The Oakland Plantation Homecoming: Education and Preservation

Natchitoches’ Oakland Plantation, now part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, held a “Homecoming” Saturday, October 23. The plantation was established by the Prud’homme family in 1785 and was continually in the family’s hands until 1997, when it became part of the National Park.

The Homecoming event featured members of the Prud’homme family as well as descendants of some of the sharecropper families who worked the land. Retired engineer and National Park Service volunteer Elvin Shields showed his homemade wire toys and told stories of his upbringing on the plantation. He spoke in one of the two surviving slave cabins that were later occupied by sharecroppers, including him and his family. In the main house, descendants of the Prud’homme family gave tours.

The plantation grounds hosted a series of demonstrations of the many crafts that kept the largely self-sufficient plantations going. Park ranger Dustin Fuqua demonstrated how to make Bousillage, a building material made of a mixture of animal hair, mud and Spanish moss. A blacksmith from the LSUS Pioneer Heritage Center brought his forge and demonstrated to visitors how common items were made. There was also a carpentry demonstration.

The Homecoming was part of the Park Service’s attempt to tell the story of life on these plantations from every perspective in order to give visitors a more complete picture of this unique place in our nation’s story.

Oakland Plantation is a fascinating place, and the National Park Service is doing a wonderful job of preservation and interpretation. The Cane River Creole National Historical Park has some uniquely wonderful places to visit.