Natchitoches, Louisiana

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Natchitoches, Louisiana
City of Natchitoches
Exchange Bank in Downtown Natchitoches
Exchange Bank in Downtown Natchitoches
Official seal of Natchitoches, Louisiana
The Destination of Travelers since 1714
Location of Natchitoches in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.
Location of Natchitoches in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.
Natchitoches, Louisiana is located in Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Location of Natchitoches in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.
Natchitoches, Louisiana is located in the United States
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana (the United States)
Coordinates: 31°41′35″N 93°05′42″W / 31.69306°N 93.09500°W / 31.69306; -93.09500Coordinates: 31°41′35″N 93°05′42″W / 31.69306°N 93.09500°W / 31.69306; -93.09500
Country United States
States Louisiana
Parish Natchitoches
Incorporated as a townFebruary 5, 1819
 • TypeMayor-Council
 • BodyCity Council
 • MayorRonnie Williams, Jr.
 • Total26.42 sq mi (68.43 km2)
 • Land22.75 sq mi (58.92 km2)
 • Water3.67 sq mi (9.51 km2)
 • Total18,323
 • Estimate 
 • Density768.64/sq mi (296.77/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code318
Louisiana HighwaysLouisiana 1.svg Louisiana 6.svg
WebsiteCity of Natchitoches
Natchitoches City Hall
A store with live fish for sale near Natchitoches, 1940. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott.

Natchitoches (/ˈnækətəʃ/ NAK-ə-təsh; French: Les Natchitoches) is a small city and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States.[3] Established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis as part of French Louisiana, the community was named after the indigenous Natchitoches people.

The City of Natchitoches was not incorporated until after Louisiana had become a state (1812), on February 5, 1819. It is the oldest permanent settlement in the region. Natchitoches' sister city is Nacogdoches, Texas. It is also the location of Northwestern State University.


Early years

Natchitoches was established in 1714 by French explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It is the oldest permanent European settlement within the borders of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.[4] 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.[5]

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. This became known as Cane River Lake.

Civil War

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. In the spring of 1863, Confederate General Richard Taylor and his men passed through Natchitoches en route to Shreveport. Andrew W. Hyatt, one of Taylor's line officers, wrote in his diary: "reaching the banks of Cane River. ... We are now on a regular race from the enemy, and are bound for Grand Ecore. ..." Three days later on May 11, 1863, Hyatt penned: "We have now retreated 280 miles. Natchitoches is quite a 'town,' and the galleries were crowded with pretty women, who waved us a kind reception as we passed through town."[6]

Around Natchitoches and its environs, 12,556 bales of Confederate cotton were stored. A match factory also opened in the city during the war.[7] The residents of Natchitoches often engaged in fund-raising activities to relieve the destitute during the war. Historian John D. Winters observed, "Eggnog parties and other social affairs during the Christmas holiday season lifted the morale of civilians as well as that of the soldiers."[8]

20th century

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 an 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.[9]

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-breakfasts, the most in the state.[9] 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,[9] which was authorized in 1994,[10] 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.[9]

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.[9]

Since the late 20th century, the 35-mile oxbow lake has served as the spring-break training location for numerous university crew teams,[11] from schools 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, 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.[11]

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.[11]

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, but 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.[12]

21st century

In 2005, the cartoonist and historian Pap Dean published Historic Natchitoches: Beauty of the Cane, a study of the history, people, and attractions of the historic city. It is one of the oldest in the state. Harrisonburg, the seat of Catahoula Parish, is the other earliest French settlement in the state.[13]

Natchitoches is the home of the oldest general store in Louisiana, the still operating Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., General Mercantile, located on Front Street.[14] The store was co-founded in 1863 by ancestors of Alexandria businessman and former city commissioner Arnold Jack Rosenthal (1923–2010). It has been featured in several nationally televised reality shows such as Duck Dynasty and Cajun Pawn, with the words "If you can't find it anywhere else, you can probably find it at Kaffie-Fredrick."


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) is land and 3.6 square miles (9.3 km2) (14.21%) is water.

