THE LOWER RIVER 109 JEFFERSON COLLEGE Jefferson College, the first college to be incorporated in Mississippi, was founded in 1811 before Mississippi achieved statehood. At the time, it was the only chartered education institution in the Mississippi Territory. Jefferson College, a preparatory school, was built in Washington, Mississippi, which was then the territorial capitol. Named after Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson College provided excellent academic instruction to its students and support to its community during the time it was operational. Jefferson College closed in 1964. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MISSISSIPPI SECRETARY OF STATE’S OFFICE municipal public school in Natchez, on land donated by local merchant and planter Alvarez Fisk. Upon the passage of Thacher’s law and its alteration by the legislature to adapt it to conditions outside the region, new county public school systems were founded. In 1848, both Jefferson and Wilkinson counties created their own tax-supported county school systems. By 1848, Vicksburg had founded a public school similar to the Natchez Institute. Both the Natchez Institute and the Vicksburg school provided children from a variety of economic backgrounds and not just the planter elite could obtain a free education. In nearby Port Gibson, the Port Gibson Female College was founded in 1843. Unlike many small colleges in the South, the school kept its doors open throughout the Civil War. It was donated to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1869 and was closed in 1903.