Heritage Resources Pilgrimage Friday, Oct 30 2009 

This weekend, our cohort will visit the Military Maneuvers Museum, White Sulphur Springs, Jena Band of Choctaw, and Poverty Point.

A previous post contains the pre-site report on the Military Maneuvers Museum.

I consulted a number of websites for our visit. Little was available on White Sulphur Springs (http://www.thepineywoods.com/sulphur.htm , http://louisiana.hometownlocator.com/maps/feature-map,ftc,3,fid,1630396,n,white%20sulphur%20springs%20post%20office.cfm, and http://louisiana.hometownlocator.com/la/la-salle/white-sulphur-springs.cfm )

The Jena Band of Choctaws’ website was the best source of information on them, but NSU’s Folklife Center also offers a good resource:

http://www.jenachoctaw.org/

http://louisianafolklife.nsula.edu/artist-biographies/profiles/57

There are dozens of web-based resources on Poverty Point, but of various scientific integrity and detail:

http://www.crt.state.la.us/parks/

http://www.lpb.org/programs/povertypoint/pp_transcript.html

http://www.livegreenorleans.com/WP/2009/08/poverty-point-is-louisiana-rich/

Our cohort will do a trek throughout Central and Northwest Louisiana moving between I-49 and I-20 in a loop Northeast of Natchitoches, south to Pineville, then to White Sulphur Springs and Trout (in the Jena area), then to Poverty Point (near Epps). A potential route is in this Google travel plan.

I recently visited the Jena Band at powwow and look forward to this visit. My guess is that White Sulphur Springs will be a natural spring and perhaps an archaeology site, yet I sincerely look forward to it. I have high expectations of Poverty Point. I have been waiting my whole life to go there.

Magnolia Plantation with a media deadline Friday, Oct 30 2009 

Magnolia Plantation normally has personal discovery tours (i.e., self guided/not staffed with an interpretive ranger) on weekdays. The MAHR 2011 Cohort visited Magnolia Plantation on a Friday but were lucky enough to have met Mr. Dustin Fuqua and Jeff Guin there.

clock and bousillage

Pencil drawn clock on plaster over bousillage in hospital/ overseer's house

This visit was more of a project continuation, where the class worked on our podcasts and videos. Instead of general site interpretation, Mr.  ? focused on lesser known landscape features of the site, including fence posts, places of cisterns, and a cattle dipping area. We also toured the hospital/overseers cabin.

Visitors who happened upon the site as part of  the larger complex of downriver plantations did the self tour.They told us they liked it.

Even though the park area of Magnolia is relatively small, the park is clearly a rich resource. I had a feeling we didn’t get enough backstory and wish we could have had more overall site interpretation.

I hope to share more on Magnolia when our cohort gets the podcast and videos completed, and hope to return again to explore Magnolia.

brick servants quarters

lane of brick servants' quarters

Visiting Grand Ecore Monday, Oct 19 2009 

The Grand Ecore Visitor Center, a  US Corps of Engineers site, is located just north of Natchitoches on the Red River. The prospective visitor can find out a lot of information by reading my pre-site post on the center.

The exit from Grand Ecore Road (US 84/Highway 6) is obscured by a big sign advertising the shooting range.  The entrance to the center is immediately to the right after turning off Grand Ecore Road. Turning into the drive, the road splits around a large “hill”. Continuing through, the visitor reaches a prominent wooden structure built on a bluff.

Inside the visitor center is a museum focusing on the history of the Grand Ecore and its relationship to Red River and the surrounding area. I will organize my assessment using terms of parliamentary procedure:

Yeas: a.) Museum focuses on the immediate area. b.) museum looks at area in a holistic way- geology, history, anthropology, archaeology, geomorphology, industry, transportation, paleontology (one exhibit and the skull of an extinct water mammal) c.) good use of available technology d.) a very nice building and facility e.)very nice interpretive display panels (the one on archaeology could have been much better, see below). f.) an amazing view of the Red River and g.) friendly staff eager to learn information to fill gaps in their knowledge.

Students climb down from Confedeate earthworks

Students climb down from Confederate earthworks

Nays: a.)  Misinformation about archaeology near the site b.) Lack of information about Civil War ground positions in area (all interpretation focused on the river itself) b.) lack of interpretation/ disinformation regarding multiple Confederate earthworks on the site c .) Staff not knowledgeable about sequence of events in Grand Ecore’s history d.) lack of attribution of photos or other interpretive materials  e.) (my pet peeve)…use of a private contractors design and build the site and to other private contractors manage it. I know this is prevailing practice,  but I yearn for the “good old days” of General Douglas MacArthur’s tenure at the COE… public works that employ public workers… something the FOX News crowd might call “communistic” (!) today.