A 35-mile (56 km) long 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 multi-story 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 plus old brick Front Street. During this process workers removed each brick one by one, numbered them, cleaned them, and then replaced them after utilities, drainage, and foundation were repaired beneath.[citation needed]


Climate data for Natchitoches, Louisiana
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 84
Average high °F (°C) 61
Daily mean °F (°C) 50
Average low °F (°C) 39
Record low °F (°C) 3
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.8
Source: [15]

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 which frequently experiences severe thunderstorms, hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes.[citation needed]


The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches is located across from the old Courthouse Museum
Though founded by Roman Catholics, Natchitoches has a large First Baptist Church located in the downtown district
Riverwalk of Cane River in downtown Natchitoches as photographed from Front Street
Reconstructed Fort Saint Jean Baptiste museum on Jefferson Street in Natchitoches
Downtown Natchitoches with historic buildings, stores, and shops, maintains brick streets
Natchitoches Arts Center on Second Street near City Hall

As of the 2010 census,[17] there were 18,323 people, 6,705 households, and 3,631 families residing in the city. The population density was 828.5 inhabitants per square mile (319.9/km2). There were 7,906 housing units at an average density of 312.2 per square mile (120.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 59.0% African American, 36.4% White, 0.5% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.4% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 1.7% of the population.

There were 6,113 households, out of which 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 non-families. 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 population was spread out, with 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 the median income 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 age 65 or over.


City Bank and Trust Company is one of several financial institutions in downtown Natchitoches
Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., is the oldest general store in Louisiana

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 percent 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 percent.

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.[citation needed]

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.

The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is a well-known celebration of the holidays for locals.

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 the 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, a popular tourism area of the state, is equipped to serve visitors with 11 national chain hotels, and 27 bed-and-breakfast inns,[18] including the Steel Magnolia House.[19]

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 the 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-size catering kitchen.

National Guard

A Troop 2-108TH CAV is headquartered behind the local college and the airport. This unit has 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

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

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

Public schools

Natchitoches Parish School Board operates many public schools. They include:

The city is also home to the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a public residential honors high school.

Private schools

St. Mary's High School is in Natchitoches.





The only AM radio station based in Natchitoches is KNOC 1450, a classic country music station

FM broadcasting

Frequency Callsign Format Owner
89.7 KBIO Religious Radio Maria
91.7 KNWD Alternative Northwestern State University
94.9 KSBH Country Elite Radio Group
97.5 KDBH-FM Classic country Baldridge-Dumas Communications
100.7 KZBL Oldies Baldridge-Dumas Communications
106.5 KLNQ Contemporary christian music Educational Media Foundation


Health care

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

Noted events

The Steel Magnolias Bed and Breakfast on Jefferson Street is among some fifty such lodgings in Natchitoches
The Violet Hill Bed and Breakfast in Natchitoches

Natchitoches was the site of a gas pipeline explosion on March 4, 1965 that killed 17 people.[25]

In 1973, singer-songwriter Jim Croce was killed when his plane crashed as it was leaving Natchitoches Regional Airport.

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.[citation needed]

In popular culture

Multiple movies have been filmed here, including:


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ "City of Natchitoches". Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Holbrook, Abigail Curlee (1952). "Cotton Marketing in Antebellum Texas". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 73 (4). pp. 431–455. JSTOR 30236594.
  6. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, p. 235; ISBN 0-8071-0834-0
  7. ^ Winters, pp. 309, 322
  8. ^ Winters, p. 388
  9. ^ a b c d e 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
  10. ^ National Park Service: Official Cane River Creole National Historical Park website
  11. ^ a b c "Nine college rowing teams using Cane River this month", Natchitoches Parish Journal, March 22, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018
  12. ^ "Jim Croce and five others die in plane crash", Rolling Stone, October 25, 1973
  13. ^ "Publications". Archived from the original on April 22, 2009. Retrieved August 31, 2009.
  14. ^ "Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile". Retrieved January 7, 2011.
  15. ^ "Monthly Averages for Tallulah, LA". Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  16. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  17. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  18. ^ "Bed & Breakfasts, Cabins, and Guest Houses in Natchitoches, LA".
  19. ^ "Home".
  20. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812–2016" (PDF). Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ "Kyser, John S." Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography ( Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  23. ^ "Donald M. Rawson". Alexandria Town Talk. October 15, 2014. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  24. ^ "George T. Walker". Monroe News Star. Retrieved July 6, 2011.
  25. ^ "Natchitoches, LA Gas Pipeline Explosion, Mar 1965". Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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.