"But the case of Louisiana is evidently different. It is a country which contains already a numerous population, established in it since nearly 100 years. It becomes a part of the United States by a solemn treaty..." – Jean Noel Destrehan, Memorial to the U.S. Congress, 1805
Jean Noel Destrehan was the son of Jean Baptiste Destrehan, who arrived from France in the early 1700s and achieved prominence as Treasurer of the Louisiana colony. Descended from a long line of noble French families, Jean Noel purchased the property that became Destrehan Plantation from his father-in-law’s estate. During Jean Noel’s lifetime, he was a cornerstone of Louisiana History. In 1803, Destrehan was appointed first Deputy Mayor of New Orleans, serving with brother-in-law Etienne deBore, who was appointed mayor. Jean Noel helped shape the economic situation of the South when he and deBore perfected the granulation of sugar. Jean Noel was active in the political arena all his life and was well respected for his fairness and intelligence. Jean Noel became a driving force in the statehood process and the writing of the territorial and state law for the new state of Louisiana. Destrehan Plantation formed the livelihood for not only the Destrehan family but numerous generations of enslaved and free men, women and children. Jean Noel and his wife Celeste had 14 children. Set against the backdrop of Louisiana’s French and Spanish Colonial history and its subsequent statehood, the Destrehan story is significant to understanding Louisiana history.
Nicholas Noel Destrehan was the fourth son of Jean Noel. Active in the sugar cane industry, he lost his right arm in an accident on his plantation. It is said that Nicholas helped his son-in-law, Joseph Hale Harvey, develop the lock system for the Harvey Canal.
Stephen Henderson was a Scotsman who entered the United States penniless. By the time Henderson married Zelia he was a millionaire. His will was controversial, because he wanted to free all of his slaves. The will was contested and never acted upon.
Marie Eleonore "Zelia" Destrehan married Stephen Henderson when she was just 16 years old. Stephen was 30 years her senior. They purchased Destrehan Plantation after Jean Noel’s death.
Azby Destrehan was the only surviving son of Nicholas Noel and also the only male grandson of Jean Noel. Azby’s unusual name has led to much speculation about its origin.
Judge Pierre Rost married Louise Odile Destrehan. They purchased Destrehan Plantation following Stephen Henderson’s death.
Lydia Rost was the middle child of Pierre and Louise. Her heartbreaking death in 1853 at the age of 17, followed by her brother Henri’s death days later, was caused by yellow fever. The year of 1853 was to be the largest epidemic outbreak of yellow fever ever recorded in New Orleans, claiming more than 12,000 lives across southeast Louisiana.
Louise Destrehan Harvey, daughter of Nicholas Noel, married Joseph Hale Harvey, a famous naval captain. Joseph Hale Harvey is credited with the planning and building of the Harvey Canal on the West Bank of New Orleans.
Learn about the history of the group that restored Destrehan Plantation here.