Brierfield- Theme and History

Most people aren’t aware of the source of the name of the neighborhood of Brierfield and certain streets.  The developer of Brierfield was interested in history. “Brierfield” was the plantation home of Jefferson Davis.  Most people associate him with service as the President of the Confederate States of America, but Davis also served as a United States Representative, United States Senator, Mexican War hero, and Unites States Secretary of War.  While most people associate Davis with “Beauvoir”, his home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the years after 1865, “Brierfield” was his home during the most productive years of his life.

Jefferson Davis’ oldest brother Joseph helped form the statehood of Mississippi, then he acquired acreage within a wide curve of the Mississippi River just south of what would be the city of Vicksburg. This land became known to those on the river as “Davis Bend.”

After graduating from West Point, Jefferson headed to the Northwest where he served helping to secure the frontier.  He fell in love with Colonel Zachary Taylor’s daughter, Sarah, but the Colonel would not allow Sarah to marry a military man.  Jefferson conferred with brother Joseph, who advised him to give up the military and become a planter, and set aside part of his property for Jefferson to establish his own plantation.

Jefferson and Sarah went to see their land in 1835, which was undeveloped and overgrown; they laughingly called it “the brierfield,” and that became the name of the plantation.

Jefferson and Sarah contracted malaria from the mosquitos that were prevalent in the swamps during the summer months.  They went to be cared for at Jefferson’s sister Anna’s home in Louisiana, “Locust Grove.”  Sarah died and was buried there.

Jefferson finally took in the first crops and built the first cottage at “Brierfield” in 1838. In 1845, Jefferson married his second wife, Varina, and was elected to Congress; during his time in government, he built the main owner’s residence at “Brierfield,” which is thought be have been completed in 1850.

Brierfield was seized by the Union Army after the fall of Vicksburg in 1863. It was arranged to sell the plantation to an emancipated overseer whom the Davises had trusted for no down payment and financing interest.  In 1867, continuous rains caused the Mississippi River to rise, resulting in an avulsion known as the “Davis Cut-Off;” Davis Bend became an island west of the Mississippi River, and the land became known as Davis Island.  The plantation fell on hard times.  Eventually Jefferson Davis won back possession of “Brierfield” after the overseer defaulted on the mortgage and after many legal battles on clearing the title. 

If you notice, in Brierfield the neighborhood you will see both “Briars” and “Briers.”  The same variants are found in the memoirs if Jefferson and Varina Davis!  Land records and court documents establish the name officially as “Brierfield.”

Information compiled by:
Melody Cookson
805 Briars Bend