Getting to Know CENLA: A Visit to the Melrose Plantation

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

Remember last weekend I said that I was stepping out of my comfort zone and going to a photography class? Well, I never made it to the class because I got lost. However, I did end up at this really interesting historic site called the Melrose Plantation. When I arrived, a tour was about to start, but I decided to wait and return with The Hubs.

We went back yesterday and I was able to take a few pictures. One thing to note about the Melrose Plantation is that you cannot take any photos inside the main buildings and the roof of the “Big House” was being repaired, so there’s a lot of scaffolding and other construction equipment around…

ABOUT THE MELROSE PLANTATION

Melrose Plantation, also known as Yucca Plantation, is one of the largest plantations in the United States built by and for free blacks. It began as a piece of land gifted to former slave, Marie Thérèse Coincoin, by a young French merchant named Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer. Coincoin’s owner, Natchitoches’ founder Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, leased Coincoin as a housekeeper to Metoyer. During the 19 year arrangement, Coincoin and Metoyer had ten children together. Eventually, Metoyer purchased Marie Thérèse and several of their children, giving them their freedom.

He also gave her a yearly allowance and a parcel of land. That parcel of land became part of what is now known as the Melrose Plantation. Over the years, the Melrose Plantation was owned by three different families. These families – the Hertzogs and the Henrys – contributed to the growth and importance of the Melrose Plantation to the Natchitoches community.

I won’t go into the whole history of the plantation but here are a few highlights:

Metoyer Era {1796-1847}

  • Marie Thérèse Coincoin’s descendants “…became the leading family of a community called Isle Brevelle, populated by “gens de couleur libre”, free people of color who thrived as business people, plantation owners, and slave owners.” Their descendants still live in the community.

Hertzog Era {1847-1881}

  • During Reconstruction that Fanny Hertzog established the Freedmen school at Melrose, which provided the first formal education to former slaves on the plantation.

Henry Era {1884-1970}

  • Cammie Henry, a preservationist and patron of the arts, set about collecting log cabins from around the parish and relocating them to Melrose Plantation.
  • Cammie also established an artist’s community at Melrose Plantation that allowed artists to live rent free at the plantation as long as they worked on their art daily.
  • Clementine Hunter, a housekeeper at the plantation, becomes a celebrated primitive painter; she is noted for telling the stories of African Americans who lived along the Cane River.

You can read more about the Melrose Plantation here.

Yucca House

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

 

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

 

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

 

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

 

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

 

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

The bedroom of the last slave to live on Melrose Plantation.

HOME OF CLEMENTINE HUNTER

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

The sign on the door says “50¢ to look”.

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

I was surprised to find pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy hanging on the walls. It reminded me of the decor of just about every black grandmother I’ve ever visited.

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

From this point of view, you can see that the other rooms of the house have been turned into a museum/exhibit room of sorts. Those spaces do not house her original artwork. Some of her original pieces are in the Big House and the Africa House. The rest of her work is either in museums or private collections.

Melrose Plantation {living outside the stacks}

Yes, that is a giant plastic spider hanging on her curtain. I’m not sure of the significance and there was no one around for me to ask. I did, however, find it a bit amusing.

Cheers,

Daenel T {Living Outside the Stacks}

 

 

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