After emancipation, the South’s slave based agricultural system had to adapt or perish. Enter the new system of Tenant Farming. In the system of tenant farming the laborer lives on the property, borrows money from the land owner to advance seed, fertilizer, mule use, food, and house hold supplies. At the end of harvest season when the tenant’s percent of crops are sold they must first pay back all borrowed money to the land owner. All profit left is theirs as income earned. Many times a debit was incurred. This in-debts the worker and their family to the land owner until the debit is paid. This system of economic slavery lasted until the wide scale introduction of mechanized farming. As mechanized farming became cheaper and more reliable in the 1960’s tenant farmers were let go and forced to leave the farms that many families had occupied since slavery.
Once they were left vacant the tenant farmer cabins were demolished by the machines that had replaced their occupants. Farmers needed the land for crops that the rows and clusters of homes occupied. Hundreds of cabins were wiped from the landscape in the 1960’s and 1970’s. One source estimates there are upwards of 800 cabins along the Cane River in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. Currently there are less than two dozen still standing, with half being owned by the NPS. Hundreds of thousands of these homes once stood throughout the South and Mid-Atlantic States. Now most have been lost to demolition and neglect. The story of the houses still standing is waiting to be told.
NCPTT has currently documented nine structures along the Cane River in Natchitoches Parish, LA. NCPTT documented the cabins using photography and 3D laser scanning. The 3D models that were made are available at;