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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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