The Mount Locust Inn and Plantation was built in 1780 and is one of the most ancient homes still in existence in the Natchez community. The house was bought by William and Pauline Ferguson in 1784 after the original owner was imprisoned after failing to carry out a successful rebellion against the Spanish. After William died in 1801 Paulina married another man by the name of James Chamberlain, and together they maintained the plantation and house until he too died after 1810. Five generations of the family lived here until 1944. The inn served as a resting place for several people passing through the area, allowed for an escape for the people of Natchez, and relied on the service of many slaves. In 1954, the National Park Service started to remodel the home to make it resemble its former 1820 design.
By 1785, several boatmen called the “Kaintucks” travelled
down the Mississippi River as a route to sell products in Natchez and New
Orleans, but they could not find a good way to travel back up the river to go home
so they travelled north on foot along the Natchez Trace. This path led them
right to Mount Locust; these travelers and more led William and Pauline
Ferguson to open the home as a small inn. A significant corn crop allowed the
Fergusons to feed their guests with corn mush and milk; places to sleep were
created on the porches and grounds. As the Fergusons started to gain money, a
four room, two story annex was built on the grounds and called Sleepy Hollow. The
new building was unlike anything already built and available along the Natchez
Trace. Guests were expected to pay 25 cents for their stay here.
After William Ferguson died in 1801, Paulina married James
Chamberlain who also passed on in the years after 1810. Despite becoming a
widow for the second time and having 11 children between both husbands, Paulina
continued to manage Mount Locust with the help of her children. The plantation
and inn allowed the family to live in a financially stable state. By the middle
of the 1820s the Natchez Trace was no longer needed by travelers thanks to the
development of the steamboat and more roads. Therefore, after 1825, the inn
provided an escape for those living in Natchez. Throughout her life, Paulina
worked a corn farm that became a significant cotton planation; she passed away
in 1849. After the Civil War, Mount Locust’s significance to the community started
to fall with the end of the plantation system.
With the plantation system style practiced on Mount Locust came
the presence of slaves on the property. By 1820 the census stated that 26
slaves were present on the property and by the mid-1800s there were 51.
Archeologists claim that 12 to 16 slave quarters existed at Mount Locust, with
4 to five slaves living in each quarter. On the west end of the property, a
cemetery hosts the resting place of 43 slaves who worked on the property. There
is a marker that records the names of the slaves thought to be buried there and
one headstone labels the site. The Ferguson-Chamberlain family cemetery is located
on the southwest end of the property.
In 1905 the Mississippi Daughters of the American Revolution
decided they needed to preserve the history of the Natchez Trace, and from 1908
to 1933 they built monuments in every county in the state that hosted part of
the route. The 15 monuments that were built garnered a significant amount of
media attention and heightened people’s interest in the area. In 1938, Congress
made the Natchez Trace Parkway part of the National Park Service; the road
preserves the history of the Natchez Trace by including parts of the old road,
buildings, and landmarks. People visiting Mount Locust can take a tour of the
grounds and view the slave and family cemeteries. Visitors can also see where
slaves worked and can catch a glimpse of the people who stayed here whether
during their travels or their vacations.