Photos of Grand Ecore (probably from Cammie Henry Research Center)

Photos of Grand Ecore (probably from Cammie Henry Research Center)

The Yeas have it…. but the bill passes on a slight margin. I vote for it, despite its flaws… besides, it’s one more museum and brings jobs to my legislative district.180px-EngineersCleartheWay

Saving St. Savior? Sunday, Oct 18 2009 

St. Savior Cemetery, Natchitoches Parish Site Visit

Our class met Ashley Constance  at the church cemetery, which is her thesis-project site. She is working with the church to both map and clean up the cemetery.

The site is the African American Baptist cemetery referred to on RootsWeb www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lanatchi/cemetery.htm It is the cemetery associated with the church on the east bank of the Cane River at 137 John Gains Rd, off of Hwy. 494.

St Savior Cemetery at a distance

St Savior Cemetery at a distance

Ashely said that the church cemetery dated to “the late 1800s,” but I didn’t see any marked graves that corroborate this claim. Most of the stones indicated burial dates ranging from the 1940s-1980s. Perhaps the earlier graves used wooden markers or the stones have been completely destroyed.  The Church and graveyard land were purportedly built on land that was donated or bequeathed by a white man. I look forward to hearing corroborated interpretation of the site.

Mitchell headstone

Mitchell headstone

Ed Mitchell headstone with lamb

Ed Mitchell headstone with lamb

The site visit provided an opportunity to see a downriver black protestant cemetery.

an angel on either side of the headstone

an angel on either side of the headstone

Ashley explains the use of the Trimble

Ashley explains the use of the Trimble

Ashley showed us how she uses the Trimble to map each gravesite. But the visit left more questions than answers: 1.) Was the church and grave-site built after the donation of land, or was there a history of usufruct predating the donation? If the latter is true, then what was the relation of the donor to the congregation?

2.) Why is the sole fenced-in grave site in such disrepair?The site's only fenced grave

3.) Did the Church conduct river baptisms in Cane River Lake?

4.) What is the relationship, if any, to this and the other St. Savior Church?

Anticipating Grand Ecore Visitors Center and St. Savior Cemetery Thursday, Oct 15 2009 

St. Savior Cemetery, Natchitoches Parish

I know from Dr. Tommy Hailey’s update that the site is “just outside of Natchitoches”, and that it is Ashley Constance’s thesis project site. There is little available  online regarding the site, and I didn’t have adequate lead time to chat with Ashley about the site. From RootsWeb, readers learn that the cemetery is African American Baptist www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lanatchi/cemetery.htm

There are at least two St. Savior Baptist Churches in Natchitoches. One is located on the east bank of the Cane River at 137 John Gains Rd off of 494, but because of context clues (that we are combining this visit with one to the Grand Ecore Visitors Center), I assume that this Cemetery is associated with the St. Savior located at 161 Saint Savior Church Rd (Parish Road 427,) just off of Grand Ecore Road (US 84/ LA 6). The latter is also sometimes referred to as St. Savior Church (Grand) in telephone directories (see below).

Assuming the latter church is the one associated with the cemetery, I tried to identify a cemetery from Google Satellite, but didn’t find conclusive evidence. If the site is near the church, it is wedged somewhere between Grand Ecore Road and Plywood Plant Road. I found a number of directories that included a phone number for the church (318) 357-8000. (eg- http://preview.tinyurl.com/churchphone)

With almost no information available online, I have to rate information as poor to nonexistent. I expect a cemetery associated with a church with little extant written interpretation on-site. However, I hope for good interpretation from Ashley, the church pastor, a cemetery groundskeeper, or a church member.

The Grand Ecore Visitor Center had much more of an online presence. The Center is a US Corps of Engineers site and seems to be a noteworthy attraction for Natchitoches tourists as well as for Civil War buffs http://www.civilwaralbum.com/louisiana/grandecore.htm and http://www.civilwaralbum.com/louisiana/grandecore2.htm Other online sites include Louisiana Travel website and a tour guide’s blog http://www.louisianatravel.com/grand-ecore-visitor-center-us-army-corps-engineers The sites have a wealth of information, including photos.

The Grand Ecore Visitor Center is located about 4 miles north of Natchitoches on the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway (ie Red River) at 106 Tauzin Island Road Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457. The site is free of charge. It is open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m daily and is closed on New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, would-be visitors can contact the U.S. Corp of Engineers at 318-354-8770.

