The Cane River area below Natchitoches is an old plantation district made even more unique as the home place for more than two centuries now of a distinct group of Creoles of Color. Descendents of the French planter Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer and his common-law wife of African descent, Marie-Thérèse Coin-Coin, they are tied together by blood, faith, and tradition, and still today form a vibrant group with a strong focus on their common heritage.
Melrose Plantation, formerly known as Yucca Plantation, was the original seat of the Afro-Creole Metoyer family. It was owned and operated by Coin-Coin, a former slave who became a wealthy landowner and businesswoman. Melrose historian Francois Mignon wrote, “Among other sterling attributes, Marie-Thérèse was endowed with unusual energy and intelligence. This resourceful woman, her sons, and her slaves worked valiantly, clearing the land, cultivating tobacco, corn, and other crops, raising cattle, to achieve a successful plantation operation.”
The Melrose complex includes the original “big house” as well as many plantation outbuildings. One of these, the “African House,” is an extremely rare example of African-influenced architecture in the United States. Melrose was later home to the famed African American folk artist Clementine Hunter, whose work is prominently featured in murals inside the African House. Working in the middle decades of the twentieth century, Hunter documented the world of Cane River in exquisite paintings rendered in her unique style.
Listen to Voices from the Trail with storyteller Louis Gossett, Jr.