Natchitoches (// NAK-ə-tish; French: Les Natchitoches) is a small city and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States. Established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis as part of French Louisiana, the community was named after the indigenous Natchitoches people.
The Destination of Travelers since 1714
|Incorporated as a town||February 5, 1819|
|• Body||City Council|
|• Mayor||Ronnie Williams, Jr.|
|• Total||26.28 sq mi (68.07 km2)|
|• Land||22.69 sq mi (58.77 km2)|
|• Water||3.59 sq mi (9.31 km2)|
|• Density||795.05/sq mi (306.97/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|Website||City of Natchitoches|
The City of Natchitoches was incorporated on February 5, 1819, after Louisiana had become a state in 1812. It is the oldest permanent settlement in the land acquired by the Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches is home to Northwestern State University. Its sister city is Nacogdoches, Texas.
Early years edit
Natchitoches was established in 1714 by Canadien explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It is the oldest permanent European settlement within the borders of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches was founded as a French outpost on the Red River for trade with Spanish-controlled Mexico; French traders settled there as early as 1699. The post was established near a village of Natchitoches Indians, after whom the city was named. Early settlers were French Catholic immigrants and creoles (originally meaning those ethnic French born in the colony). French creoles acquired lands that were developed in the antebellum years as cotton-producing Magnolia Plantation and Oakland Plantation. Each has been preserved and is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
After the United States' Louisiana Purchase of 1803, migration into the territory increased from the US. Natchitoches grew along with the population in the parish. Initially, the Americans were primarily of English and Scots-Irish ancestry and of Protestant faith. They developed several cotton plantations along the Red River. Numerous enslaved African Americans were brought to the area through the domestic slave trade to work the cotton, and provide all other skills on these plantations, generating the revenues for the wealthy planters before the Civil War.
In the 1820s and early 1830s, Natchitoches also served as a freight transfer point for cotton shipped from parts of east Texas. Cotton shippers used a land route crossing the Sabine River to Natchitoches, where the freight was transferred to boats, and floated down the Red River to New Orleans.
When the course of the Red River shifted, it bypassed Natchitoches and cut off its lucrative connection with the Mississippi River. A 33-mile (53 km) oxbow lake was left in the river's previous location which became known as Cane River Lake.
Civil War edit
During the Civil War, Natchitoches was set on fire by Union soldiers who retreated through the town after their failed attempt to capture Shreveport. Confederate cavalry pursued the fleeing soldiers and arrived in time to help extinguish the flames before the town was destroyed. Alexandria was destroyed by Union troops in 1864, but both Union and Confederate troops were responsible for severely damaging plantations along the river during the war, including Magnolia and Oakland.
Radford Blunt published the Natchitoches Republican. He was also a candidate for the state legislature. William H. Tunnard edited the paper.
20th century edit
As the parish seat, Natchitoches suffered from the decline in agricultural population through the mid-20th century, and grew at a markedly lower rate after 1960. The mechanization of agriculture had reduced the number of workers needed, and many moved to cities for jobs. By the early 1970s, the town's businesses were declining, along with many area farms, and buildings were boarded up.
In the mid-1970s, Mayor Bobby DeBlieux and other preservationists believed that attracting tourists to the area, based on its historic assets of nearly intact plantations and numerous historic buildings, could be a key to attracting visitors, reviving the town, and stimulating new businesses. Over the years, he worked with a variety of landowners and local people to gain support for designating a historic district in the city. He also supported making a national park out of the working area of Magnolia Plantation, which had many surviving outbuildings from the 19th century, and from Oakland Plantation, both downriver in the parish.
By the end of the 20th century, the mile-long French colonial area of downtown, which lies along Cane Lake, was designated as a National Historic District. Many buildings were adapted as antique shops, restaurants and souvenir emporiums. To accommodate tourists, the town had 32 bed-and-breakfast inns, the highest in the state. By 2018, that number had increased to 50.
The plantation country surrounds Cane River Lake. The markedly intact downriver Magnolia and Oakland plantations were designated as National Historic Landmarks, and are part of what has been developed as the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, which was authorized in 1994, with the support of US Senator J. Bennett Johnston. He was a cousin by marriage of Betty Hertzog, the last of the family to live in the great house at Magnolia.
