Is Vicksburg Older than Natchez?
By Morgan Gates
---Disclaimer: I am discussing European based settlement here for the Native Americans have us both beat by thousands of years---
Well that is a no brainer you might well say. All you have to do is go to visitnatchez.org to see they are celebrating their tricentennial this year. A quick wiki search will tell you that Vicksburg was founded in 1819 and will not celebrate its bicentennial until 2019. Open and shut case as the cop shows like to say!
But wait a minute, first let us define city a little more carefully. For you see, the City of Natchez IS NOT three hundred years old. Fort Rosalie is three hundred years old. The city was lain out by the Spanish Territorial Governor Manuel Gayoso in the 1790’s. The “city” of Natchez is only about 225 years old.
So! You say, that is still 27 years older than Vicksburg. But wait…you see this claim broadens the “definition” of city to oldest permanent, or at least semi-permanent settlement. Ok that narrows the gap even more! For you see the Town of Warrenton, the county seat of Warren County, was founded in 1809. Vicksburg is the current county seat and therefore Warrenton is in Vicksburg’s lineage, and it was founded in 1809. That narrows the gap to only 18 years!
Foul you cry! Warrenton no longer exists! True, but neither does Ft Rosalie. It literally fell off the bluffs during the Civil War. The town site for Warrenton does still exist, albeit as willow thicket, within the boundaries of the modern city of Vicksburg.
Eighteen years is still eighteen years you say.
Wait, I’m not through. You see at the same time Gayoso is establishing Natchez he is also establishing a military outpost about 75 miles – as the crow flies—north on a high walnut covered bluff on a sharp bend in the Mississippi. The new outpost is called Ft. Nogales –walnut trees—in Spanish. His primarily English speaking subjects use the more common English Name “The Walnut Hills”! Military outposts always become de facto villages or even towns and Walnut Hills in no exception --- I have also heard, though I cannot confirm that The Reverend Newitt Vick originally planned to name his city Walnut Hills but when he died suddenly of Yellow Fever in 1819 his heirs named the town Vicksburg in his honor. The site of this village lies near the National Cemetery within the city limits of Vicksburg! Vicksburg; therefore, is the same age as Natchez!
Wait you say, but Rosalie is still older! Now I produce my trump card! Rosalie was established in 1716 but Fort Saint Pierre and its surrounding village “Yazoo Post” was establish by French Jesuit Missionaries in 1698! Pierre was inhabited for 31 years until and Indian uprising in 1729 wiped out the inhabitants, Rosalie suffered the same fate. Rosalie was rebuilt Pierre was not. Vicksburg is 318 years old!
OK..OK.. you got me, I’m really reaching on the last point! There is about a 62-year gap between the end of Ft. St. Pierre and beginning of Ft. Nogales, and Pierre/Yazoo Post is several miles north of modern Vicksburg but still inside Warren County. As a counter point to that, the historical site of Ft. St. Pierre, still exists and the historical site of Rosalie does not, but up to that point, my argument is on firm ground. So, I’ll see you in 65 years for Vicksburg’s and Natchez’s Tricentennial!
--- so, all tongue and cheek stuff aside, Vicksburg is a very beautiful and historic city we will be celebrating the State of Mississippi’s bicentennial next year and our own bicentennial the following. See you soon in Historic Vicksburg. ---