The center includes a wood structure built on top of a bluff on the Red River. It houses a museum focusing on the history of Grand Ecore and its relationship to Red River and the surrounding area. The museum  includes references to geology, paleontology, and Native American cultures of the region as well as the place of Grand Ecore in the Civil War.

I have high expectations for the visit. For me, a combination historical site with a museum and recreation site on a waterway is tops. I love waterways and waterway transportation. I hope to attend the Waterway Awareness Tour, departing from the contemporary Port of Natchitoches on October 28, just across the bridge from Grand Ecore. One of my dreams is to one day navigate the Red River from Cross Bayou in Shreveport (where my dad has his boat) to New Orleans.

The visitor center is located on the high bluff. That’s a good thing: Grand Ecore is currently at flood stage, which means there may be minor lowland flooding in the vicinity. http://www.lawrencevilleweather.com/wx.php?forecast=riversobs&gauge=GREL1

Visiting Fort St. Jean Baptiste Monday, Oct 12 2009 

Rick Seale, former manager of the park (now District Manager for NWLA) met our cohort and oriented us to the facility.  He emphasized the importance of making tours accessible, good interpretation, and accuracy.  He gave us a history of the building of the Fort, differentiated “reproduction” and “reconstruction.”

The museum/ visitors center has a number of reproduction artifacts. The exhibits were English/ French bilingual. We watched an introductory film (also available with French subtitles).

We entered the Fort in a sustained rain. We were lucky to have a long-term employee and reenactment enthusiast give us the Fort tour. He was wearing a very passable French colonial uniform, gave us the known facts of the fort and clearly differentiated known facts from likelihoods and guesswork. It was also clear he modified the tour for our group: he switched between giving the standard tour and some critique, and lots of personal opinions.
He also talked about difficulty of interpretation, what could be and should be interpreted as what, and that first person interpretation should be reserved for a large staff (they have been severely affected by state budget cuts), and that some people find strict first-person experience rude.  Before we left, the rain subsided, and our interpretive ranger fired a musket.

The facility provides a wonderful opportunity to provide an historical lesson on a resource that has been long gone, but that is the bedrock of the French colonial history in Natchitoches.

I was overly critical of the site before visiting it. I now see it was an amazing jewel just a rock’s throw from my apartment. On a slow day it would probably be a peaceful park. I can’t wait to go back.

Visitors from France really liked the Fort too. The two couples had just visited sites downriver and before that visited New Orleans and L’Acadiane.

First-time visitor experience: Four bouquets (highest normal rating) and ½ brickbat (it was raining).

* I hope to be able to use pictures from classmates to enhance this entry. In the meantime, visit Megan Blinov’s excellent Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/newunoriginal2

 

Visit to the Natchitoches Clerk of Court and Assessor Monday, Oct 12 2009 

The Clerk of Court in Room 104 was the most well-organized one I’ve seen in the state. I have visited Sabine, Bossier, Caddo, Jefferson, and Orleans (both before and after Hurricane Katrina).   Louie Barnard greeted us personally.

[an aside: Orleans Parish has a Civil District Court Clerk which includes a Mortgage office, Conveyance Office and Notarial Archives, and a separate Criminal Court Clerk- this is unique to the state)… also unique to Orleans, election petitions and reporting of irregularities are certified by the Elections Board rather than Clerk of Court)]

Linda Corkrell, Chief Deputy Clerk, explained that the Clerk is the recorder of all legal documents. She brought us to the records room where she explained that they have documents dating back to 1732, including an inventory of Ft. St. Denis. The earliest archives are in French and some documents are in Spanish. Documents include civil, probate, adoption (confidential, in perpetuity), commitments (confidential, in perpetuity), and interdictions. A webview subscription is available for records from 1976-present.

The French documents have been de-acidified and encapsulated in mylar sleeves. Some documents from the 1800s were laminated to avoid destruction. The office maintains a number of maps. Some smaller maps are attached to deeds in the conveyance books.

Ms. Corkrell also explained the system of conveyances: Direct (Vendee) is the buyer; Indirect (vendor) is the seller.

The office is open 8:30 am-4:30 PM. Copies are $1 per page; the office gets no operating funds from tax revenue and thus operates on a fee basis. The other people utilizing the site on the day of our visit were “land men” and researchers for oil and gas companies. They seemed to breeze through the well-ordered materials.

I have nothing to recommend to the office, save a revision of Louisiana Code that would give funding to Clerks offices… and allow them better climate control…and while I’m dreaming, an archivist and funding for archives to preserve our precious historical records too… they could begin digitizing the older materials while the other staff digitize from present backward… they could meet at May 10, 1869…um, no…. wake up, Robert! The motors of history turn from the motor forces of the day… and while heritage tourism is an important industry, I don’t think the Clerks’ office will benefit to such a degree anytime soon.

