Monday, April 30, 2012

Downstairs at the Court House - Part 3

This is Part 3 of my series featuring the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. If you missed the beginning chapters and would like to read them first, you can click on the following links:

The Court House - Part 1
Court House Lagniappe - Part 2

In this post, I am sharing a few of the pictures I captured of my tour of downstairs. Please keep in mind that this is just a sampling of the historic memorabilia and information contained in the museum. I wish I had had the time to take pictures of every nook and cranny for my own personal collection, but time was limited the day I was there. By the time you finish this post, you may think I did take pictures of every nook and cranny, but I promise you I only captured "the tip of the iceberg." Perhaps one day you can visit the museum and see the rest of the treasures in person.

We'll begin the tour in the foyer ...

I love the old desk, and the note posted above it which advises visitors that Unattended children will be given a free kitten! I'm sure that encourages the holding of a lot of little hands.

Gracing the wall opposite the desk are the portraits of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Eva Whitaker Davis, the museum's founder.

This stately grandfather clock stands like a sentinel, greeting all who come and go ...

I'm sorry to say that I was too busy taking pictures and overlooked reading the sign about its history.

Here are a few more of the displays and exhibits showcased downstairs ...

Steamboats were very much a part of Vicksburg's history, and this exhibit features the Sprague, which was built in 1901.

After 46 years on the river, she became a museum and was also used in the movie "Showboat."

The Sprague burned in 1974, and, sadly, her remains are rusting away beside Washington Street, near downtown Vicksburg. Marty Kittrell, a well known and respected photographer in Vicksburg, has campaigned for several years for someone to save the Sprague. I urge you to click on this link to read Marty's touching appeal for her preservation (Save the Sprague), and see his amazing pictures. I hope someone will read this and be able to do something to help rescue what remains behind of one of the most majestic steamboats on the river ... before it's too late.

The Gift Shop

Pioneer Room

My favorite thing in this room was this unique Victorian high chair, which could be used as a chair, stroller, or rocker, as shown in the pictures.

As a grandmother of an eight-month old, I'm amazed at all the baby "stuff" available now. A 2012 version of a chair like this one would certainly be nice!

The quilts also caught my attention. I can't help but wonder about the life stories of the ladies who created them.

Coke was first bottled here in Vicksburg. Do you remember when it came in those huge bottles like the one in the case?

Artillary Room

The large sign displayed in the next exhibit caught my attention.

The 13-inch mortar shell in the bottom of the case was the largest size fired into Vicksburg during the Siege.

Union mortar boats fired over 7,000 shells like that one, and each shell weighed 218 pounds! The court house was the target of much Union shelling, but suffered only one major hit.

I'm sure my eyes lit up when I saw the sign above this door, and if I had to choose my favorite downstairs room, this would be it. So many lovely things ...

The old pianos especially caught my attention. This 1858 Steinway Square Grand Piano is thought to be the first in Mississippi, and has never left Vicksburg.

It is constructed of Brazilian Rosewood, taking nearly a year to complete.

Another Square Grand, Circa 1858 ...

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln, gave the sheet music displayed on the next piano to her coachman in 1866. I found it interesting that although she was a Kentuckian, Mary Lincoln had an uncle who lived in Port Gibson, and four of her brothers and several of her relatives served in the Confederate Army.

Musical memorabilia and instruments from the period ...

This beautiful table has a heartwarming story that goes along with it.

When an Iowa soldier, Sgt. Davis, moved into the Owen Trainor home in Vicksburg, following the Siege, the Trainors' daughter, Martha Ann, reminded him of his child at home, and he made the table for Martha Ann, putting her initials in three of the corners.

One of the acorns on the base was carved from part of the "Surrender Tree," under which Generals Pemberton and Grant met to discuss surrender terms on July 3, 1863.

The table was donated to the museum by the grandson of Martha Ann Trainor.

This ends my tour of the downstairs of the Old Court House Museum. I hope you will join me next time when I take you up these stairs to the courtroom and beyond.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Court House Lagniappe - Part 2

My previous post featured Part 1 in a series of posts I'm sharing about one of Vicksburg's most imposing and historic landmarks — the Old Court House Museum. If you missed it and would like to read it, you can click on this link: The Court House - Part 1.

I am in the process of editing literally hundreds of pictures I captured during my visit to the court house, which I hope to have ready to post the first of next week (I promise I will try to refrain from posting all of them). But, in the meantime, I would like to introduce you to Maggie, one of the fattest cats I've ever seen!

Maggie is the indoors court house cat, and was very friendly. So friendly, in fact, that I couldn't get her to stay still long enough to get a good picture of her beautiful face.

I'm not sure how much Maggie weighs, but I was told that she recently lost about five pounds, bless her heart!

