Forgotten History of the Calumet Plantation

The plantation is the site of a Civil War battle, sugar experiments, and racing planes.

The Calumet Plantation is a large plantation house located north of Patterson, Louisiana in West Baton Rouge Parrish. The house sits on the site of the Battle of Fort Bisland during the Civil War. This battle involved 25,000 soldiers along with naval encounters in Bayou Teche. The battle was between the Confederate regiment of Colonel Tom Green sent by Major General Richard Taylor and the Union regiment of Major General Nathanial P. Banks.

The plantation itself played an important role in the development of sugar crops. The owner, Daniel Thompson led experiments into chemical research of the sugar industry in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture during the 1870’s. This involved the use of fertilizers being tested, a new cane milling process, and new seeds for a high sucrose content being developed.

In the early 1920’s, the home was purchased by Harry P. Williams and his wife, Marguerite Clark, who was one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. Her most famous film was reprising her Broadway role in the first film version of Snow White in 1916. Williams made himself known in the lumber and aviation industries. He started a lumber business in Patterson, which became the largest lumber yard in the US. He, along with his partner Jimmy Wedell also created the fastest racing plane, the Wedell-Williams Model 44. The Model 44 won many races between 1932 and 1934, and set multiple records including the world speed record at 305.33 miles per hour. Together they opened one of the first airports in the south and one of the first airplane manufacturing plants in the US. The airport was donated to the state by Marguerite Clark after a plane crash killed Williams and Wedell. The airport is still in operation today and has a museum dedicated to the two men.



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