Old South Lingers on Boeuf River
Back-Tracking, 1776-1976 By Sue Eakin. The Town Talk, Alexandria, Louisiana. 27 Oct 1974, Sun • Page 22
….“Trio (pronounced ‘try-o’) Plantation was settled in the early 1830s. A trio of people belonging to the same family from Mississippi came over to the untouched Boeuf River country and bought several thousand acres of land. A number of years before they planned to move their families over to the new lands, they sent an overseer and over 100 slaves to start the plantation. They formed a regular village here with a church and store and everything.
The village became Rayville, now parish seat of Richland. When they “cottoned out” in Mississippi (as their ancestors no doubt had done earlier in more eastern plantations), they moved here,” Betty Gunby, president of the Richland Parish Historical Association first told me the story. Today, Trio Plantation’s impressive “Big House” is, surely, one of a kind and yet so expressive of the philosophy of the people. Large, with its inviting wide gallerie affording a pleasant look across broad acres, the rough, unpainted cypress remains as it was, like a defiant challenge to all plantation pretensions in its incomparable elegant simplicity.
The east side of the Boeuf River was settled before the west side. It was all canebrake, dense woods, and low marshy places filled with water. “The men had to hew their way to get their homestead,” clearing the land with crosscut saws. In winter, when they could do little else, they worked at making shingles and fence posts.Back-Tracking, 1776-1976, By Sue Eakin. The Town Talk, Alexandria, Louisiana. 27 Oct 1974, Sun • Page 22
Trio Plantation (as described in 1969)
Excerpted from the Richland Beacon-News, January 1969.
Boeuf River curves for six miles bordering the 1,500-acre plantation known as Trio and established by Dr. Harrison Jordan I, in 1842. Its name is derived from three towering cypress trees on the bank of the river, standing like sentinels to guard the entrance of the front yard.
When this area was a part of Morehouse Parish and of the Ouachita Country, Dr. Jordan followed the Balfour family here from Madison County, Mississippi, where they had been close friends and neighbors. The Balfours, who had followed the Wells family, settled on the west side of the Boeuf River, and Dr. Jordan on the cast. His wife remained in Jackson, Miss., not wishing to venture into this unknown wilderness.
Most of the acreage was obtained through United States Government patents, but a few sections were purchased from other pioneers, such as the Fords, Coopers and Haddocks.
The plantation was organized to be a community of its own, with slave quarters containing approximately 40 houses lining both sides of an avenue. Mr. and Mrs. Hervey S. Mangham have built their home on the site of the quarters. An antebellum cypress cabin held together with wooden pegs is the only slave dwelling remaining here, but another stands in the old cemetery, having been moved from the “Bend” field. The place had its own cotton gin, steamboat landings, commissary, brick kiln, grist mill, sawmill, church for the Negroes, and cemetery.
Two steamboat landings were in use; one above the Trio house for loading cotton to be shipped to New Orleans, and the other close to the commissary at the southwest corner of the front yard, which was encircled with giant cedars planted as a reminder of Dr. Jordan’s family home in Mississippi. The slave overseer who stayed with the owner was a Mr. Daughtery, formerly from England and a sugar plantation manager. Daughtery Ford, located just north of Rayville, is named for him.
The defeat of the South in the Civil War changed the planters’ way of life. Having taken care of slaves as if they were children — clothing, housing, feeding and ministering medical aid to them in exchange for labor, Dr. Jordan, as well as others, was forced to invent a new economic plan. His account book, dated 1886, gives insight into his dilemma. He kept records of the hours of work and wages earned, and charged them with furnishings. When gold was used as a medium of exchange, a higher interest was charged. When a steamboat landed, some of the negroes borrowed money to gamble on the boat and were charged accordingly.
There was a hint of rebelliousness at times: several were penalized for “cutting down the cotton,” and others were found asleep in a water trough and docked for neglecting their work. One had to be careful for federal agents in Monroe were checking the former slave owners.
Accounts in the ledger afford a comparison of their prices with those of today. Examples of purchases made then include: One barrel of flour $13; bridle $3; three yards of toweling $1.87; one spool of thread, 20 cents; one pocket knife, $2; 16 pounds of sugar, $4; two pounds tobacco, $2; one paper of needles, 15 cents; four yards pin checks, $4; one dozen buttons, $1.12; one hoop skirt, $3; one-gallon molasses, $1 .35; one blanket, 3.95; five pounds coffee, $2; one pair of boots, $9; five gallons whiskey, $20; two pocket handkerchiefs, $1.40; 3 12 yards cottonade, $3.50; 10 yards mosquito netting, $2.20; and making a coffin and burying, $2.