 

The Assessors Office was likewise orderly, neat and clean. Assessor Rick Hargis and the staff were all very helpful, professional, and courteous.  Mr. Hargis explained that his office appraises all properties in the 30+ taxing districts in the Parish. They then send to the LA Tax Commission for approval. The Sheriff Collects taxes [aside- it’s always struck me strange that I write my check for property taxes  in Bossier Parish to “Larry C. Deen.” Not Sheriff of Bossier Parish or any other entity… in Orleans it’s payable to Bureau of the Treasury] and the information is updated daily. The Natchitoches Assessor prints the tax bill for Natchitoches and the other incorporated villages of Natchez, Campti, Robeline, and Powhatan.

[ another aside: Most of my dealings have been with Bossier Parish and Orleans. In Orleans Parish there are seven elected Assessors, and the style, personalities and culture of each office is different. This system has been in place for more than a century, is unique within Louisiana and perhaps the country. The Assessors- like many elected offices in “machine politics” are fiefs. One seat has been in a single family since 1904.

After Hurricane Katrina the system was attacked for being overly- bureaucratic and redundant and citizens voted to replace the system with a single assessor. An article in NOLA.Com says that long lost “cousin” Buddy Caldwell recently ruled that the seven assessors keep their pay through Dec 31 2010, as long as seven months after voters elected a single assessor http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/10/post_33.html ]

Ms. Dollie showed our cohort how to do a property search on the office’s public computer terminal.  She introduced us to the office including Yolanda (business taxes), Kim (deep transfers), Greg (photos), and Tim, the map maker.

The office provides a handy trifold “For the Property Owner of Natchitches Parish” and seems like a well-oiled machine.  I could only recommend an address search online tool (for the general public, or at least with University Database). Only one other visitor came into the office while we were there. He was a working researcher and seemed uninterested in me asking his opinion of the site.

First-time visitor experience: Four bouquets and ½ brickbat (the severe weather siren was deafening.. but I know that it’s not their fault  so I won’t throw that half brickbat).

Pre site: Magnolia Plantation unit of Cane River Creole NHP Monday, Oct 12 2009 

My expectations of this site visit to Magnolia Plantation stem from discussions with Dustin Fuqua at the curation facility and the following websites:

http://www.caneriverheritage.org/main_file.php/magnolia.php/63/

http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Ghost_Adventures/ci.Magnolia_Plantation.show?vgnextfmt=show

http://64.241.25.182/cari/historyculture/upload/significanceofmagnoliaplantationwpictures.pdf

http://www.nationalparks.org/discover-parks/index.cfm?fa=viewPark&pid=CARI

http://home.nps.gov/cari/photosmultimedia/magnolia-plantation-history-and-archaeology.htm

http://www.caneriverheritage.org/main_file.php/crnhp.php/

We will be visiting the Magnolia Plantation at  5487 Highway 119 Natchez, LA (near Derry) in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. It is owned by the National Parks Service and part of the Cane River Creole National Heritage Park.  To get there, follow these directions http://www.nps.gov/cari/planyourvisit/directions.htm from the National Parks Service. If you need to contact the facility, call (318) 379-2221.

DO NOT CONFUSE it with the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens of Charleston, SC (http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/) or the Private wedding hall in the New Orleans area (www.magnolia-plantation.com/), the one on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (http://www.magnoliaplantationms.com/) or the plantation or condo development in Florida or any other Magnolia Plantation elsewhere.

Dustin Fuqua will lead our exploration of the site, which is a unit of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park. Based on the information available, I expect an interpretation of colonization, paid and unpaid work, architecture, artifacts and other material culture heavily skewed toward Cane River “creolization.” That is, an explanation of how cross-cultural influences produced a new synthetic local culture.  Jeff Guin of NPN and NCPTT will meet us to facilitate the completion of our podcast and video projects.

Finding information about “our” Magnolia was not difficult, but actually much harder than expected.  A simple search for Magnolia Plantation yields poor results.  Cane River National Historical Park and Cane River Creole yield good results. Magnolia Plantation + Cane River yields better results for the general public.  I found over 100 links, perhaps half of academic nature using Magnolia + CARI.

