This beautiful antebellum house is now owned and maintained by the APHN (Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches). It was founded by direct descendants of Marie Thérèse Coincoin who was born a slave into the household of the founder of Natchitoches.
Coincoin was leased to Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, a young French merchant, to be his housekeeper. There followed a nineteen year relationship, which produced ten children. Metoyer ultimately bought Coincoin and several of their eldest offspring, thus granting them freedom.
Coincoin started raising cattle, tobacco and harvesting bear grease. She became a successful trader and systematically set about buying slaves. They became gens de couleur libre, free people of colour, and successful business people, plantation and slave owners.
The house build started in 1832, but tragedy struck and an untimely death led to the estate passing into inexperienced hands. Debts piled up and eventually forced the sale of Melrose Plantation after fifty years in the same family.
Many years later, and after changing hands several times, Melrose gained another housekeeper, one Clementine Hunter. She had become the cook by the time she found some paints and brushes left behind by a guest. She started to paint and her primitive style paintings tell the story of her life and that of those who stayed at Melrose. She painted thousands of works of art in a career as an artist that spanned fifty years. Some of her extraordinary works are preserved at Melrose today. Clementine died in 1988 at the age of 101 years. She is recognised today as probably the most famous African American Folk Artist in the USA.
Clementine Hunter (1887-1988), “The Watermelon Picnic,” c. 1960, oil on board, from the estate of Dr. Margaret Coon of Monroe, LA, who had accepted it as payment for treating Clementine and her family.