What is value of historic archeological site on former IP land?
NATCHEZ — A national non-profit organization is interested in a small piece of historical property on a portion of the former International Paper site now owned by Adams County, but the organization is not interested in the price tag on the land.
The Archeology Conservancy group, a nationwide non-profit geared toward preserving archeological sites, asked Adams County Board of Supervisors members in 2016 if the county would donate the approximately 4 acres at the corner of the IP site near Saint Catherine’s Creek that is believed to hold remnants of an early 1700s French Colonial fort called Terre Blanche, or “White Earth.”
Adams County Attorney, Scott Slover said under state statutes the site would have to sell for approximately $24,000 per acre, which is considered a fair value for the property comparable to what it would sell for to industries.
Monday evening, Jessica Fleming Crawford, the Southwest Regional Representative of the group, made a presentation in the auditorium at the Grand Village about the site’s importance.
Based on writings and maps drawn by early colonial settlers, Crawford said, historians could tell another Native American tribe known as the Tiou tribe lived near the Terre Blanche settlement. Unlike the Natchez tribe, however, there is little archaeological record of the Tiou tribe other than their name on a map.
“That’s just another reason why this site is intriguing to me,” Crawford said. “A lot of it has been destroyed, but if we could identify a Tiou settlement … we could write a little more of their history.”
Elizabeth Boggess, who has a Ph.D. in archaeology, said the historic significance of the site is not limited to Natchez alone but is also important to tracing French and African American history as well.
“Though it is not eligible to be a world heritage site, it is of international significance,” Boggess said. “I can think of any number of reasons why this site deserves some kind of physical recognition.”
Recently, the archaeological group raised concerns about preserving the site when work crews allegedly drove equipment through the location along Cooperative Energy’s right-of-way while the ground was wet and forming deep ruts in the dirt, Crawford said.
At the conclusion of her presentation, Crawford said the site is not worth the amount the county is asking and should have the designation of being a state historic landmark, which would prevent the sale or alteration of its surface and — with Mississippi Department of Archives and History approval — could be given to The Archaeological Conservancy for preservation.
“By law, if an important archaeological site is owned by a county entity, it is considered a state historic landmark,” Crawford said. “When you have a state historic landmark, you are not supposed to alter the surface in any way, sell it or transfer ownership of it without the approval of MDAH.
“If we don’t end up with it, that’s fine,” Crawford said. “But it’s not supposed to be for sale, and it’s not supposed to have heavy equipment on it when the ground is wet.”
District 1 Supervisor Mike Lazarus, who was in attendance at Monday’s meeting refuted Crawford’s claims that the county would not recognize the property as a state historic landmark.
“We just don’t have that yet,” Lazarus said to Crawford. “When you called me originally, I told you I would give it to you. But we can’t give away property … As long as it’s legal, I don’t believe the county would have any problem with donating it.”