The Forgotten People
Cane River's Creoles of Color
Publication Year: 2013
Out of colonial Natchitoches, in northwestern Louisiana, emerged a sophisticated and affluent community founded by a family of freed slaves. Their plantations eventually encompassed 18,000 fertile acres, which they tilled alongside hundreds of their own bondsmen. Furnishings of quality and taste graced their homes, and private tutors educated their children. Cultured, deeply religious, and highly capable, Cane River's Creoles of color enjoyed economic privileges but led politically constricted lives. Like their white neighbors, they publicly supported the Confederacy and suffered the same depredations of war and political and social uncertainties of Reconstruction. Unlike white Creoles, however, they did not recover amid cycles of Redeemer and Jim Crow politics.
First published in 1977, The Forgotten People offers a socioeconomic history of this widely publicized but also highly romanticized community -- a minority group that fit no stereotypes, refused all outside labels, and still struggles to explain its identity in a world mystified by Creolism.
Now revised and significantly expanded, this time-honored work revisits Cane River's "forgotten people" and incorporates new findings and insight gleaned across thirty-five years of further research. This new edition provides a nuanced portrayal of the lives of Creole slaves and the roles allowed to freed people of color, tackling issues of race, gender, and slave holding by former slaves. The Forgotten People corrects misassumptions about the origin of key properties in the Cane River National Heritage Area and demonstrates how historians reconstruct the lives of the enslaved, the impoverished, and the disenfranchised.
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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...noTe on The rev.sciseD eDiTion, by Elizabeth Shown Mills | xvii Photo Essay: Cane River, circa 1740–1880 | following page 57...
FOREWORD TO THE REVISED EDITION
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...t was with great pleasure that I accepted the honor of writing a fore-word for the revised edition of Gary Mills’s The Forgotten People. After its publication, Mills’s book stood as the only historical scholarship about the town of Natchitoches for decades. When I set out to write my dissertation, which was a socioeconomic study of colonial Natchitoches, ...
NOTE ON THE REVISED EDITION
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...reole is a culture, not a color. In 1969, I discovered that culture ole of French, Native American, and British roots. She took me to Cloutier ville and introduced me to her people: Rachals, Brossets, Derbannes, LaCours, Brevelles, and more. As a young student of history, I was intrigued by the fact that, up and down the river, the bearers of those ...
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...ane River’s Creoles of color, despite their fabled “uniqueness,” were part of a larger social order long considered peculiar to “Latin” Lou-isiana.1 Known as gens de couleur libres, the men and women of this society were considered neither black nor white. They successfully rejected identification with any established racial order and achieved rec-...
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It was Mr. Arthur Chopin Watson of Natchitoches who sparked my inter-est in the Cane River Creoles of color. A leading force in Louisiana’s develop-ment for several decades, Mr. Watson has labored tirelessly to promote and perpetuate the rich heritage of the Cane River area. Without his encourage-ment and support, as well as that of the Association for the Preservation of ...
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Will someone please give me information about a little place called Cane River Lake, Louisiana? It’s in the open country. The nearest towns are Natchitoches, Louisiana, and Cloutierville, Louisiana. While on ma-neuvers we had occasion to pass or travel on the bank of this river, or lake The people there were so nice to us. They gave us coffee and hot bis-...
1. A Fusion of Roots
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...n 1714 the intrepid French Canadian Louis Juchereau de St. Denis founded the first military post and colonial settlement in the region now known as northwest Louisiana. It was a strategic location he chose. Situated on the Red River 1 at the site of the Natchitoches Indian village, the post of St. Jean Baptiste des Natchitoches coexisted in harmony ...
2. A Matriarchal Legacy
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...n 1778 free nonwhites were relatively rare at the Natchitoches post. The census of 1776, the last one taken before Coincoin’s manumission, tallied a total population of 1,021 residents; 430 were nonwhites; but only 8 of these were free. Three of those free people of color died or moved away shortly afterward; by 1785 the post still claimed only eight free ...
Photo Essay: Cane River, circa 1740–1880
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In 1979, this historic fort was reconstructed in Natchitoches, at its original site, drawing upon colonial descriptions and plats. The center building—large by comparison to those around it but cramped by modern standards—was assigned to the commandant as a residence. At the time of Coincoin’s birth, the family that occupied the dwelling was headed by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, the man who held Coincoin’s parents in...