Tours and interpretive programs at both sites continue to attract visitors, especially as they grapple with telling the difficult history of slavery and its aftermath at the plantations. They also cover the contributions of blacks and Creoles of color to the community. In April 2022, the city council added Juneteenth as an official city holiday.
Since the late 20th century, the 35-mile oxbow lake has served as the spring-break training location for numerous university crew teams, from universities such as the University of St. Thomas, Kansas State University, University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Murray State University, University of Central Oklahoma, and Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Northwestern State University. In the spring of 2018, LSU, Alabama, Texas and Georgia were also represented. Tourists interested in sports often visit in this period to watch the sports teams.
Over the years, the city and parish have improved conditions with a riverbank stabilization project and a water pump project to improve water levels in the lake. This directs water from Hampton Lake into Bayou Possiant, which feeds Cane River Lake.
In March 1965, nine children were among seventeen people killed in a natural gas pipeline explosion.
Natchitoches was the site of the 1973 plane crash that claimed the life of singer-songwriter Jim Croce. Croce had performed a concert on campus for Northwestern State University students at Prather Coliseum. He was killed less than an hour later in a plane headed to Sherman, Texas. The crash may have been a result of the pilot suffering a fatal heart attack.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.1 square miles (65 km2), of which 21.6 square miles (56 km2) are land and 3.6 square miles (9.3 km2) (14.21%) are covered by water.
A 35-mi-long (56 km) lake was formed from a portion of the Red River when it changed course. It is now known as Cane River Lake. The municipal water supply comes from nearby Sibley Lake, a formerly drained wetland dammed in 1962, which also offers fishing and boating.
Soils in this area are a combination of leaf mold and red clays, sand, and sediments. The area is part of the Chestnut Salt Dome.
Though Natchitoches has few multistorey buildings, it has retained much of its historic European-style architecture listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Natchitoches Historic District. The city is a mesh of wrought iron, stucco, and red brick. The city still has one of the original brick streets (Front Street), which the historical society protects from alterations. The city of Natchitoches recently completed a restoration project to repair the century-old brick street. During this process, workers removed each brick one by one, numbered it, cleaned it, and then replaced it after utilities, drainage, and the foundation were repaired beneath.
|Climate data for Natchitoches, Louisiana (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1893–present)|
|Record high °F (°C)||84
|Mean maximum °F (°C)||76.6
|Average high °F (°C)||59.8
|Daily mean °F (°C)||49.5
|Average low °F (°C)||39.2
|Mean minimum °F (°C)||23.4
|Record low °F (°C)||3
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||5.08
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.2||8.8||9.1||6.5||8.2||9.4||8.6||6.5||6.9||7.1||7.4||9.8||98.5|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||0.1||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.1||0.2|
Weather-wise, Natchitoches lies in a boundary region that separates the plains of Texas from the consistently humid Gulf Coast. This gives summers both heat and humidity. Winters in Natchitoches are relatively mild, with measurable snowfall once every 5–10 years. Natchitoches averages 54.93 inches (1,395 mm) of rain per year. The city is in an area that frequently experiences severe thunderstorms, hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
2020 census edit
|Black or African American||9,892||54.84%|
|Hispanic or Latino||910||5.04%|
As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 18,039 people, 6,222 households, and 2,773 families residing in the city.
2010 census edit
As of the 2010 census, 18,323 people, 6,705 households, and 3,631 families were residing in the city. The population density was 828.5 inhabitants per square mile (319.9/km2). The 7,906 housing units averaged 312.2 per sq mi (120.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 59.0% African American, 36.4% White, 0.5% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.42% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race was 1.7% of the population.
Of the 6,113 households, 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.3% were married couples living together, 21.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.6% were not families. About 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50, and the average family size was 3.18.
In the city, the age distribution was 23.6% under the age of 18, 27.2% from 18 to 24, 21.8% from 25 to 44, 16.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 85.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $23,261, and for a family was $30,396. Males had a median income of $28,601 versus $17,859 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,642. About 26.7% of families and 34.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 45.0% of those under age 18 and 19.2% of those aged 65 or over.
