Wednesday, June 16, 2010


by Anne Butler
An eloquent document formally severing the colonies’ ties with Great Britain, the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Thomas Jefferson, the architect of much of the document, declared, “May it be to the world…the signal of arousing men to burst the chains…and to assume the blessings and security of self-government…the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion...All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man.” 

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.”

Fireworks in St. Francisville, La.
Philadelphia first marked the anniversary on July 4, 1777, with bonfires, bells and fireworks, plus the adjourning of Congress, and this custom soon spread to other towns and cities, especially after the War of 1812. By 1870 Congress had established Independence Day as a national holiday, and over the years it has traditionally been observed with patriotic oratory, political speeches, fireworks, parades, symphonic spectaculars, and lots of baseball games and barbecue.

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. 

For a number of years the St. Francisville area has celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks and free hot dogs and cold drinks provided by the Town of St. Francisville and its active Main Street Program ( or at the ball fields behind Sonic. In addition to this family-oriented event, gorgeous Greek Revival Greenwood Plantation, off LA 66 north of St. Francisville, hosts its first old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration with free open house from 1 to 4, plus food, games, rides and other activities ( . The Myrtles, on the outskirts of St. Francisville, salutes the members of our armed services on the Fourth (225-245-1525) with Freedom Appreciation Day on the grounds, with children’s activities, free hot dogs, soft drinks, chips, and great live music from local favorites Emily Branton, Nancy Ropollo and the Angola Prison Band. Participants are requested to wear red, white or blue, and to bring lawn chairs or blankets and photos of servicemen for a Tribute Table.

Another favorite event in the St. Francisville area in July is the annual Feliciana Hummingbird Celebration, held Friday and Saturday, the 30 and 31st. Birding celebrations are particularly appropriate in this area that harbors such a huge population of both resident and migratory birdlife, just as it has since the 1820s when artist-naturalist John James Audubon was so spellbound by the abundant flora and fauna that he painted some 80 of his Birds of America around St. Francisville. The event, sponsored by the Feliciana Nature Society, highlights the unique hummingbird breeding habitat that entices ruby-throats to linger awhile in the months between late March and early September as they migrate from South and Central America up to Canada. Friday evening’s entertainment begins with a 6 p.m. wine and cheese reception in the 27-acre spectacular gardens of Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site. The evening’s featured speaker is Andre Brock, whose degrees are from LSU in Animal, Dairy and Poultry Science (BS) and in Horticulture (MS). Now serving the St. Francisville area as 4-H Agent and Assistant County Agent, he will present a program on gardening to attract hummingbirds.

On Saturday, July 31, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the festival continues at two private gardens, where vendors will offer hummingbird-attractive plants and where hummingbird biologists Linda Beall and Nancy Newfield will capture and band birds, giving visitors the rare opportunity to observe the tiny creatures up close as they are being weighed and measured. The banding sites are the homes of Carlisle Rogillio on Tunica Trace and artist Murrell Butler on Oak Hill Road, both of which usually attract dozens of hummingbirds. A small fee is charged for both events. For more information, visit or call 800-488-6502.

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.

The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking, birding, photography, horseback riding with rental mounts from Cross Creek Stables. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some fine little restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from soul food to Chinese and Mexican cuisine, seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.

For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873 or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at 225-635-4224; online visit (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities, including the monthly third Saturday morning Community Market Day in Parker Park) or