Laurel Hill

WFP Historical Society

Contributed from the 1980 Audubon Pilgrimage Booklet
by the WFP Historical Society

The mellow farm house that presides over the rolling acres of Laurel Hill Plantation grew from a core house that makes a significant statement about the settlement of West Feliciana.

The western half of Laurel Hill is a small, one room deep, story and a half cottage with a single story gallery across the front and a one-story shed across the back. This house type is called a Carolina-I; I because it is typical of the houses found in the mid-western states beginning with the letter I, and Carolina because this particular version was found in that area and brought to the Felicianas by settlers during the years between 1790 and 1830.

In 1830, the small house became the property of Edward McGehee, whose determined astuteness led to the West Feliciana Rail Road, as well as the acquisition of over 2,200 acres in the Laurel Hill neighborhood. A few years later, McGehee have the house to his daughter, Cynthia Ann, as a wedding present. When she died the following year, Laurel Hill was given to her sister, Caroline, who was only a child. During the Civil War, Caroline, then the wife of Duncan Stewart, brought her young family to live in the house. In 1873, using the same carpenter who built St. John's, the Stewart's added an imposingly austere two-story addition, softening it with a continuation of the single-story gallery of the Carolina-I cottage.

Duncan Stewart devoted his attentions to innovative agriculture, and was among the first to raise Brahman cattle. One such bull, fond of head-on confrontations, regularity held up passage of the train of the West Feliciana Rail Road.

Several generations of Stewarts lived at Laurel Hill, the last of the line was Miss Louise, to whom her kinsman Stark Young dedicated his novel, "So Red the Rose," based upon the trials of the McGehee family during the Civil War in the plantation country along the Louisiana - Mississippi border.

In 1955, Laurel Hill became the property of Mr. and Mrs. John F.P. Farrar, then living at adjoining Woodlawn Plantation, former home of Caroline Stewart's brother, J. Burruss McGehee. When the house at Woodlawn burned in 1962, the Farrars moved to Laurel Hill, and now have an extensive cattle operation on both plantations.

Gracefully adapted to 20th century living while still maintaining its architectural integrity thanks to thoughtful renovations by the Farrars, Laurel Hill is filled with fine English antiques. Heppiewhite chairs of museum quality and a fine Sheraton cross-banded mahogany dining room table are noteworthy. Splendid examples of Oriental art were collected by Mrs. Farrar's father on an 1890 Grand Tour. These are enhanced by Mrs. Farrar's own art work, small scale compositions and wire sculptures of Dicken characters, and a delightfully illustrated map of West Felicianas. Mrs. Farrar's talent is also evident in the museum of the West Feliciana Historical Society, for which she has been director.

Thanks to the West Feliciana Parish Historical Society for this write-up.

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