Cane River Creole NHS

History is not there for you to like or dislike. It is there for you to learn from it. And if it offends you, even better. Because then you are less likely to repeat it. It’s not yours to erase. It belongs to all of us. –Unknown

I have read many books on plantation life and have seen several movies. I’m glad that the most recent of them show it in a manner that is more true to history. I had never been to a Southern plantation. After seeing this on a Louisiana map, I wanted to see for myself. The Cane River Plantations are called “Creole” because this term refers to those born in Louisiana during the French and Spanish periods, regardless of ethnicity. There are two plantations 10 miles apart, Oakland and Magnolia. We visited Oakland first, built with enslaved labor by the Prud’homme family, descendants of French settlers. Cane River farmers originally planted indigo and tobacco until the invention of the cotton gin.

The live oak trees form an “allee”, which helps to bring cool air from the Cane River
The dining room. We were able to tour the house by ourselves, with no one else present and no guide, because of COVID.
The girls’ bedroom
When I saw this kitchen, I felt like I had stepped back to my childhood. The last descendant in the family lived here until the 1960’s, and the plantation is presented in the way that it looked at that time.
The pigeon house. Pigeon houses just like these were being built in France at the time, a direct connection to the old country. Pigeon meat and eggs were a delicacy.
These two pictures are of a slave cabin. However, these cabins spent more time being sharecropper cabins. When emancipation happened, the former slaves became sharecroppers, a system that kept them in continual poverty. Like the 60’s kitchen in the house, this cabin has been left the way it was at that time.
Cane River near Magnolia Plantation

There was a park ranger in Oakland who, when hearing we were heading to Magnolia next, gave us detailed directions on how to get there. Apparently the road was closed at Magnolia, and you needed to get to the other side for the parking lot. There was something about not going over a river, a turn in a town, and a stop sign. But we only listed with half an ear, and there were more things to look at, and a picnic lunch happened. Needless to say we ended up on the wrong side of the closure. We had a very scenic drive to the correct spot.

Cal sitting on the correct side of the road closure

The house at Magnolia burned during the Civil War. It was rebuilt in the late 1800’s and is now in private ownership. We were able to walk through the grounds at that plantation. Magnolia’s history goes back to the mid-1700’s, during the colonial Louisiana era. By the start of the war, the plantation owner had several properties of over 6,000 acres.

Every plantation had a store. It was necessary for obtaining needed items, but was also a gathering place and in the mid 20th century a gas station was added. Standing on the porch after looking at the photo below, I could feel history beneath my feet.
At one time there were 70 slave cabins at Magnolia. Eight are remaining, each holding two families, and also became sharecropper cabins.
The gin barn
King Cotton

In my last post, I mentioned that Natchitoches was where Steel Magnolias was filmed. Actually, several movies have been made in the area. A John Wayne movie, “The Horse Soldiers”, was filmed at Oakland. A horror film was made at the Magnolia Plantation home in 2009, “For Sale By Owner”. Looking at the home, pictured below, I could see why!

The book I read most recently on this subject was historical fiction. “The Invention of Wings” was written by Sue Monk Kidd and I highly recommend it.

Next post–Moving on to Texas

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