire Melrose Plantation that is enchanted. A tour of discovery can be said to:

  • lead to a sense of wonder, charm and delight
  • cast a magical spell in a historical site that is full of stories that will captivate you
  • create a feeling of pleasure and great liking for something wonderful and unusual
  • fascinate you as you visit the setting of a dynamic artist’s colony where Clementine Hunter painted, Francois Mignon and Lyle Saxon wrote. (there are too many artists to mention all of them)

A good way to prepare for your journey of enchantment is: 

  • to read Lyle Saxon’s Children of Strangers. You will discover the plantation country of the lower Cane River (Louisiana) in this historical novel, the only novel Saxon ever wrote. The book is a work of fiction but describes a real community.

I want a copy!{click here}

Lyle Saxon’s historical Novel Children of Strangers available online from the Bindery at Melrose Plantation

Melrose Plantation Big House

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 

I Should Have Bought Two While I was At Melrose Tuesday, Oct 11 2011 

Chance Harvey Chats With "Lyle Saxon" At Melrose

Posted by Doyle Bailey for The Association For The Preservation Of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

Sunday, October 9, 2011 was a remarkable day at Melrose Plantation (owned and operated by APHN). What made it a special day was the Fall Tour of Homes and delightful guests coming to revel in the sights and saga of this French Creole Plantation. Something extra was added however, or as we say in Louisiana there was laigniappe (something extra given to a customer).

The something extra was Chance Harvey, (click here for another post about Harvey)  author of “The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon”. What can I say about Chance, besides the fact she is a delightful person. Lets just deal with the problem first. How was I to know that I should have bought two copies of her book. She autographed our copy:

“for Barbara and Doyle-for the love of the Cane River Country, best,              Chance”.

The problem began when we both started the book and neither one of us wanted to share (very adult conduct). There are two book marks in the book. Here is where the problem lies:

  • the book is the first full biography of the legendary writer, Lyle Saxon, known as Mr. Louisiana and Mr. New Orleans. He spent years at Melrose Plantation in his solitary cabin.
  • Lyle Saxon was a writer of imminent skills, even though he demeaned his writing skills.  He could only be pleased that his biographer is a skilled communicator as well. Scholarly, well-researched and most readable, Chance breaks new ground and answer questions about Saxon I have not found elsewhere. (eg. where he was born).

I have always thought he looked sad in his photographs.   In speaking of his letters, Harvey writes that “they reveal the images of Saxon as a Southern  gentleman, genial host, and raconteur were self-created ones, designed to disguise his deep sense of alienation.”  

We will work out our little problem (buy another book, accede to my wife’s desire to read it first, or catch her sleeping and slink off with it).

Dr. Chance Harvey received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Millsaps, Duke, and Tulane respectively.

It is a good day when you can visit Melrose Plantation, make a new friend and discover a remarkable book.

The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon by Chance Harvey

Visit and tour Melrose Plantation and you can purchase the book at the gift shop. Unless you are single, you might want to get two copies.


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)


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)


Francois Mignon Describes Yucca, The Original Dwelling on Melrose Plantation Wednesday, Jun 22 2011 

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

Tom Whitehead made available to us a description of Melrose Plantation in Francois Mignon’s own words. Tom is our “ferret”, for his ability to search persistently and discover amazing facts, and make them available to all of us. He is a true steward of history and cultural preservation. Here is the first of several posts describing Yucca in Francois Mignon”s own words:

“The original dwelling on Melrose -then styled Yucca, representing an original Cane River structure of the early period was built, probably, around 1790. The walls were, and still are, of earth, mixed with deer hair originally, and in later years, (deer running short) moss was substituted.

The house comprises four rooms. The first is the bath, the second, hidden by banana stalks, is the bed rooom and work room. The third door opens into the living room. The forth gives on another bedroom.

The chimneys are large, with openings on both sides, so that they may serve all four rooms.

From about 1790 to 1833, this was the residence of the Metoyers. In the latter year, the big house, built to the same lines but a story higher, was buiolt for the son of Augustin Metoyer,-Louis. From 1833, this original home was used as a slave hospital,down through 1864, and following the war housed servants of the plantation. In the late 1920’s it was put back in order, and subsequently and occupied by Lyle Saxon, etc.

The furnishings of the bedroom are the most interesting in the house. An eight-foot grandfather’s clock embraces a combination of European and American handiwork. The works and weights, the face and hands were imported from France. The case was made, probably by a slave carpenter on Cane River. The clock strikes the half hour once and the full hour twice,- the latter time-telling indicated by the hour being struck one minute, as a repeat, following the first recording of the hour.

An old Spanish wrought-iron safe is another interesting item. The great nail heads or bolt heads,-there are dozens of them covering the thing, are so contrived that six of them, if properly fiddled with, will open the safe automatically. It makes a sturdy stand for the Reading Machine. A duplicate of this safe is in Jefferson College at Washington Mississippi., having also come down from the Spanish when Natchez was the seat of the provincial government of Spain in Mississippi.

