From the early 16th Century to dates beyond the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, England, France, Spain, and other European powers jockeyed to gain supremacy of the North American continent. Fertile and open lands were desirable to the early settlers. Even before the end of the American Revolution, the population was rapidly growing and land was becoming scarce. Thomas Jefferson and other expansionists were looking forward to moving the North American boundaries toward the Pacific Coast
The Colonial Trails Byway tells the story of Manifest Destiny and western expansion of the United States. Natchitoches was founded in 1714 and became the first permanent European settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory. Fort St. Jean Baptiste was soon established to prevent the Spanish from encroaching into French territory.
Colonial Trails, 484-miles long, offers visitors cultural connections among the French, Creole, Anglo, African American and Native American at sites along the Colonial Trails Byway. Sites include several military fortifications such as Forts Randolph and Buhlow, Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk; fields of cotton and Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gin, Kent House, the oldest standing structure in Central Louisiana, Melrose Plantation, home to primitive artist Clementine Hunter, Tunica-Biloxi Cultural and Education Center, the Delta Music Museum and the Louisiana Political History Museumamong so many others that tell the overarching story of Louisiana history.
After the Louisiana Purchase, Louisiana became the new frontier. Little was known of this strange new land...even the boundaries were in dispute.
Few people think of Louisiana as a western frontier. But, at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, the new nation was less than twelve-years-old, and most of the territory was uncharted, noted as Indian territory, or was in boundary disputes. Many of the trails followed by the pioneers were old Indian or animal paths. Historic trails such as the Natchez Trace, El Camino Real, and Nolan’s Trace became a haven for land pirates, outlaws and bandits.
Writers of the time, intrigued with the history of the Old Southwest, think of the region as a land of fairy tales. It possesses vast openness and beauty, while at the same time observers note that for a short period of time in history, the region served as a dangerous outpost for all sorts of villains, outlaws and other land pirates all of whom preyed on innocent settlers and merchants traveling west. Military outposts such as Fort Jesup were established to bring law and order back to the region known as the Neutral Strip or No Man’s Land. Today are tamer times, but the adventures and experiences along the Colonial Trails remain rich and as bountiful as from the beginning.