I am in luck. Well, sort of. It’s raining and not just a little. It’s pouring and there is no way I can tour Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site in the drenching rain especially without waterproof boots. I love history and the Natchitoches, Louisiana attraction is one I really want to explore.
I look at the exhibits in the small museum and really want to see the fort.
My luck comes when tour guide Jeremy McCormic asks if I would like him to take me to the fort in a covered golf cart. It takes me half a second to answer yes and we are on our way.
Between the museum displays and the interpreter’s knowledge, I learn the original fort was the first European settlement in what would become the Louisiana Purchase In 1714.
Traveling up the Red River on his way from present-day Alabama to Mexico, French-Canadian trader Louis Antoine Juchereau de St. Denis came upon a massive, logjam that stopped him from advancing further.
Here he came upon a Natchitoches Indian village and had two huts constructed within the village. He left a small detachment to guard the stores and trade with the Native Americans. A more substantial fort was constructed two years later. It served as a means of preventing Spanish soldiers from entering what was then French territory.
The fort grew becoming an important trading center in the Lower Mississippi Valley. When the French and Indian War ended in 1763, France ceded the Louisiana colony to Spain. Spain maintained the fort as a trading post, but because there was no longer a need to protect a territorial boundary, the fort was eventually abandoned.
Although the location of the original fort is unknown, the replica was built based on historical records. It was originally on the Red River, but when the logjam was destroyed in the nineteenth century, the river’s course changed. Today it is located on the Cane River; a result of the Red River’s course change.
The first building we come to is a married soldier’s home. My guide explains that many of the soldiers were married and only the single officers and enlisted men lived inside the fort walls.
Once inside the fort walls, McCormick gets out in the pouring rain, unlocks each building and stands in the doorway to explain what it was used for from the guard house to officer’s quarters.
My tour gives me an idea of the size of the fort, how the replica was constructed following original guidelines and its history.
I am grateful for a look at the fort and I am sure my luck will change again when I visit Natchitoches because I will make sure to check the weather report before setting out for this charming historic city.Tags: history, Louisiana, Natchitoches Louisiana