THE KING'S ROAD
Natchitoches, Texas Highway 21, Louisiana Highway 6, Los Adaes, Caddoan Mounds Photos
Creoles in the New World were born in European-held territories like New Spain and French Louisiana. Though Creoles were descendants of Spanish and French citizens who traveled abroad, they were not privileged in the European class structure.
Today, Creole culture offers vivid evidence of Spanish and French influence in Louisiana. Some Creoles designate themselves as Spanish-Creole and others as French-Creole. Many African-Americans share the Creole heritage through their ancestral lineage in the New World.
As the Spanish and French empires sought riches in the unexplored lands, they raced for the central frontier, which is now Texas and Louisiana.
Spanish soldiers and missionaries poured into the frontier from their well-established posts in Mexico. In 1690, they founded the Mission San Francisco de los Tejas east of present-day Crockett, Texas. The Camino Real, or King's Road, may have reached from Mexico City to St. Augustine, Florida as early as 1690.
Much of the route of Spanish exploration followed a network of prominent Indian civilizations which, throughout the central Gulf Coast woodlands, had historically developed large mound sites. But, missions along the route were difficult to maintain and the Indian populations they depended on frequently moved away or were devastated by diseases.
A mission was established in Nacogdoches, Texas in 1691 as the Spanish governor of Texas, Domingo Teran de los Rios, ventured through. An ancient mound remains today near the old Spanish road through town, La Calle del Norte.
By 1713, the French began trade with Natchitoches Indians in central Louisiana. An expedition led by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis founded Natchitoches (pronounced NAK-uh-tosh) in 1714 as a French post for trade with Indians and the Spanish. Fort St. Jean Baptiste was established in Natchitoches one year later to prevent Spanish expansion east of Texas.
St. Denis, a Frenchman from Quebec, led an adventurous life. Having been arrested by the Spanish in south Texas as he tried to establish friendly trade, he served as a guide to Domingo Ramon in 1716 and was a suitor to Ramon's niece.
In 1716, Ramon with St. Denis established six missions and a fort in east Texas and central Louisiana on the Camino Real, including rehabitation of the Mission Tejas, which had been abandoned soon after its establishment.
St. Denis was later imprisoned in Mexico City and returned to Natchitoches in 1719, where he became commander of the French Fort St. Jean Baptiste.
The Spanish built Mission San Miguel de Linares de Los Adaes in 1719 about 15 miles west of the Fort St. Jean Baptiste. In 1719, war erupted between France and Spain. An attack on the mission by six French soldiers, ordered by Governor Bienville, resulted in the building of the presidio at Los Adaes, which is now a Louisiana State Commemorative Area.
The Presidio Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Los Adaes, with about 100 soldiers from Mexico, was made the capitol of the Texas province in 1729 and remained for 44 years.
In 1731, Spanish soldiers from Los Adaes appeared in Natchitoches to help the French defend Fort St. Jean Baptiste against angered Natchez Indians.
France transferred the Louisiana territory to Spain in 1762. A little more than a decade later, the approximately 500 settlers of Los Adaes, most of whom farmed and ranched along the banks of Spanish Lake, were ordered to relocate to San Antonio.
When Los Adaes closed in 1773 due to a lack of an Indian congregation, nearby French settlements, which relied on trade with the Spanish and Indians, suffered a recession.
During San Antonio's nearly half century of development, settlers from Spain, Mexico and the Canary Islands had claimed the best farm and ranch land along the San Antonio River. Some from Los Adaes remained in east Texas along the westward route to the new capitol in San Antonio and many others later returned to the old settlements among the Texas pines and back into Louisiana, where some of their descendents remain today.
Among them was Captain Antonio Gil Y'Barbo who led a group to Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Bucareli on the Trinity River. The displaced group, or Los Adaesanos, retreated from Comanche raids to Nacogdoches, Texas in 1779.
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 ended large-scale French and Spanish immigration into the territory. Most Creoles are descended from families that settled before 1803.
A sign on the home of Kate Chopin reads:
BAYOU FOLK MUSEUM
Home of Kate Chopin 1880 - 1883, renowned writer of Creole Short Stories set in famed Cane River Country. Best known for "Bayou Folk" and "A Night in Acadie". Home built in early 1800's by Alexis Cloutier on Spanish Land Grant No. B 1701.
