City’s founder remembered, but details on Vick are few|[02/06/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Vicksburg’s founder was a visionary who brought culture and Christianity to the city that formally adopted his name in 1825, said historian Gordon Cotton, addressing a group gathered to honor Newit Vick.

The Methodist preacher, who came to the area in either 1812 or 1814, is a historic figure, but details on his life are somewhat hazy.

“Things engraved in stone are not always true,” Cotton said, referring to different dates historians use to pinpoint Vick’s arrival in this river town known earlier by other names, including Walnut Hills.

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At least three different spellings of Vick’s first name — Newit, Newitt and Newett — have been found in family Bibles, on street signs and in history books since Vick became notable as, not only the city’s founder, but also the preacher who hosted the first Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church in his Jefferson County home.

“His move here made a significant difference,” Cotton said.

Vick was the subject of a new marker that was dedicated Tuesday at his family’s gravesite along Oak Ridge Road where their Open Woods Plantation was once located. Amid gusty winds, about 16 people gathered in the gravel drive that leads visitors to the graves, now maintained by Crawford Street United Methodist Church. The marker was replaced after an earlier sign was knocked down, probably by a vehicle, in 2006. The first road sign marking the location of the family graves was placed in the 1950s, Cotton believes.

Since the missing sign was discovered and reported to both Cotton, former curator of the Old Court House Museum, and District 1 Warren County Supervisor David McDonald, the two have worked together to see about replacing it. It was the following fall that members of Keep Vicksburg-Warren Beautiful decided to step up and get involved by dedicating a portion of the group’s annual fundraiser to paying for a new marker, said Holley Simrall, executive director of KVWB.

The Methodist community has also supported the effort, touting Vick as an important figure in local church history.

“If the town hadn’t been named for him, he still would have been quite famous,” said Sam Price, who has studied Vick’s life for 20 years.

Mississippi became a state in 1817 and Vick’s new town was chartered and incorporated by the Legislature eight years later, six years after the minister died.

The connection Vicksburg’s founder has with Methodists here will also be commemorated in a floodwall mural depicting life during Vick’s time. It will be unveiled at City Front at 11 a.m. Feb. 16.

Vick’s relationship with the area began when his cousins, the Cook family, urged him to buy land that had been cleared in the “open woods” and was for sale. Some of that land is now Openwood Plantation subdivision. In addition, he bought land along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, Cotton said.

While he was here, Vick was the only minister in the northern portion of Warren County, a job for which Cotton, who addressed the small group of Methodist ministers present, commended him.

“It was all on his shoulders,” he said. “It was strictly him and God.”

Vick and his wife, Elizabeth Clark Vick, died in 1819, the year he began his transformation of a new city along the Mississippi River by platting lots and boundaries. Their deaths, about an hour apart, was blamed on yellow fever or malaria. Both were buried at Oak Ridge. Four of the Vicks’ 13 children are also buried there.

Although his family fought over the city founder’s will for years, one result was the 1825 donation of the city block where Vick planned to build his home. That block, in 1860, became home to what is now the Old Court House Museum.