Historic site deserves landmark protection

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 14, 2015

We all like to think of the history that shapes our corner of the world in relatively modern times.

Natchez is known most for its antebellum mansions built prior to the Civil War and its quaint downtown, built largely by the Jewish merchants who kept Natchez churning in the late Victorian era.

But Natchez wouldn’t be Natchez if not for the native people groups who populated this area long before the first Frenchman ever dipped his stocking-clad foot into the muddy waters of the Mississippi River, and, subsequently, the early European settlers themselves. Collectively they help weave the early tapestry of history in this area.

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Last week, local historian Smokye Joe Frank asked the Natchez Preservation Commission to ask the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to designate Mississippi Landmark status to a section of the area commonly known as the bean field, next to Natchez High School.

The area once housed a French colonial homestead. In the 1720s, Frank said, a portion of the land was used to raise crops and housed quarters for what would have been among the area’s earliest enslaved people in the South.

That makes the area significant for several reasons, including its French roots, but also the likelihood that some of the first of what would become many unlikely Americans — those brought as slaves here — lived and worked there.

The preservation commission approved Frank’s request.

The City of Natchez, which will officially receive title to the land this week, next must adopt a resolution to apply for the status with MDAH.

We hope all parties involved will recognize the importance of the area and quickly work to protect the site with Mississippi Landmark status.