Melrose Plantation is a nearly 200 year old National Historic Landmark located on Cane River Lake in central Louisiana that was home to folk artist Clementine Hunter. Built by a wealthy Creole family in the early 19th century, the plantation became a home for a variety of artists who lived and worked there in the 20th Century.
creole history at melrose plantation
Melrose has deep roots in the Creole history along Cane River. It was founded in the late 1700’s by Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, who fell in love with one of his enslaved workers. Betty Metoyer, an 8th generation descendant, explains, “He met Marie Therese Coincoin, a former slave who was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 1742.” Metoyer leased her to be his maid and cook, “and they lived together for almost twenty years and they had ten chidren,” said Metoyer. When Metoyer and Coincoin ended their relationship, Marie Therese acquire 18,000 acres and her children ran the plantation.
artists welcomed to melrose plantation
John Henry, who acquired Melrose after the Civil War, started a new chapter at the Plantation. Henry’s daughter-in-law Cammie Henry wanted the plantation to serve as a home and workplace for artists. The artists-in-residence included painters, writers, photographers, a naturalist, weavers and other crafts people. “They could stay here for as long as they were still working,” explained tour guide Adam Foreman.
a folk artist is born
Clementine Hunter picked cotton on the plantation as a child and later worked as a cook. The artists living and working at the home inspired Hunter. She saw one of the artists throw away a twisted tube of paint. “Clementine picked the paint out of the garbage and painted her very first painting in green on a window shade,” explained Metoyer.
For the rest of her life, Clementine Hunter painted colorful scenes from Melrose that show life and work on the plantation.
clementine hunter and plantation featured on TV
The Melrose Plantation historic site is open to visitors and is located south of Natchitoches, LA. Address: 3533 Highway 119 Melrose, LA 71452. Phone: (318) 379-0055