The Audubon Mississippi/Strawberry Plains Finley Collection in the University of Mississippi Libraries' Department of Archives & Special Collections contains the papers of the Finley and Davis families from Marshall County, MS. In 1834, Mary Jane Greelee of Virginia married John Tate Finley while her sister, Martha Trimble Greelee, married Ebeneezer Nelms Davis in 1845. The sisters had moved from Virginia to Marshall County, MS and lived close to each other. Martha and Ebeneezer built the substantial plantation home, Strawberry Plains, while the Finley’s lived on the smaller plantation known as Woodland. Strawberry Plains was burned during the Civil War leaving only a skeletal structure for many years.
Ruth Finley (b. September 1911) and Margaret Finley (b. June 1915), descendants of Mary Jane and John Tate Finley, later inherited the Finley townhouse in Holly Springs which had been purchased by their grandfather in 1906, after the family left Woodland. Margaret returned to Holly Springs later in her life with her husband, Dr. Shackelford,and purchased Strawberry Plains while her sister Ruth remained in the Finley Place. The two sisters donated Finley Place and the renovated Strawberry Plains to the National Audubon Society in 1983. The Audubon Society took residence in the Spring of 1998, establishing the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center. The Center's website describes their mission clearly: "Through education and demonstration, Strawberry Plains Audubon Center inspires ecological stewardship and leads community action to conserve and manage our landscape for biodiversity and habitat for birds and other wildlife." Among their many programs, Strawberry Plains hosts the annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration which draws large crowds each fall since its establishment in 1999.
Contained within the papers of the Finley and Davis families are two handwritten recipe books which have the inscription "Woodland 1857" written on their end papers. The books include instructions to make pies, cakes, breads and other foodstuffs. However, they also include information about curing mange in dogs, treating snakebites, alleviating smallpox, and other aliments. In essence, they are summaries of the family wisdom gathered over a period of time and were handed down through the generations. Although Thanksgiving was not yet a formalized annual holiday in America at the time these books were first penned there is evidence in the collections that some Mississippians did celebrate a Thanksgiving-style meal in late fall at the time. So in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday this week's blog post contains a recipe which could have been used for such gatherings - an old fashioned boiled ham.
The 19th century handwriting can be difficult to decipher, so a transcription of the recipe is featured alongside the scan of the original document. The original spelling and grammar has been retained.
"Stuffed Ham. Boil a ham the day before you wish to use it. Make meat as follows. Light bread crumbs Black pepper, parsley on Sage adding a teaspoonful of ground mustard one of sugar mixed with the essence of Ham. Have a stick one inch in diameter pointed at the end. With the stick make incisions over the ham striking it quite through to the bone. Put in the dressing as you remove the stick. Have ready the yolk of 12 twelve eggs mash them and make a paste by mixing with french brandy & a tablespoon of flour. Spread the paste over the ham & bake 2 hours. Garnish when done with the whites of the eggs & Sprigs of parsley."