|by Anne Butler |
Thomas Jefferson would die some years later on July 4, a date he hoped would annually “forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” Also on the committee charged with drafting the document along with Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin was John Adams, who wrote his wife Abigail that he felt that momentous day in July should be “celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God…pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfire, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
But imagine, if you can, the fervor with which the day was celebrated by the early residents of the St. Francisville area, center of cotton plantation country settled by Anglos who began descending from the East Coast shortly after the Revolutionary War, a desperate conflict many of them either witnessed or participated in. The early owner of The Cottage Plantation, for example, was the son and nephew of five brothers who served with honor on George Washington’s staff. The son-in-law of the builder of Butler Greenwood Plantation was the son of a valiant young soldier who survived being bayoneted nine times by the British during the revolution, nearly froze during the harsh winter at Valley Forge, and lived to become governor of Georgia. And as for “taxation without representation,” that battlecry of the 13 colonies objecting to King George III’s taxes, it was still resonating with the builder of The Myrtles Plantation when he led the so-called Whiskey Rebellion against new president George Washington’s excise taxes on spirits, the first test of the new nation’s federal powers, and had to escape from Pennsylvania to Spanish territory.
The St. Francisville area features a number of splendidly restored plantation homes open for tours daily: The Cottage Plantation, Butler Greenwood Plantation, The Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens seasonally. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer fascinating living-history demonstrations most weekends to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs.
For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873 or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at 225-635-4224; online visit www.stfrancisville.us (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities, including the monthly third Saturday morning Community Market Day in Parker Park) or www.stfrancisvillefestivals.com.