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Port Gibson, Claiborne, Mississippi Too Beautiful to Burn

A brief history of the third oldest town in Mississippi

History of Port Gibson Mississippi

Claiborne County was once a part of the mighty Choctaw Nation. At one time there were 26 or 27 Villages here. These Indians relinquished their rights to the last of their land in Claiborne County when they sighed the Treaty of Commissionerís Creek in 1802. Among the white men who signed this treaty were David Hunt and Daniel Burnet.

The first white settlement in what was to be Claiborne County was near Pettit Gulf just north of where Rodney now is. This was just a hunting settlement and was made in 1729. The first lasting settlement came in 1775 and in 1802 the county was formed and named for Governor W. C. C. Claiborne, governor of the Territory. Ti was the third county formed in the state. Gibsonís Landing was chartered March 12, 1803 as the county seat.

Samuel Gibson acquired from the Spanish a tract of land of about 820 acres on the South fork of the Bayou Pierre. By 1788 a settlement had soon known as Gibsonís Port or Gibsonís Landing. In 1811 the charter of incorporation was amended, and the name of the town was officially changed to Port Gibson, the third town incorporated in the state. Bayou Pierre was navigable for flat boats and small boats certain seasons of the year. Sometimes after these boats had been unloaded, they were torn up and quite a few of the older houses are mad of material from them. (Miss Nettie Chestermanís home is one.) Although it was a rip-snorting frontier town with no church, lots of saloons, a race tack just out of town (where the Presbyterian manse now stands), it was not long before cultural things were coming to the fore. Between 1802 and 1807, the Presbyterians built Bayou Pierre Presbyterian Church out on a point overlooking the Bayou on the road to Rodney. Lorenzo Dow brought Methodism in these early days. The charter of the Mississippi Literary and Library Company of Gibsonís Port was signed by Governor David Holmes on January 13, 1818, giving the state its first library. Port Gibson is very proud to say that it had the second newspaper in the state (see the Reveille office for details) and the third Masonic Lodge.

Among early things of interest is that Andrew Jackson was so delighted with the homes of Abner and Tom Green when he visited them at Gayosaís summer home and at Springfield in the 1780ís, that he acquired a tract of land where Bayou Pierre emptied into the Mississippi River and there built a cabin, trading post and race track. (This was a Spanish land Grant.) After he and Rachel were married at Tom Greenís Springfield, they spent their honeymoon of two or three months here (1791). Two of Rachelís nieces, one a Coffee who married the first Daniel to come to Claiborne County, the other a Caffrey who married a Van Dorn, lived in this county later. Andrew Jackson also visited his dear friend, Benjamin Humphreyís (later Governor of Mississippi), at the Humphreyís family home, The Hermitage. Later he wrote and asked the privilege not only of using the name for his home in Nashville, but of using the same plans. The Original home on Hermitage here was partially destroyed by fire leaving only two rooms with a hall between. These have been added to, first by a porch all around, and then later other rooms.

Henry Clay visited in Port Gibson often. When here he stayed with his friend, Judge Maury (the Morehead house). On one visit, when Mrs. Moreheadís mother was a small girl, she was sick and he asked her if she would like a memento. She asked for a lock of hair. This is still in existence, having been inherited by Mrs. Moreheadís nephew, Gerald Pratt, who has it in his box in a New Orleans bank. On one visit of Mr. Clayís, a large political rally was held for him at Judge Colemanís home, which is now the E. T. Crisler home. Be sure and see the marker on the grave of Henry Devine in the Protestant Cemetery here.

Burinsburg acquired its name from Peter Bruin, veteran of the American Revolution, and later one of our early judges. At his home on the bluff above what was to become Bruinsburg, Endicott visited on his way down the river at the time the first survey of Mississippi was made by the United States. When he died, Bruin was buried on Bruinís mound, one of the three Indian mounds on the property now known as Windsor. His grave is not marked but that mound was later used as a cemetery by the Daniel and Freeland families.

Grand Gulf, in the days before the War Between the States, was the second largest port on the Mississippi River. And was a rich and thriving town. Prior to the Siege of Vicksburg, the town was shelled and burned by the Union Navy, without even giving the women and children time to evacuate the town. Fort Cobun, near Grand Gulf, was able to prevent Gen. Grant from landing troops here, forcing him to march his troops down river on the Louisiana side and cross at Bruinsburg, as noted below. Grand gulf never did recover after the war, and at one time was completely taken by the Mississippi River. All that is left there now of interest are the ruins of the fortifications and the old cemetery, plus the recently restored house which will be headquarters for the Grand Gulf Military Monument Park. Signs are posted on the Grand Gulf road pointing the way to various places.

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