Mount Locust is a location that has been settled on by many different people and under many different flags during its long history of human occupation that dates back as far back as 600 C.E. (Common Era), long before Europeans first stepped foot in the area. There is archeological evidence of two separate American Indian occupations on the site. The first was between 600 and 800 C.E during what is known as the Coles Creek culture and based on archeological findings it seems those who occupied the area lived in small, family-based groupings where they fished, hunted, and gathered, and made pottery much as their ancestors had in the past. The second occupation was a village site in a field southwest of the historic house that consisted of at least seven mostly circular structures that dated back to between 1000 to 1350 C.E during Plaquemine culture.
Centuries later, John Blommart began what would become known as Mount Locust around 1780, but his stay was short. Blommart’s former business associate, William Ferguson, and his wife Paulina purchased Mount Locust in 1784 and built the Mount Locust historic house, which is now one of the oldest structures still standing in the area. William and Paulina owned and operated the farm until William’s death in 1801. A short time later Paulina married James Chamberlain, an overseer at Mount Locust, and they continued to build the growing plantation.
Between 1785 and 1820, an increasing number of boatmen known as "Kaintucks," were floating flatboats down the Mississippi River to sell their goods at the markets in Natchez and New Orleans. Without an efficient way to navigate back up the Mississippi River, the boatmen walked north on the Natchez Trace to make their way home. The growing number of travelers compelled the Fergusons to turn their home into a "stand," which was nothing more than a crude inn. The family offered the boatmen a meal of corn mush and milk with meager sleeping arrangements on the porches and grounds. The boatmen paid just 25 cents for the much-needed food and accommodations the stand provided.
After the invention of the cotton gin in the late 1700's, cotton became a popular cash crop in the South. Mount Locust was no exception as it was a thriving cotton plantation through the early to mid-1800's. During the, "King Cotton" era, a number of families were forced to endure the bondage of slavery and forced labor at Mount Locust. Archeologists believe 12 to 16 slave cabins once stood on the property, with four to five people occupying each dwelling. On the west side of Mount Locust, a cemetery holds the remains of 43 enslaved people.
The end of the plantation system after the Civil War led to a slow decline at Mount Locust. Eventually the National Park Service took over the property in 1938, with the last of the Chamberlain leaving in 1944. Overall, Mount Locust was a home to the Ferguson-Chamberlain family for five generations.
Visitors are encouraged to tour the grounds of Mount Locust. A short walk behind the house will take you to the enslaved person cemetery, the Ferguson-Chamberlain cemetery, and the brick kiln site, where slaves made the bricks to build parts of the Ferguson-Chamberlain home.
Last updated: April 13, 2021