Following continued population decline in the area, in part due to mechanization of agriculture, by the 1970s, Natchitoches had suffered an economic downturn that resulted in a 65% vacancy in the commercial district. Because of efforts to revitalize the city and emphasize its unique historic assets, as described above, vacancy is now about 1%.
The Port of Natchitoches—a river port on the Red River—is located off the eastbound part of U.S. Route 84, just outside Natchitoches. The port exports lumber from yards onsite, as forestry is a major industry in the area, as well.
Natchitoches Regional Airport serves cities (via FBO) such as Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, Monroe, and Shreveport. It is adjacent to Northwestern State University; together, they offer flight training. The airport is under renovation to become one of the country's most advanced non-towered airports.
The Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery is based here. They handle over six species of fish and other wildlife. The parish attracts numerous sports fishermen during the seasons.
Since completion of Interstate 49, many business have either moved or have been built outside the city's central area. Gas stations and hotels have developed in this area and serve many of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival visitors.
In 1998, Natchitoches was named one of the top six places in the United States to retire by Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine.
The Cane River National Heritage Area is a 116,000-acre (470 km2) area which includes many sites such as Oakland Plantation, Melrose Plantation, Badin-Roque House, Magnolia Plantation, Kate Chopin House, Cherokee Plantation, Cane River Heritage Scenic Byway, Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, National Historic Landmark District (Old Courthouse Museum, Bishop Martin Museum, Landmarks in Time Exhibit), and Los Adaes State Historic Site. Because of this richness of culture, the area is one of the destinations on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail newly designated by the state.
Natchitoches attracts over one million visitors annually. The city is known as a retiree-friendly city. In 2006, Natchitoches was awarded the Great American Main Street Award for the effort the community has put into revitalizing and restoring much of the historic district.
The city's tourism center is the downtown river walk. This includes Front Street, which becomes Jefferson at the Texas Street light. Front Street is the jewel of the city. It overlooks the river walk and is bordered by an assortment of shops and boutiques. The city has identified this area as its historical district. The Historical Society maintains the area through regulations on changes and restorations. Natchitoches has a mini "Walk of Fame" located in the historical district of the city.
While visiting the area, tourists may notice many unusual structures; these are many of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival lights. The city recently built a small convention center located on Second Street, which holds many city events.
The Bayou Pierre Alligator Park is a major tourist attraction, where tourists may feed the alligators and dine and shop. The park teaches school children to respect nature and to conserve its many habitats. Natchitoches is home to a branch of the Kisatchie National Forest, a designation promoted by naturalist Caroline Dormon to preserve regional natural wonders.
Opened December 2005, the Natchitoches Events Center is in the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District. Located at 750 Second Street, the facility has a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) meeting facility, a 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) exhibit hall with three meeting rooms, a board room, and a full-sized catering kitchen.
National Guard edit
A Troop 2-108TH CAV is headquartered behind the local college and the airport. This unit has been deployed twice to Iraq, first as part of the 1-156TH Armor Battalion in 2004–2005, and then as part of the 2-108TH CAV SQDN in 2010. Both times, this company-sized unit deployed with the 256th Infantry Brigade.,
Arts and culture edit
The Natchitoches Meat Pie is one of the official state foods of Louisiana. It is known as a regional delicacy of North Louisiana. (See List of U.S. state foods.)
Natchitoches has long been known for its popular Christmas lighting festival which is held the first Saturday in December. The lights continue to brighten the Cane River until after New Year's Day. In 2019 the festival celebrated its 93rd year.
Colleges and universities edit
The Northwestern Campus is also home to the Louisiana Scholars' College, the state's designated honors college for the study of the liberal arts and sciences. As a part of its effort to become a global campus, NSU is a sister university with many universities in Asia.
Primary and secondary schools edit
Public schools edit
Natchitoches Parish School Board operates many public schools. They include:
- East Natchitoches Elementary/Middle School
- George L. Parks Elementary
- L.P. Vaughn Elementary
- M.R. Weaver Elementary
- NSU Elementary/Middle Laboratory School
- Natchitoches Junior High—Frankie Ray Jackson School
- Natchitoches Magnet School
- Natchitoches Central High School
The city is also home to the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a public residential honors high school.
