- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

NATCHITOCHES, La. (AP) — The Maison de Marie Therese - an earthy treasure on the Cane River near Natchitoches - may be where Marie Therese Coincoin, historical matriarch of the Cane River Creole community, lived before moving to Melrose Plantation.

Dr. Tom Albert and his wife, Laura, own the primitive house, which dates to the late 1700s and is on the National Historic Register.

Coincoin was an African slave born in the household of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, the founder of Natchitoches. She was later leased to a Frenchman, Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, with whom she had a long relationship and 10 children. Metoyer later bought Coincoin and freed her and five of their children. Their relationship ended after he got married, but he gave her an allowance and a tract of land where this house is located.

“This land stood in Coincoin’s hands until her death,” Albert said.

The Alberts live next to the Maison de Marie Therese in a Creole cottage they restored. They found the Maison de Marie Therese, did some research, and bought the deteriorating house in 2011 from Henry Metoyer, a descendant of Coincoin, with the goal of restoring it and opening it to the public.

The house is made of bousillage - mud - in the style of many houses then located in French Louisiana.

“There’s a feeling in there that can’t be paralleled,” Albert said.

The house has five rooms and had been lived in until 1978. The pastel colors painted on by former occupants are peeling off walls with visible cracks. Door frames have scars from years the house was a lived-in residence. Albert removed the outdated electrical wiring.

The roof beams were set in place without nails, using a block and scissor truss system usually found in large buildings of the time, Albert said. Nobody knows why it was used on such a small house, he said.

The Alberts have turned house into a museum describing Coincoin’s story. Albert and his wife created artwork depicting the history of Marie Therese Coincoin, Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer and their children. They put together exhibits from items found on the grounds, such as old pottery and bottle fragments.

“The ultimate plan is to have it opened to the general public with standing hours,” said Albert.

Albert noted that architectural and archaeological studies are split on whether Coincoin lived in the house, but he feels this house and the land are important in telling the story of a freed slave woman who had a great impact in the Creole community.

“She lived life for the benefit of her children,” he said.

By raising tobacco and cattle and harvesting bear grease, Coincoin earned enough to buy the freedom of five children she had before she met Metoyer. She became a wealthy businesswoman and her sons received land grants.

Nicolas Augustine Metoyer, one of Coincoin’s and Metoyer’s sons, founded St. Augustine Catholic Church in 1829. The church is located on Highway 484 along the banks of the Cane River. Another son, Louis Metoyer built Melrose Plantation, which is now a National Historic Landmark.

Albert had planned for the museum to open in 2016. The Saint Augustine Historical Society asked him to open the house for the recent First Annual St. Augustine Parish National Retreat. Donations were taken to restore the tomb of Nicolas Augustine Metoyer.

Albert plans for the museum to be open for tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Christmas.

Afterwards, there will be scheduled tours.

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Online:

https://www.facebook.com/MaisonDeMarieThereseCoincoin

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, https://www.thetowntalk.com

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