Oaklawn Manor Circa 1837   
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The Founding Years
Le Grande Tour
History of Franklin
Visitor Information


The Founding Years

The saga of this lovely home begins with an Irishman named Alexander Porter. Porter arrived in the United Sates in 1801 at the young age of 16, having fled Ireland after his father's execution by the English during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

With his uncle and his brother James, Porter originally settled in Nashville, Tennessee, where he studied law and was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1807. For two years, he served as a practicing attorney in Nashville. During that time, General Andrew Jackson, a family friend, advised Porter to move farther south to the territories of Louisiana or Mississippi. It was there, claimed the general, that Porter would find great success; for young men such an education would be in high demand.

In 1809, taking General Jackson's advice, Alexander Porter found his new home in the Teche Country of Louisiana and quickly won the trust and friendship of the people there.  Two years later, he was elected as a representative of Attakapas Parish to serve on the committee overseeing the creation of the Louisiana State Constitution.  His public career prospered.  After Louisiana was admitted into the Union in 1812, Porter served in the lower house of the State Legislature for tow years and then as an Associate Justice for the Louisiana Supreme Court for twelve years.

During the early years of Porter's public life he began his work on Oaklawn Manor.  In 1812 he began purchasing property along the Bayou Teche in St. Mary Parish until he owned thousands of acres along both sides of the Bayou.  His sugar plantation grew immensely successful, and by 1840 Porter owned additional assets valued at roughly $100,000.

He married Evalina Baker, the daughter of Joshua Baker, in Franklin during the month of July 1815.  The records of his marriage are housed in volume 1, No. 69 at the St. Mary Parish Courthouse.  Unfortunately, Porter's beloved Evalina died shortly after the birth of their second daughter, Anne, in 1819, and the couple's first daughter, also named Evalina, lived but for a short while.  They were buried in the Porter family plot of the Old City Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.  Porter's maiden sister assumed the responsibilities of caring for the young Anne and the household.

Despite the tragedies of his personal life, Porter continued to thrive in his political career.  A great accomplishment for him during this time was helping to establish the Whig party in Louisiana.  In addition, he forged a personal friendship with Henry Clay, a friendship that would last his lifetime.  In 1834, at the age of forty-nine, Alexander Porter, the man who emigrated from Ireland to escape persecution, became a United States Senator.  Two years later, however, he left his senate seat due to poor health and dedicated much of his time and energy to bu9lding the Manor House and cultivating the lands of Oaklawn.

Not one to remain sedentary, Porter set his sights on traveling abroad.  Accompanied by his daughter, Anne, he visited Cuba in 1838 and then briefly returned to his native Ireland in 1840.  His domestic travels included excursions to the fashionable racetracks of Louisville and New Orleans, as well as frequent stays at prestigious health resorts in Virginia.  When not traveling, Porter and Oaklawn Manor played host to many important and distinguished guests who visited the area.  Following a trip to New Orleans in 1843, Henry Clay spent some time at Oaklawn where his room became popularly known as the "Henry Clay Room."

Poor health plagued the Porter family and saw an end to happier days.  Porter's daughter Anne, no longer able to travel, passed away shortly after her marriage to Mr. Alston of South Carolina, leaving no heirs.  Her father's death was not long in coming.  Alexander Porter, the visionary of Oaklawn and popular statesman, died in 1844 at the age of 59.

President John Quincy Adams noted the passing of Alexander Porter in his diary, "He was a man of fine talents, amiable disposition, pleasant temper benevolent heart, elegant taste and classical requirements.  His death is a grievous loss to the Country."

Alexander Porter was laid to rest in the family plot in Nashville, Tennessee, with a monument marking his grave.  James Porter inherited his brother's estate and moved his family from a smaller plantation in West Baton Rouge Parish.  James, much like his brother, succumbed to poor health.  He died in 1849, bequeathing Oaklawn to his wife, Mary Walton Porter.  At the time of James's death, the plantation and its remaining assets were valued at over $260,000.

Following the Civil War, the house was solely attended by Mrs. Walton Porter and her two daughters.  With no slaves and few servants, the Porter women were unable to continue raising the fields of sugar cane, the only cash crop of the area: consequently, when a wealthy New Yorker offered to buy the plantation, the ladies had little choice but to accept.



The Renaissance
The Preservation
A Thriving Manor

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Oaklawn Manor is looking festive for the Christmas season. Everything is decorated beautifully. Come visit us and see how nice it looks.

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