This Place Matters! Visit, Preserve, Protect It for Future Generations Monday, Feb 18 2013 

Francois Mignon

Francois Mignon

images_melrose_arts_crafts_4_22_2012 092

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

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

Clementine Hunter, lived and painted at Melrose

Clementine Hunter, lived and painted at Melrose

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

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


Melrose Plantation, 1833

Big House, Melrose Plantation

Yucca. Melrose

Yucca. Melrose

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

Melrose Hours of Operation:

Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Monday: Closed


 Tours of the Historic House begin at the Melrose Bindery Every 15 minutes past the Hour (First Tour: 10:15, Last Tour begins at 4:15)

 Gift Shop closes at 5pm



Admission Prices:


Adults $10.00

*Students (6-17 or with University ID) $5.00


 GROUNDS ONLY TOUR (does not include house tour)

Adults $5.00

*Students $ 3.00


 GROUPS OF 15 OR MORE (by reservation)

Adult Group: $10.00

Tour Operator Group: $8.00

*Student Group: $5.00

*(Now includes University students)
Contact Information: 318-379-0055 or 

Francois Mignon: The Man Who Would Be French Monday, Aug 13 2012 

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

Francois Mignon: The Man Who Would Be French (Pictured with Clementine Hunter)

The Natchitoches preservation community frequently finds itself indebted to Kim (Publisher) and Terry (Editor) Isbel of The Old Natchitoches Parish Magazine and Mercantile Advertiser. Their edition No. 180 has an article by Oliver Ford, Fitchburg State College, entitled “Francois Mignon: the Man who would be French”.

Francois Mignon, gifted writer and long-time resident of Melrose Plantation, had numerous stories that circulated around him. Oliver Ford’s treatment of Mignon’s creating a new identity is gentle and non-judgemental. He quotes Mignon in a statement, that for me is both insightful and revealing:

“Ever so long ago I became convinced that God, for mere convenience, fitted us in patterns,-physically,  along lines of our progenitors, but gave us the recompense of finding souls of similar pattern to our own in any old place, and by no means tied to the blood kin from whence the body came but from whence the soul did not”.

Obviously this remarkable person born as Frank VerNooy Mineah on May 9, 1899, in Cortland, New York, to Walter Fish Mineah and Mary Ella Mineah (nee Howland) preferred to be “French”. His achievements were those of Francois Mignon rather than of Frank VerNooy Minrah, the name he was given at birth.

Oliver Ford writes: “How much of the Mignon persona he created,how much he simply did not deny when others embellished it, and how much simply attached to him by the usual rumors about public personalities probably never will be determined”.

This is a fascinating story, told well and with insight by Oliver Ford. You would do well to get a copy of the Old Natchitoches Parish Magazine (No. 180) and read it. Even better would be a subscription to the magazine.

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

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:
Phone: 318-379-0055

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:

Francois Mignon: Yucca In His Own Words (Part Two) Monday, Jul 4 2011 

Posted by Doyle Bailey for

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

Francois Mignon

On June 22, 2011, I posted :Francois Mignon Describes Yucca, The Original Dwelling on Melrose Plantation.” With this post, you can read the continuation of his description:

"The bed in this room is a four poster, having once belonged to the family 
of Celine Rocque. Two features of it are its wool "tack" - a six inch thick 
mattress of wool, laid over the spring mattress. Another feature I like is the 
50 odd yards of curtaining, designed to keep out drafts.
The portraits in this room aren't, particularly interesting. They consist 
of Madame Laveau, negress, in 188o costume, her husband, painted a little 
more indifferently. Madame Laveau was the Voodoo Queen of New orleans in the last half of 
the nineteenth century.
Over the fireplace is a badlly retouched portrait of Grandpere Augustin's wife, 
familiarly ca1led "Coin-Coin" by her contemporaries. It dates from about 1836.
The hearth of the fireplace, on which the fire blazes, is an iron sheet, about three-quarters of an 
inch thick. It extends about a foot out into the room, flush with the floor. Not originally incorporated
in the fireplace, it was laid in its present position when the house was done over in the 20th century. 
It is a piece of iron plate, removed from the side of an iron clad boat, which the Yankees operated on the 
Red River, some five miles away, during the Civil War. Somehow the iron clad got stuck in the mud about 
the time the War ended, and it was abandoned,-to rot down. It was from this vessel that this iron plate was 
removed and put to its present usefulness. (Note General Bank's Red River Campaign of 1865).
The fender for this fireplace was found beneath the fireplace in the drawing room
of the Markoe housew, when that building was taken down a few years ago, say in the 1930's. How it
even got down under the fireplace,-into the ground-no one could ever explain. Markoe was the 
planter-partner of Robert McAlphin,the Simon Legree of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The McAlphin plantation-Hidden
Hill, I think it was called, was not far from the Markoe plantation,-on the west bank of the Cane River, 
south of Cloutierville some 8 or 10 miles.

Yucca. Melrose

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)

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