During the Civil War, Federal troops coming through took bales of cotton ready to be shipped. No recompense was made for this, but the family has papers that show they were confiscated. The hazards and trials that beset the plantation owner at this time were difficult to endure, and often restoration seemed a hopeless task, but somehow, many carried on, rebuilding a new regime. The eight years of reconstruction after the war were turbulent there for the Southerners. Our forefathers had to struggle against many odds, but they bravely weathered insurrection and low cotton prices.
The ferry across Boeuf River which linked the Jordan and Balfour land was the scene of violence on one occasion. Dr. Harrison Jordan’s son, Dr. William T. Jordan, married Miss Frances Elizabeth Harrison of Mounds Plantation in Oak Ridge. Their three children, Harrison, Virginia and Francis Victor, were born on Trio. Among the guests at Trio in bygone days were Bishop Wilmer and Bishop Sessums of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. Bishop Wilmer conducted services on the place, and the latter was driven to Rayville in a surrey to officiate in the wooden Masonic building given in Trio Plantation house opposite the Richland State Bank, since St. David’s Episcopal Church was not then in existence.
Steamboat captains loved to land at the plantation because of Mrs. Jordan’s hospitality and good food, and one rote that Captain Tom Parker, of the Tom Parker steamboat named for him, and Captain James Hamilton were the two most remembered. A hobby horse given to Harrison by Captain Parker and named for him is yet stored in the Trio house. It was one of the children’s most treasured possessions. In a record of 1866, there was evidence that several of the Negroes left for the hills after the Civil War ended, but returned to their former home.
Descendants of these families live on Trio today and work for the present owners. They feel that they are a part of this place, and are loyal to the Jordans. A huge underground brick cistern, built before 1850, has been used to dispose of debris for many years. The ruins of a cotton gin and a huge iron boiler north of the house give evidence of the activity that once permeated the surroundings. Handmade brick, mellowed by years of sun, rain and wind, are overgrown with tangled vines and lichen; and, as one walks by, the ghosts of a lost era cast an aura of sadness.
The colored people have left evidence of their culture there, for names which they have coined are as yet used for different sections of the land. There is the Bend, Caroline’s Cut, the Overflow where Irish laborers were imported from New Orleans to build a levee, the Jordan Brake, Cooper field, and the Dark Sink, a shaded hollow in a sandy road where eerie happenings supposedly took place; the cemetery, shaded by thickly set cedars, records the names of old-timers.
Trio is owned by Dr. Harrison Jordan, who is now 94 years old; and the heirs of his brother, Dr. Frances V. Jordan. It has been in the same family for 100 years. Cotton is still king, but many acres are now cultivated for soybeans. Frances Victor Jordan, great-great-grandson of the original owner, supervises the farming of the land.Excerpted from the Richland Beacon-News, January 1969.
Trio Plantation House – Notes Submitted for Inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places, ca., 1999
Trio Plantation House (1869) is an impressive albeit rather homemade-looking one-story, frame Greek Revival residence set in an extremely remote location north of Rayville. Reached via a one-mile dirt road, Trio faces the meandering Boeuf River.
The roughly four hundred foot stretch of land between the house and river is shaded by numerous mature trees. Despite additions and the loss of some architectural fabric, the house easily retains its Register eligibility within Richland Parish. This very unusual house remains in its original family. According to Jordan family history, Trio was constructed by plantation workers using trees cut from the place. Wood was cut into planks by a circular saw powered by a steam engine (portions of the engine survive on the property). There was no planing mill; so the planks were nailed up rough sawn, board and batten style, both inside and out. The same board and batten treatment is also found on the interior ceilings and the front gallery ceiling. Walls were insulated with cotton seeds.
As unusual as the foregoing may seem, the architectural evidence bears it out. Except for repair work done 1970, the battens are fastened with square nails. In addition, there is no evidence of earlier construction that the rough board and batten treatment could have replaced.
Finally, the house’s Greek Revival styling makes the 1869 date entirely plausible. The main block of Trio is set beneath a massive hip roof that is almost a perfect pyramid. It has a conventional mid-nineteenth century floor plan with two roughly equal size rooms on each side of a wide central hall. A rear wing, almost as wide as the main block, is two rooms deep. Originally, a narrow gallery was on each side of the rear wing. Chimneys were set between the front and rear rooms of the main block and between the two rooms in the rear wing.
