24. Oakley Plantation at Audubon State Historic Site

"Having set for himself the staggering task of painting all the birds of this immense fledgling country, Audubon would find the inspiration to paint dozens of his bird studies while residing at Oakley. The arrangement called for him to be paid $60 a month plus room and board for himself and Mason, with half of each day committed to lessons for 15-year-old Eliza, the other half free to collect and paint bird specimens from the surrounding woods, where he certainly must have cut a dashing figure in his long flowing locks, frilly shirts and satin breeches. He wrote of spending his time at Oakley mostly 'in peaceful tranquility, giving Daily Lessons to Miss P of Drawing, Music, Dancing, Arithmetick, and some trifling acquirement such as Working Hair…Miss P had no Particular admirers of her beauties but several very anxious for her fortune.' He found florid-faced James Pirrie 'when sober, truly a good man…of Strong Mind but extremely Weak of Habit…accomplished in the growing of cotton and the judging of good liquor.' But he eventually had salary disagreements with the mistress of the house. Poor Lucretia Pirrie had already buried five children and her first husband. When Eliza fell ill, her mother cautiously stopped the lessons with Audubon on recommendation of jealous young Dr. Ira Smith, who was said to be smitten with Eliza but eventually settled for marrying her older half-sister. The frugal Lucretia’s resistance to paying the artist for that slack time period  generated ill will. Consequently Audubon would spend only four months at Oakley, but managed to produce at least 32 of his bird paintings there and upwards of 70 in the area, more in Louisiana than any other state. Of his departure from the Pirrie household, he would write in his journal, “Day Light of Sunday Saw us Loading our Trunks and Drawing Table Vaulted our Sadles and left this abode of unfortunate Opulence without a single Sigh of regret. Not so with the sweet Woods around us, to leave them was painfull, for in them We allways enjoyed Peace and the sweetest pleasures of admiring the greatest of the Creator in all his Unrivalled Works.” Anne Butler