The City of Vicksburg was founded by Newitt Vick, a Methodist minister. He died of yellow fever before the town could be laid out, however, leaving that task to his son-in-law John Lane.
Incorporated in 1825 with a population of 180, the city grew rapidly because of its location on high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River and soon became the largest and most progressive city in the state.
The city administration worked diligently to provide educational facilities, fire and police protection, and a new city hall in the latest Beaux Arts style.
Public transportation began with horse-drawn trolleys and, by 1899, ten miles of track carried electric trolleys to the far corners of the city.
One of the highlights of recreational activities was watching the Vicksburg Billies, a semi-pro baseball team.
On April 12, 2002, the City of Vicksburg unveiled its first riverfront mural by renowned artist Robert Dafford. The electricity of this project spread across the South and up and down the Mississippi River.
The panels of the Vicksburg floodwall are the canvas capturing the City of Vicksburg’s crucial past, present and future roles in American history, commerce, culture, religion, and technology.
CROSSING THE MISSISSIPPI, LAST OF THE FERRIES
“The Connection of East and West at Vicksburg”
Prior to the construction of a bridge in 1930 across the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, train cars crossed to Louisiana on “ferries for trains” called transfer boats.
The inclines at Kleinstown in Vicksburg and Delta Point in Louisiana were constructed from June to October 1885, with the first training crossing the Mississippi by transfer steamer on October 27, 1885. These inclines were constructed with a “cradle” that could be raised or lowered with the rise and fall of the river.
The first two transfer boats, used until the turn of the century, were the “Northern Pacific” and the “Delta.” The Louisiana and Mississippi Valley Transfer Company later operated two vessels at Vicksburg, the “Pelican” and the “Albatross.”
The Pelican was built in 1902 by the Iowa Iron Works at a cost of $230,000. It was followed by the Albatross which was built in 1907, also by the Iowa Iron Works, and was 308 feet long by 53.8 feet wide with a draft of 7 feet 6 inches and powered by six boilers.
Trains were ferried across the river night and day with these boats until the highway rail bridge was completed in 1930, making it faster and safer to cross the Mighty Mississippi.
THE FAMOUS BEAR HUNT:
“The Teddy Bear is Born”
On November 12, 1902, the Washington Post reported that President Theodore Roosevelt was headed to Smedes, Mississippi, 25 miles north of Vicksburg, for a 4-day bear hunt. The article said the president “did not anticipate the pleasure of killing a bear so much as the pleasure of a few days complete recreation in the woods.”
The guide for the hunt was Holt Collier, a scout during the Civil War and later a guide for Gen. Wade Hampton. Collier had helped kill 1000 bears, nearly 150 in a single season.
On November 14, the hounds cornered a 235-pound bear. Collier tied it to a tree and called for the president. When Roosevelt arrived, he would not shoot the bear.
Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman drew Roosevelt with a little bear tied to a tree with the caption, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi.” Soon toy manufacturers were producing “Teddy’s Bears,” later called Teddy Bears.
Washington Street became the commercial center of Vicksburg in 1839 when a fire destroyed the downtown area on Main Street. This scene, c. 1912, shows the 1400 block looking north toward the Yazoo Canal.
In the early 20th century, Vicksburg was the state’s chief commercial and banking center. On Washington Street , one could purchase any necessity, service, or luxury desired. In the 1400 block alone, retailers offered groceries, candy, ice cream, liquor, tobacco, business machines, clothing, shoes, furniture, stoves, and pharmaceuticals. Services were provided by tailors, barbers, doctors, advertising agents, printers, banks, and restaurants. Two movie theaters featured the latest films.
Residents came downtown by trolleys that plied more than ten miles of track. The trolley in the foreground has the sides removed for summer.
Information courtesy of www.riverfrontmurals.com.
Part 1 of Vicksburg Riverfront Murals, Vicksburg, Mississippi.
You can see where the water is seeping through the flood wall in some of these murals close to the bottom, due to the flood of 2011.