**This information about Ashlandbelle-Helene Plantation was found outside the gates for tourist in 1997- I believe.**
ASHLAND-BELLE HELENE PLANTATION
The Ashland-Belle Helene home was designed and constructed in the 1839 to 1841 period for Duncan Farrar Kenner. The home is generally believed to have been designed by James Gallier, Sr., a prominent architect of the period. The Greek Revival style building is symmetrical, having three foot square brick columns set eight to a side. Cement stucco covers the columns as well as the brick exterior of the house, and the stucco is scoured to look like sandstone.
In 1821, William Kenner, a New Orleans merchant and planter, and his brother-in-law, Philip Minor, claimed land from the U. S. Government in Ascension Parish. They called, the land 'Linwood Plantation.'
In 1830, on William Kenner's death, his portion of Linwood was left to his sons, George and Duncan Kenner, who then co-owned the plantation with Philip and George Minor. In 1835, Linwood Plantation was divided and the Kenner brothers retained the southern portion. That same year, the Kenners purchased additional land from Jean Louis Picou.
In 1839, Duncan Kenner married Nanine Bringier, the daughter of a wealthy French planter. Kenner was 26 and had a successful law office in New Orleans in addition to his land holdings. He ordered construction of the home along the river in Ascension Parish, and a sugar mill was constructed in about the same time period. The 1840 census is the first year reporting Duncan Kenner as a resident of the parish, listing him as head of a household consisting of four white males, two white females, two female children, and 117 slaves, including males, females, and children.
In 1843 and 1844, Duncan Kenner bought additional tracts of land from the estate of Theodore Sogond as well as his brother George's interest in Linwood. He consolidated his holdings into an estate of about 2632 acres and called the plantation "Ashland" after the Kentucky estate of Henry Clay, whom Kenner admired. The 1850 census included a listing of Kenner's daughters Blanche, age 4, and Rosella, age 1. Also listed were William Graves, a horse trainer, and A.G. Antil, a plantation overseer. Kenner was an avid and an accomplished horseman who raised and trained race horses on the site.
Kenner continued to increase the productivity of the Ashland Plantation and his holdings in the area. In 1851, a new vacuum process sugar mill was installed on the plantation. In 1853, George Kenner, who had been living in Texas, died and Duncan Kenner either bought or inherited a number of additional slaves from his brother's estate. In 1858, Kenner bought the Bowden plantation from the estate of H. B. Trist. Bowden had a large, modern sugar mill using the "Rilleaux process." The Bowden mill was later sometimes referred to as the "Ashland Mill" and was an important mill for sugar production into the early 1900's.
In 1862, Federal troops raided the Ashland Plantation in hopes of capturing Duncan Kenner who was prominent in the Confederate Government and served as ambassador to France and England. He was able to escape on horseback, though troops detained his family--Nanine, Blanche, Rosella, and his nine year old son George. Kenner made his way to New York, and from there boarded a ship to England to press again for aid in the war. Kenner's family left Ashland for Richmond as soon as the Federal troops departed and Ashland was later confiscated b the Freedman's Bureau.
In 1866, Kenner took an oath of allegiance to the Union and reacquired Ashland from the Freedman's Bureau. The 1870 census listed Kenner as a resident of New Orleans, but his interest in the plantation continued. He named his son-in-law, Rosella's husband, J. L. Brent as manager of Ashland, and in 1881 the first crop of rice was reported for Ashland. In that same year, Kenner bought a part share of the Hermitage Plantation and had full control by 1884. In 1882, he acquired Houmas Plantation. In 1886, the old sugar mill at Ashland was dismantled and replaced by a steam powered rice mill in 1887.
In 1887, Kenner died of a stroke. At the time of his death, he owned the Ashland, Hermitage, Bowden, and Houmas plantations. Part of the Kenner estate was sold in 1889 in a conflict over shares. Ashland was purchased by Hypolite P. Ousset and a few days later Ousset sold Ashland and Bowden plantations to George B. Reuss for $75,000.
The Reuss family appeared in parish records beginning in about 1873 when John Reuss was listed with his wife Jane and sons George and John. John Reuss brought his family from Bavaria, Germany and was listed as living on Germania Plantation. After 1879, George B. Reuss, John's son, was listed as the owner of Germania. (It's speculated that John had retired, since he still appeared in parish records through the 1890 census.) At one point; the Reuss family controlled Germania, Cuba, Mulberry Grove, and Elise plantations, as well as Ashland.
In 1889, George Reuss had a daughter, Helene. He renamed Ashland Plantation "Belle Helene" and the John B. Reuss Planting Company became the "Belle Helene Planting and Manufacturing Company." By 1890, Belle Helene area had a post office, a general store, a railroad station, and a plantation railroad, which was a spur off the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad that was constructed to haul sugar cane and rice to mills. The plantation was home to approximately 200 workers, mostly Sicilian immigrants.
In 1908, Helene Reuss married William Campbell Hayward and they took up residence at the Germania Plantation. A relative of the Haywards was in residence at Ashland-Belle Helene as overseer.
In 1911, George Reuss began subdivision and sale of the Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation property. By this time, the rice mill and essentially all of the workers' quarters had been removed from the property. There has been no sustained habitation of the house since this time in the early 1900's, though the house remained in the Hayward family until July, 1992.
In the 1940's, Helene Reuss Hayward began some restoration of the house. This restoration effort included installation of some concrete floors on the ground level of the house. This impacted the natural "breathing" of the walls and foundations and the concrete had to be removed. The home was badly damaged by vandals in 1959, and a caretaker then lived on the grounds until his death in 1984.
The home has been used for several movies and music videos, including A Band of Angels, Mandingo, The Beguiled, The Long Hot Summer , Fletch Lives, and others.
The property was purchased in July, 1992 by Shell Chemical Company who will preserve the house.
Back to Historical Southern Plantations Page