Natchez bean field seeks landmark status

Published 12:03 am Monday, July 13, 2015

NATCHEZ — More than beans have graced the land near Natchez Trace Parkway and St. Catherine Creek.

The bean field — a three-parcel piece of land that will be deeded to the city Wednesday — once housed a French colonial homestead, local historian Smokye Joe Frank said.

At the Natchez Preservation Commission meeting Wednesday, Frank proposed that the three acres where the homestead stood — now located near Natchez High School, next to St. Catherine Creek — be considered for landmark status.

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The commission approved the motion unanimously.

“It’s just a small area that needs to be set aside because of its importance to the French period in Natchez,” Frank said.

Between 1723 and 1729, Frank said a portion of the bean field was used to raise tobacco crops and housed slave quarters, small warehouses and other workshops used by French settlers.

However, after the 1729 Natchez Massacre, Frank said the small homestead was burned to the ground, killing colonists and livestock.

“It was essentially wiped out,” he said.

Thanks to found artifacts — such as pieces of copper, jewelry and weapon remnants — Frank said the area’s history has slowly been pieced together.

“It dates back to the earliest enslaved people in the South,” he said.

Once the bean field is in city hands, landmark status could be granted through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

For land to be designated as a landmark site, Natchez City Planner Rico Giani said the commission must first designate it, and then the land has to be approved by the city through an ordinance.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said he would like to see the property receive landmark status.

“That would certainly be something we would be glad to do,” he said.

If the board approves landmark designation, Frank said he would like to see the area used as a green space with informational kiosks describing the French homestead that once stood there.

“It’s Natchez history,” Frank said.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen meets at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the city council chambers, 124 S. Pearl St. At 20 a.m. on Wednesday, the city will host a special ceremony in the chambers for the transfer of the entire bean field property.