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Here is the real story of how Vicksburg got it’s name



newet vick
Newet Vick

Founding Vicksburg: Rev. Newet Vick

Vicksburg gets its name from our city’s founder, Newet Vick, who was a young Methodist preacher from Virginia who had emigrated to this area in 1814.

Having already established himself in the Mississippi territory by the early 1800s, Vick sought to develop growth within the Methodist Church in this region. Vick established himself, along with his wife Elizabeth Clark Vick and their children, in an old Native American clearing known as the Open Woods that had recently been vacated. At the time of their arrival, much of the area was still considered wilderness, and neighbors were few and far between. Along with his land holdings at Open Woods, Newet Vick also acquired a section of land along the bluffs of the Mississippi River which he believed would make an ideal location for a town. By 1819 he had begun subdividing sections of the 200-acre tract along the bluffs into town plots. Unfortunately, he would not get to witness the fruits of his labor during his lifetime, but due to his foresight, his vision was carried out thanks to directions he had laid out in his will.

elizabeth clark vick

Newet (Elizabeth Clark) Vick

A man of faith

Newet Vick was incredibly passionate about his faith within the Church. As a young minister, he had a remarkable talent for weaving together his messages, and, according to Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, was considered by many of the time to be of a “highly intelligent viewpoint.” He was in attendance at the first Methodist Conference ever held in Mississippi at Spring Hill in 1812. At the time the Tennessee Conference held ownership of the Mississippi territory, but with the effects of the War of 1812, it was not held in the state. Much of the attendance would have most likely been from the Tennessee area. Dunbar Rowland states that “Newet was the first local preacher that ever moved into the territory.” His skill as an orator led many of his neighbors to believe that he either had ambitions of running for Governor of Mississippi or at least held the capacity for the position. Vick on the other hand held a strong belief in the separation of the gospel and politics and therefore rebuked these claims.

Yellow fever

It was when Warren County’s survey had been completed by the United States in 1816 that Vick obtained the land where Vicksburg would soon be established. He planned to eventually move his family to this section of land, as he had already begun setting the pieces in place. A sight for his new home was set for what is now the location of the Old Court House Museum; this location was also the section he had laid out later as the sight for the Public Square for his new town. As his vision was just starting to take shape, he and his wife became incredibly ill having contracted yellow fever in 1819. They both died twenty minutes apart from each other at Open Woods that year and are buried in a small plot that is still visitable today.

Newet Vick

Newet Vick’s gravesite in “Open Woods” Note his name is spelled “Newet”

13 children

Newet and Elizabeth were survived by thirteen children of which four had been of legal age, but none were married. The estate had been appraised at $35,662 of which two-thirds was made up of enslaved people. The details of Newet’s will were fairly short, but complications still managed to present themselves. It stated that his property would be divided among his wife and their children, giving Elizabeth a choice of whether she wanted Open Woods or the Bluffs property. As Elizabeth had already passed, it was agreed that the property would be given to the children as they became of age, or, to the daughters, when they married. The final clause stipulated the formation of Vicksburg as an official town but created a point of contention as the executors named by Newet had either passed away or did not want the job.

Martha Vick home

Martha Vick house, 1300 Grove Street. The last original Vick home.

Rev John Lane married Sarah Vick

Willis B. Vick was left as the sole executor until the marriage of Sarah, Newet’s oldest daughter, to Rev. John Lane. Lane being quite ambitious about the potential in overseeing the estate,
jumped at the opportunity. In addition to their marriage was that of Sarah’s sister, Mary Tirzah Vick, to John Henderson, triggering the first of many divisions of Newet’s property and
eventually creating a rift in the family. While Willis Vick managed the plantation at Open Woods, John Lane had taken over responsibility for establishing Vicksburg. Cotton had been an exceptional crop at the time, and Willis believed he had a better understanding of planting than city planning. This changed in 1821 when Willis asked to be relieved of his duties on the plantation due to complaints he had received from others in the family. The courts agreed to these terms, and John Lane was made sole executor of the estate.

“Lane almost single-handedly built Vicksburg”

Upon the court’s decision, Hartwell Vick had decided to enter his name once again as executor but was denied due to his lack of interest the first time around. With this, John Lane began selling plots throughout the town to speculators but was met with resistance from the Vick family beginning a series of legal battles that would eventually result in a United States Supreme Court decision. According to Christopher Morris in Becoming Southern, “John Lane wrestled the executorship of the sizable legacy left by his father-in-law waiting years before distributing the proceeds to the rightful heirs. Lane almost single-handedly built Vicksburg, lining his own pockets in the meantime with profits that the deceased Vick had intended for his children.” After nearly twenty-five years of court battles, the Supreme Court made a ruling in Lane v. Vick in 1845 granting all lands sold back to Newet’s heirs. The aftermath was devastating for those real estate investors who had bought the contested property in good faith, as they were financially ruined by the decision. Although the turmoil created throughout the ordeal was not within Newet’s vision of a town on the bluffs, the result was the same.

john lane house vicksburg

The John Lane House at 905 Crawford Street in Vicksburg. Photo from the Library of Congress, 1933


Vicksburg was officially established as a city in January of 1825. Vick’s speculation and foresight had been correct, as Vicksburg became one of the fastest-growing cities in the State of Mississippi.

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