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Today is December 6, 2022

Mississippi Seen

Vintage shotgun a tangible connection to legend

Vintage shotgun a tangible connection to legend

Sam Gladden brought Henry Vick's shotgun to the Chapel of the Cross the other day. Propped against Vick’s headstone, the gun gives a hint of the personality of the man buried in the grave. Photo: Walt Grayson

    Doug Lamb in Clarksdale called me the other day to tell me that a friend of his in Alabama had just gotten a shotgun I might be interested in seeing. I’m not known as a gun collector, except for some rag-tag specimens that have migrated to my house over time, including a .22 single shot I won in a contest with other paperboys at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville when I was 12. And my treasure, an 8 mm German Mauser that Daddy brought back from Italy after World War II. (Loudest firecracker on the block at midnight New Year’s Eve!)

    Doug went on to say that this particular gun is over 150 years old. Not only is it in mint condition, but was specially made in England for a Mississippian I might be familiar with: Henry Vick.
    Yes! I am very familiar with that name, having seen it no telling how many times on his headstone in the graveyard behind The Chapel of the Cross in Madison County. Not to mention his being associated with the legend of the Bride of Annandale.
    Henry Vick and Helen Johnstone were to have been married in 1859, but Vick was killed in a duel in Mobile the week before the wedding. His body was transported back to Vicksburg on the same steamboat that carried the caterers, who had not yet heard the news. Helen persuaded the Vick family to allow the body to be buried at the Annandale Plantation church, The Chapel of the Cross.
    Truth blends into legend after that, but the story handed down through lore has it that Helen pined her life away mourning her lost love at the foot of Henry Vick’s grave. Supposedly, she is now seen there at midnight as the ghost of the Bride of Annandale. Truth is she married the Rev. George Harris, pastor of the chapel, and the couple moved to the Delta and started another Chapel of the Cross in Rolling Fork.
    There is a lot more to that story, but I want to get back to the gun. 
    Sam Gladden of Clanton, Ala., collects English-made guns and had first seen the Henry Vick shotgun 16 years before he finally acquired it. He was first attracted to it because of the perch-belly stock; that’s a stock whose underside curves slightly instead of being straight.
    The barrel is cast from beautiful Damascus steel. It has dolphin head hammers that show absolutely no signs of wear. The metal has ornate scrollwork engraved on it, and there is extraordinary hand carving on the stock.
    All of that tooling on a gun that old made it a find to begin with. When Sam saw the name “H.G. Vick, Vickland, Mississippi” engraved on the barrel, and being familiar with the Vick duel from Alabama history, he knew he had to add the gun to his collection.
    Sam missed his first chance to buy it, but when it came on the market again this year he didn’t even haggle over price. He got it.
    For how much? Well, that’s kind of rude to ask. What’s it worth today? Sam politely begs off by telling me that he’s not really an appraiser. But he did tell me what Henry Vick paid for it in the 1850s: two pounds sterling. That’s two pounds of sterling silver—on today’s market, about $18,000.
    I got to touch the gun. It’s another of those tangibles you run across now and again that adds a sparkle of reality to a story that is a legend more than anything else, nowadays.

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