Las Cenellas
The Metoyer Clan
Creole Music
flur de leis
Creoles from Southwest Louisiana
State of Louisiana
Portrait of Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prud'homme,

Clementine Hunter Louisiana's Most famous Folk Artist and Creole


The Forgotten People

Cane River’s Creoles of Color




A Video History of Cane River ..Click here

According to the legend, the Cane River colony owes its beginnings to a woman known as Marie Thereze, or Coincoin. Of African origins. She was from her childhood a slave in household of the commandant of theNatchitoches post, Sieur Louis Juchereau de St. Denis.

The legendary Coincoin was outstanding even as a slave; her natural intelligence, her loyalty, and her devotion to duty soon made her a favored servant in the St. Denis household. Ultimately, these qualifications were to earn for her the one thing she most desired: freedom.


Augustine Metoyer


Supposedly the event which gave her the chance to break the bonds of slavery and take the first step toward becoming the founder of this unique society was the illness of her mistress.

Mme. de St. Denis was in bad health, and the local physician could find no cure. Others were brought in from New Orleans, Mexico, and even France; their efforts were to no avail. The family was counseled to accept the will of God. But one member of the household refused to despair.

Marie Thereze, who had gained from her African parents a knowledge of herbal medicines, begged for an opportunity to save the dying mistress who she loved deeply. In desperation the family yielded to her entreaties, and to the bafflement of the educated physicians she accomplished her purpose. In appreciation the St. Denis family rewarded her with the ultimate gift aslave can receive.


The gratitude of the St. Denis family, according to the legend, did not end with Marie Thereze’s manumission. Through their influence, she applied for and received a grant of land which contained some of the most fertile soil in the colony.

With two slaves given to her by the family and many more whom she was to purchase later, this African woman carved from the wilderness a magnificent plantation.

The center of this emerging agricultural empire was Yucca Plantation, still extant and more commonly known as Melrose. It was here, allegedly, that Marie Thereze erected her home and auxiliary plantation buildings, and here again she seems to have exhibited her individuality, constructing her buildings, supposedly, in African style, adapted to Louisiana conditions and native materials.

Not just any Frenchman did she choose to share her life, but a man reputed to be the scion of a noble family, Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer. As her children entered adolescence and made their First Communion, according to religious customs of that time, Marie Thereze carved for each of them a wooden rosary. At least one such rosary was treasured by her descendants until well into the twentieth century.


Before her death Marie Thereze divided her extensive holdings among the children she had borne to Metoyer.

For almost a half century following her death, the Metoyers of Cane River enjoyed a wealth and prestige that few whites of their era could match. Gracious and impressive manor homes were erected on every plantation, furnished not only with the finest pieces that local artisans could make but also with imported European articles of quality and taste.

Private tutors provided the children with studies in classics, philosophy, law, and music. The young men of many families were sent abroad for the “finishing touches” which only a continentaluniversity could provide.


“The Forgotten People”
Cane River’s Creoles of Color
By: Gary B. Mills
Louisiana State University Press
Baton Rouge and London


In spite of the racial limbo into which their origins placed them, the men of the family were accepted and accorded equality in many ways by the white planters. It was not uncommon to find prominent white men at dinner in Metoyer homes, and the hospitality was returned.

White planters brought their families to worship in the church erected by the colony, the only one in its area for many decades. In a time and place which there were no banking institutions, the Metoyers freely lent and borrowed, advised, and stood in solido with their white friends and neighbors.

They were known as “French citizens” long after Louisiana was sold to the United States, and they held themselves aloof from the waves of “red-necked Americans” who settled in the poor pine woods that surrounded the rich Cane River plantations.

The Colony was founded by Metoyers, but each successive generation saw the introduction of two or three new family names. Gens de couleur libre from Haiti and New Orleans settled on the Isle, and those whose background passed inspection intermarried with the community.


Wealthy white planters of the parish arranged marriages for their own “children of color” with the offspring of their Metoyer friends. This new blood, carefully chosen, did much to protect the colony from the genetic hazards of too frequent intermarriage.

For more than a half century this self-contained colony flourished on Cane River. The people founded not only their own schools and church but also their own businesses and places of entertainment.

The family’s patriarch, Grandpere Augustin, who was the eldest Metoyer son of Marie Thereze, served for decades as judge and jury; his word was law and went unquestioned. It was his dream to make of the Isle a place for his people, not merely a home but a refuge against the new breed of greedy Americans. By the end of their era of affluence, the family had almost totally achieved the goal laid out for them by Grandpere Augustin.

Cane River’s gens de couleur libre, like other southern planters, supported the doomed cause of the Confederacy; and they, like most planters, suffered the depredations of war and the financial ruin of Reconstruction.


Unlike their white neighbors, however, they found that after Reconstruction their ruin was complete, since the reactionary political climate of the Redeemer period throttled their economic opportunities. The “liberation of all men” shackled the people of Isle Brevelle with anonymity; the equality proclaimed by the Union lost for them their special prestige

. The colony turned inward even more, finding now that they must not only protect themselves against status-conscious whites but also against ambitious black freedmen.

Cane River Colony 1930's Archives
Click photo to enlarge

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