Saturday, February 9, 2019
First thing Friday morning we head the 6 miles into town. Natchitoches was founded by a French Canadian, Louis Antoine Juchereau de St. Denis, in 1714 while he was en route to Mexico from Mobile, Alabama on a trade mission. When he reached the village of the Natchitoches Indians on the Red River, he had two huts constructed within the village and left a small detachment there to guard the stores and trade with the inhabitants. This became the first permanent European settlement in the territory later known as the Louisiana Purchase.
A small company of colonial troops were then sent in 1716 to build a garrison, Fort St. Jean Baptiste de Natchitoches which was built near the Nathitoches Indian village to prevent Spanish forces from advancing across the border of French Louisiane. Economically, Natchitoches evolved into a primary French trade center in the Lower Mississippi Valley. In 1762 France’s defeat by England in the French and Indian War forced her to cede the Louisiana colony to Spain. Spain continued its use as a trade center, eventually abandoning the fort. The the US acquired the area under the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 the fort was in ruins.
The fort replication that stands today is based on original plans and extensive archival research in Louisiana, Canada and France. Construction began in 1979 using local building materials. All the hinges and latches were handmade at a nearby foundry
Some more history: The Americans made another large impact by removing the Great Raft, a 100-mile long logjam situated north of Natchitoches. From prehistoric times, this obstruction had made river travel any further north nearly impossible. The project had an unforeseen effect of making the main channel shift gradually away from Natchitoches. The river bypassed the city almost completely by the 1870s, leaving Cane River open to riverboat traffic only during the rainy seasons. What was left of the river was later dammed to make the oxbow lake that exists today and that’s the lake that runs through Nak-A-Tish! er, Nacthitoches.
Downtown Natchitoches reminds us of other southern communities. Maybe even New Orleans but on a smaller scale.
We love the wrought iron railings, pillars and fencing on Front Street buildings.
Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile, circa 1863, is oldest general store in Louisiana. The store is filled with items from the “good old days” such as hardware, housewares, kitchen supplies and classic toys. Many old tools of the trade are on display- and some new ones too! The 1910 cash register not only works but is still used for everyday sales.
Downtown is a very nice place to visit. We found the visitors center and went in. A very nice college student by the name of Ann was very helpful. She showed us on a map and spoke of places of interest. She was very knowledgable in the history of this part of Louisiana. Thank you for your help, Ann!
The Cane River runs on the east side of Front Street. Beautiful old buildings on one side of the street and the river on the other. A park adjoins the river bank which makes for a fine walk. Across the river are some very interesting looking buildings.
We ate twice at Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen and Restaurant. Eating out twice in one town is a first for us. Sometimes we don’t eat out in two months. The big draw was the delicious Fried Green Beans. The batter on the beans was very much like tempura- light and crunchy. One day I had the meat pie, which is famous here in Nak-A-Dish. It consists of a spiced ground meat wrapped in dough, then deep fried. It looks like Michigan’s pastie but tastes completely different.
While in town we visited the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase, the American Cemetery. The oldest grave marker I found was 1801. The funeral scene from Steel Magnolias was shot here.
So that’s it for our first two days here in Nak-A-Tish. More to come!