Private schools edit
St. Mary's High School is in Natchitoches.
|91.7||KNWD||Alternative||Northwestern State University|
|94.9||KSBH||Country||Elite Radio Group|
|97.5||KDBH-FM||Classic country||Baldridge-Dumas Communications|
|106.5||KLNQ||Contemporary Christian music||Educational Media Foundation|
Natchitoches is part of the Shreveport media market for television. A low-power TV station, KNTS-LP, operated in Natchitoches from 1998 to 2021; it briefly produced local news and feature programming.
Health care edit
Natchitoches Regional Medical Center is a 78-bed facility that includes 45 medical/surgical beds and a 112-bed skilled nursing home. Rehabilitation treatment is at the PRISM Center for physical, occupational and speech therapy, sports medicine, industrial medicine, wound care and more.
Notable people edit
- Jack Berly (1903–1977), a Major League Baseball pitcher
- Curtis Boozman (1898–1979), served two nonconsecutive terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives from Natchitoches, 1952 to 1956 and 1960 to 1964.
- Leopold Caspari, businessman, banker, and member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature between 1884 and 1914
- Joanna Cassidy, Golden Globe award-winning actress.
- Monnie T. Cheves, NSU professor; member of the Louisiana House from Natchitoches Parish from 1952 to 1960
- Kate Chopin, a short story writer and novelist, managed a plantation in Cloutierville south of Natchitoches in the late 19th century for a time after the death of her husband.
- Charles Milton Cunningham (1877–1936), Natchitoches attorney, publisher of The Natchitoches Times, and member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1915 to 1922
- Milton Joseph Cunningham (1842–1916), attorney in Natchitoches and New Orleans, state representative and state senator from Natchitoches Parish, state attorney general for three nonconsecutive terms ending in 1900, father of Charles Milton Cunningham and grandfather of W. Peyton Cunningham
- William Tharp Cunningham (1871–1952), attorney, planter, state district court judge, state representative
- W. Peyton Cunningham (1901–1971), attorney and member of the Louisiana House from Natchitoches Parish from 1932 to 1940
- George Doherty was a former professional football player who was the head coach of the Northwestern State University Demons from 1972 to 1974. The athletic offices are named in his honor.
- Caroline Dormon, a naturalist and preservationist, lived in Natchitoches Parish. She was the driving force behind the establishment of the Kisatchie National Forest.
- Steve Dowden, former football player.
- David Dumars, player of gridiron football
- Joe Dumars, NBA championship-winning player and general manager for the Detroit Pistons.
- Joseph Barton Elam, member of the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana's 4th congressional district, spent part of his childhood in Natchitoches
- Medford Bryan Evans (1907–1989), former professor at Northwestern State University; conservative political writer
- Dan Flores (born 1948), historian of the American West at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana; obtained master's degree from NSU
- Grits Gresham (1922–2008) was a nationally known sportsman, outdoorsman, author, and host of ABC's The American Sportsman television series from 1966 to 1979. A noted environmentalist, he resided on Cane River Lake.
- Robert Harling, a playwright and Hollywood screenwriter (born 1951), is a Natchitoches native.
- Bobby Hebert, football quarterback; New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame
- Robert Hilburn (born 1939), biographer, and pop music critic for Los Angeles Times.
- George W. Jack, judge from 1917 until his death in 1924 of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, based in Shreveport; born in Natchitoches in 1875.
- Andrew R. Johnson (1856–1933), state senator from Bienville and Claiborne parishes from 1916 to 1924 and mayor of Homer, Louisiana, in the 1910s.
- Marques Johnson, basketball player on UCLA national championship team and for NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors.
- Pat Listach, MLB player for the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros, coach and minor-league manager.
- Jimmy D. Long is a former Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives who served from the Natchitoches-based district from 1968 to 2000.
- Vern Roberson (born 1952), NFL player.
- Brittney Rogers (born 1982), Miss Louisiana USA 2003.
- Henry Hopkins Sibley (1816–1886) was a Confederate general in the American Civil War who commanded in Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico.
- Ray Tarver (1921–1972), dentist who represented Natchitoches Parish in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1964 to 1968.
- Charlie Tolar (1937–2003), pro football player for Houston Oilers.