Northwestern State University
Creole Heritage Center
Louisiana Folklife Center
The university, located in Natchitoches, Louisiana, is extensively involved in researching and preserving the heritage of the region. The university houses the N.S.U. Folklife Center and Williamson Archaeological Museum.
The federal government establish the National Center for Historic Preservation Technology at N.S.U. because of its relationship to the important heritage of the area.
Natchitoches-Northwestern Folk Festival, which highlights local cultures, takes place during the third weekend in July.
Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Commemorative Area
Natchitoches Parish Old Courthouse Museum
The courthouse has been converted into a cultural learning center to preserve the history of the parish. It features a genealogy library on the second floor. Phone 318-357-2235
Oakland and Magnolia Plantations
Cane River Creole National Historical Park
The Cane River is a false river, a historic river bed with no outlet, and it is now effectively a narrow lake. Fertile land along the Cane River and the Red River to the east proved excellent for raising cotton, pecans and sugar cane. From exploration through colonial times, large plantations were established and Creoles became the dominant population in the region.
Today, the plantations preserve the history of colonial times and architecture, slavery and share-cropping, as well as two centuries of social practices in Creole country.
The Cane River Creole National Historical Park was established in 1994 and development is currently under way. Tours of the Oakland and Magnolia Plantations, lasting approximately one hour, are limited and reservations must be made.
4386 Highway 494
Natchez, LA 71456
Phone: (318) 352-0383
Dating from 1796, the Melrose Plantation preserves significant African heritage in the region. On the plantation grounds, the African House and Yucca House have distinctive African architectural features.
Marie Therese Coincoin, a former slave who generated independent wealth, established the large plantation on the Cane River. African-American art is preserved in the buildings, such as the murals of Clemantine Hunter in the African House and her paintings in the gallery of the Big House.
Beau Fort Plantation
Kate Chopin House
From 1879 - 1884, Kate Chopin lived in this colonial home in Cloutierville, Louisiana, which dates from around 1800.
Kate Copin authored prized short stories of the Cane River Creole and was considered an important, progressive female writer -- too progressive for the traditional society of the time. Her stories of charming and eccentric characters in the bayou country attracted attention from high literary circles.
In 1899, she wrote The Awakening, a book considered too risque and beyond all acceptable standards, and she fell into obscurity. She died two days after attending the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. She has since been rediscovered and The Awakening is requisite in many college courses around the country.
The house is also known as the Bayou Folk Museum. There are additional historic buildings on the property, including the plantation doctor's office of Dr. Eleanor M. Worsley.
Before its dedication as the house where Kate Chopin once lived, the Bayou Folk Museum was a repository for period furnishings and antiques. Phone 318-379-2233.
ON THE ROAD
Through East Texas on Highway 21
Located near a historic spring, Crockett, Texas is thought to have been the campsite of Davy Crockett on his ill-fated journey to the Alamo in 1836.
The town has a small visitors center and museum located in a railroad depot dating from 1909 at 629 N. 4th Street.
Mission Tejas State Historic Park
On the park grounds is the site of the Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, which was established in 1690. Through ongoing conflict with the French, the mission was soon closed and reopened in 1716. By 1731, the mission's staff was relocated to the more prosperous city of San Antonio.
The structure in the state park is a replica of the log-walled mission and is possibly more elaborate, with many windows, than the original. A historic log structure near the entrance of the park was once a pioneer home and stage coach stop.
The park, with camping facilities and hiking trails is located southwest of Weches on Texas Highway 21.
Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site
When the Spanish encountered a Caddo community near this prehistoric mound site, they were impressed with the large woodland dwellings surrounded by agricultural fields. They later referred to the province they declared to be ruled by the Spanish crown as Tejas, after the Caddoan community.
The park features exhibits and a video in the visitors center and a large replica timber dwelling constructed following Spanish descriptions and illustrations of the Caddo settlement. Two sizeable mounds, similar to thousands of Mississippian mounds throughout the central woodlands, can be seen and descriptions of the excavations are available. The Caddoan Mounds are located six miles southwest of Alto on Texas Highway 21.
( See Photos )
French explorer La Salle visited Indian settlements here in 1687. At that time, an Indian trade route probably existed connecting Nacogdoches with villages to the north. The Spanish established La Calle del Norte on the Indian trail. It is reported to be the oldest public road in the United States.
Texas was originally declared independent of Mexico here in 1826 by Haden Edwards. His Republic of Fredonia received no support locally and Edwards fled to the east.
