SOUTHDOWN

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Our Family at
SOUTHDOWN PLANTATION
Houma, Louisiana

[Southdown Museum has a website: http://www.southdownmuseum.org/]

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By Linda Cunningham Fluharty.

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     When my family moved to Louisiana in 1989, we were Yankees among the Cajuns, with no thought that a familial connection to Louisiana could be in the realm of possibility.

     But CHARLOTTE PAYNE WRIGHT of the Thomas Minor Society, provided the history of my husband's g-g-g-g-g-great uncle, STEPHEN MINOR. Most interesting was the fact that his Louisiana family lived in plantations known to us. One is "Southdown" in Houma, a town in the bayou, where my children have lived and worked, and where my first grandchild was born in 1998.

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BACKGROUND

     THOMAS MINER came to America from England in the year 1629 aboard the ship, "Lyon's Whelp." Many of his descendants reside in Marshall, Wetzel, and other counties in West Virginia, generations of the offspring of Thomas' gr-gr-grandsons, John and William Minor. The brothers were early settlers in Greene County, Pennsylvania and served in the Revolutionary War.

     WILLIAM MINOR, one who changed the "e" to an "o" in the spelling of the surname, married Frances Phillips of Maryland in 1760 (second wife was Hannah Burghley). William and Frances' children were: Stephen, John, Joseph, Phillip, Theophilus, Frances (f), William, Samuel and Noah.

     Most of the descendants in the Marshall-Wetzel area descend from son, Samuel, born 26 June 1777, and died in Monongalia County, VA/WV, 1 August 1851. Samuel was married to Susannah Clegg, taken prisoner by Indians as a child. His second wife was Permelia Lancaster. During these two marriages, Samuel fathered 21 children.

     But some of Samuel's siblings moved south. Among them was STEPHEN MINOR, the "UNCLE" of many West Virginia and Pennsylvania Minors. And Stephen Minor became a famous man in Mississippi and Louisiana history. [MINOR FAMILY PAPERS] - [MINOR DESCENT]

     In the early days of the American Revolution, Stephen Minor, not yet 20, was traveling west, trying to decide what he wanted to do. Through various chance encounters and subsequent friendships, the amiable Stephen arrived in New Orleans in 1780 and enlisted in the Hispanic forces. He was commissioned a captain in the Royal Spanish Army and, later, he became the last Governor of the Louisiana Territory under Spanish rule, its capital in Natchez, Mississippi. His son, William John, built the SOUTHDOWN PLANTATION.

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SOUTHDOWN PLANTATION

LIGHT

     SOUTHDOWN, located in Houma, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, was built on part of a Spanish land grant to Jose Llano and Miguel Saturino, who were engaged in growing indigo. In 1790 and 1798 respectively, two more tracts were given to them by Charles IV, King of Spain. The plantation was about 6000 acres.

     Subsequently, the property was owned by the noted adventurer and soldier, JIM BOWIE, renowned for the knife named after him, and for his exploits at the Alamo.

     In 1828, WILLIAM JOHN MINOR, son of Stephen, purchased the plantation. In 1858, he built the house with brick made in his own kilns and with cypress from his own swamps.

     Southdown appears very different in design from the homes normally seen on plantations of the Old South. Gothic Revival architecture was slightly less popular than Greek Revival at that time, but the Minors nevertheless chose the former. Instead of the familiar white columns, Minor erected a smallish, simple entrance gallery. The original house, begun in 1858 and completed in 1862, consisted of what is now Southdown's main floor, which includes the twin front turrets and the rear center turret. The top floor and the turrets were added in 1893 by William's son, Henry C. Minor.

     This brick home has twenty rooms; the brick and plaster walls range between twelve and twenty inches of thickness. The center hall doorways are flanked by beautiful stained glass in a sugarcane design. Second-floor side galleries face up and down Little Bayou Black, and a balcony opens from the rear. Just behind Southdown stands a two-story brick structure that served as a kitchen for the manor and as a home for the house servants - a two story slave dwelling is an unusual sight in Louisiana outside of the Vieux Carre. A covered walkway once connected this building with the "big house".

     Southdown's sugarcane played a dramatic role for the South. The first crop grown at Southdown was indigo but various factors made sugarcane more rewarding. On the fields of Southdown, a heartier subspecies of sugarcane was developed. The new variety fought the blight and disease that had periodically attacked Louisiana's cane. Varieties of the new seed were then adopted by most of Louisiana's sugarcane planters.

     Southdown was named after a variety of English sheep, SOUTHDOWNS, that the Minor family imported to eat the weeds and grass between the rows of sugarcane.