Interestingly, both Magnolia Plantation (CARI) and the Magnolia in SC pose a number of interesting questions regarding period of significance. In “our” Magnolia, I believe  the site is interpreted to “late plantation use,” perhaps the 1960s, which can encompass the entire working history of the site.  The site in Charleston restored five slave cabins to different periods of significance: http://www.preservationnation.org/about-us/regional-offices/southern/advocacy/magnolia-slave-cabins.html

Fort Jesup State Historic Site and Rebel Historic Site (pre-visit report) Monday, Oct 12 2009 

A wealth of information is available online about the Ft. Jesup State Historic Site. I consulted with the following web resources:

http://www.crt.state.la.us/parks/iFtjesup.aspx

http://www.caneriverheritage.org/main_file.php/fortjesup.php/

http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/caneriver/for.htm

http://www.toledo-bend.com/attractions/index.asp?request=jesup

http://www.toledobendlakecountry.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=179&Itemid=336

http://www.toledobendlakecountry.com/index.php?Itemid=300&id=174&option=com_content&task=view

http://www.crt.state.la.us/parks/iFeeFacChart.htm#HS

The site is located at 32 Geoghagan Rd., Many, LA 71449 (just off Hwy 6, slightly closer to Many than Robeline), Sabine Parish, about 22 miles (30 minutes) from NSU. Its GPS coordinates are N 31 36.7346, W 93 24.1103.

The site is owned and managed by Louisiana State Parks, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. The phone number is 318-256-4117 or 888-677-5378 toll free. They can be reached by email at fortjesup@crt.state.la.us

The facilities include a museum, restroom and a picnic area. Good information on the site is easy to find.

I expect to find interpretation of the site focused on the strategic military importance of the region from 1820s-1840s, and the fort within that context. Likely points will include an explanation of historical geography including the US/ Mexico borders, the Republic of Texas, and “No Man’s Land”.  Military interpretation may include Texas War of Independence, The Mexican War of 1845 and perhaps a listing of famous men and Civil War officers that once stationed or visited the fort.
I have been driving by the site most of my life, but have never been there.  I really look forward to the visit.

Rebel State Historical Site

http://www.crt.state.la.us/parks/irebel.aspx

http://www.toledo-bend.com/attractions/index.asp?request=rebel

http://www.caneriverheritage.org/main_file.php/pointsofinterest.php/26/

http://www.explorenatchitoches.com/attractions/rebel-historic-site/

http://www.toledobendlakecountry.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=180&Itemid=337

http://microsite.smithsonianmag.com/ads/louisiana/about-louisiana/music.html

is located three miles northwest of Marthaville on LA 1221, also near Many. It is 10 miles from Robeline and about 25 miles west of the Natchitoches/ NSU. Its GPS coordinates are: N 31 44.978, W 93 25.231.

It is also managed by Louisiana State Parks, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. The Park can be contacted at 318-472-6255 or 888-677-3600 or by email at rebel@crt.state.la.us

Like most state museums in the area there is a $2 admission, but children and seniors can visit free of charge.  The site includes an amphitheater,the grave of the unknown Confederate soldier, and the Louisiana Country Music Museum. Reliable information is easily available online.

I am unsure of what to expect. Is the site primarily a Country Music Museum or a monument to the Confederacy? What, if any, relation do the two have?

My gut instinct is that the state should do more to emphasize music aspects of site and link with other music sites (especially sites of Country Music interest) of the state (Louisiana Hayride, etc), Delta Museum in Ferriday. But once again, I’ve passed the exit most of my life and never visited

Melrose Plantation (post-site) Friday, Oct 9 2009 

Professor Vickie Parrish lead our cohort around the grounds of the six acre site. We visited the “big house” as well as most of the structures.

Dr. Parrish explained that the family sold the plantation to an oil and gas company, and the APHN was formed to save the structure from being demolished. They were able to get the oil company to donate the house and the six acres surrounding it.  It is unclear what  overall resources the AHPN has to maintain the site.

Our class took a private tour “off hours.” Most of my classmates seemed impressed. I was interested in the association of the place with the lives of Cammie Henry and Clementine Hunter. And I enjoyed the flora, especially the large oaks with resurrection ferns. Of course, the site has other positive attributes: it is visually impressive, visitors can get to the site easily from I-49, it includes a variety of structures from different periods so the site can be interpreted to include much of the Parish’s history, the layers of stories keep visitors with short attention spans focused, and the site is accessible.

Process19 056

Students in my cohort voiced concern regarding the care of plywood paintings of Clementine Hunter upstairs in Africa House. Clear architectural and historical interpretation would help give visitors a sense of the depth of the site. My biggest question revolved around the possibility of moving the Kate Chopin outbuildings to this site and using the bricks and other remnants as architectural salvage for Melrose. I know owners have to consider all options, but would hate to see Melrose become a Creole plantation home with a “petting zoo” of vernacular outbuildings from assorted sites throughout Natchitoches Parish.

I am not much on “plantation tours”.  Despite that, I would visit Melrose again.

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