The museum is divided into sections, the Plantation Area
(the working plantation buildings), the Upland South Area or
Folk Architecture section and the Gulf Coast Region showcasing
more of the Creole heritage. All are filled with treasures
from Louisiana's rural past. There are plans to add an Acadian
section representing Louisiana's Cajun heritage. There are
already two Acadian dwellings on the property.
A good place to start your tour is the Visitors Center.
It has a film to help you understand the museum as well as many
artifacts representative of life in that era.
|A typical settler's cabin with
The Plantation area revolves around all the outbuildings
that comprised the original Windrush Plantation. The home is
adjourning the gardens and was built by John Charles Burden in
1850. It has been restored to its original state. You can tour
the home for a small additional fee.
Slave cabins were very simple: brick front but small and
just the one room with no porch and a simple fireplace with
chimney You can tell the Overseer's House easily. It was brick
and much nicer. It had a columned porch and several rooms. After
slavery ended the workers cabins became somewhat more elaborate
but still very simple. Often just a larger version of the slave
cabin with two rooms and two entrances. Perhaps two families
shared one house.
Of course each plantation was like a small village,
completely self contained. Anything not found on the plantation
itself was located in the village nearby. You will find a
blacksmith shop, schoolhouse, general store called a commissary,
a chicken house, a pigeon coop, a community well, naturally a
outhouse, grist mill, corn crib, a church and there is even a
tiny jail in case people didn't pay enough attention to what was
taught in church.
The kitchen was always located outside the house to avoid
the danger of fire. Here the kitchen abuts the garden so cooks
would just step out the back door and pick the vegetables or
A barn was a necessity in that time. The Exhibit Barn at
Rural Life Museum was built to shelter many of the artifacts
that were part of life in the area.
The settlers with their own small holdings had cabins
such as the dog trot cabin or one very interesting building with
a Bousillage chimney made of mud and Spanish moss. Wander
through these cabins and see the furnishings people lived with
|A settler's cabin
The Jean Charles Germain Berheron House is unique in that it
had a staircase outside leading to the attic where the boys
might sleep. It was built prior to 1805 and is believed to be
the oldest Acadian style house in Louisiana. There is
another newer Acadian house and it too has a similar stairs
leading to the attic.
|The Jean Charles Germain
The shotgun house was often used as a sharecropper home.
It got its name because you could open the front and back doors
and fire a shotgun through it without hitting any walls. It was
also very common in places like New Orleans. I lived in several
as a child.
|Shotgun house, found in cities
as well as on plantations
A bonus treat is "Uncle Jack," a bronze sculpture of an
elderly African American that traveled a twisted route to the
museum grounds. "Uncle Jack" was the brainchild of Jack Bryan, a
successful banker, cotton planter and mill owner in
Natchitoches, Louisiana. He had grown up with African American
children and worked with African Americans all his life and had
high and had high regard for the contributions they had made to
Louisiana life. In 1926 he commissioned Hans Schuler, a award
winning sculptor, to create a memorial "dedicated to the
faithful service of Black people who had played an instrumental
role in the building of Louisiana."
His brother, warned him that the stature might cause
problems. He felt that many white citizens would not tolerate
the only stature in town being dedicated to a Negro. Jack
ignored the advice and in 1927, the stature was erected in a
small park in Natchitoches. It came to be accepted by the white
citizens and drew praise around the United States. It even
became a tourist attraction in the town.
Then in 1968, protest came from a different source. Some
of the Black citizens found fault with the stature and felt it
was demeaning to their race and succeeded in getting city
officials to remove the stature. Jack's daughter, Jo Bryan
Ducournau, found out about the removal and instead had the
stature taken to her family farm.
In 1972, LSU officials found out about the sculpture and
petitioned Mrs. Ducournau to allow them to place it at the
Museum. Meantime, eight other institutions wanted to acquire
"Uncle Jack" but she decided the LSU Museum was where it
belonged. In 1974, "Uncle Jack" came to rest at his permanent
home. He has a place of honor right in front of the Chapel.
|Farquhar Steam Tractor
The grounds are filled with these and other treasures like
a unique Farquhar Steam Tractor and an actual 19th century
hearse so I suggest you go do your own treasure hunting soon.
Words and pictures are no substitute for the real thing.
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