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Magnolia Plantation
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Magnolia Plantation
Photo by Candice Pauley, courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

The land on which Magnolia Plantation stands was originally acquired by Jean Baptiste LeComte I in 1753 and has since remained within the LeComte/Hertzog family for more than 250 years. At the height of their prosperity in 1860, the family produced more cotton than anyone else in the Natchitoches Parish. Magnolia suffered greatly during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The original main house, built in the 1830s, was burned by federal troops in 1864 and was not rebuilt until the 1890s. Following the war, the cotton market was unstable, leading to economic hardships throughout the South. Though much land was lost, Magnolia Plantation survived numerous financial panics, the Civil War and the Great Depression. The main house and agricultural fields of Magnolia are still owned by the Hertzog family and large portions of the land are still cultivated. The plantation outbuildings comprise the Magnolia Unit of Cane River Creole National Historical Park.

[photo] The Cotton press of Magnolia is the only one remaining on its original site in North America
Photo by Philip Gould

During its prime, it is likely that at least 75 people lived at Magnolia. All of the slave cabins at Magnolia were placed in rows, creating a structured village atmosphere. It was common among large plantations for a sense of community and culture to develop inside these slave villages. African Americans created separate lives here, enjoying unofficial rights that were denied to them by the state. It was very common for them to marry and start families. As with many other plantations in the area, Magnolia’s slave cabins were turned into sharecropper cabins after Emancipation.

Due to the slow progress of mechanization in the Cane River region, black laborers were reported living in the cabins at Magnolia as late as 1970. As a result, many of the buildings are still in excellent condition, providing a rare glimpse of slave culture on a large plantation. In recognition of its historic importance, the National Park Service acquired a large part of the plantation and integrated it as part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park in 1994. The park does not include the Main House, which is still owned by the family.

Magnolia Plantation, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 5487 Hwy. 119 in Derry . The Magnolia Plantation Home is privately owned and is open for tours from 1-4 P.M. daily. The remainder of the plantation comprises part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park. Tours of the out buildings are currently available and can be set up by contacting the National Park Service staff at 318- 356-8441. For further information visit the website . Magnolia Plantation has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

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