Icons of Statehood: Constitution, rare flag on display at HJC

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 28, 2017

NATCHEZ — Historic Jefferson College will host this weekend Mississippi’s first constitution, which was drafted on the campus in 1817.

Another historical artifact — a rare 20-star flag that flew after Mississippi became a state — will also be on display during this weekend’s Icons of Statehood event, which was rescheduled from January.

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College Branch Director Robin Person said the items would be on display for two days, today and Saturday, with several activities being planned alongside the displays.

“This is a rare opportunity to see some actual artifacts from statehood here, right here on the grounds where history was made,” Person said. “This may be the only opportunity to get to see the important relics of our state’s birthday.”

On March 1, 1817, President James Madison signed legislation enabling inhabitants of the western portion of the Mississippi Territory to form a constitution and state government, while the eastern part would become a new territory. Forty-eight convention delegates assembled at Washington on July 7, drafting the constitution and, after weeks of deliberation, adopting it on Aug. 15.

“It’s amazing to look at the actual paper with the signatures of those early Mississippians,” said Person. “There is no substitute for the firsthand connection to history that original documents like this can give us.”

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History acquired the rare 20-star flag in 2001 after it was discovered in an antiques shop in Massachusetts. An extensive conservation was completed earlier this year on the large banner, funded by a grant from the Billups-Garth Foundation in Columbus and private donations. The flag has been mounted inside a frame to protect it and allow it to be displayed upright.

“There were only two United States flags used before this one,” MDAH’s Mississippi Museums Administrator Cindy Gardner said. “The first had thirteen stars and stripes to represent the original colonies and flew from 1777 until 1795. The second flag added two stars and two stripes and flew until ours became the official United States Flag on April 13, 1818.”

The flag and constitution will be on display in Prospere Hall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Today, a program beginning at 1 p.m. will feature remarks by Mayor Darryl Grennell and a presentation of the artifacts by staff of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Living historian Stacy Carden will portray the first governor of the state, David Holmes. Historic Jefferson College staff will offer children’s activities throughout the day, as well as snacks and drinks.

From 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Carden will be on the grounds portraying Gov. Holmes again, along with children’s activities, and a 200th birthday cake for the state of Mississippi.

At 2 p.m. each day, the MDAH staff will give a presentation on the history of the two artifacts.

For more information on the exhibit or programs, contact Historic Jefferson College at 601-442-2901 or email info@historicjeffersoncollege.com.