Standing in the midst of deep forest in Jefferson County, the house and cemetery at Prospect Hill today seem serene, only hinting at a past both violent and paradoxically hopeful.
The existing Prospect Hill Plantation house was built ca. 1854 by Isaac Ross Wade, grandson of the original owner of the plantation, Revolutionary War veteran Isaac Ross. Ross was a member of the Mississippi Colonization Society, which in the early 19th century sought to “repatriate” freed slaves to a colony on the West African coast, today’s nation of Liberia. Ross’s will directed that after his daughter’s death, Prospect Hill should be sold, and that those among his more than 200 slaves who chose to emigrate to Liberia should be freed, with their colonization funded by the proceeds of the plantation’s sale.
Ross’s grandson contested the will in court, seeking to prevent the sale of the plantation and the freeing of the slaves. With the case tied up in litigation for a decade, the house burned down during a slave uprising in April 1845. A young girl died in the fire, and a group of slaves who were said to have orchestrated the uprising were subsequently lynched. In 1848 the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Ross’s and his daughter’s wills and ordered the plantation sold and the slaves freed, many of which made the journey to Liberia.
Even in its current deteriorated condition and with damage from a tree that fell on the front gallery, the core of the Prospect Hill house that Wade erected circa 1854 is structurally sound, and retains much of its original Greek Revival detail. Among the graves at the nearby plantation cemetery (also in disrepair, and endangered by falling trees) are the graves of the young girl, Isaac Ross Wade, and Isaac Ross, the latter of whom is commemorated by a monumental obelisk erected by the Mississippi Colonization Society.
2017 Update – In Progress
The Archaeological Conservancy acquired the property and is working to save this special historic place. Back in a January of 17, 2014 meeting of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees, Prospect Hill was listed as a Mississippi Landmark and awarded a $50,000 stabilization grant with a 20% match. Since then the property has been cleaned up, and the house has been stabilized. Through Jessica Crawford’s stewardship, Prospect Hill with the help of a Mississippi Landmark Grant from MDAH was able to put on a new roof. The Conservancy hopes to do more work on the gutters soon. The house has been temporarily weatherproofed, and all the salvageable wood has been termite treated and restored. The Archeological Conservancy is looking for a “history friendly” buyer for the house and property (23.4 acres) who will continue the restoration and is willing to open Prospect Hill to the public occasionally. Recently the cemetery has benefited from a much-needed monument repair. Jessica Crawford is looking into putting together a restoration plan of action to give to prospective buyers.