Mural illustrates Methodist role in city history

2/19/2008

By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

 

VICKSBURG – Methodism played a key role in the founding of this river town, and now residents and visitors have a permanent reminder.

 

A mural depicting Newit Vick receiving a Bible from a circuit rider was official unveiled Feb. 16 at Crawford Street United Methodist Church. The mural is one of 23 painted on the floodwall on the banks of the Mississippi River. Weather forced the ceremony indoors.

 

Vick, a Methodist preacher, laid out the plans for what became Vicksburg, although he died after selling just one lot. Vicksburg was incorporated in 1825.

 

“It’s just a great feeling to witness this,” said Judy Jones, a member of Hawkins UMC who is a direct descendant of Vick. She said her mother and sister in particular had studied the family history and “would be proud of this.”

 

Bob Walters, also a member at Hawkins who was active in getting the mural completed, said he hopes it might serve as an inspiration to current congregations.

 

“I think this goes back to the history of Methodism,” he said “We had a strong presence in those early days when church was a bit more formal. We need to get that fire for Jesus Christ.”

 

During the ceremony, historian Gordon Cotton pointed out that in 1860 Warren County was home to 13 Methodist congregations. The next closest denomination was Baptist with six.

 

“We need to get that kind of hope back in our churches again so we can be a wonderful witness for Christ. We went from being the predominant church to just another church now,” Walters said.

 

Most of the churches in the Warren County Cluster and individuals contributed toward the $16,500 cost of the 12-foot by 20-foot mural.

 

The painting shows the circuit rider handing a Bible to Vick, who is standing with other people outside a small log building representing a 19th century church. Sunlight streams through pines trees onto the figures in the scene.

 

The mural was designed by Twick Morrison, a Crawford Street UMC member and active United Methodist on the local, conference and national level. Morrison died Feb. 7.

 

“She was very detailed in her explanation of what she wanted,” said artist Brett Chigoy, who painted most of the mural for Dafford Murals of Lafayette, La. “She laid out what she wanted to see in words without a drawing. She gave the details of the building and the horse. She was very helpful in that.”

 

Nellie Caldwell, who chairs the city’s mural committee, put it simply. ”We would not be here today without Twick,” she said. “She was very determined to have the Methodist presence on the floodwall. She knew exactly what she wanted on that mural.”

 

Chigoy took photos of a stand of pine trees with the sun shining on them to guide him in painting just the right image. He also had someone pose on a horse with the horse’s head down.

The drive for the Methodist mural started about a year ago, Walters said. The overall project started five years ago. Caldwell said nine more murals are planned.

 

Robert Dafford, owner of Dafford Murals, said the company completes about three or four per year in Vicksburg. The company has painted 350 historical murals and downtown revitalization projects, most in river towns.

 

Churches that contributed to the mural include Eagle Lake UMC, Hawkins UMC Crusaders Sunday School Class, Crawford Street UMC Women’s Special Fund, Crawford Street UMC Friendship Class, Redbone UMC, Bradley’s Chapel UMC, Wesley UMC and Porter’s Chapel UMC.