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Local church participates in Toys for Tots



Bishop Oscar L. Davis, First Lady Loretta Davis and Word Church of Vicksburg members

In 1947, Marine reservist Maj. Bill Hendricks founded Toys for Tots, the U.S. Marine Corps-funded program that gathers and distributes toys to disadvantaged children. With about 15 million children living in poverty in the United States, program proved itself to be useful and has become a holiday tradition. 

In 2014. Takita Selvy, a member of the Word Church of Vicksburg, was given an opportunity to serve her community by joining with the charity as its Warren County coordinator.

“We’ve never had a Toys for Tots coordinator in this area,” Selvy said. “So. someone contacted my pastor and asked him if he knew anybody who would like to be a coordinator, and at that time, I didn’t have a job, and I wanted to stay busy in the ministry. I then took on the role as coordinator five years ago, and it’s just been blooming ever since.”

Every year, Selvy works with her fellow church members to gather all types of toys for children in need in the Warren County area.

“With our chapter it began five years ago,” she said. “We do it through my church, the Word Church of Vicksburg, and it’s pastored by Bishop Oscar L. Davis, and we try to make it greater and grander than the last year. We had a really big year last year and the year before that, and this year we just wanted to get the community involved. That was our main goal.”

With several organizations  and churches pitching in—including Child Protective Services, the Vicksburg Children’s Shelter, and the Family and Development Center—Selvy is grateful to the community for helping to make Toys for Tots a success each year. She says none of it would be possible without her pastor.

“Our pastor loves children, and he always wanted to be involved with Toys for Tots,” she said. “So when the opportunity presented itself, he was excited that we, as a church family, would be making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children.”

The Word Church of Vicksburg is collecting toys for children ages 2 through 18. On Dec. 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., church members will be gathering at 2150 Iowa Blvd. to pack a truck full of toys. Then, on Dec. 14, the church will host a family friendly event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 255 Fisher Ferry Road. Guests will be able to meet with Santa, drink hot cocoa, enjoy a train ride and decorate Christmas cards for deployed Marines.

For information, and to learn how to contribute to Toys for Tots, call Takita Selvy at 601-885-3599 or Jacqueline Brown at 601-589-0793.


15th annual Christmas Caroling Contest pulls in a crowd



The Agape Montessori Christian School choir performs. The choir was a finalist in the Division 5 Upper Elementary category.

Area choirs performed to a packed house Saturday night at the final evening of Vicksburg’s 15th Annual Christmas Caroling Contest.

The event was hosted by the Vicksburg Convention Center and sponsored by V105.5 FM radio, who awarded $10,000 to winners, finalists and choir directors.

Choirs performed to a packed house on the final night of competition.

Congratulations to the winners and finalists.

Division One: Upper Teen Soloists

Winner: Gavin Standish

Finalists: Genevieve Moore, Nathan Mosley, Snowden Trio and Radyn Horton

Division 2: Tweens and Young Soloists

Winner: Anna Kate Humphries

Finalists: Ella Claire Gregory, Alissa Bordelon and Audrey Holt

Divison 3: Adult Groups

Winner: Jingle Belles

Finalist: Envy

Division 4: Lower Elementary Choirs

Winner: Redwood Holiday Choir

Finalists: Sherman Avenue first grade, Sherman Avenue second grade, and South Park Elementary first grade

Division 5 Upper Elementary Choirs:

Winner: Redwood Honor Choir

Finalists: South Park Elementary fifth and six grades, Warrenton Elementary, Vicksburg Intermediate Vocalizers and Agape Montessori Christian School

Division 6 Junior High Choirs

Winner: Sumner Hill Junior High Mixed Ensemble

Finalists: AOI Southern Synergy and AOI Innovation Choir

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‘Are you dreaming, Artie?’ The story of the Balfour’s Christmas Ball



Couples dance to period music at a re-enactment of the Balfour Christmas Ball held each December at the Old Court House. The 2019 ball will be held next Saturday night, Dec. 14. The original ball occurred in 1862 at the Balfour House.

Do you remember the scene in “Gone with the Wind” when Miss Scarlett and Rhett Butler danced the Virginia Reel?

Folks will be doing the same thing Saturday night, Dec. 14, at the Old Court House Museum during the annual re-enactment of the Balfour Ball. (See details below.)

The original ball took place in December 1862 and was hosted by Dr. and Mrs. William T Balfour for Confederate officers, their ladies and other friends. The well-documented event reads like a dramatic script from a novel.

Lee Daniels recalled the events in writing for Gen. Stephen Dill Lee in 1904.

The story begins on the Mississippi riverbank, south of Lake Providence, La.

“I hears a boat coming,” an excited little girl told the two Confederate officers who sat in a shanty playing cards on Christmas Eve, 1862.

