Born in New Orleans, Kenner grew to become a wealthy sugar grower, one of the major slaveholders in Louisiana, and one of the most dominant men in the state. After Kenner married Anne Guillelmine Nanine Bringier, he became associated with one of the richest and most powerful Creole families in Louisiana. He constructed Ashland Plantation (later renamed Ashland-Bele Helene Plantation) for his spouse, which was just 8 miles up the Mississippi River from Bocage Plantation. Kenner was fond of using scientific methods to improve crop yields and was believed to be the earliest man in Louisiana to use a railroad to bring sugar cane from the fields to the mill. Kenner served for numerous terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives and was a member of the state constitutional conventions of 1845 and 1852, having presided over the latter council. He was also a member of the Confederate Congress and chairman of its Ways and Means Committee.
In July 1863, while visiting his relatives at his Ashland Plantation during a break in the administration, Kenner narrowly avoided capture by the Union army, making his getaway after being warned by one of his slaves of the advance of Federal troops. By this time he had become persuaded that the freeing of slaves was the only way to achieve independence for the Confederacy. In 1864, he was dispatched by Jefferson Davis as special commissioner to England and France to secure the acknowledgment of the Confederate States of America. Davis, through Kenner, presented the freeing of the Confederate slaves in exchange for recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and France. After the capture of New Orleans in 1862, a lot of Kenner’s possessions was confiscated and his slaves were freed, but at his end, he was again a millionaire.
Kenner’s power is still felt in Louisiana to the present day in several ways, particularly at Bocage Plantation. Bocage was originally a wedding gift to Christophe Colomb and Francoise Bringier, Anne Guillelmine Nanine Bringier’s aunt. The Colomb’s son, Louis Arthur, became a cousin of Duncan Kenner after he married into the Bringier family. The family relation and relative proximity of Ashland Plantation to Bocage Plantation would no doubt have brought Kenner down the river to go to his cousins, as well as his brother-in-law, Michel Doradou Bringier, who lived only a mile down River Road from the Colombs at L’Hermitage Plantation.
Kenner’s presence is still felt at Bocage Plantation these days, embodied in an antique bed. The huge four-poster American Empire bed, dating from the 1830’s, belonged to the relatives of Duncan Kenner and most likely resided at Ashland Plantation. The bed is simple yet sophisticated in its design. The bed features smooth, clean lines, an incised akroter set between two scrolls on the headboard, and smaller akroters on the footboard and sideboards. The akroters correlate with other akroters located throughout Bocage in several of its architectural details, especially on the massive door frame that separates the two double parlors on the upstairs floor.
Certainly, Duncan Kenner’s was a central component in the growth and success of antebellum Louisiana. His heritage lives on not only at Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation, but also at Bocage Plantation, where the Kenner bed resides and connects guests with the legacy of Kenner, the Coulombs, and the Bringers. Very few plantations offer a direct link to the history of Bocage Plantation; come embrace Louisiana’s history with a stay in this historic mansion.