IP site houses 2 historical landmarks

Published 12:10 am Sunday, May 5, 2013

NATCHEZ — The Rentech property Adams County officials announced they had agreed to purchase for $9 million this week has a long history of being one of the area’s premier industrial sites.

But that history goes back further than many people realize — 300 years.

The 478-acre property Rentech bought from International Paper in 2008 with plans to create a coal-to-liquid plant has two sites of historical significance, said Jim Barnett, the director of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.

Email newsletter signup

Rentech’s plans for the Natchez plant never reached construction phase, and the company put the property up for sale in mid-March.

Both of the historical sites — one a French colonial development, the other an Indian mound — are in the “extreme periphery” of the property, Barnett said.

“When Rentech owned the property, they were aware of the archeological sites and didn’t think their development would have affected those sites,” he said. “We are fortunate that they are not in a place where they might be disturbed.

The French colonial site — which Barnett said is usually just referred to as the “IP site” — dates to the 1700s and has been previously studied.

“The IP site is where the French had a tobacco plantation, and that plantation was called the White Earth Plantation,” Barnett said.

“It has already been looked at by archeologists, and they have recognized the significance of it there, and a number of the French colonial maps of the Natchez area show this plantation there on St. Catherine Creek. This is just a small archeological area that dates to that plantation.”

The second site, which is known as the Linwood mound, is an Indian mound covered in trees on the property’s border with Carthage Point Road. Barnett said it has never been seriously studied.

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he first became aware of the archeological sites on the property when Rentech first bought the land in 2008, and that when one is dealing with property in Adams County, there’s always a chance that something of archeological significance will be found, he said.

“Collectively, when you look at Adams County, I would consider all of it to be archeologically sensitive,” Grennell said. “Realistically, this is the first county organized and the first settlement on the Mississippi River.”

Rentech’s project never reached the point at which historical impact studies would have to been made, but Grennell said as the county moves forward they will remain cognizant of the historic properties.

“We would have to take those areas under consideration and make sure that we do whatever we need to do to preserve them if the state says that has to be done,” he said.

Barnett said he will likely meet with county officials about the properties once the purchase is finalized.

“We are hopeful that the development of their property would not impact those sites and that the presence of those sites would not impact the development of their property,” he said.