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and life along the winding road

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cane River Heritage Trail

Cane River Heritage Trail travels beside Cane River Lake. We picked up the trail on Hwy 494 from the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District, crossed the river and followed the highway past abundant corn fields with frequent glimpses of the river. There were many historic places marked on the map but we had chosen to stop at Melrose Plantation which has an interesting history. It was constructed by Marie Therese Coincoin who was at one time a slave. She was given the land after receiving her freedom and separating from her French owner, Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, the father of several of her children. Although Metoyer freed their children, Marie Therese's other children remained slaves. She worked the land, owning her own slaves, and eventually reached her goal, raising funds to purchase each of her remaining enslaved children. There are now over 10,000 of her descendants living in the local area.

One of the children, Augustine, built the St. Augustine Catholic Church beside the river where many Metoyer graves are evident.

In the late 1800s Cammie Garrett Henry lived at the plantation with her husband. Known as “Miss” Cammie she made a haven for artists and well known writers such as William Faulkner, John Steinbeck and Lyle Saxon, scattering guest houses in the grounds among the magnolia trees.

Another colorful character, Clementine Hunter, who was a field hand and cook, found some discarded paints left behind by one of the artists, and in her 50s began a career as an artist, painting people and scenes on the Cane River. In the Africa House, a mural of her primitive art work spans all four walls. Clementine Hunter continued to paint until she died at the age of 101.
After our visit to the plantation, we followed the trail again toward Cloutierville to view the Creole style home of Kate Chopin and the Bayou Folk Museum. At first we were unable to find the location but we came across a charred ruin with a “Kate Chopin House” marker outside. Unfortunately the house and museum had been destroyed in an electrical fire six months ago and along with many of Kate Chopin’s personal items were historical artifacts from the area. Kate Chopin was a 19th century author well known for her book The Awakening and many Creole stories.

1 comment:

Joanne said...

I'm ready for a road trip - Ray better pack his bags for a weekend. Fun pics and good descriptions. Hope we see a short story in this setting....