Fire Chief: Foster’s Mound house spared from total loss

Published 12:05 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2022

NATCHEZ — On and off-duty firefighters may have prevented a total loss during a fire at the historic Foster’s Mound house on Saturday.

The fire was contained to the attic and roof, mostly toward the rear of the residence at 235 Foster Mound Road, known as Foster’s Mound.

Natchez Fire Department and volunteer firefighters responded to the fire at approximately 6:30 a.m. Saturday. No one was injured and everyone inside did get out safely, said Natchez Fire Chief Robert Arrington.

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The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

“It’s still under investigation,” Arrington said.

Some firefighters who answered the call were off duty. They battled the flames and had it completely out in approximately three hours, he said.

“The firefighters did a great job of stopping it from being a total loss,” he said. “We’ve had this weather come in and the house is missing a roof and that is unfortunate. It could have ended in total destruction. I pray their insurance covers the damage because it is a historic property that is important to that area.”

Rain fell through holes in the roof to the house’s now exposed interior on Monday morning.

“I want to commend the fire department guys that came in off-duty,” Arrington said. “It was a big fight and they all came out to help. I’m proud of them for coming to back their brothers.”

Foster’s Mound is a Greek Revival-style structure that began as a double-pen pen log tobacco house built atop an Indian mound by James Foster, who settled in Natchez during the English colonial period between 1763 and 1779. The tobacco house was later enlarged and remodeled to serve as a family residence for the Foster family.

According to Historic Natchez Foundation Executive Director Carter Burns, James Foster is the brother of the widely known slave owner Thomas Foster who, legend has it, happened to purchase the African prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima ibn Sori.

Ibrahima, from the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea, West Africa, was captured, sold and returned to Africa after 40 years of enslavement in the United States.

Burns said the house Ibrahima lived and worked in no longer stands. However, the Foster’s Mound house did belong to the same family, he added. Today, the Foster’s Mound house belongs to Rodger Smith and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The house sustained a lot of damage during the Saturday fire but is still standing, Smith confirmed.

According to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Indian mound on which the house sits was part of the White Apple Village site, “the bone of contention between the French and the Natchez Indians that precipitated the massacre of the French by the Natchez at Fort Rosalie in 1729 and ultimately the demise of the Natchez Indians as a tribe.”