Museum celebrates anniversary

Published 10:52 am Thursday, June 4, 2015

Once slated for the wrecking ball, one of Vicksburg’s most iconic downtown attractions quietly turned 67 years old this week.

The Old Court House Museum celebrated its anniversary Wednesday, a lifetime after the Board of Supervisors handed the key to Eva W. Davis.

Davis incessantly hounded the board to save the historic landmark. They had wanted to tear it down and use the land for a parking lot.

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The building itself is a jewel to behold. Slaves who were highly skilled in stone masonry began construction on the Greek revival style courthouse began in 1858, and it opened in 1860.

Jefferson Davis made his first political speech there, perhaps a precursor to the Civil War.

By January 1861, Old Glory was removed, and the Bonnie Blue was hoisted to the top of the cupola. The building was struck several times during the impending war, but no one in Ulysses S. Grant’s army or David D. Porter’s navy could bring it down. On July 4, 1863, Grant stood on the lawn addressing his victorious troops gathered on Monroe Street.

After the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863, Union officers used the courthouse as a headquarters building. One of them scratched his name into a window, and others used knives to scrawl their initials into slate on the back portico. And thanks to Davis and those who followed her, these fantastic artifacts still exist for visitors to see today.

While the building itself is a jewel, the collection inside the museum is equally astounding.

“It’s like a grandmother’s attic. There’s a little bit of everything,” a visitor from somewhere up north told me the other day while exiting the museum. There are rare pieces of Vicksburg and Mississippi history that can’t be seen anywhere else.

The tie worn by both George Washington and Jefferson Davis at their inaugurations the trophy antlers won by the steamboat Robert E Lee in an 1870 race, antebellum clothing, toys, Indian and pioneer implements, and an original Teddy Bear given to a local child by Theodore Roosevelt are just a few of the thousands of artifacts.

It’s here in our backyard. If you haven’t been there in a while, take a visit.