Welcome To Woodville!
We welcome you to our town of Woodville, the county seat of Wilkinson County, tucked away in the Southwest corner of Mississippi near the river between
Natchez and Baton Rouge.
This website is the effort of a group of volunteers who have established the
Wilkinson County Museum...which has two buildings on the court house square. The Office and Banking House of the West Feliciana Railroad
Building was built in 1834 and is our main building. The Branch Banking House built earlier about 1819 is our African American Museum.
Hampton Hall is only one of almost fifty local landmarks to be featured in our 19th Century Plantations of Wilkinson County book. (MUSEUM SHOP)
The Woodville Civic Club Inc. was founded in 1971.
These two buildings are only two of the many projects of the Woodville Civic Club Inc., our 501(c) (3) parent organization, during its forty years plus of existence.
The Civic Club was the result of a meeting called together in September of 1971 by Mrs. Alice Ray Wall Thomas Farrar, a native of Woodville, a descendant of early settlers, and a spirited, community minded individual.
There were lots of empty stores; business was bad, and the morale of our residents at an all-time low. It had a malaise that so many small towns across this country were suffering as the world seemed to shift and change so fast.
That meeting in September of 1971 resulted in the formation of a group who saw themselves as an umbrella organization anxious to co-ordinate and work with all of the existing clubs, the churches, our government on all levels, and our business people with one goal in mind, and that goal was simply the betterment of this community.
For two hundred years we have been a stable community as the county seat of Wilkinson County. You can see it in our architecture, in our way of life, and in our institutions. Woodvillians love their community and it shows.
Our National Register District, our Journals of Wilkinson County History, our museums, our plantations, and our people all have a story to share. We want to share it with you.
Please enjoy our website. Let us know what we might have missed or what we can find out for you. But most of all...please come visit us.
The Salisbury Collection tells the story of a Federal style plantation home, it's great style, and our early history.
The Wilkinson County Museum
The museum opening in October, 1991, marked the twentieth year of preservation efforts by the Woodville Civic Club. The building was acquired in 1971, a turn of events that established the Civic Club as the leading preservation organization in the county.
The building which houses the museum was erected in 1834 as the office of the West Feliciana Railroad Company and is located on the southeast corner of the Courthouse Square in the Woodville Historic District.
The West Feliciana Railroad was the third oldest railroad in America and was constructed by Judge Edward McGehee with the help of other Woodville financiers. Built to transport cotton from the county seat of Woodville to the river boats on the Mississippi at Bayou Sara, Louisiana, it was the first railroad to use standard gauge track and the first to adopt the use of the cattle guard. This railroad, which made its first run in 1842, was the first to issue and print freight tariff bills, and its home office in Woodville is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the nation.
It was used by the railroad, latter the Illinois Central until 1919, when the government acquired the property for use as the United States Post Office. Interestingly, in those early days the postmaster and his family lived in the apartment with rooms upstairs, a gorgeous winding staircase in the north east corner, a large room to the rear of the first floor, and a kitchen in the dependency building...just as the bank presidents had done so in the early years of the railroad.
After World War II a new post office was built and the building housed the county welfare department for many years until it was acquired by the Civic Club to prevent any chance of its being demolished.
The African American Museum
The African American Museum was built as the Branch Banking House of the State of Mississippi and was a bank for many years. It has exceptional Federal millwork, mantels, and original wood graining.
It was acquired by the Woodmen of the World after a fire in 1912 had destroyed a rear wing and the roof and attic of the main building. That fire was at the core of an embezzlement scandal wherein it had been hoped that evidence of the fraud might have been destroyed (see entry 119 of Volume III of The Journal of Wilkinson County History).
A parapet wall was built on three sides and a flat roof was put on the building. For many years it was a barber shop and then after World War II it was the Woodville Public Library. The Civic Club acquired it in 1973 for $5000 to save it...and charmingly many years later those funds were returned three-fold by the Woodmen of the World as a donation for the matching funds needed for our MDAH grant. It was in bad shape.
In the mid-1970's the rear brick wall and part of the east wall had to be rebuilt with custom made bricks to prevent it from falling. In the 1980's the roof rafters were raised and the gable ends were restored and a temporary roof was put on. In 2004 thanks to a Mississippi Department of Archives and History Grant the restoration was completed and the service dependency with bathrooms and storage facilities was built.
For a trip into the 19th century visit Rosemont where Jefferson Davis grew into manhood and the Davis family lived for nearly a hundred years. It is an award winning historic house museum. (see CD and books MUSEUM SHOP)
Places To Visit in Wilkinson County:
Jefferson Davis is still recognized by almost all historians as one of the most remarkable and accomplished figures of 19th century American life.
Rosemont was built by his mother and father when they settled here in 1810 brought by the lure of rich soils and a better life from Kentucky and Georgia where they had farmed for many years. They brought with them the younger children...the youngest of whom was Jefferson. He says of Rosemont, "It was here that my memories began."
Rosemont has been open as an historic house museum since 1971.
Call 601.888.6809 for hours. www.rosemontplantation1810.com
The Camp Van Dorn WW II Museum in Centreville
Camp Van Dorn was hastily constructed war camp in Wilkinson and Amite Counties which had a wartime population of 41,000 and the effect on the area was amazing.
Camp Van Dorn was an early project of the Woodville Civic Club. After the turn of the century, the bank building was donated to the organization and later turned over to a local Centreville group of volunteers. They did a splendid job of restoring the structure and have successively created an award winning museum that opened in 2005.
Located at 138 Main Street in Centreville, MS. 601.645.9000 www.vandorn.org
They are open Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm, and on the 1st & 3rd Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.