I call myself “the world’s oldest third-grader” sometimes.
The reason? What I do for a living today is just a variation of what I did in third grade’s “show-and-tell.” That’s when you bring something of interest to school and tell the rest of class about it. My specialty was Native American artifacts and anything to do with outer space. I was the only one who thought it important the day Russia launched Sputnik. So, every rocket story after that was mine. My artifact collection grew every time we went to grandma’s house in Fulton. I always found at least one arrowhead I could bring back and show the class.
Their plan was to free enslaved people and provide passage to a colony in what became Liberia in Africa. Ross’s will freed his enslaved people upon his death and stipulated Prospect Hill be sold to pay the passage for any who wanted to go to the new colony.
Nowadays, going around the state and gathering stories about things and places and people and bringing them back and showing them on TV isn’t all that removed from what I started doing once a week in the third grade.
Earlier this summer I visited Prospect Hill Plantation. Prospect Hill is east of Lorman in Jefferson County. The 5,000 acres of land that used to make up the plantation has mostly been bought up by hunters. The old house sits right in the middle of it. The Archeological Conservancy owns the house and the 23 acres around it. The conservancy wanted the property because it is a rich repository for pre-Civil War plantation artifacts. Prospect Hill is also an important place to find artifacts that tie this part of America to Liberia in West Africa.
Issac Ross was the original owner of Prospect Hill. In 1830, Ross and several other planters founded the Mississippi Chapter of the American Colonization Society. Their plan was to free enslaved people and provide passage to a colony in what became Liberia in Africa. Ross’s will freed his enslaved people upon his death and stipulated Prospect Hill be sold to pay the passage for any who wanted to go to the new colony. Issac Ross Wade, Issac Ross’s grandson, contested the will all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court. But the court upheld the will and about 300 people left the old plantation and went to “Mississippi in Africa.”
At Prospect Hill today is the fragile old plantation home that replaced the original house. The original was burned during what a Wade descendent described as a “slave uprising.” None of the out-buildings have survived. But plenty of foundations are still there. The Archeological Conservancy is interested in the artifacts where the enslaved people lived.
Plus, in the house itself, there are patterns used by the people who moved to Africa. African archeologists wondered about the wooden strips inside the walls in “Mississippi in Africa” until they saw the lath strips in the walls at Prospect Hill. The wooden strips anchored the wall plaster.
There’s a lot more to tell, but phooey! Just like third grade, I’m out of time. I don’t want to have to go sit in the corner for running over — again.