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Future of Jefferson Military College is set

Last summer, the public and former cadets of Jefferson Military College were informed that Mississippi Department of Archives and History planned to close the campus of Mississippi’s oldest educational institution: Jefferson College and later Jefferson Military College and now Historic Jefferson College.

MDAH Director Katie Blount said that it was a difficult decision to close the MDAH site for various reasons, including low visitor flow, buildings in need of major repair, and lack of adequate funding to conduct current activities.

However, MDAH HJC Site Director Lance Harris stated that “needed structural damage will be addressed and a limited number of public events, such as the Big Yam Fiddle Contest, the Wirth Adams Raid Reenactment, the Black & Blue Review and the JMC Annual Alumni Reunion, will continue to be held on campus.”

Director Blount further explained that the “site was not serving the public well and the difficult decision to shutter the campus was made until we can have the adequate resources, both state and public, to make it a showcase to highlight the rich history of not only the region but the State of Mississippi.” She envisions the campus as a “gateway to the region that features the contributions of the Natchez Indians, the French, Spanish, English, early American colonialists, enslaved persons, ‘King Cotton,’ the Mississippi River, The Natchez Trace, The Republic of the West Florida experiment, MS statehood, the Civil War. . . . the JMC site is of key importance to Mississippians as the place where the 1817 constitutional convention was held and attendees applied for statehood to join the Union.”

Director Blount has often said, “One cannot understand the history of America without knowing the history of SW Mississippi.” MDAH plans to showcase the rich academic and military history, tradition and legacy of Jefferson Military College.  Achieving the site’s restoration, preservation and interpretation objectives “will make it a special place that honors that military prep school tradition. . . . our commitment to Natchez and Historic Jefferson College is as strong as it has ever been and I am looking forward to working with former cadets, friends and families in achieving the collective goals of refurbishing and re-opening this historic campus.”

Former cadets met with Director Blount in Natchez on Jan. 28, 2020, to report that the annual JMC reunion (scheduled for April 11 but postponed due to COVID-19 crisis) was be a “call-to-arms” for former cadets and friends of JMC to support the plans to restore and preserve the campus; and to contribute to the financial goals of the restoration and preservation of The Ruins of Windsor and The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians as well.

More details on the progress MDAH is making toward restoring JMC/HJC, The Ruins of Windsor and The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians and making them a part of the “The Gateway to Southwest Mississippi” will be outlined in The Natchez Democrat in the future.

Mike Gemmell is a member of the Jefferson Military College alumni association.