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Colonial Natchitoches

A Creole Community on the Louisiana-Texas Frontier

By H. Sophie Burton and F. Todd Smith

Publication Year: 2008

Strategically located at the western edge of the Atlantic World, the French post of Natchitoches thrived during the eighteenth century as a trade hub between the well-supplied settlers and the isolated Spaniards and Indians of Texas. Its critical economic and diplomatic role made it the most important community on the Louisiana-Texas frontier during the colonial era. Despite the community’s critical role under French and then Spanish rule, Colonial Natchitoches is the first thorough study of its society and economy. Founded in 1714, four years before New Orleans, Natchitoches developed a creole (American-born of French descent) society that dominated the Louisiana-Texas frontier. H. Sophie Burton and F. Todd Smith carefully demonstrate not only the persistence of this creole dominance but also how it was maintained. They examine, as well, the other ethnic cultures present in the town and relations with Indians in the surrounding area. Through statistical analyses of birth and baptismal records, census figures, and appropriate French and Spanish archives, Burton and Smith reach surprising conclusions about the nature of society and commerce in colonial Natchitoches.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiii

In 1714, four years prior to the founding of New Orleans, Frenchmen established the post of Natchitoches (pronounced Nak a tish) on the frontier between French Louisiana and Spanish Texas. For most of the colonial era, Natchitoches was the easternmost of three communities— San Antonio and Santa Fe being the others—that served as focal points for the European, Native American, and African...

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Chapter One. An Overview of Colonial Natchitoches

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pp. 1-19

The establishment of Natchitoches in 1714 grew out of a three decade struggle between France, Spain, and Great Britain for control of the Mississippi River Valley. In the late seventeenth century, France, with colonies in the West Indies and Canada, began to challenge Spanish control over productive American possessions, especially New Spain. In the 1680s, the French Crown decided...

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Chapter Two. Creating Hegemony in Colonial Natchitoches: The French Creole Community

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pp. 20-54

In the early 1720s, Pierre Rachal, a soldier who hailed from St. Onge, France, arrived at Fort St. Jean Baptiste des Natchitoches with his Parisian-born wife, Anne Benoit. Following his discharge from the army, the couple remained in Natchitoches and raised three sons and three daughters. All six of the Rachal children married fellow creoles or people from France and settled in town, altogether...

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Chapter Three. Slavery in Colonial Natchitoches: The African Creole Community

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pp. 55-87

Slaves arrived in Natchitoches soon after the town’s founding and formed a large proportion of the settlement’s population quickly thereafter. Native Americans, mostly acquired through warfare, were the first slaves to appear in Natchitoches. In 1706, St. Denis and twenty fellow Canadians, including his trusted lieutenant François Derbanne, had joined warriors from allied tribes on the Gulf Coast...

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Chapter Four. Free People of Color: A Dependent Segment of Colonial Natchitoches

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pp. 88-104

In November 1782, Étienne de Vaugine, commandant of Natchitoches, banished Pierrot de Blanc from the post in response to the petition of six white inhabitants who accused him of stealing five sheep. De Blanc, a carpenter by trade, was the pardo (light-complexioned black) son of the late Cesaire de Blanc and had lived in Natchitoches all of his life. Pierrot’s father, who had formerly...

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Chapter Five. The Indian Trade in Colonial Natchitoches

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pp. 105-126

In 1714, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis founded the post of Natchitoches primarily in order to trade with the region’s Native Americans. His mission proved successful, as French traders from Natchitoches established commercial ties with nearly all the Indians of Texas over the course of the following three decades. Because cash crop agriculture failed to develop until the latter part...

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Chapter Six .Plantation Agriculture in Colonial Natchitoches

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pp. 127-145

Although St. Denis founded Natchitoches in 1714 in order to facilitate the Indian trade, Company of the Indies officials also attempted to establish plantation agriculture in Louisiana during the period between 1718 and 1731. During the 1720s, Natchitoches settlers experimented with a number of crops and found that tobacco production was well-suited to the region. However, the...

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Chapter Seven. The Ranching Industry in Colonial Natchitoches

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pp. 146-167

Whereas the earliest French colonists of Natchitoches brought few, if any, animals with them as they made their way up the Red River in the early eighteenth century, the settlers quickly obtained livestock through the Indians and Spaniards who lived along the Louisiana-Texas frontier. Well-supplied with manufactured items, Natchitoches eagerly exchanged these items for cattle and horses with the Indians and Spaniards Texas, even though the Spanish Crown...

Notes

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pp. 169-200

Bibliography

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pp. 201-210

Index

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pp. 211-216


E-ISBN-13: 9781603444378
E-ISBN-10: 1603444378
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440189
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440186

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 4 maps. 50 tables.
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Slaves -- Louisiana -- Natchitoches -- History -- 18th century.
  • Natchitoches (La.) -- Economic conditions -- 18th century.
  • Natchitoches (La.) -- History -- 18th century.
  • Natchitoches (La.) -- Social conditions -- 18th century.
  • Natchitoches (La.) -- Race relations -- History -- 18th century.
  • French Americans -- Louisiana -- Natchitoches -- History -- 18th century.
  • Creoles -- Louisiana -- Natchitoches -- History -- 18th century.
  • Free African Americans -- Louisiana -- Natchitoches -- History -- 18th century.
  • Community life -- Louisiana -- Natchitoches -- History -- 18th century.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Louisiana -- Natchitoches.
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