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Oakland Plantation
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Oakland Plantation
Photo by Jack Boucher, Historic American Buildings Survey and Candice Pauley, courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

Oakland Plantation, part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, originally known as Bermuda, was begun by Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prudhomme on a tract of land granted to him by the Spanish government in 1789. He quickly built a fortune, vastly increasing his land holdings. At the time of his death in 1845, he held 104 enslaved people. Emmanuel’s estate passed into the hands of his descendants, who continued to develop and expand the plantation. The Prudhomme land was split in 1868 between two heirs, Jacques Alphonse and Pierre Emmanuel. Jacques kept the land on the west side of the river, including the Main House and the area now considered Oakland Plantation. Pierre took all of the lands on the east side of the river and renamed his plantation Atahoe.

[photo] Store at Oakland Plantation
Photos by John Lees, courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

Though Oakland contains a fine example of a raised Creole plantation Main House, even more important are the 27 historic outbuildings still standing on the property. This rare wealth of buildings allows visitors to more completely understand life on a plantation. Prior to the Civil War, large plantations often were more like small villages than farms. Though plantations focused on producing cash crops such as rice, sugarcane, tobacco or cotton, it was necessary for them to also grow food crops and raise poultry and livestock to support their large populations. A portion of the fields was often reserved for corn, potatoes, or other staple foods. Enslaved laborers were usually allowed to tend small personal gardens in their free time. Chickens, cattle, hogs and turkeys were raised by most plantations. It was popular in the Cane River region to construct special buildings known as pigeonniers in which to raise pigeons. These birds would be eaten and their eggs would be harvested. Oakland Plantation has many remaining outbuildings that were used in food production. A corn crib is still extant, as is a cattle corral and dipping vat. Several buildings devoted to poultry production remain, including a hen house, fattening pen, turkey shed and two pigeonniers.

Many historic outbuildings can be found on the land about Oakland Plantation
Photo by Candice Pauley, courtesy of Cane River National Heritage Area

Plantations also were responsible for producing many everyday products. Most large plantations had a blacksmith and a carpenter. The carpenter’s shop at Oakland is still intact. Other buildings were devoted to making life more tolerable at the plantation. The doctor’s cottage, so named because it periodically housed a doctor and his family, indicates that fundamental medical facilities were sometimes available. Oakland also had a plantation store that was opened after the Civil War to cater to the newly freed African Americans and those share-cropping or tenant farming at the plantation. This store also doubled as a rural post-office for around 100 years.

Oakland Plantation continued to be passed down from one generation of Prudhommes to another and parts of it are still farmed today. The Prudhomme family sold the core of Oakland Plantation to the National Park Service in 1997, and the last family left the land in 1999. It is now one of the two units of Cane River Creole National Historical Park . Cane River Creole National Historical Park is in the process of restoring Oakland Plantation to its appearance circa 1960. Its goal is to portray Oakland as a working plantation and offer insight into the everyday lives of all of the people whose lives centered around this fertile ground for 200 years.

Oakland Plantation, a National Historic Landmark, is located on Hwy. 494, 12 miles south of Natchitoches, and is part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park. The plantation buildings are open for self-guided tours from 8:00am to 4:00pm, daily; guide tours are offered at 1:00pm daily. For further information call 318-356-8441 or visit the Park. Numerous buildings of Oakland Plantation have also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

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