I was also delighted to meet another (much smaller) court house pet — a baby squirrel that was rescued after it fell from its nest at the home of the museum's curator, Mr. George (Bubba) Bolm. Bubba's wife is a Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitator, and she cared for the baby until he was old enough to move to his new home on the grounds of the Museum (that was one lucky little squirrel!).

I would like to thank Mr. Bubba Bolm for his gracious hospitality during my visit. Although they were expecting 65 school kids to tour the Museum later that morning, he went out of his way to make me feel welcome to browse and take as many pictures as I wanted. I hope to return to the museum soon and capture some of the pictures I had to leave behind. There is so much history there, I could spend a week inside those old walls and still not capture it all with my camera.

For next time: A Tour of Downstairs in the Court House.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Court House - Part 1

If you are a regular visitor to Southern Lagniappe, you may recall several photo shoots I've shared featuring the Old Court House Museum of Vicksburg.

All of those photo shoots took place on the grounds of the Court House, and focused on the architectural magnificence of the building itself, as well as the glorious old Dogwood and Magnolia trees surrounding the Square.

I also featured pictures of lagniappe I discovered along the way, like the old Ginkgo tree at its most dazzling in the Fall ...

Flowers from the gardens surrounding the Court House ...

And the court house cat who posed for me on the steps a couple of years ago.

I've even photographed the court house during the "blue hour," right before nightfall ...

As you can probably tell, I am obsessed with fascinated by this magnificent architectural masterpiece — not only because of its physical beauty, but also because of its historical significance. Perched on one of the highest hills in Vicksburg, it survived bombardment by Union shelling during the War Between the States, and also a direct hit by a tornado in 1953.

I returned to the grounds of the Court House recently to capture a few of the Magnolia blossoms with my camera. While I was there, it occurred to me that during the six years we have lived in Vicksburg, I have never ventured inside the museum. I'm not sure why, but perhaps it was because on each visit, I never ceased to find a treasure trove of pictures outside, just waiting to be taken. However, before I left that day, I promised myself that I would soon return to explore the inside of the Court House — and little did I know then that I was about to embark on one of the most interesting and thrilling photo shoots I've ever experienced.

I hope you will join me next time as I give you a glimpse of the history of Vicksburg, and a rarely seen view of the city.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the history of the Court House, I invite you to read the following information which I borrowed from the Old Court House Museum's website.

Construction began in the summer of 1858, on what was then to be a new Court House for Warren County. The building is perched on one of the highest hills in Vicksburg on land given by the family of the city’s founder, Newitt Vick. Contractors were the Weldon Brothers of Rodney, Mississippi, who used 100 highly skilled slave artisans to make the brick and erect the building, which was completed in 1860 for a cost of $100,000.

The building stands as an architectural gem and was named one of the 20 most outstanding courthouses in America, by the American Institute of Architects. Four porticos, supported by 30-foot Ionic columns, flank the entrances. The courtroom on the second floor features a cast iron judge’s dais and railings, and an intricate iron stairway connects the first and second floors. Original iron doors and shutters remain on the building.

On the grounds, a local planter, Jefferson Davis, launched his political career. Several years later, during the War Between the States, Confederate Generals Stephen D. Lee, John C. Breckinridge, and Earl Van Dorn watched from the cupola as the Confederate ironclad Arkansas battled its way through the federal fleet to safety at Vicksburg. During the War, the building was the target of much union shelling, but suffered only one major hit. It was here on July 4, 1863, that the Stars and Bars were [sic] lowered and the Stars and Stripes were [sic] raised, as General U. S. Grant reviewed his victorious army.

After surviving Union shelling, a direct hit by a tornado in 1953, and years of neglect, the building was again in danger. With the construction of a new Warren County Court House in 1939, the building stood practically vacant and there was talk of its demolition.

The museum's founder, Mrs. Eva Whitaker Davis, realized the significance of the building and establish the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society for the purpose of preserving the structure. In 1947 she was elected president of the society and with the help of a few volunteers began cleaning the building and collecting artifacts. On June 3, 1948 the museum opened its doors, where she continued to work on a volunteer basis for many years.

A grateful public added the name Eva W. Davis Memorial to that of the building several years before her death in 1974. The building was named a national historic landmark in 1968. The museum is still operated and maintained by the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society.

Confederate flags, including one that was never surrendered, the tie worn by Jefferson Davis at his inauguration as Confederate President, fine portraits, china and silver, exquisite antique furniture, the trophy antlers won by the steamboat Robert E Lee in an 1870 race, antebellum clothing, toys, Indian and pioneer implements, and an original Teddy Bear given to a local child by Theodore Roosevelt, are just a few of the thousands of artifacts which are housed in the Museum/Eva W. Davis Memorial.