She insisted that the men, Maj. E.P. Earnhart and Maj. Lee Daniels, come outside and listen.

“Are you dreaming, Artie?” one of them asked.

“No, sah! I hears it say choo, choo, pat, pat,” the excited child replied, mimicking the sound of steam engines and the slapping of paddle wheels against the water.

Earnhart and Daniels walked to the porch of the little building, which was located on Horace Tibbots’ plantation about 11 miles south of Lake Providence. Listening intently, they could barely hear the sounds Artie had described, but they could discern something. They went to the riverbank where they waited about 30 minutes.

They could hear the sounds that were getting closer and closer, and eventually, “a monster turned the bend, two miles above us, and came slowly as if feeling the way,” Daniels wrote.

And then Earnhart whispered, “Here comes another.”

Some sparks flew out of Earnhart’s pipe and Daniels grabbed it and put out the tobacco, warning that those boats would fire a volley at the crack of a match.

Soon, the “large black devil was abreast of us, in easy gun shot from our double barrels, but suicide to fire. We counted, counted, counted in all seven gunboats, fifty-nine transports loaded with blue coats,” Daniels continued.

The night was cloudy, cold, and there was a drizzling rain. The two men waited until they were sure no more boats were in the flotilla, and then Daniels, who had been a telegraph operator in Vicksburg before the war, jumped on his little bay filly and practically flew to the telegraph offices, some three miles back in the woods, where he sent a message to the other end of the line.

Daniels was frantic. He knew that if he didn’t get the message through, unsuspecting Vicksburg would fall to the enemy. It took only 27 seconds to transmit the words, but to Daniels, it seemed that his friend on the other end would never answer.

Col. Philip H. Fall, also from Vicksburg, was on duty at the telegraph on DeSoto point, across the river from Vicksburg, when the message came through.

“Golly, old fellow, what’s up?” Fall answered when he got the first signal.

Almost half a century later, Daniels recalled the message, which he said was indelible in his brain after all those years:

“Great God, Phil, where have you been? I have been calling, (am I afraid I said half an hour instead of half a minute), and the river is lined with boats, almost a hundred have passed my lookout. Seven gunboats and fifty-nine transports chock full of men. God speed you, rush across and give the alarm.”

Fall tapped a reply. “God bless you, Lee, bye, bye we may never meet again.”

The Balfour House in Vicksburg today, where the first Balfour Ball was held in 1862.

Almost immediately, Fall was in a small skiff headed across the river to Vicksburg. It was a tempestuous night, and at times, it appeared the waves on the river would extinguish the colonel’s red lantern, which signaled the men who manned the batteries along the bluffs that he was a friend, not a foe. Had the light gone out, Fall might have been killed.

Despite the possibility of death, he was determined to make the crossing, for the city was in peril. Had the message not been sent when it was, the city probably would have been taken, for only a short time later, the enemy cut the telegraph wires.

The citizens of Vicksburg and the Confederate officers and men were completely oblivious to what was happening.

At the home of the Balfours on Crawford Street, the house was ablaze with lights, and the sounds of music and laughter filled the cold night air.

Suddenly, the door burst open, and a gray-clad courier, disheveled and muddy, pushed his way through the crowd calling for Gen. M.L. Smith, commander of the Confederate forces in Vicksburg. The crowd gave him a wide berth.

Facing the general, the courier breathlessly gave him the news: A flotilla of gunboats and transports had passed Lake Providence, headed toward Vicksburg.

The music had stopped, and in a loud voice, Smith exclaimed: “This ball is at an end. The enemy is coming down river. All noncombatants must leave the city.”

Then, the general turned to Fall, thanked him for the message and apologized for his harsh manner.

Immediately, men reported to their stations. By the end of the week, the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou—north of town where 6,000 Southern boys soundly whipped Gen. W.T. Sherman’s 32,000 Union troops—was history. It was the first time Sherman had held an independent command Here he learned what he later proclaimed: “War is hell.”

The story might have ended differently had not an idle slave girl first sounded the alarm that broke up the ball.

The annual re-enactment of the Balfour Ball, now called the The Old Court House Confederate Christmas Ball, is Dec. 14 at the Old Court House Museum.

The event will take place in the courtroom from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be live music of the period, Christmas decorations, food and beverages. Advance ticket purchases are required and are $30 per person, available at the museum.

Though some will attend in period costume, other will be in their “Sunday best.” Ball gowns and tuxes are available to rent from the museum.

The event is a fundraiser for the Old Court House Museum. Call 601-363-0741 or email for more information and to purchase tickets.

Gordon Cotton is the curator emeritus of the Old Court House Museum. He is the author of several books and is a renowned historian.

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2019 Vicksburg Christmas Parade of Lights: photos and video



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