- Trini Triggs (born 1965) is a country music singer born and reared in Natchitoches; holds occasional concerts on the Cane River.
- A. L. Williams (born 1934), retired NSU and Louisiana Tech football coach; resided in Natchitoches, 1974–1982.
- J. Robert Wooley (born 1953), Natchitoches native but never lived in the city; Louisiana insurance commissioner, 2000–06.
Noted events edit
Natchitoches was the site of a gas pipeline explosion on March 4, 1965 that killed 17 people.
Natchitoches received numerous New Orleans evacuees due to Hurricane Katrina (2005). Many college students from New Orleans were transferred to Northwestern State University to continue their education.
In popular culture edit
Multiple movies have been filmed here, including:
- The Horse Soldiers (1959), starring William Holden and John Wayne.
- Cane River (film) (1982), Horace B. Jenkins filmed Cane River in New Orleans and Natchitoches Parish.
- Steel Magnolias (1989), starring Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, and Olympia Dukakis
- The Man in the Moon (1991), starring Reese Witherspoon, Jason London, Sam Waterston, and Tess Harper
- 12 Years a Slave (2013), four historic antebellum plantations were used in the film: Felicity, Magnolia, Bocage, and Destrehan. Magnolia, a plantation in Natchitoches, Louisiana, is just a few miles from one of the historic sites where Northup was held. "To know that we were right there in the place where these things occurred was so powerful and emotional," said actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. "That feeling of dancing with ghosts—it's palpable."
- "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
- Dorman, Jim (February 4, 2020). "Natchitoches native makes Company's 'Steel Magnolias' bloom with authenticity". The Patriot Ledger. Worcester, Massachusetts.
- Block, Melissa (January 23, 2014). "Natchi — What's It Now? A Local Sets Us Straight". All Things Considered. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
- "City of Natchitoches". natchitochesla.gov. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
- Wesley, Edgar Bruce (1935). Guarding the frontier. The University of Minnesota Press, p. 40.
- Holbrook, Abigail Curlee (1952). "Cotton Marketing in Antebellum Texas". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. Vol. 73, no. 4. pp. 431–455. JSTOR 30236594.
- "Geo. P. Rowell and Co.'s American Newspaper Directory". 1874.
- Ginger Thompson, "Reaping What Was Sown On the Old Plantation; A Landowner Tells Her Family's Truth. A Park Ranger Wants a Broader Truth.", The New York Times, June 22, 2000. Retrieved May 3, 2018
- National Park Service: Official Cane River Creole National Historical Park website
- Holdiness, Timothy (April 26, 2022). "Natchitoches adds Juneteenth as official holiday". KTBS. Retrieved August 26, 2023.
- "Nine college rowing teams using Cane River this month", Natchitoches Parish Journal, March 22, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018
- "Gas Blast Kills Seventeen in Louisiana". The Corpus Christi Times. March 4, 1965. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
- "Jim Croce and five others die in plane crash", Rolling Stone, October 25, 1973
- "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved August 20, 2021.
- "Station: Natchitoches, LA". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991–2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved August 20, 2021.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 7, 2021.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
- "Holiday Festival Lights Up Natchitoches". Louisiana Official Travel and Tourism Information. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
- "Bed & Breakfasts, Cabins, and Guest Houses in Natchitoches, LA".
- "Home". steelmagnoliahouse.com.
- "Our Colleges". Louisiana's Technical and Community Colleges. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
- "Market Search: Shreveport DMA Overview". Katz Radio Group. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
- "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812–2016" (PDF). house.louisiana.gov. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
- "In Memoriam: Monnie T. Cheves". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. August 17, 1988. p. D3. Archived from the original on September 10, 2014. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
- "Natchitoches, LA Gas Pipeline Explosion, Mar 1965". GenDisasters.com. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
- Scott, Mike (September 9, 2013). "Following in the real footsteps of '12 Years a Slave' figure Solomon Northup: Mike's Movie Mailbag". The Times-Picayune. Advance Publications. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
- Sacks, Ethan (October 13, 2013). "No ordinary movie, '12 Years a Slave' is a brutal and honest depiction of America's gravest mistake". Daily News. New York: Daily News, L.P. Retrieved October 27, 2013.