“I am the seventh generation of my family to live in Nitta Yuma, MS. The plantation started in the 1700s with my fourth great-grandfather, Major Burwell Vick, who moved to Mississippi from Virginia. He and his brother founded Vicksburg, and the city is named after them. Burwell had several plantations in the surrounding areas. He sailed up Deer Creek with a Choctaw Indian guide, asking the guide to take him to the highest point that never flooded. They got off at an inland port – the guide called it Nitta Yuma. The name means ‘trail of the bear.’ Nitta Yuma has been in our family for nearly two hundred years. They also owned Panther Burn and parts of Anguilla.
One family story is about a duel that killed Henry Gray Vick in 1859, days before his wedding day. They brought Henry’s body up the river to the dock at Nitta Yuma, and his fiancee wore her wedding dress to his funeral. Henry’s brother and father passed away two years later in 1861. Henry’s sister, Mary Vick, lost her entire family then inherited Nitta Yuma before the Civil War. Mary was heartbroken and met Dr. Alozono Phelps while visiting her aunt in Louisville, KY. They married and moved to Mississippi to take over Nitta Yuma, which became Phelps’ property. They rebuilt the plantation after the Civil War and named their first child Henry Vicks Phelps. I am Henry Vicks Phelps IV.
More than 300 people once lived in Nitta Yuma. There were three gins and two sawmills, and the railroad ran through town. Over the years, the town declined, and people died or moved away. We still have 15 pre-Civil War buildings, and three log cabins are hand-hewed.
The Cameron House is an antebellum home moved to Nitta Yuma from a plantation south of here. My grandfather bought it as a 50th-anniversary gift for my grandmother. The church was built for my grandfather’s burial; my grandmother and father were also laid to rest there. My great-great-Aunt Nellie put up the state’s largest ten commandments outside the church. The red building was a seed house where all the blues players played including, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson. Arementer and Lonnie Chapman lived here for a while. Armenter’s stage name was Bo Carter.
Our family has always collected things, and Nitta Yuma has one of Mississippi’s largest book and doll collections. My grandmother started the collection, and there are over 6,000 dolls in the former general store. I played with some of the marionettes when I was a kid.
My grandmother was a great storyteller and wrote a book about the family. I learned a lot from her and always knew I would return home. My aunt, Carolyn Phelps May, is writing two books. One is about Rebecca the Racoon, who was sent from Nitta Yuma to President Coolidge for Thanksgiving dinner but became his pet.
My cousin, Cooley May, and I are bringing these buildings back. He just rebuilt the post office and the old Nitta Yuma store built by our great-grandfather. We plan to have events and weddings here. People always stop by, and I love it when they share memories and stories of Nitta Yuma.
I have learned so much from what my family left behind; our history means everything to me. Nitta Yuma is my past and also my future.”
(Vick was interview 2,001. The next thousand Souls stories started in Nitta Yuma.)