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Maison de Marie Thérèse Coincoin Museum
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[photo] Maison de MarieThérèse
Photo by Candice Pauley, courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

The Maison de Marie Thérèse Coincoin Museum, an excellent example of a Creole-style cottage, is associated with one of the main families of the Cane River Creole community—the descendants of Marie Thérèse Coincoin. It contains five rooms, and like many cottages of the time, is raised off the ground with brick piers. Heavy scissored trusses utilize blocks (called chantignoles) to support the rafters of its hipped roof, and this design used on so small a structure, its construction-type antiquated even by the 1760s, is very rare in the United States.

[photo] The modern iron arch gate sign at the entry of the Marie Thérèse Coincoin Museum includes an anagram of her African dit (or nickname) Coincoin. The sign contains her cross, the only mark she penned on all official documents. Marie Thérèse was illiterate because the colonial French Code of Louisiana forbade education of slaves.
Photo by Dr. Tom Albert Click on photo for larger image

Marie Thérèse Coincoin was born an African slave into the household of Natchitoches’ founder, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, around 1742. St. Denis died two years later and Marie Thérèse continued to serve his family. During her service to St. Denis’ daughter, Marie Thérèse was leased out to a young French-born merchant and local militia member named Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer. The two entered into a liaison that spanned two decades and produced ten children, eight of whom survived into adulthood. Metoyer purchased and immediately freed Marie Thérèse in 1778. Their relationship came to an end shortly before he married the widow of a close friend in 1788. Over time, Metoyer freed all of the enslaved children resulting from his relationship with Marie Thérèse.  Metoyer provided for Marie Thérèse a yearly stipend and acknowledged to her a parcel of land at Cedar Bend, adjacent to his own plantation, upon which the Maison de Marie Thérèse Coincoin Museum now stands.

[photo] The five rooms of the Marie Thérèse Coincoin Museum each contain a diorama depicting important moments in the life of Marie Thérèse during her decades occupying the site. The front chamber room depicts Coincoin and her children when she acquired the plantation c. 1786.
Photo by Dustin Fuqua
Click on photo for larger image

Marie Thérèse began cultivating tobacco on her small plantation and by 1792 had accrued enough product to ship to New Orleans. She and her Metoyer descendants formed one of the main branches of the Cane River Creole community – a family that by the 1830s were the richest people of color in the United States. A 1794 survey of Coincoin’s plantation includes a rectangular symbol for her house, termed as “Maison de Marie Thérèse, negresse libre.” Local tradition concurs with the historical record that Coincoin lived at the site, though the standing house itself first came to public attention in 1978. Archaeological studies at the site, first by Northwestern State University of Louisiana, and later jointly by the University College of London and the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, have reached opposing conclusions on whether Coincoin actually occupied the existing house. Despite the ambiguity over her occupation of the house, it is an important building because of its unique architecture, and because it stands on her former plantation, and thereby is linked to her in community tradition, if not actually in fact.

[photo] The chamber room also contains an old Natchitoches blown-glass window sash depicting the important events in Marie Thérèse’s life before she began occupying her plantation.
Photo by Dustin Fuqua

Click on photo for larger image

The Maison de Marie Thérèse Coincoin Museum is located one mile northwest of Bermuda in Natchitoches Parish. The museum is privately owned and open for tours via appointment by contacting maisondemarietheresecoincoin@gmail.com. The Maison de Marie Thérèse Coincoin Museum has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey. For more information on the archaeological studies of this area, refer to the Cammie G. Henry Research Center at the Northwestern State University of Louisiana Watson Library, the Cane River African Diaspora Archaeological Project, and the Cane River National Heritage Area website.

The Maison de Marie Thérèse Coincoin Museum Creole cottage is covered and surrounded by a protective 20th century apron metal roof. To the posts are attached interpretive panels that describe the history of the site and the life of Coincoin. The building stands on a 1.8-acre parcel of Coincoin’s original farmstead, including her Cane River frontage.
Photo by Dustin Fuqua. Click on photo for larger image.

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