Oakland Plantation

A ranger leads a tour in the children's room.
Enslaved carpenters framed out the raised Creole house, built in 1821, in cypress wood. Although most of the carpenters are unidentified, documents record both Dominique Toussaint and Solomon Wilson as enslaved carpenters. The house, updated over the years, was the Prud'homme family home until 1998.

NPS Photo: A. Jones

Oakland Plantation was founded on a 1785 Spanish-era land grant by Jean Pierre Emanuel Prud’homme and his wife Catherine Lambre. A small enslaved work force grew tobacco and indigo. From domestic and agricultural workers to craftsmen such as blacksmiths, carpenters and masons, the skills and strengths of enslaved Africans were vital to the survival of the plantation. The proficiency of enslaved blacksmiths including Philippe and Solomon Williams, for example, can be seen in iron latches and hinges, in numerous iron cross grave markers, and in a collection of skillfully made well-drilling tools found on Oakland Plantation.

The invention of the cotton gin in the early 1790s made the growing of large amounts of cotton profitable. Emanuel Prud’homme purchased a mechanical gin making cotton the plantation’s main crop. As textile mills increased their demand for cotton, the use of enslaved labor increased. In 1795 the enslaved population was 38, but in less than fifty years it had nearly quadrupled to 145 persons. By the Civil War, nearly 160 enslaved individuals labored here. African American labor sustained Oakland Plantation and contributed to the wealth of the Prud'homme family.

Interior of the cabin furnished to the 1950s period.
One of two surviving cabins in the quarters. The original one room cabin, built circa 1860 by enslaved people, was modified by later sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and day laborers.

NPS Photo: A. Jones

After the Civil War and into the 1900s, life continued to revolve around cotton. Descendants of the enslaved remained as sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and day laborers and new families moved here for work to support their families. The legacy of these families, including Helaire, Metoyer, Williams, Toussaint, Shields, and others remains as many of their descendants continue to reside nearby. The plantation survived the Civil War, Reconstruction, boll weevils, and the Great Depression. Increasingly machines replaced the need for draft animals and farm workers; what began in the 1930s accelerated after World War II bringing the end of the plantation era. The last tenant family moved off the plantation in the early 1960s.

Today, nearly 60 historic buildings of Oakland Plantation remain, set within a rural cultural landscape. Because of the integrity of the resources here, the site has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The cook's cabin, mule barn, store, overseer's house, tenant cabin and various other outbuildings are open daily for self-guided tours. The main house is open for self-guided tours only on Saturday and Sunday.


Last updated: January 7, 2024

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