Looking back: Vicksburg Gas Plant continued

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 5, 2024

In 1903, the Vicksburg Gas Light Company was sold to the Vicksburg Gas Company, which secured a 50-year gas franchise with the City of Vicksburg with rates to be readjusted every 10 years.

In May 1923, The Vicksburg Post announced “Local Capitalists to Take Over the Vicksburg Gas Co.” The new owners stated that they “contemplate making many improvements and repairs both at the plant and to the mains and also extension of the mains to supply sections of the city now without gas service. One of the first extensions planned will be the extension of the mains from Washington Street through Polk to Drummond and along Drummond to Bowmar Avenue, where the present mains stop. The company already has twenty-two miles in the city and the new extensions will add three or four more. All of this will necessitate a considerable financial outlay but it will be the aim of the new company to bring their plant and equipment thoroughly up-to-date and to furnish strictly first- class gas and service.”

The new owners placed an ad in The Post in October and announced “Did you know the Vicksburg Gas Co. is no longer owned or operated by foreign stockholders? The men that own the Vicksburg Gas Co. are the leading business men of your city, who have lived here all their lives. We are giving better service now than the town has had in twenty years. We are striving every day to give the people to Vicksburg the best service that can be had. Did you know that these local men that own the Vicksburg Gas Co. HAVE LET a $30,000 contract for new plant machinery and equipment so as to insure our customers the best of service?

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By 1936, the Vicksburg Gas Co. was bankrupt and was sold to American Utilities Service Corporation of Chicago and called Vicksburg Gas Corp. The City of Vicksburg was working to have a natural gas pipeline constructed from Jackson to Vicksburg because the rates charged by Southern Natural Gas Corporation to Vicksburg Gas Corp. were too high. Mayor J. C. Hamilton
announced that there was a bill in the state legislature as reported by The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, “the City of Vicksburg recently leased a tract of gas land north of Jackson on Pearl River with the view to construct a pipe line to pipe natural gas for the use of its citi- zens. The proposal involved a grant and loan from the Public Works Administration at Washington and the bills passed yesterday were suggested by the PWA to clarify the existing statutes enabling municipalities to undertake such utility projects beyond their own corporate limits.”

The bills passed and in August the city hired Lou H. Miller, a civil engineer from Chicago and Tulsa, to prepare the plans and specifications and to inspect the work for the Jackson-Vicksburg gas line. Hamilton stated that the city had $275,000 to construct the pipeline to Jackson and that in addition to Vicksburg the line would serve intervening towns of Edwards, Bolton and Raymond. A year later, after a great deal of legal maneuvers and lawsuits, Southern Natural Gas agreed to reduce the rate enough that the city abandoned the pipeline project.

In April 1940, the city had announced a clean-up, fix-up week and the owners of the gas plant participated. Some of the buildings that had been on the site since 1886 and added by 1892, including the purifying house, generator building, coke shed, tool house, locker room, iron gas holder at the north end, iron gas tank at the south end, two storage buildings, and a garage (originally a stable), were demolished.

In July, the mayor and aldermen began discussing the possibility of purchasing the properties of the gas company. They formed committees and visited cities where the gas utilities were owned by municipalities. In February 1941, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen announced a special election for the purpose of “submitting to the qualified voters the question of issuing bonds of the City of Vicksburg in maximum amount of $260,000 for the purpose of acquiring the entire natural gas distribution system of the Vicksburg Gas Corporation located in and about Vicksburg.” The voters of Vicksburg approved the bond measure three to one (1,181 to 419) and the plant was immediately purchased for $240,000, the remainder of the bond money to be used to upgrade the facilities and lay more gas lines.

The name of the facility was changed to the Vicksburg Municipal Gas System and it is still owned and operated by the City of Vicksburg today.

Nancy Bell, Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation.