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”. www.oldparishmag.com

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.

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