Built in 1780, Mount Locust is the only surviving stand from the historic Natchez Trace and one of the oldest homes in Mississippi.
Originally built by John Blommart, he was jailed, losing his home and fortune after leading a failed rebellion against the Spanish. William Ferguson and his wife, Paulina purchased the house in 1784. They operated the farm until William’s death in 1801. Shortly after William passed, Paulina married one of the farm’s overseers, James Chamberlain. They continued to farm the land.
By 1785, the Natchez Trace was in heavy use by the Kaintucks on their way home from Natchez, and Mount Locust just happened to be located a day’s walk from town. Such a perfect location right on the Trace, I imagine many men stopped here begging for food and lodging knowing it would be their last chance before hitting the wilderness. The Fergusons decided to turn their home into a stand (inn).
Corn is one of the plantation staples; the family offered a meal of corn mush and milk and allowed the men to sleep on the porches and grounds, for .25 cents. While pretty crude offerings, this was considered a luxury to the Kaintucks.
Sometime after 1810, James passes. Pauline and her 11 children continue to live comfortably and successfully run the farm and stand.
By the mid-1820s, with the invention of the steamboat traffic on the Trace is all but gone. Pauline’s stand becomes an inn, catering to the residents of Natchez looking for a little rural solitude.
Pauline died in 1849, at the age of 80, twelve years before the Civil War. The children continued to live here, but with the end of the plantation, Mount Locust began a slow decline.
Five generations of Chamberlains lived at Mount Locust with the last one leaving in 1944. In 1954, the park service began restoring Mount Locust to its 1820 appearance.
Copyright 2019 Susan Rissi Tregoning
May 13th, 2019
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