Photographic Inventory of Folk Houses in Rural Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana

George A. Stokes
Natchitoches, Louisiana
September, 1993

This photographic inventory of folk houses and related structures in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, was undertaken to establish a visual record of parts of an interesting cultural landscape undergoing substantial change. Many buildings pictured here have already been destroyed. It is my hope that students of this area will find the record useful.

This material is not intended to be any sort of study or evaluation of the buildings shown. I leave to anyone interested the work of identifying, sorting, counting, and interpretation. I am content to have provided the negatives, along with a tentative identification and generalized location for each.

I must acknowledge that this job, at least in part, was a respite from professional duties that were often confining and tiresome. In my view, the place of a geographer must often be out of doors.

I am grateful to the many courteous and friendly people who showed me their homes, let me photograph them, and told me about them. I am indebted to Don Sepulvado of NSU for his generous giving of time and professional advice and guidance throughout the entire project and for his kind and patient encouragement. Since he processed the film and provided the proof sheets, his contribution was both substantial and essential.

The area surveyed, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, was chosen in part for its convenience, but primarily because it contains such a large number of folk houses in varied settings. House sites range from the natural levees of major streams to the red dirt slopes of pine uplands, and their occupants are of equally varied ethnic and cultural origins.

The first photograph in this collection was taken in January, 1981, and the last in May, 1989. Between those dates, more than a thousand negatives were made. Almost 700 are images of dwellings, some 230 or so are of churches and/or cemeteries, and about 160 are of other man-made structures, such as cattle corrals and settlement street scenes.

Most dwellings photographed are of six basic types: shotgun, bungalow, pyramidal, creole, single log pen and double log pen. They are generally as characterized by Milton B. Newton, Jr., in "Atlas of Louisiana." (School of Geoscience Miscellaneous Publication 72-1, Louisiana State University, 1972.)

Due to the constraints of time and accessibility, most houses are shown in only one or two photographs. Some close-up photos were made to illustrate details of construction. Not represented is the ubiquitous successor to many rural dwellings, the mobile home, typically flanked by a tv satellite dish, a pole barn or shed standing tall enough to shelter a truck or tractor, and fuel tanks.

I decided to include images of the many small churches which are found throughout rural Natchitoches Parish. Their presence in scores shows the profound concern of the people with their personal faith. Large numbers of these churches were founded many years ago and have been rebuilt several times. In many cases, the small white frame buildings that once replaced log structures have given way in their turn to air-conditioned, brick veneer facilities.

Many churches stand in close association with cemeteries. In other cases, cemeteries and churches are found alone. Both have been photographed so as to record such associated features as picnic tables and grave markers of different types.

The rural churches of Natchitoches Parish, as in other parishes in this state, comprise very sizeable investments in real estate and other property, and are large and long-lasting centers of social activity. As such, they merit study and evaluation.

Natchitoches Parish contains a significant number of smaller communities. Taken together, these represent a major portion of the parish property and population. These lesser settlements include many folk houses of various types. Numbers of these houses, as well as street scenes, were made part of this record. Images included here are of Ajax, Ashland, Bellwood, Campti, Chopin, Clarence, Cloutierville, Cypress, Flora, Gahagan, Goldonna, Gorum, Hagewood, Kisatchie, Marthaville, Mora, Natchez Powhatan, Provencal, Robeline, and Shamrock. With the opening of Interstate Highway 49, it is to be expected that some of these communities will be profoundly changed.

The location of each view which appears in this collection may be identified using the two-part map of Natchitoches Parish which accompanies the photographs and is titled, "Location Map - Folk House Survey." The routes covered by the survey are marked with large dots placed along the roads on the map. The map is divided into a grid system in which squares are identified by number and letters.

The images are arranged like pages in four looseleaf notebooks. First appears a ledger sheet on which photographs are identified as to type and location. Each of these sheets is accompanied by a clear plastic holder which contains the 35 millimeter negatives named on the ledger sheet and by a proof sheet on which the photographs are printed.

Each negative is numbered on the film itself, and that number corresponds to the number of the line on the ledger sheet where that photograph is listed. On that ledger line is written the location and identification of the photograph. The location of each photograph is designated by a three-part code. The first part indicates the map square in which the feature is located. The second part of the code shows the area in the square, e.g., southeast, northwest, etc., and the third is the number of the road on which the feature is situated. The town of Campti, for example, is designated "D3-SW-71." That is, Campti is in map square D3 (or 3D), southwest section, on Highway 71. The Gorum lookout tower is at "F9-NW-119," or the northwest part of map square F9, on Highway 119.

I trust that this information will be sufficient to make this collection of images useful and that they will serve some good purpose. Natchitoches Parish and its people are interesting, to say the least, and I think this survey will bear that out. I welcome the attention of any serious researcher, and hope that he will find help and information here.

All photographs in this collection are copyrighted by George A. Stokes.