How to Get There

Just about an hour's drive from
Shreveport, the
Cane River Creole
National Historic Park. The park consists
of the Oakland and Magnolia Plantations;
make sure to arrive early so you can visit
both in one day, or make a weekend
get-a-way so you can enjoy beautiful
Natchitoches, too.

From Shreveport, follow LA 1 south to
Natchitoches, and then meander down LA
494. Oakland Plantation will be the first
place you'll encounter in the park system.
Cane River Creoles!
You know what they say, that Texas “like a whole
‘nother country?” Well, they’re wrong!
(Don’t beat me up, Texans. You know I love ya’ll).

Unique, or as they say in French, unique
Home to Cajuns, creoles, alligators, New Orleans, Jazz, and the
Mississippi Delta, there seems to be no place on earth quite like
this state. Almost all of its heritage landmarks reveal a unique cultural
aspect, as the
Cane River Creole National Historic Park attests.
Here, history is told in the architecture and culture of French Creole
plantations.

Red River Plantations
Situated south of Natchitotches, the oldest city in Louisiana, the
plantation homes and sharecropper cabins along LA 494 sit along
what used to be path of the Red River. In 1830, Captain Henry Shreve
broke up the natural log jam that formed a deep water, inland port
north of the city. The old river channel was then dammed and
channeled to create Cane River Lake.

Many of the plantations along the Red River/ Cane River Lake have
origins dating back to the end of the 18th century. Occupied by people of French origin, they maintained French as their primary language,
Catholicism as their primary religion, and kept many French traditions alive. However, as behooves the new world, many not-so-French
aspects joined in, literally creating what we now call Creole (the term originates from the Latin root creare, “to create,” and used to refer
to people who stem from non-Anglo cultures). Carribean customs like voodoo were practiced within the slave quarters; the architecture
combined west-African elements, Spanish ornamentals, German timberwork, and Anglo pier-and beam foundations; and old-style European
pigeon breeding became the focus of wealthier land owners.
Being Black Along the Red
After the Anglos purchased Louisiana in 1803 and an influx of Americans migrated to the
region, the Creoles remained adamant in maintaining a separate identity, especially when it
came to running their plantations. For example, unlike Anglo black codes (the codes
referenced how enslaved people should be treated), the Creole code noir allowed
enslaved blacks to buy their freedom. One prominent example was Marie Therese Metoyer,
who was freed by her master and lover Pierre Metoyer, and with whom she had ten
children. Marie Therese (called Coincoin, possibly the West African name her parents gave
her) added to the original land holding that her lover bestowed on her with a Spanish land
grant and thus created a large plantation where she raised cotton, cattle, and owned
slaves. With her earnings from the farm and as a renowned healer, Coincoin was able to
buy her children’s freedom, too. In 1829, she founded St. Augustine, the first all-black
catholic parish and church.

A Park is Born
While only a few of the Cane River Lake’s many plantation homes are of French Creole
origin – the Magnolia and Oakland being the two prominent ones - the National Park
Service, in conjunction with Northwestern Louisiana State University and the descendants
of the Creole families, established the Cane River Creole National Park. Here, visitors can
learn all about plantation life from the perspectives of  sharecroppers, enslaved,
overseers, and owners; see the machinery and self-sufficiency needed to run the mini-
cities that made up the plantation system; and discover how intertwined the farms were
with their culture and environments.
Oakland Plantation was founded by the Prudhomme Family. I probably did
not spell that right. Anyway, check out the beautiful live oaks!
The interior of a sharecropper's cabin (used to
be a slave quarter) shows a fireplace with
generations of wall paper, some burlapped-back,
some simply newspaper. Family photographs of
those who used to live here garnish the mantle.
The corn crib on the Oakland Plantation was built in an African
style, with wide overhangs over all four side hides, and a
pitched roof with a square gable in the center. The barn is a
good example of Creole culture.
A view onto the gardens at
Oakland reveals that the gardener
used old bottles, buried upside
down, to create a border.