Francois Mignon papers, 1853-1980 (bulk 1939-1980).

Creator: Mignon, Francois.
Collection number: 3889
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Abstract: Francois Mignon (given name Frank VerNooy Mineah) was born in 1899 in Cortland, N.Y. He was a journalist and curator of buildings, furnishings, and gardens at Melrose Plantation, Natchitoches, La. Melrose was a working cotton and pecan plantation, but it was best known in the period between the two World Wars as a writers’ and artists’ colony. Cammie Henry, who bought the plantation in 1899, restored its unique collection of African-inspired buildings. These structures sheltered such authors as Lyle Saxon, James Register, Harnett Kane, Alexander Woollcott, and Rachel Field. Mignon began writing his own weekly column for the Natchitoches Enterprise in the 1950s. In addition to his writing, Mignon designed the gardens at Melrose and promoted the African American folk artist Clementine Hunter. The collection includes Mignon’s journal and correspondence from about 1939 to 1980. Also included are photographs, printed materials, newspapers clippings, writings and other materials collected by, written by, or relating to Mignon and his diverse interests. Mignon’s journal began with his arrival at Melrose Plantation in 1939 and continued until February 1970, when the plantation was sold. Many of the ideas Mignon first expressed in his journal later appeared in his newspaper column, which dealt chiefly with Natchitoches, La., history and traditions. Persons significant in the collection include James Register; the Louisiana naturalist Caroline Dorman; the Louisiana filmmaker Caroline Ramsey; a black soldier named King Solomon, who grew up at Melrose; Eleanor Roosevelt (2 items); Rachel Field; Harnett Thomas Kane; Lyle Saxon; and Alexander Woollcott. After 1970, the correspondence is chiefly from readers of Mignon’s weekly newspaper column and his responses. In addition to these materials, the collection contains the original manuscript of B.L.C. Wailes’s “Report on the Agriculture and Geology of Mississippi” (1854) and letters from Wailes’s granddaughter to Mignon. Also included are 19th-century documents and genealogical information relating to the Metoyer family, which originally built the plantation later called Melrose.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Of particular interest are Folders 576 – 577, describing Mingnon’s work promoting African American female artist Clementine Hunter, who became the first African American woman to have a one-person show at New Orleans’s Delgado Museum. Correspondence in Series 1 includes letters from an African American soldier named King Solomon, who grew up on Melrose Plantation in Louisiana.