Saving the Wall!
By Morgan Gates, Historic Vicksburg Tours & Haunted Vicksburg Tours
The dominant feature, in the oldest picture we have of Vicksburg, is the structure we now call the Old Courthouse Museum. Construction was begun in 1858, by the Weldon Brothers and a team of one hundred enslaved, but highly skilled, laborers. It was practically brand new when the Mississippi Succession Ordinance was read from its steps and Confederate Generals watched the Union fleet from its clock tower. As the shells began falling in earnest on Vicksburg, the courthouse became a target for Union gunners. To save it, Union prisoners were housed in the courtroom to shield the building from utter destruction. When the city surrendered, on July 4th 1863, U.S. Grant reviewed his troops from the western side of the bluff, on which the courthouse was built. At that early date, this quintessential Vicksburg Landmark stood on a ragged, unimproved bluff. Left alone, the forces of the elements would have eventually done what the Union had not accomplished: bringing down the courthouse!
In the post war period, the city rebounded quickly from the War and actually became richer than it was before the War. Sometime in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the war damage to the courthouse was repaired. The ragged edges of the bluff were terraced and landscaped, and a formidable retaining wall was constructed to stabilize the hill.
As Vicksburg/Warren County grew, the need for a larger courthouse was felt and, in 1940, this Antebellum beauty was replaced as a working courthouse by a newer, more modern structure across the street. This reminder of a bygone era once again faced destruction by short-sighted elected officials who sought to demolish it. Eva W. Davis saved it by turning it into the Old Courthouse Museum!
But today, the building again faces destruction and the forces of time and nature are the culprits this time. The retaining wall that stabilizes the hill on which the museum sits is crumbling and the Museum does not have the funding to make extensive repairs. The Museum does not accept state or federal funding (and is thus largely shielded from the current forces that seem intent upon erasing our history). It operates entirely on admission fees and private donations. The Old Courthouse depends on you and me, and history lovers everywhere, to keep its doors open!
We are asking you and other lovers of history to pitch in and make a contribution to help save the wall, and thus save a vital part of our history!
No donation is too small! Please help! All donations will go to repairing the retaining wall! Thank you! Click the link below to donate!
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