The Old Stone Fort, recreated in 1936 on the Stephen F. Austin University campus, was torn down to make way for other buildings downtown. The original was probably built by Gil Y'Barbo.
The Sterne-Hoya Home dates from 1830. The pioneer home of Adolphus Sterne can be visited at 211 S. LaNana Street. Phone 409-560-5426.
Texas' eastern gateway on the Camino Real, San Augustine was the site of the Mission Senora de los Dolores de los Ais, founded by Domingo Ramon in 1716. The mission was abandoned in 1719 due to the threat of French aggression and rehabilitated in 1721. It was finally abandoned in 1773. Now a museum exists on the site of the old Mission Dolores.
A Texas State Historical Marker in San Augustine reads:
SAM HOUSTON IN SAN AUGUSTINE
Sam Houston (March 2, 1793 - July 26, 1863) left home in 1809 and lived among the Cherokees. After two years he returned to the Anglo world; He opened a school, fought the British under Andrew Jackson, and was Governor of Tennessee. After a three-week marriage, Houston left the Governorship and returned to the Cherokees; Three years later, he came to Texas.
Upon his arrival in San Augustine, Sam Houston opened a legal practice on this site. For the next thirty years he used "The Redlands" as a place of business, residence, or refuge. Houston is said to have recuperated from the Battle of San Jacinto in the home of Colonel Phillip Sublett, issuing his report of the battle from San Augustine.
Following Houston's term as the President of the Republic of Texas, the people of San Augustine elected him to serve them in the Texas House of Representatives during the Fourth and Fifth Congresses. Houston's divorce from Eliza Allen took place in San Augustine in 1837. He married Margaret Lea in 1840; Though her health would not permit her to live in San Augustine, she made frequent visits.
The early and strong support of the people of "The Redlands" for Sam Houston and Houston's love for them is documented in the history and lore of San Augustine and its people.
Toledo Bend Reservoir
OFF THE ROUTE
The Museum of East Texas, at 2nd and Paul Street, is housed in a restored 1905 Episcopal church. Phone 409-639-4434.
There is also the Texas Forestry Museum at 1905 Atkinson Drive. Phone 409-632-9535.
The site named for Thomas Jefferson Rusk, who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, was made the seat of Cherokee County in 1846 with only one resident family. Rusk lies 12 miles to the north on U.S. Route 69.
Several Nineteenth Century buildings exist including the Bonner Bank Building and Old Rusk Penitentiary. The Texas State Railroad from Rusk to Palestine, a state park, offers a 25 mile ride through the east Texas pines on a vintage train.
ON THE ROAD
Through Central Louisiana on Highway 6
Fort Jesup State Commemorative Area
The frontier fort was established to protect the western border of the United States in 1822. At this time, the old Camino Real was called the San Antonio Trace by westward pioneers who came by way of the Mississippi River and Natchez Trace.
The kitchen is all that remains of the original fort. A replica of an officer's house, such as that of founder Zachary Taylor, serves as the museum and visitors center.
Los Adaes State Commemorative Area
The site of the historic Spanish fort lies just off of Highway 6, one mile northeast of Robeline, LA on Highway 485. Little remains above the ground level and the visitor center is primarily a research station. The tours are very informative. Phone 318-472-9449.
OFF THE ROUTE
Spanish Place Names
Bayou San Miguel and Bayou San Patricio near the Toledo Bend Reservoir are examples of names given by the Spanish that remain on maps today.
Just off the old King's Road, Zwolle was named for a town in Holland when the Kansas City Southern Railroad passed through. Many area residents are of Spanish descent. The town hosts an annual Tamale Fiesta on the second weekend of October.
Ebarb, west of Zwolle, is the English replacement of the Spanish name Y'Barbo.
Spanish Lake Lowlands
Old Spanish Lake, near Los Adaes, was once flooded by the overflow of the Red River until a clearing operation in the mid 1800s opened the river to Shreveport, draining the lake. Caddo Adaes Indians are part of the rich mix of cultures inhabiting the area today.
Kisatchie National Forest
Longleaf Trail Scenic Byway
Scenic driving and hiking follow the Longleaf Trail. There are several vistas looking over the Kisatchie National Forest, including the Bayou Cypre Overlook.
/Stay tuned, more to come.
--Mark D. Lacy
Creoles of Color in the Bayou Country
By Carl A. Brasseaux, Keith B. Fontenot and Claude F. Oubre
University Press of Mississippi
Also, see the Mississippi Delta and El Camino Real.