Plantations abound throughout the South, but none are more unique than Melrose Plantation in Cane River Country in Natchitoches Parish in the State of Louisiana. This wonder of the world of this Deep South State has given home to great writers and artists and has brought visitors to Natchitoches from all over the world. The Melrose Plantation is located in Cane River Country, about 30 minutes drive from the town center and Historic District of Natchitoches, Louisiana in the north central part of the State and less than one hour’s drive from the city of Alexandria, Louisiana.
Melrose Plantation was established originally by Marie Therese Coin-Coin, the slave mistress of the Frenchman Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer who bought her as a slave and later freed her and the ten children she bore him. After living with Metoyer for more than 20 years and as a free woman, Marie Therese and her son Louis Metoyer proceeded to develop the large land grants that she had been given by the Frenchman following the termination of their relationship. Melrose was built on this land grant, first as Yucca House, then African House and later the Big House, which became the major home for the Metoyers for a number of years until difficult economic times forced Coin Coin’s descendants to sell the property. During the time the Metoyers had the property, however, they cultivated the land and produced tobacco, corn, indigo and cotton. They also raised herds of cattle. Marie Therese and her son also owned slaves themselves.
Following the Civil War, John and Cammie Henry purchased Melrose in 1898. “Miss Cammie” was a connoisseur of the arts and brought a diversified group of poets, writers, artists and musicians to Melrose, where they were able to work in beautiful surroundings without charge for either room or board. Melrose was a colony for artists who produced important works on the plantation. These folks included William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Lyle Saxon, Alexander Woolcott, Harnett T. Kane and Rachel Field.
The famous Clementine Hunter, known for her primitive art masterpieces depicting plantation life, worked as a field hand and cook on Melrose Plantation. In her midlife Clementine started to paint, and as she did her creations became known in the local area of Natchitoches and continued to attract art aficionados throughout the country. Clementine Hunter continued to paint until her death at the age of 101 in 1998. Her work is displayed in various areas on the Plantation.
The Henry family sold Melrose at an auction where it was purchased by Southdown Land Company who donated the buildings and land to the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches. Members of the Association are a cross section of Natchitoches citizens who continue to support the preservation of the Melrose Plantation, its land, and its historic literary and artistic treasures as well as its many antiques.
A trip to Natchitoches is incomplete without a trip to Melrose Plantation. It is well worth the 30 minute drive from the town center of Natchitoches out to the Cane River area to enjoy the beauty and historical significance of this Natchitoches Treasure, which is also an American treasure, to be cherished.