The City of Natchitoches was established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, making it the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory. A thriving agricultural economy had developed along the banks of the river by the time the region was acquired by the United States in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches, the oldest permanent European settlement in the Louisiana Purchase territory was the region’s commercial center. Downriver from the town, in the areas known as Cote Joyeuse (Joyous Coast) and Isle Brevelle, plantations produced indigo, tobacco, and later cotton.
The Civil War and its aftermath brought great economic devastation and cultural change to the residents of the Cane River region. Tenant farming and sharecropping replaced slavery, exchanging one labor-intensive system for another. After World War II, mechanized farming permanently supplanted the old agricultural practices that depended on human labor in the fields. As a result, many people migrated to urban centers, leaving the fields behind.
This is the complex past that is etched indelibly on the landscape, in the architecture, and in the myriad cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations.