VICKSBURG FACTS: Alexander McNutt, Vicksburg’s first Governor of Mississippi

Published 10:22 am Friday, July 22, 2022

By Vera Ann Fedell | The Vicksburg Post

Did you know Alexander G. McNutt was the first Vicksburger to become the Governor of Mississippi?

He was born in Rockbridge, Va., in 1801 and graduated with a law degree from Washington College, now known as Washington and Lee University. After graduation, he moved to Jackson, Miss., where he practiced law for a brief time before settling in Vicksburg where he established his law firm.

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He then married Elizabeth Camerion, a widow of a wealthy business partner, and was able to inherit the plantation along Deer Creek in Warren County in 1833.

McNutt was also the author of several hunting tales in the New York publication “The Spirit of the Times,” under the pseudonym “The Turkey Runner.”

His stories are described as Southwest Humor, “a body of writing that was born in the breakdown of hierarchical social relations and the (perceived) triumph of egalitarian ideals,” according to “A Literary History of Mississippi” edited by Lorie Watkins.

The stories follow two backwoodsmen and practical jokesters, Jim and Chunkey, that hang out in the woods with upper-class characters, the Governor and a cotton planter known as “Captain.” Jim and Chunkey know everything about being in the outdoors which gives them the advantage to play some practical jokes on the upper-class characters.

McNutt was inaugurated as governor in January 1838 and served for two terms until 1842. McNutt entered into office during a period when Mississippi was in a severe economic depression, according to David Sansing from Mississippi History Now. At this time, there was a major debate on whether the Union Bank should come to Mississippi. When the bank was first proposed, most Mississippians, including McNutt, were against having the bank, but in 1838 McNutt signed the bill in hopes of helping struggling Mississippians. 

However, the bank did not work as planned. The Union Bank was supposed to work like other financial institutions in the mid-1830s.

Certain qualities of the Union Bank include allowing Mississippi property owners to purchase stock, and any Mississippian who lacked sufficient cash could buy their stock by providing real estate or enslaved persons as collateral, or they could pay for an eight-year loan. Another quality was that the sale of stock was intended to be raised to $500,000 while the remainder of the capital would be taken care of by the state by selling $15,500,000 in bonds, according to Bradley G. Bond from Mississippi Encyclopedia.

Instead, the banks took too many risks which caused a depletion in the state treasury. In two years, a total of 17 banks closed due to a lack of money. McNutt questioned his decision of signing for the Union Bank and eventually became an advocate for rejecting the state’s debts that were in support of the Union Bank. 

According to David Sansing from Mississippi History Now, McNutt tried to make a comeback when campaigning for U.S. Senate in 1842. However, he was defeated and died on the campaign trail at Cockrum’s Crossroads in DeSoto County on Oct. 22, 1848.