Terre Blanc site to be topic at historical society meeting

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 28, 2019

During the February meeting of the Mississippi Historical Society in Natchez, I attended a presentation by Jessica Crawford, regional director of The Archaeological Conservancy.  The topic was the Terre Blanc (White Earth) Concession which dates to the 1700’s and is located on the site of the old IP plant.

The public is encouraged to attend a follow-up presentation by Crawford at 6 pm on Monday, May 6, at the Grand Village. The event is sponsored by the Natchez Historical Society.

I was amazed to hear of this little-known site located on a piece of county-owned land. Its historical significance to Natchez is likely connected to the birthplace of slavery in the region.  Even more, I was appalled to hear of the reluctance of our county government to ensure its preservation.

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In December of 2018, The Natchez Democrat interviewed Crawford who expressed concerns that work associated with the current construction was endangering historical archaeology. Crawford and the Archaeological Conservancy have expressed interest in buying the piece of property as a way to protect any remaining artifacts.  Much of the entire site has already been destroyed, but a four-acre tract remains.

“It is part of a plantation where the first African slaves were brought to the region,” Crawford said. “It is a really important French Colonial site. Our main objective is to get this last portion of the birthplace of the slave economy and one of two French concessions preserved.”

The Natchez Historical Society is sponsoring this meeting to update efforts to save the site.

We all know the significance of the 1716 settlement of this area by the French.  Fort Rosalie was built to provide protection from the dangers of the frontier.  Fortunately, we know much about Fort Rosalie, but there were other equally important areas. One of these was the Terre Blanc concession located southeast of Fort Rosalie along St. Catherine’s Creek. Much of what we know is based on the detailed map drawn by Dumont de Montigny, a lieutenant and engineer in the French Army. Dumont’s drawings show that it was an elaborate settlement. The site is a fascinating part of the earliest Natchez history and deserves to be preserved.  I have just finished Greg Iles latest book and a key part of its narrative is a site very similar to this one.  It brings alive the never-ending conflict between modern commercial enterprise and historical preservation- a subject Natchez has grappled with for many years.

Please join us for this important meeting.

Maria Bowser,

NHS Board Member