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, the Civil War, the Reconstruction era, and the early 20th century. The museum's collection includes a number of Confederate artifacts, such as 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
Construction of the court house began in 1858. The property of which the courthouse now stands 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 original iron doors and shutters.
It was at the Old Court House that Jefferson Davis began his political life. During 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 hit. After the Siege of Vicksburg, the Confederate flag flying over the courthouse was replaced by the Union’s on July 4, 1863.
In the years following the war, the Old Court House was not well maintained. In 1939, when another court house was under construction, it was barely used and almost demolished. 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 June 3, 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. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Heintzelman, Patricia. "Old Warren County Courthouse." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. May 23, 1968. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/982a8225-7870-4091-8110-fb3b45e401de.
"History." Old Court House Museum. Accessed on June 8, 2015. https://oldcourthouse.org/history.
Rene Gomez, via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Old_Vicksburg_Courthouse