Vicksburg, Warren have seen populations grow in most census reports

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 2, 2001

[04/02/01] In 160 of Vicksburg’s 176 incorporated years, the population has grown during most reporting periods, but never so much as when the counting of slaves began in 1870.

In the 10-year period leading up to that date, the city’s population grew on the books from 4,591 to 12,443.

In the newest numbers, those from the 2000 Census, the city and Warren County are still growing: the city climbed by 5,499 residents to 26,407; and the county population rose to 49,644, up 1,764 from 1990.

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Vicksburg’s population includes 15,957 blacks, 9,982 whites, 274 Hispanics, 160 Asians and 40 American Indians, the 2000 Census figures show.

The numbers for the county show 27,288 whites, 21,439 blacks, 514 Hispanics, 307 Asians and 112 American Indians.

Before 1870, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, slaves were not included in the national counting that began in the city in 1840, even though blacks made up the majority in many Mississippi cities and counties. Other races were not counted individually until the mid-1900s.

Other jumps in the city’s population can also be traced to significant events in Vicksburg’s history.

Between 1900 and 1910, Vicksburg had its largest actual population surge, 5,980, and with good reason, said Gordon Cotton, historian and curator of the Old Court House Museum.

In 1876, the Mississippi River unexpectedly moved several miles west and left Vicksburg without a waterfront. But in 1902, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dug a canal diverting the Yazoo River into the dry bed and restoring Vicksburg as a port city.

The Waterways Experiment Station was formed in 1927, and an increase of 4,871 people came in that decade.

“The waterway made quite a difference to the city as far as who was here then,” Cotton said. “It brought a lot of professionals to the city. More engineers were in Vicksburg at that time than anywhere else.”

The increase over the past 10 years can be attributed to tourism and industry, said Jimmy Heidel, executive director of the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s tremendous growth,” Heidel said. “It shows me that people are moving into the city. I think it has a lot to do with the attractiveness of the city for retirees and business and job opportunities prompting people to move here.”

The county has also changed dramatically since its first census in 1810, when it showed 1,114 residents.

In 1840, the county jumped from 7,861 to 15,820 as the free black population nearly doubled. Another 10,493 slaves lived in Warren County as well in 1840, up from 4,483 slaves in 1830, but were not included in population totals.

The largest population increase was between 1890 and 1900, when 7,748 people were added to Warren County rolls, although more than 6,000 blacks left the area during the same time period.

Until 1960, blacks outnumbered whites but the number of black residents in the county has steadily declined since 1910.

Most of Vicksburg’s surrounding areas have also seen increases.

Claiborne County and Issaquena County, which are among the state’s 20 poorest counties, saw increases. Claiborne added 461 people for a total of 11,831, and Issaquena increased its population to 2,274, up 365 from the last census.

Claiborne County board president Albert Butler said because the number is still less than 12,000, there won’t be any significant changes in the county but he is pleased people aren’t leaving the community.

“It says a lot for the direction Claiborne County is moving in,” Butler said. “We’ll try to keep moving forward to market our area for industry and tourism.”

Jefferson County also saw an increase, up 1,087 to 9,740 since 1990.

The population increase for Jefferson County will be good on many levels but may also have a down side, Jefferson County administrator Fred Oliver said.

“It’s a plus as far as government monies are concerned,” Oliver said. “We thought we were going to see a loss of about 200 people. We also thought we might lose a representative at one time, so now we won’t and that’s a plus.”

However, Oliver said a shaky economy could present problems for a larger population.

“If there’s an increase among working-age people, that may be a negative because so many places are laying off,” he said. “Fred Enterprises is about to shut its doors and that’s going to lay off over 45 people, so job-wise, an increase could be negative.”

Sharkey County is among the areas reporting a loss in population, down 486 residents between 1990 and 2000.

In nearby Louisiana areas, Tensas Parish lost 485 people and East Carroll Parish had a decrease of 288, but Madison Parish increased by 1,265.

Mississippi also showed an increase of 271,442 for a total population of 2,244,658.