The Women of Melrose Plantation

(318) 379-0055
Melrose-Plantation.JPG

THE WOMEN OF MELROSE PLANTATION
Marie Therese Coincoin, Cammie Grant Henry & Folk Artist Clementine Hunter
By Nancy J. Reid & Lisa D. Smith

 

Standing outside the Yucca House at Melrose Plantation, Betty Metoyer, a descendant of the Metoyers, portrays Marie Therese Coincoin on Big Blend Radio.

 

Built in 1796, Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, shares the story of slave Marie Thérèse Coincoin and her ten Franco-African children with Thomas Pierre Metoyer, as well as the Isle Brevelle Creole community, the Civil War, plantation history, and Louisiana folk art.

Throughout the generations this plantation, which was first known as the Yucca Plantation, has been built, nurtured and restored by determined, visionary, women. One of the most notable is Marie Therese Coincoin, a slave born into the household of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis in 1742. St. Denis was a French-Canadian soldier and explorer that commandeered forts along the Mississippi River, Biloxi Bay and later the French outpost Natchitoches. Upon his death, all his belongings and properties were inherited by his wife, including the ownership of Marie.

Marie was later leased as a housekeeper to a young French merchant named Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer. A nineteen year relationship ensued, resulting in ten children. Eventually, Metoyer purchased Marie Thérèse and several of their children, giving them their freedom, whilst he married another woman. Marie was given a parcel of land that she worked in order to earn money and pay for the freedom of the rest of her children. She was able to procure a larger grant of land for her son Louis, which is now known as Melrose Plantation. Together they cleared the land and grew tobacco, indigo and cotton, and built the plantation, and even owned slaves.  

Years later, when her great-grandson lost the plantation in 1847, it was purchased by brothers Henry and Hypolite Hertzog from nearby Magnolia Plantation, who operated it for the next several decades. They managed it through the Civil War until 1881. The property was briefly owned by a New Orleans businessman, then sold three years later to Joseph Henry.

 

Cammie Grant Henry, wife of John Hampton Henry, moved into Melrose Plantation in 1898, and she began restoring and making it a center for arts, crafts, and history. She replanted the gardens, restored the colonial buildings, revived local handicrafts and collected and displayed portraits and heirlooms of the past Melrose inhabitants. The plantation became a haven for writers and artists, including famous folk artist Clementine Hunter who originally worked as a field hand at Melrose, then as housekeeper and finally as a cook. She was a self-taught artist who began painting using paints and brushes that were discarded by an artist in residence. Many of her paintings are also on display in the plantation “big house.”

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches owns and is further restoring this plantation that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Located just 15 miles south of Natchitoches, the oldest city in the state of Louisiana, the plantation is near the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, is part of the Cane River Heritage Area, and is on the Cane River National Heritage Trail, a Louisiana scenic byway. The property features nine historic structures dating back to the early 1800’s. African House, which was totally rehabilitated in 2016, has received the honor of being named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The house contains several murals painted by Clementine Hunter. Besides the ‘big house’, Melrose Plantation also features the Yucca House, and a large barn. Melrose Plantation is open for tours, and hosts an annual spring arts and crafts festival.

 

Melrose Plantation is located at 3533 LA-119, Melrose, LA 71452. For more information call (318) 379-0055 or visit www.MelrosePlantation.org.

Natchitoches, LA

 

 

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

No Feedback Received