3. Early Development of the Isle Brevelle Community
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...t was the eldest son, Augustin, who led the Metoyers de couleur to Isle Brevelle. One by one, his brothers followed and, tract by tract, adja-cent lands came under their control by grant, by occupancy, and by purchase. As the years passed, the offspring of Coincoin and Pierre Metoyer were increasingly recognized as a famille extraordinaire by deni-...
4. Background of the Major Allied Families
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...ommunity expansion was essential for the Metoyers of Isle Bre velle. cousins, the Roman Catholic church proscribed it to the fourth de-gree. Yet colonial Louisiana provided no means of legal marriage outside the church, and Catholic culture in the new American regime still expected marriage to take place within that church. As a matter of practice, ...
5. In Pursuit of Wealth
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...he economic activities of Cane River’s Creoles spanned a broad craftsmen, together they formed an almost self-contained society. Plantations that were mainly devoted to the cultivation of cotton also provided foodstuffs for the community. Other supplies were usually purchased from its own merchants. Teachers within the family group in-...
6. The Faith of Their Fathers
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...atholicism was—and has remained—the cultural root of the so-ciety Coincoin’s family created along Cane River. Catholic respect for the sanctity of the family spawned the Code Noir provision that allowed Coincoin to grow to maturity in a two-parent household. The concern of a Catholic priest for the souls of the enslaved was the catalyst ...
7. Cane River Culture
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...fested themselves in many aspects of daily life. Large and stately homes graced the larger plantations. Musical training for the youth nurtured an appreciation of the arts. Education—even university study abroad—equipped each new generation for its role as citizens of dis-tinction. All the graces and amusements enjoyed by aﬄuent white neighbors ...
8. Racism and Citizenship
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...oincoin’s offspring had overcome many handicaps posed by slav-ery, poverty, illiteracy, and illegitimacy, but they were still gens de couleur libres. The most formidable barrier they faced remains to be examined: exercise of the rights of citizenship. What role did they play in a society that measured citizenship by the color of skin? What ...
9. Economic and Social Decline
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...ane River’s Creoles of color prospered steadily until the Panic of 1837, at which point the trend reversed. Their aggregate wealth would continue to increase until the Civil War, reflecting a growing population and economic inflation; but individual holdings in land and slaves, the most significant capital investments they possessed, declined. ...
Photo Essay: Isle Brevelle, 1940
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In June 1940, a young photographer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture drove the
Red River highway from the plantations of south Louisiana to the fields of Oklahoma.
En route, she tarried at Isle Brevelle, capturing relics of a curious world. Rarely did
she name her subjects. As her captions on this set of photos show, the labels “mulatto”
and “servant” sufficed for her purposes.
That day, Marion Post (later Wolcott) documented
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...he twentieth century wrought its own cycles of change along Cane generation, few families could subsist on the acreage left to them. Their youth began to disperse, seeking better opportunities in in-dustrial areas. Some settled in North Louisiana’s larger towns, Alexandria and Shreveport. Others were drawn to south Texas by the oil booms at Beau-...
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LLMVC Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collection, Special Collections, NCA Natchitoches Colonial Archives, Natchitoches Parish CourthouseNCCO Natchitoches Clerk of Court’s Office, Natchitoches Parish CourthousePPC-AGI Papeles Procedentes de Cuba, Archivo General de Indias, Seville1. Mills earned his doctoral degree in 1974 at Mississippi State University. The Forgotten ...
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Coutii Papers, 1803–1943. In possession of Mrs. Lee Etta Vaccarini Coutii, Isle Brevelle, Dignowity, Anthony Michael (1810–1875) Journal, ca. 1830s. In possession of Nancy E. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Col-Bertrand, Charles Jr., Papers, 1866–1928 [1676–1884], MSS 840, 867, 978Breda, Jean Philippe, Family Papers, 1776–1921, MSS 453, 966, 1021...
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Page Count: 480
Illustrations: 25 halftones, 3 maps, 3 charts
Publication Year: 2013
Edition: revised edition