The front gallery has six molded pillars under a more or less full entablature. The pair that mark the center are slightly more widely spaced than the others. The five-bay facade has floor-length windows and a massive central double door with a transom and sidelights. The entrance features a boldly molded cornice above a basic, folk art looking dentil band. Either side of this composition is a set of very thin vertical battens evidently designed to suggest fluted columns. (They terminate without capitals and are to each side of the cornice.)
On the interior, the central hall features an elliptical arch (with molded capitals) which is planed smooth and therefore probably purchased. At the rear of the hall is a wide doorway echoing the interior appearance of the front entrance — double four-panel doors, transom, sidelights and a pedimented top. Trio’s other interior doors, all four-panel and planed smooth, also feature transoms. A few of the doors and windows have pedimented tops like those found on the front and rear hall openings. The four surviving simple aedicule style mantels are also planed smooth. One of the most interesting features of Trio is the attic with its enormous central king post with numerous angle braces coming off it.
In 1969, members of the Jordan family decided to make the old plantation home livable again. It had not been occupied on a permanent basis for some time and still had no electricity or other amenities.
The following changes were made during this 1970 renovation:
- A sprawling addition was constructed to the northeast rear corner which almost doubled the square footage; a small lean-to bathroom addition was constructed on each side of the main block; and the long, narrow porches on the rear wing were enclosed. All additions repeated the board and batten treatment of the original house.
- Much of the cottonseed in-fill was removed. This and other repair work is the reason for modern round nails found in some instances on the battens.
- The chimney and fireplaces were removed from the old rear wing, and the chimneys in the main block were cut off below the roofline. The fireplace in-fill in the rear wing dining room was done in board and batten to match the rest of the house.
- The rear wing bedroom was paneled and glass-fronted cupboards were added in the dining room.
Despite these changes, the strong Greek Revival character of the main block is visually dominant. The addition, though large, is set to the rear.
Moreover, with the exception of the loss of two of the original six mantels, the house retains all those features which establish its architectural significance.
Trio Plantation House is of local significance because only it and one other Greek Revival house survive to represent the earliest architectural heritage of Richland Parish. In addition, within the context of Richland Parish, Trio is one of few architectural landmarks, regardless of period. The parish that would become Richland in 1868 was thinly settled on the eve of the Civil War. It was noted for its swamps and marshes, and access was mainly by waterways such as the Boeuf River. Construction of an east-west railroad began in the 1850s, but only small sections were completed by the beginning of the Civil War.
The railroad (the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific) was completed in the 1880s. Although towns along its route such as Rayville and Delhi trace their history to an earlier period, they were tiny hamlets until the railroad was completed. The two largest communities in a very rural parish, Rayville and Delhi were incorporated in the late nineteenth century. But even they are quite small — with Rayville having a population of about 5,000 and Delhi, 3,500.
Due to the foregoing settlement patterns, along with the loss of what earlier buildings there may have been, Trio Plantation House is an immensely important house within Richland Parish. It is one of only two Greek Revival style buildings remaining.
Indeed, there is precious little in Richland that dates from before c.1900 — perhaps only Trio (1869) and the Greek Revival Vickers House (1872). These two survivors are among very few architectural landmarks in the entire heritage of the parish, regardless of date. A parish-wide historic structures survey commissioned by the Division of Historic Preservation recorded only 182 buildings that were fifty years old or older.
Almost all of these are unstyled or slightly styled buildings from c.1900 to c.1940, including simple cottages, folk bungalows and typical commercial structures.
Exceptions include about a dozen buildings that are notable within the context of Richland – three or four relatively modest Queen Anne/Eastlake cottages, a Spanish hacienda, two early twentieth-century schools, two early twentieth century churches, and, most importantly, Trio Plantation House and the Vickers House. The latter are extremely rare survivors to represent what would have been the parish’s earliest style of architecture. With its strong (albeit vernacular) Greek Revival character, Trio is a major Richland landmark.
According to Jordan family history, Trio was built in 1869 as a wedding present from Dr. Harrison Jordan I to his son, Dr. William Thomas Jordan, Sr., and his fiancee, Frances Elizabeth Harrison. It is from one of the couple’s children, Dr. Harrison Jordan II, that much of the house’s history comes. Dr. Harrison Jordan was born at Trio in 1872 and lived to be 96. The house is now owned by a nephew, Francis Victor Jordan II, and his wife, Mary Sue Gryder Jordan.
Boundaries were chosen to encompass the significant resource and its immediate setting and to recognize its orientation to the Boeuf River. They exclude a modern residence to the northeast. The property lines of Trio Plantation were not used because there was no reason to nominate hundreds of acres of farmland devoid of historic buildings.