Situated among the back roads of east-central Louisiana is one of the state’s premier cotton plantations. Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gin is a 1,800-acre operation, still in use after more than 200 years, which once had a front-row seat to Civil War battles. Before that, it was a trade stop for travelers along the wagon trail between Natchez to Natchitoches. And long before that, the land where Frogmore sits was the site of ancient Native American farmers.
The Mississippi Delta is full of stories, and Frogmore Plantation can tell more than a few historic tales.
What the plantation offers is a 360-degree view of history. “You just don't have the same ambiance at a museum as what you get here,” Lynette Tanner said. She and husband George “Buddy” Tanner own Frogmore Plantation and have lived in the main house since the 1970s. Asked whether the Tanners purchased the land because of its farming potential or its historical significance, she said: “both.”
A Trip Back in Time
Lynette Tanner stars in an introductory video about Frogmore. In it, she talks about the mound builders, the French settlers who came into central Louisiana in the 1800s, the slave and cotton trade, sharecropping and the French and Indian War’s effects on the region. She discusses the Spanish influence in central Louisiana, England’s cotton industry, the invention of the cotton gin and the Emancipation Proclamation. And, of course, there’s the Civil War. In 1864, the part of the Mississippi Delta that includes Frogmore saw raids and battles that also brought Union soldiers to the plantation’s doorstep—literally. Then-owner John Gillespie allowed Yankee troops to camp on his land. Tanner goes deep into Frogmore’s history. There’s a lot to take in, and you may find yourself at the site for longer than you expect. “The tour lasts a total of an hour-and-a-half,” she said, “but people sometimes end up staying for two hours or longer.”
A Miniature City
Starting from a 1790 log cabin, Frogmore’s guides take visitors around the plantation, which includes a stunning collection of 19 historical buildings constructed more than a century ago. Some are original to Frogmore, while others were donated to the plantation. Included among them are slave quarters, a church, cooking cabins, a sugarcane mill and barn, an overseer’s cottage, a smokehouse and perhaps the most valuable artifact of all, a complete 1884 Munger cotton gin. Of these, eight buildings are open to visitors. One of the more important structures is a slave house split into two halves. On one, Tanner has filled it with artifacts that Africans on the plantation (there were approximately 159) would have used. On the other side of the cabin, the inside is decorated as it would have been when sharecroppers lived there.
In the latter part of the tour, visitors see cotton as it’s harvested today. As one of the nation’s most completely computerized gins, Frogmore’s is a marvel of current farming technology. Also at the end of the tour, visitors are then offered the chance to hand-pick cotton themselves in the fields surrounding Frogmore. Try your hand at this harder-than-it-looks activity every month except May and June (that’s when new cotton plants are still coming up).
Too Much History for Just One Tour
With so many different aspects to Frogmore Plantation’s history, the Tanners decided to host six different tours. Of these, two are open to individual visitors; the others are available for groups of 15 or 25. The main tour—Historical Cotton & Plantation Culture—gives an overview of Frogmore’s history, while The Plantation Civil War: Challenges and Changes tour offers a deeper look at the War Between the States as seen from planters, their families and slaves. Group tours each come with their own emphasis, including the slave music of the plantations (which is combined with a visit to the nearby Delta Music Museum in Ferriday) and the Music, Mistresses and Marriage tour, an elaborate production that includes a reenactment of a slave wedding at Frogmore, along with Christmas on the Plantation with live vocalists and narration that allows visitors to participate in holiday customs and historical music of both planter families and the slaves.
To learn more about Frogmore Plantation or schedule an individual or group tour, visit FrogmorePlantation.com or call 318.757.2453.