     William J. Minor, who managed the plantation business, was very well known for his high living and lavish entertaining. He liked racing and built large stables for the fine horses he purchased for the sport of kings. Minor and his nephew, DUNCAN KENNER, of Ashland Plantation, each had a private track for training purposes and took many honors on the turf, racing their fine horses at Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Natchez, and Mobile. Duncan Kenner was the son of Stephen Minor's daughter, Mary, who married William Kenner. Another son of William and Mary, MINOR KENNER, was the founder of the town of KENNER, near New Orleans.

     Despite the great contribution that Southdown owners had made to the sugar industry, they could not weather the many setbacks that occurred during the early 1920's. During the economic crash of October, 1929, and the severe Depression of the 1930's, all their property was lost to the creditors.

     Sadly, the family legacy of Southdown House, where so many notables were entertained at gala affairs, was ended when a new owner took possession in 1932. For more than four decades, the home was utilized by the new owners to house various plantation personnel.

     Southdown House gradually fell into a state of disrepair, but the Terrebonne Historical and Cultural Society, Inc. had the foresight to start a movement to save the great mansion. On July 31, 1975, that dream was realized when the owners donated the home, servant quarters, and four and a half acres of land to the society for the purpose of historical preservation, cultural activities, and a museum of arts and crafts of Terrebonne Parish.

     STEPHEN MINOR, born 1760, died 29 November 1815 and is buried at CONCORD, the historic residence of the early Spanish governors at Natchez, Mississippi. He first married Martha Ellis 1790 in Louisiana. After Martha died, he married Katherine Lintot 4 Aug 1792 in Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi.

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OTHER MINOR FAMILY PLANTATIONS

In addition to the 6,000 acre Southdown Plantation in Houma, William John Minor also acquired the 1400 acre Hollywood Plantation in Terrebonne Parish, and the 1900 acre Waterloo Plantation in Ascension Parish. His net worth, including hundreds of slaves, was estimated to be more than one million dollars in 1860.

The WATERLOO Plantation was located in Geismer, Ascension Parish, Louisiana. Louis Geismer, for whom the town was eventually named, eventually acquired Waterloo. It was separated from the Mount Houmas ("Houmas House") Plantation by the River Road. Chemical plants were built on some of the former Waterloo property, but Houmas House Plantation still stands along the Mississippi River at Darrow, Louisiana.

The ASHLAND-BELLE HELENE PLANTATION was in the same vicinity of Waterloo - practically next door. -- Mary Minor, daughter of Stephen, and half sister of William J. Minor, married William Kenner. - "The earliest known owners of the land that would eventually become "Ashland" and later "Belle Helene" were William Kenner, a New Orleans merchant and planter, and his brother-in-law, Philip Minor. By 1830, William Kenner and Philip Minor had consolidated a sugar plantation of more than 1,800 acres, including a portion of the future Ashland tract. After William Kenner's death in 1830, his share of the plantation eventually ended up under the control of his two sons, Duncan F. Kenner and George R. Kenner. The Kenner brothers immediately began to expand their holdings. In 1839, Duncan Kenner married Nanine Bringier, daughter of a prominent French Creole family. As a wedding present, he commissioned construction of the great house at Ashland. Construction began in 1840, and the project was completed by 1842. The Greek Revival great house at Ashland is considered an architectural masterpiece. The quarters and the sugarhouse were built at about the same time the great house was erected. It is likely that the great house, the sugarhouse, and the quarters were all built by the plantation's slaves. Duncan Kenner bought his brother's interest in the plantation in 1844. He named his property "Ashland" after U.S. statesman Henry Clay's plantation in Kentucky. Kenner eventually expanded his land holdings to over 2,200 acres. His estate included the neighboring Bowden Plantation, complete with its own sugarhouse, which he bought in 1858...... Much of the former Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation tract currently serves as the site for major chemical production facilities owned by Shell Chemical Company and the Vulcan Materials Corporation."

My husband's MINOR lineage:

THOMAS MINOR b. 1608 England m. Grace Palmer
CLEMENT MINOR baptized 1639 m. Frances Burcham Willey
WILLIAM MINOR b. 1670 m. Sarah Beckwith
STEPHEN MINOR b. 1708 m. Atheliah Updike
WILLIAM MINOR b. ABT 1731 m. Frances Phillips
SAMUEL MINOR b. 1777 m. Susannah Clegg (Note: Stephen was the brother of Samuel)
MARGARET MINOR b. 1802 m. Alexander Lantz
MARY LANTZ b. ABT 1818 m. James Cochran
JACOB COCHRAN b ABT 1840 VA/WV m. Catherine Long
CAROLINE COCHRAN b. 1873 WV m. John R. Parsons
KITTIE G. COCHRAN (PARSONS) b. 1893 WV m. Grover C. Bucher
HILDA CAROLINE BUCHER b. 1921 WV m. Charles E. Fluharty
EUGENE RICHARD FLUHARTY m. Linda Lee Cunningham

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