Old Court House Museum
One of the city's leading attractions, this museum combines the beauty of Vicksburg's historic court house with exhibits related to the antebellum period, Civil War, Reconstruction, and early 20th century. The museum's collection include a number of Confederate artifacts, including the tie worn by Jefferson Davis’during his inauguration. The museum also offers several collections of historic photographs from the Civil War and beyond, antique furniture, artifacts that belonged to Robert E. Lee, and historic clothing. The museum also includes exhibits related to Native Americans and the frontier period. The Old Court House itself was constructed in 1858 Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and William McKinley are just some of the past visitors here.
Backstory and Context
The now museum began to be built in 1858 with the intention of it being a courthouse for Warren County. The property of which the courthouse sits on was received from Newitt Vick, the father of the city, and is located on one of the tallest slopes in the city. To build the Old Court House builders used 100 talented slave craftsmen to create the brick and make the courthouse stand. It was finished in 1860 at a price of $100,000. The Old Court House was declared to be one of 20 most outstanding courthouses in America by the American Institute of Architects. It still possesses its first iron doors and shutters.
It was at the Old Court House that Jefferson Davis began his political life. In the Civil War, Southern Generals Stephen D. Lee, John C. Breckinridge, and Earl Van Dorn witnessed, from the dome of the courthouse, the Confederate warship Arkansas push pass Union ships and gain refuge in Vicksburg. The Old Court House was shot at several times throughout the war but only experienced one significant wound. It was at the courthouse that the Confederate flag was replaced by the Union’s on July 4, 1863 after a defeat to General Ulysses S. Grant and his men.
In the years following the war, the Old Court House was not very well taken care of. In 1939, when another court house was being built for Warren County, it was barely used and almost destroyed. However, believing in its value, Eva Whitaker Davis created the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society to save the building. Davis was named president of the group in 1947 and she and others started to fix up the court house and gathered relics. It was presented as a museum 3 June 1948. Davis remained at the museum for several years. Appreciating all her work, the locals gave another name to the museum, the Eva W. Davis memorial, some time before her passing in 1974. The Old Court House gained national historic landmark status in 1968.1