Port_Gibson,_Mississippi Latitude and Longitude:

31°57′22″N 90°58′59″W / 31.95611°N 90.98306°W / 31.95611; -90.98306
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Port Gibson, Mississippi
Claiborne County Courthouse and Confederate monument in Port Gibson
Claiborne County Courthouse and Confederate monument in Port Gibson
"Too beautiful to burn"
Location of Port Gibson, Mississippi
Location of Port Gibson, Mississippi
Port Gibson, Mississippi is located in the United States
Port Gibson, Mississippi
Port Gibson, Mississippi
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 31°57′22″N 90°58′59″W / 31.95611°N 90.98306°W / 31.95611; -90.98306
Country  United States
State  Mississippi
County Claiborne
 • Total1.75 sq mi (4.55 km2)
 • Land1.75 sq mi (4.55 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
118 ft (36 m)
 ( 2020)
 • Total1,269
 • Density723.08/sq mi (279.18/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 ( Central (CST))
 • Summer ( DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code 601
FIPS code28-59560
GNIS feature ID0676254
Website portgibsonms.org

Port Gibson is a city in Claiborne County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 1,567 at the 2010 census. [2] Port Gibson is the county seat of Claiborne County, [3] which is bordered on the west by the Mississippi River. It is the site of the Claiborne County Courthouse.

The first European settlers in Port Gibson were French colonists in 1729; it was part of their La Louisiane. After the United States acquired the territory from France in 1803 in the Louisiana Purchase, the town was chartered that same year. To develop cotton plantations in the area after Indian Removal of the 1830s, planters who moved to the state brought with them or imported thousands of enslaved African Americans from the Upper South, disrupting many families. Well before the Civil War, the majority of the county's population were enslaved.

Several notable people are natives of Port Gibson. The town saw action during the American Civil War. Port Gibson has several historical sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places ( National Register of Historic Places listings in Claiborne County, Mississippi).

In the twentieth century, Port Gibson was home to The Rabbit's Foot Company. It had a substantial role in the development of blues in Mississippi, operating taverns and juke joints now included on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

With the decline in agricultural jobs since the late twentieth century, because of industrial agriculture, and a lack of other jobs, the city and surrounding rural county have suffered from reduced population and long-term poverty. The peak of population in the city was in 1950. The last major employer, the Port Gibson Oil Works, a cottonseed mill, closed in 2002.


Market Street-Suburb Ste. Mary Historic District

Port Gibson is the third-oldest European-American settlement in Mississippi. Its development began in 1729 by French colonists and was then within French-claimed territory known as La Louisiane. The British acquired this area after the French ceded their colonies east of the Mississippi River in 1763, [4] following their defeat in the Seven Years' War.

Following the U.S. acquisition of former French territory through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, more Americans entered the area. Port Gibson was chartered as a town that year on March 12, 1803. The federal government carried out Indian Removal in the 1830s, pushing the Five Civilized Tribes, including the Choctaw and Chickasaw peoples, west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory. It took over their lands in the Southeast for sale and development by European Americans.

Planters developed cotton plantations in the fertile river lowlands of the Mississippi Delta and other riverfront areas, dependent on the labor of enslaved Africans, initially brought from the Upper South. The African Americans comprised a majority in the county before the Civil War, and this continued.

With international demand high for cotton, such planters prospered. As the planter population increased, they founded the Port Gibson Female College in 1843 to educate their daughters. The college later closed and one of its buildings now serves as the city hall. [5] Similarly, they founded Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in 1879, a military boarding school for white male youths. It operated into the early twenty-first century.

Port Gibson was the site of several clashes during the American Civil War and figured in Union General Ulysses S. Grant's Vicksburg Campaign. He was attempting to gain control over the Mississippi River. The Battle of Port Gibson occurred on May 1, 1863, and resulted in the deaths of more than 200 Union and Confederate soldiers. The Confederate defeat resulted in their losing the ability to hold Mississippi and defend against an amphibious attack.

Later nineteenth century to present

Reportedly, many of the historic buildings in the town survived the Civil War because Grant proclaimed the city to be "too beautiful to burn". These words appear on the sign marking the city limits. [6]

Despite postwar economic upheaval, the city continued as a center of trade and economy associated with cotton. In 1882, the Port Gibson Oil Works started operating, established as one of the first cottonseed oil plants in the United States. [7] This historic industrial building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. [8] The mill finally closed in 2002. [4]

Gemiluth Chessed synagogue

Gemiluth Chessed synagogue, built in 1892, had an active congregation when the town was thriving as the county seat and a trading center. It had attracted nineteenth-century Jewish immigrants from the German states and Alsace-Lorraine. After starting as peddlers, the later generations of men became cotton brokers and merchants. This is the oldest synagogue and the only Moorish Revival building in the state. [9] It is topped by a Russian-style dome. As the economy changed, the Jewish population gradually moved to larger cities and areas offering more opportunity, and none remain in Port Gibson.

