Historic Structures

Family History Magnolia Plantation, Natchitoches Louisiana

Matthew Hertzog built the plantation's "big house" in the 1890s on the foundation of a dwelling burned during the Civil War. The previous house was a regionally distinctive, raised Creole cottage dating to the 1840s, up to 1851; it had a two-story brick basement, raised galleries on the front and back, and ringed by over twenty 18' brick Tuscan columns.

The previous residence functioned as a plantation home from its construction until it was destroyed by fire in 1864. Although the date of construction is not certain, Ambroise LeComte II (1807-1883) likely built it in the 1840s and 1850s. LeComte's wife Julia Buard (1809-1845) gave birth to four daughters and two sons before her death in a house at Magnolia.

After his marriage to Desiree Sompayrac, LeComte spent much of his time in a Natchitoches townhouse, leaving the daily operation of the plantation to the overseer, W. B. Eddins. With no surviving male heirs, LeComte gave a 40 percent interest in Magnolia to his eldest daughter, Ursula Atala LeComte (1830-1897) and her husband Matthew Henry Hertzog (1829-1903) after their marriage in 1852. Matthew and Atala had twenty children, but only two survived to adulthood.

After the big house burned in the spring of 1864, the Hertzogs moved into the slave hospital, which they modified extensively into a residence. They lived there until 1897 or 1898, when construction of the present house was completed.

The Magnolia Plantation "big house" was completed in 1898 as the home of Matthew Hertzog (1829-1903), his wife Atala LeComte (1830-1897), their adult son Ambrose J. Hertzog (1857-1921), and his wife Sarah Hunter (1873-1960). Ambrose inherited the big house in 1903 when his father's death divided the plantation between Ambrose and his sister Frances "Fannie" Hertzog Chopin.

After returning from the first World War, Ambrose's son Matthew Hertzog (1897-1973) managed the plantation. Matthew's younger brother, Dr. Ambrose J. Hertzog (1907-1991), completed his medical degree at Tulane University in New Orleans, followed by a doctorate at the University of Minnesota and a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. Dr. Ambrose practiced in Minnesota and New Orleans, but returned home often, documenting his visits in photographs and home movies that provide early views of Magnolia Plantation and the big house.

With the death of the senior Ambrose Hertzog in 1921, ownership passed to the Ambrose J. Hertzog Estate, which included several surviving heirs and their spouses. Matthew Hertzog (1897-1973) managed the plantation on behalf of the estate. He lived in the big house with his wife, Lydia Compton (1903-1988), and their only daughter Elizabeth "Betty" Hertzog (1929-). In all, Matthew managed the plantation for fifty years.

Betty Hertzog has been the primary resident in the big house since the death of her mother Lydia in 1988. Betty opened the house as a bed and breakfast and for limited public tours beginning in the 1990s. Ambrose J. Hertzog, Jr., son of Dr. Ambrose, lives at Magnolia in a house next to the big house.