Natchitoches (Nak-u-tush) is a little town in north-central Louisiana. It's just like tens of thousands of other little sleepy towns all over our country. Good people, a small college, a local historical society, but it's got one thing that other little small towns don't have. Fairly deep history.
In 1714 a group of French soldiers came up from somewhere (New Orleans hadn't been founded yet) and built a small fort to garrison as a bulwark against Spanish expansion. They called it Fort St. Jean Baptiste, and it was poised against the eastward expansion of the Spanish, just 20 miles up the road at Los Adaes. For some reason, Natchitoches "stuck" when other settlements were abandoned, giving Natchitoches the distinction of being the oldest continual settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. It's older than New Orleans, and has the distinction of being vaguely French, but not too French. It's founder was a French Canadian, from whence the Acadians, who populated south Louisiana later came.. It's a point of distinction to trace lineage back to an ancestor who garrisoned the fort as the tip of the French spear.
I went to college in Natchitoches, at Northwestern in 1973. I graduated in 1975, went into the Army, then came back in 1980 to raise my family. Natchitoches is a great place to raise a family. I left Natchitoches in 2001, for all the right reasons and moved closer to my childhood home, fifty miles south. Still, I have lots of friends and a soft spot in my heart for that little town with the strange name. I am told that they're celebrating their tri-centennial next year, and I'd like to pass along congratulations.
Happy Birthday, Natchitoches.