Just about an hour's drive from Shreveport, the Cane River Creole National
Historic 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.
The Creoles of Cane River
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 (and the Louisiana Purchase), 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, French
timberwork, and post-in ground 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 and her sons
founded St. Augustine, the Louisiana's first Catholic parish and church founded and run by freed people.

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 faced 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.
The gardens at Oakland Plantation reveal that the gardener used old bottles, buried upside down, to create a border.
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
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).
A slave cabin - which became a sharecropper's cabin after freedom - at the Magnolia Plantation in Derry along the Cane River is built of brick
made on-site. Magnolia is one of two plantations in the Cane River Creole National Park.
The interior of the cabin depicts life, as it was, when the home was turned over to the National Park Service. The NPS preserves the moment of
time when architecture and lifestyle went from contemporary to historic - I think that's a great way of encapsulating, not recreating, history.
Though plantation homes tend to be more popular destinations for tourists, I favor the "simpler" architecture of the working classes, with
which I identify more readily. This asphalt-shingled home is now empty; however, it and its two other sisters, which sit in close proximity to
each other, were likely slave quarters that turned into sharecropping or tenant farmer cabins after the Civil War.
Another creole inspired barn lays beyond the preserved Magnolia Plantation. Because it's not part of the NPS, its private owners may not
have the funds to preserve it.
How to
Get There