Yucca. Melrose


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)

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

        Click {}here}{




The Metoyers of Yucca (Melrose) Plantation In Natchitoches, Louisiana Tuesday, Nov 9 2010 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)


Along one area of Cane River, a long ridge bordered by several streams and streamlets, there developed a particular concentration –Isle Brevelle. It evolved into a small rural France. The Creole people of Isle Brevelle grew crops and served one another as artisans, shoemakers, woodworkers, incomparable cooks and farmers. A few families rose among their fellows- the Metoyers, the Roques and the Silves. Harnet T. Lane in Plantation Parade, states:

“No name became more resplendent among its fellows than that of the Metoyers”.

The head man of Isle Brevelle was generally recognized as Augustin Metoyer–Grand-père.  Augustin was affectionately known as the “Big Father” of his community.


Along a turn in the river where the soil lay rich and thick, Grand-père chose a site for his house. It was a simple heavily timbered structure of brick and mud between posts with an overhanging roof.  In the 1830s, Augustin shifted the command of his properties to his son Louis Metoyer. A finer house was contructed that architects of a later generation would pronounce a minor masterpiece, admirable in style and material.

Kane describes this house in these terms:

¨It was a low structure, broad but close to the earth, the openings entirely free of ornament, a plain gallery railing at the upper level, the timbers uncovered at the ceilings-the whole built to last.¨

From the gallery rail the family could “catch the sheen of the waters through clumps of spiked Spanish daggers (an evergreen shrub). That vista gave the name to the plantation–Yucca. Yucca (now know as Melrose) was completed in 1833.” The family lived here in the peaceful seculsion of this harmonious setting. Augustine often received callers, lent his house to the missionaries for their services until he eventually decided to provide the church with a building on Isle Brevelle. It was in July of 1829 that Father Jean Baptiste Blanc dedicated this structure to the glory of his God.

Of all his numerous accomplishments, Grandpere appeared prouder of this act than of anything he had done. Today, a full length portrait of Augustin Metoyer hangs in the St. Augustin Catholic Church. This thriving and vibrant Catholic Church, while not the original structure, serves the Creole Community and others of Isle Brevelle today and is a lasting testimony to a most remarkable man.¨



For information about membership, events and tours, please e mail us:

St. Augustin Catholic Church, Melrose


Melrose Plantation, 1833

Big House, Melrose Plantation

Cane River, Isle Brevelle

Cammie (Carmelite) Garret a Louisiana Phenomenon Monday, Nov 1 2010 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches

You will more likely recognize Cammie (Carmelite) Garret as Cammie Henry. Harnett T. Kane in Plantation Parade, 1945, New York, refers to her as “a Louisiana phenomenon“.

Friends of John H. Henry may have warned him that if he married Cammie he would be getting a “pepper- pot, that horror among horrors, a female with opinions”. He kept asking and finally Cammie nodded her head.

Cammie, with her usual throughness:

  • fitted herself into her new job working with her husband living at one of the houses along the Cane River
  • filled the cradles and her scrapbooks (five children, some sources say seven,  and countless scrapbooks)
  • read voraciously, watched after her mother, Leudivine Erwin Garret, her husband and the babies

Now she experienced isolation. Even a trip to Natchitoches, the nearest town, was a day’s journey even in the best weather. Occasionally Cammie would pass old Yucca plantation and would frown over its decay. Yucca was John H. Henry’s most profitable holding. He was forced to make daily trips back and forth and was away from the family a lot. Finally Cammie told him this “absentee business”  would’t do. She meant to be where he was and that is exactly what she did.

An old memiorandum notes that “We came to live here (Yucca, later Melrose Plantation) on November 1, 1899”. The windows were broken, all was mildew and cobwebs. Cammie swept down mud-daubers nests, chased out pigeons and called for additional paint and lumber. Thus was begun a saga that would last for decades, the details of which must be the subject of subsequent posts about this Louisiana phenomenon of Melrose Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Click {here} for APHN’s website and information about how you and your group can Tour Melrose Plantation.

Melrose Plantation, 1833

Big House, Melrose Plantation

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

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

The African House at Melrose Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana Monday, Oct 18 2010 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for


The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

The African House at Melrose Plantation

If the African House were the sole structure at the Melrose French Creole Plantation in Natchitoches, Louisiana, it would more than merit a visit. It is one of nine structures you can see on your sightseeing Tour of Melrose.

Francois Mignon relates the following endearing incident:

“It was on a hot day in July in the mid 1950,s that scenes of plantation life in Louisiana began to appear along the walls of the African House. The artist was Clementine Hunter who lived in her cabin on Melrose Plantation“.  


Francois Mignon, a prolific and gifted writer and a member of the artist’s colony at Melrose writes with feeling concerning Clementine Hunter

“Well do I remember when Clementine Hunter…first tried her hand at painting. She tapped at my door, said that she had found these twisted tubes (of paint) while cleaning up and that she believed she could ‘mark a picture on her own…if she sot her mind to it’.”

She presented her first picture to Mignon who replied:

Sister, you don’t know it but this is just the first of a whole lot of pictures you are going to bring me in the years ahead“.

Francois was right and the rest is history.

Buy Online Or At Melrose

Get more information on Touring Melrose.  Go {here) for the APHN website or to purchase your copy of:

ART FROM HER HEART; Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead and Shane W. Evans

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