Port Gibson Contains More than a Famous Finger Pointed Skyward
There’s obviously a whole lot more to the South Mississippi hamlet of Port Gibson than a famous finger pointing skyward.
That iconic landmark, located atop the First Presbyterian Church, features a gold-tinted hand and finger giving directions to Heaven. It’s just one of several reasons to visit the Claiborne County seat of government.
Another is Port Gibson’s recent ranking as the state’s “coziest small town,” according to the MyDatingAd-viser.com website. The digital outfit used several criteria, including “weather, food and activities,” to determine cozy places across America.
To gain the in-state honor, Port Gibson nudged out Holly Springs, a main rival in antebellum homes situated in Mississippi, and Laurel, where the celebrated Napier couple, Ben and Erin, stars of the HGTV series, “Home Town,” have brought abundant positive attention to the state.
Port Gibson, population 1,200, can legitimately claim the sobriquet of state’s loveliest village. That opinion was famously certified by Union Army Gen. and later U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant who said Port Gibson was “too beautiful to burn” during his 1863 pursuit of Vicksburg during the Civil War.
Grant also gave a pass to Windsor, a magnificent, massive antebellum home just outside Port Gibson. The architectural wonder was constructed in 1831. While escaping Grant’s torch, the home featuring 29 Corinthian columns was destroyed by fire in 1890.
The mansion’s ruins, currently under renovation, are among the most-photographed pieces of ground in Mississippi. A celebrated picture of the remaining 23-full and five partial columns is the black-and-white taken in 1942 by novelist Eudora Welty, in which Welty’s literal long shadow enriches the photo’s foreground.
Port Gibson and Claiborne County contain several other worthy hotbeds of antiquity that lure legions of visitors, including the “ghost town” of Rodney, described by Clarion-Ledger photographer Barbara Gauntt in a 2019 essay as a place that’s “frozen in time.”
Gauntt poignantly wrote, “Be respectful as you explore. Rodney was – and still is – a place some call home.”
The leading community arts group is the Crossroad Quilters, which designs unique quilts and showcases them. They also teach the art of quilting. A founder was Patty Crosby, whose daughter, Sarah C. Campbell, was my colleague covering politics for the Clarion-Ledger and now directs programs and publications for the state’s archival agency.
The venerable Port Gibson Reveille, the county’s weekly newspaper, is a treasured reservoir of historical and current facts and events. The newspaper, established in 1850, is edited and published by Emma Flautt Crisler. Her late husband, Ed Crisler, was a scion of the family that bought the paper from its original owners in 1898.
Before her marriage in 1969, Emma F. Crisler was a star teacher in the revered English Department at McComb High School of the 1960s, my alma mater. I remember and cherish her as a demanding and excellent instructor and mentor. Today she ranks among the luminaries of the state’s journalism community.
MyDatingAd-viser.com says it “swept the country to find some of the coziest towns in America for a winter weekend escape.” Key search elements were “a ski lover’s paradise, a historic spot near a major metropolis or a remote waterfront retreat.”
Port Gibson meets the standard as a worthy sanctuary of history. Travelers will enjoy the 65-mile trip to and from our metropolitan city of Jackson via another major attraction, the beauteous Natchez Trace Parkway.
Cozy up with a copy of the Reveille and a plate of luscious fried chicken and seductive sweet potato pie at nearby Lorman’s Old Country Store. As a favor to me, please visit the newspaper office and tell Emma hello.