|Fort St. Jean Baptiste:
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|This 1743 map of Louisiana by French cartographer Demarigny denotes the far western reaches of the French North American empire. Fort St.
Jean Baptiste is noted as "Fort Natchitoche." Both names were used historically. Click here for the full version. (Library of Congress)
|The 1858 Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (aka St. Francis) in Natchitoches is of the same founding lineage as the original St. Jean
Baptiste conregation from 1722. Natchitoches, however, is no longer a separate diocese. The area is overseen by the Diocese of Alexandria.
|The church founded within the fort also began the original cemetery of Natchitoches, which is now called the American Cemetery (after the
1803 purchase, Americans began using the cemetery so many French-Creoles buried their dead at the Catholic Cemetery instead, hence the
name American Cemetery). Historians believe that the original fort was located within the confines of the space that the cemetery now occupies.
None of the graves from the French period remain, and very few are extant from the Spanish period. One of the site's earliest graves is this iron
cross, which denotes a typical French burial. The grave is that of Marie Anne D'Artigaux who died February 26, 1797.
|Re-enactors or ghosts on the premises? The fort has been authentically replicated and sits along the Jefferson Highway in Natchitoches.
Photograph is by Christopher Talbot for the National Park Service.
|Learn about the fascinating history of St.Jean Baptiste:
It was the end point of the Camino de Real!
It is now a Louisiana State Historic Site!
It constitutes the oldest French settlement west of the Mississippi River!
|How to get
|The Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site sits between the Cane River (which was once the
Red River before the Great Raft Removal), and Jefferson Street, the historic highway that
connects Winnepeg to New Orleans. Its physical address is 155 Jefferson Street, Natchitoches,
LA 71457. You can also find it on this map: