A Fall Day at Prospect Hill With 250 or so Friends

Saturday’s Open House at Prospect Hill drew over 250 people to the deep forests of Jefferson County. There attendees witnessed the amazing transformation of the property just in the few months since the Archaeological Conservancy, under the direction of Jessica Crawford, has acquired the house and a few of its surrounding acreage. You may recall this picture I took last year of the grand staircase up from the sunken road to the hill on which the house sits–I couldn’t back up any farther than this because of the overgrowth in the sunken road:

steps to terraced garden below

This is how that view looks now after Jessica and her hard-working crew have cut and pruned the jungle that had overtaken the place in the last few years.

And the sunken road is now recognizable, along with the cedar trees planted along one side:

The attendees list included a vast range of people, appropriate for this plantation with so many layers of history bound up in it (as a refresher, many of Prospect Hill’s slaves, set free by Isaac Ross in his will, shipped off to colonize Liberia; others, some of whom had been involved in a slave uprising, stayed and their descendants still live in the region). White Ross descendants mingled with black “Ross Belton” descendants and a strong contingent of American Liberian Americans traveled all the way from Maryland to return to the place of their ancestors. That’s not a typo–American Liberian Americans. Some of Prospect Hill’s Liberian Americans descendants fled the violence of Liberia’s civil war in the 1990s and are now “back” in America. Isn’t truth stranger than fiction? And more interesting?

Some of Prospect Hill's Liberian descendants return after a 17-hour drive from Maryland

Jessica Crawford of the Archaeological Conservancy introduced herself and the Conservancy’s role in the property, and noted that the Conservancy plans to stabilize the structure with a temporary roof and foundation supports, but really is searching for an owner who will love and restore the house while allowing archaeological digs to occur on the property. James Belton, a Mississippi descendant of the Prospect Hill slaves (and of the Rosses through the Belton line) told of the migration of Isaac Ross from South Carolina.

James Belton, a Prospect Hill descendant, tells of the history of the Ross and Belton families and their plantation, Prospect Hill

Alan Huffman discussed his book, Mississippi in Africa, and how complex the research was into the various strands of Prospect Hill. David Preziosi, of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, told of the property’s inclusion on the 10 Most Endangered Places list earlier this year and the renewed interest in saving the house, and Jennifer Baughn of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History gave a briefing on the architecture of the house. After that, visitors were free to roam the house and grounds (including the cleaned-up cemetery!) and get to know new friends and catch up with old ones.

Prospect Hill has a long way to go. (I would say “it’s not out of the woods yet” but that would be a horrible pun.) If you want to get involved, whether with time or money, contact Jessica Crawford at tacsoutheast@cableone.net.

In the meantime, check out Prospect Hill’s Facebook page, and their album of pictures of the day. I wonder if Prospect Hill has ever witnessed as many cars as were out there on Saturday?

Categories: Preservation People/Events, Renovation Projects

12 replies

  1. What a story! I hope it has a happy ending. The last photo of the house is painful to see. Can’t tell what the facade building material is. The side looks like clapboard, but the front looks like blocks? The setting in the woods and the road leading up to it is beautiful. Thank you for letting us see and learn the story.


  2. The front looks like blocks, but it is in fact wood cut in a block-like way and painted with sanded paint. It’s called “rustication” and its most famous example is at Mount Vernon: http://www.mountvernon.org/visit-his-estate/preserving-his-estate/restoration-projects/mansion/rustication.

    Good eye!


  3. I’d love to see this place some time. At least there is now hope for its preservation. As you say, there is still a long way to go, but there is more hope now for the place than ever. At the risk of offending with another pun, I’d say that its prospects are looking up!


  4. I visited on Saturday with 3 friends and we thoroughly enjoyed it!!! As someone with an immense, great fondness for old plantations and history in general, I had heard of Prospect Hill, but never knew exactly where it was in Jefferson county. The site of the house is amazing and the steps leading down to the original drive was beautiful. I especially admired the amazing family cemetery; very elaborate for something so deep and rural in its day! I am hoping there will be a future event at Prospect Hill, hopefully in the spring when all the daffodils and narcissus are blooming and the trees budding out……….I really hope this amazing place can be preserved and anything I can do to help I certainly will!!
    -Brian Nickens


  5. I’ve heard talk about a Spring open house, and yes, the daffodils add a whole nother amazing aspect to the landscape. Quite beautiful, and perhaps the house will have had some stabilization work done by then and can show itself off well. Isaac the peacock should also be in “full bloom” and may provide the entertainment!


    • Mr. Malvaney, I was wondering if anyone had any news about a Spring event at Prospect Hill? After visiting this historic place in November, I have MANY more friends that are eager to see what I saw!! I have tried contacting the organization that purchased the plantation, but to no avail. This spring would be a great and ultimate opportunity for a new group of people to view Prospect Hill and her grounds. Friends of mine going to the Pilgrimage in Natchez are interested in a side trip!! I’m putting this proverbial bug in your ear hoping that someone can let us know something. Prospect Hill needs to be saved!! I’m just hoping that a temporary roof was placed over the structure as was stated in the November visit.
      Please let us know something…………..THANKS!!


  6. Thanks for this great article and the nice photos. A special thanks to all who attended and donated towards the stabilization of this historic house. A
    warm and heart-felt THANKS to Jessica Crawford for her: vision, hard work, and dedication to help preserve one of Mississippi’s most historic rural plantations, and certainly one of the loveliest locations in our lovely state. If you were not able to attend, or if you were, I urge you to attend the Spring open house– as this property is unspeakably beautiful. Also, please pass this link on to friends, and any potential buyer you may know.


  7. I’m crying inside that I missed this!


  8. Too bad the Wade family that was there and actually had lived in the house were not even acknowledged, very sad for us .



  1. Visit Prospect Hill Next Saturday! « Preservation in Mississippi
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