The Rabbit's Foot Company was established in 1900 by Pat Chappelle, an African-American theatre owner in Tampa, Florida. This was the leading traveling vaudeville show in the southern states, with an all-black cast of singers, musicians, comedians, and entertainers. [10]

After Chappelle's death in 1911, the company was taken over by Fred Swift Wolcott, a white planter. After 1918, he based the touring company at his plantation near Port Gibson, with offices in town. He continued to manage it until 1950, when he sold it. The Rabbit's Foot Company remained popular, but as some white performers joined and used blackface, it was no longer considered "authentic". [10]

In 2002 the New York Times characterized Port Gibson as 80 percent black and poor, with 20 percent of families living on incomes of less than $10,000 a year, according to the 2000 Census. It also had an "entrenched population of whites, many of whom are related and have some historical connection to cotton". [11]


A Mississippi Blues Trail marker was placed in Port Gibson to commemorate the contribution the Rabbit's Foot Company made to the development of the blues in Mississippi, in its decades of operation after the founder's death. [12]

In 2006, an exhibition, The Blues in Claiborne County: From Rabbit Foot Minstrels to Blues and Cruise, was shown in Port Gibson, exploring the history of the show, with artifacts and memorabilia. [13]

Other National Register of Historic Places buildings and sites

  • Van Dorn House, completed c. 1830, built by Peter Aaron Van Dorn, a lawyer, planter, and judge
  • McGregor, house designed in Greek Revival style by Van Dorn (above) for one of his daughters, completed 1835
  • Windsor Ruins, 23 columns of a plantation house that burned c. 1890, located about ten miles southwest of the city that have been featured in two motion pictures
  • Wintergreen Cemetery, historic cemetery with burials of notable residents


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2), all land.


Historical population
Census Pop.Note
U.S. Decennial Census [14]
Port Gibson by race as of 2020 [15]
Race Num. Perc.
White 122 9.61%
Black or African American 1,122 88.42%
Other/Mixed 20 1.58%
Hispanic or Latino 5 0.39%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 1,269 people, 554 households, and 290 families residing in the city.


Port Gibson is served by the Claiborne County School District. [16] Port Gibson High School is the comprehensive high school of the district.

The Chamberlain-Hunt Academy, a private military boarding school, has operated in Port Gibson since 1879. It was promoted as a Christian school in the late twentieth century. Nonetheless, it suffered declining enrollment and closed in 2014. [17]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 24, 2022.
  2. ^ "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Port Gibson city, Mississippi". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  4. ^ a b Kilborn, Peter T. (18 October 2002). "A Vestige of King Cotton Fades Out in Mississippi". New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  5. ^ Patti Carr Black; Marion Barnwell (2002). Touring Literary Mississippi. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 179. ISBN  978-1-57806-368-0. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  6. ^ Hendrickson, Paul (2003). Sons of Mississippi. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN  0-375-40461-9.
  7. ^ Gold, Jack A. (January 1979), Historic Sites Survey: Port Gibson (cottonseed crushing) Oil Works Mill Building (PDF), retrieved August 5, 2018.
  8. ^ National Park Service, NPGallery: Port Gibson Oil Works Mill Building, retrieved August 5, 2018.
  9. ^ Peter Applebome (September 29, 1991). "Small-Town South Clings to Jewish History". New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Lynn Abbott, Doug Seroff, Ragged But Right: Black Traveling Shows, Coon Songs, and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz, University Press of Mississippi, 2009, pp.248-268
  11. ^ PETER T. KILBORN, "A Vestige of King Cotton Fades Out in Mississippi", New York Times, October 18, 2002.
  12. ^ "Mississippi Blues Commission - Blues Trail". www.msbluestrail.org. Retrieved 2008-05-28.
  13. ^ "Rabbit Foot Minstrel Exhibit in Port Gibson Until September 30, 2006". h-southern-music. Retrieved 10 July 2014
  14. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  15. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved 2021-12-07.
  16. ^ "2020 CENSUS - SCHOOL DISTRICT REFERENCE MAP: Claiborne County, MS" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-07-31. Retrieved 2022-07-31. - Text list
  17. ^ "Chamberlain-Hunt Academy to Close". WAPT Jackson. July 30, 2014.
  18. ^ David J. Bodenhamer; Robert G. Barrows (22 November 1994). The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Indiana University Press. p. 323. ISBN  0-253-11249-4.
  19. ^ Drew Gilpin Faust (1 September 1981). The Ideology of Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Antebellum South, 1830–1860. LSU Press. p. 239. ISBN  978-0-8071-0892-5.
  20. ^ "Yolanda Moore Named Girls Basketball Coach At Heritage Academy". Ole Miss Sports. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  21. ^ Kevin Horrigan (1993). The Right Kind of Heroes: Coach Bob Shannon and the East St. Louis Flyers. HarperPerennial. p. 84. ISBN  978-0-06-097578-4.
  22. ^ PETER KRAMPERT (23 March 2016). The Encyclopedia of the Harmonica. Mel Bay Publications. p. 159. ISBN  978-1-61911-577-4.
  23. ^ Nancy Capace (1 January 2001). Encyclopedia of Mississippi. Somerset Publishers, Inc. p. 405. ISBN  978-0-403-09603-9.
  24. ^ Robert E. L. Krick (4 December 2003). Staff Officers in Gray: A Biographical Register of the Staff Officers in the Army of Northern Virginia. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 278. ISBN  978-0-8078-6307-7.
  25. ^ Linda Gupton (5 June 2013). Seasons in the South: The Lives Involved in the Death of General Van Dorn. Author House. p. 41. ISBN  978-1-4817-5365-4.

External links