Living History Museum

Our History

From the Mississippi River and into the History Books

Our history begins with a muddy river called the Mississippi and dense swamplands. Rene-Robert Cavelier Sieur de Salle traveled the beginning of the river to its end. He claimed the territory for France anticipating it to be a source of great wealth for the country. A young son of a Paris financial family, which was part of the court of Louis XV, packed his trunks and sailed to the new world. Destined to find a family that would have a profound impact on Louisiana and the entire United States, he helped set standards by which new territories would be included into the Union and shaped the laws of the State of Louisiana. Little did this young man suspect that his son's family home would still be standing in the 21st century; the home we now refer to as Destrehan Plantation.

The Destrehan Family Tree

The Destrehan family in Louisiana begins with Jean Baptiste Honore Destrehan, Sieur De Peaupre (1716-1765). He was the son of Jean Baptiste Destrehan (ca. 1670-1740), who was counselor to King Louis XIV and treasurer of all arts and crafts guilds in Paris and its environs. In 1730, when Jean Baptiste Honore Destrehan arrived in Louisiana, he took a job as a clerk in the office of ordonnateur held by Edme Gatien de Solmon. After Salmon's dismissal, the new ordonnateur, Lenormant appointed Destrehan the treasurer of the colony.

Marriages and Liaisons


The Blueprints for History

 

Robin De Logny and Charles Paquet

Celeste’s father, Robin deLogny, entered into contract with an enslaved mulatto and master builder named Charles Paquet to build a raised house 60 ft. x 35 ft. with a 12 ft. balustrade gallery completely encircling the house in the French Colonial Style. Sitting on 10 ft. brick piers, the house was to have two double fireplaces and one single provided by a subcontractor. The roof was to be full over the entire house and gallery (double-pitched roof). The house described in the contract would be typical of the West Indies style well suited for the Louisiana climate. Construction on the house began in 1787 utilizing materials from the swamp and river and was completed in 1790. DeLogny paid Charles Paquet in rice, corn, livestock, 100 piastres of money, and a male slave named Leveiller. The original contract between DeLogny and Charles Paquet still exists today and is on file at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse.

You can see Charles Paquet’s superior craftsmanship in the cooling room and interpretive room inside the plantation home. You can read about the life of Charles Paquet and his amazing accomplishments during such oppressive times for African-Americans in our booklet titled “Charles Paquet, A Free Man of Color” available in our gift shop.

The Family Home – Destrehan Plantation

Robin deLogny only lived two years after the completion of the plantation. After his death in 1792, his daughter Celeste and her husband Jean Noel purchased the home. At this time there were 59 enslaved workers on the plantation growing and processing indigo. Jean Noel began growing sugar cane, and by 1804, the plantation with 56 enslaved workers, produced over 203,000 pounds of sugar.


From a Big House in Louisiana to the U.S. Senate.

In 1803 the transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France to the United States saw Jean Noel Destrehan's entry into politics. French Ambassador Laussat chose Etienne DeBore for Mayor of New Orleans and Jean Noel Destrehan for First Deputy. Jean Noel's entry into politics meant he would spend more time in New Orleans, so he purchased a house on the southeast corner of Conti and Chartres.

In 1804, the Congress of the United States created a territorial government with no mention of statehood. Jean Noel stepped forward to insist the cession treaty promised immediate statehood. He was one of three men selected to travel to Washington to meet with Congress asking for the promised rights of the territory.

In 1805, the country of the German Coast elected Jean Noel to represent them in the new territorial House of Representatives. The House met for the first time and elected Jean Noel speaker and nominated him for the Legislative Council. Washington D.C. received the names of the nominees, and President Thomas Jefferson chose four men from the list, Destrehan, Joseph Bellechasse, John Mccarty, and Pierre Sauve, to comprise the actual council. You can view the original document of appointment signed by President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison in our Jefferson Room. The job of the council decided how the territorial state of Louisiana would be organized and to write the state laws. The Council preserved the system of civil law, rather than using the common law system, and reverted to the former divisions of parishes abandoning the artificial division of large counties.

Jean Noel Destrehan served in the State Legislature and ran for Governor losing to Louisiana’s first Governor William Claiborne, He ran for the first United States Senate seat and won serving in the Senate until 1817.


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