September 21, 2011 12:39:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
After a disastrous fire destroyed most of S.D. Lee Junior High in December 1959, it looked for a while as if the smoke-damaged Stephen D. Lee Home that had served as the home economics building and cafeteria would be bulldozed with the charred remains of the school. Thanks to swift intervention by very concerned citizens, the circa 1847 home was not only saved, but now stands as a community jewel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Its preservation has been the primary mission of the Columbus Lowndes Historical Society, the S.D. Lee Foundation and The Association for the Preservation of Antiquities for more than half a century -- all with no state, federal or city money.
On Sunday afternoon, Sept. 25, the Historical Society invites the public to their annual meeting to learn more about the home's most well-known resident -- and an important figure in the post-war South -- Stephen Dill Lee (1833-1908). Biographer Dr. Herman Hattaway will present a free 3 p.m. program at the home at 316 Seventh St. N., next to the Columbus Lowndes Public Library.
"We want younger generations to know about Columbus and the things that went on during a period when the South was being built," said Rita Douglass, a member of the Historical Society and one of about 20 docents who serve at the home, which houses the Florence McLeod Hazard Museum.
Reliable rumor has it that the docents are custodians of some of the best sweet treat recipes in the Golden Triangle. Fortunately, they are willing to share.
"During Spring Pilgrimage, when docents are hosting guests at the Lee Home, we've always served lemonade and homemade cookies," explained Lillian Wade, president of the Historical Society. "Often we're asked for recipes, and several of us began talking about ways to make them available. We also wanted a way to make money for the Lee Home."
The group struck upon the idea of selling a packet of cards called the Docents' Dozen.
"Each card will have a favorite recipe on one side and a bit of history about the Lee Home and Columbus on the other side. We think this will be a good way to spread the word about the home and city across the country," added Wade.
The recipe cards -- which tell us how to make sweets like Florence Puls' Cocoons and Marguerite Griffith's Amber Balls -- will be available for Spring Pilgrimage 2012.
Many of the docents also make delectables for the annual Country Store Bake Sale at the Lee Home. This year's event is set for Nov. 22.
Herman Hattaway has been described as a "captivating historian." In his Lee biography, the award-winning professor emeritus of history at the University of Missouri-Kansas City brings deserved attention to a noted Confederate military figure who became one of the new South's most progressive leaders.
After adopting Mississippi as his home after the war, Lee used his military skills and discipline to work toward bringing prosperity and education to the South. He served as a state senator and was the founding president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi (now Mississippi State University). He also later headed the Vicksburg National Park Association.
"Stephen D. Lee was more than just a Confederate general; he was a statesman and a great educator, and really helped define the new South," stated Wade.
The home, as well as the second-floor museum, will be open Sunday for free tours. (They are also open every Friday and on other days by appointment.)
Eulalie Davis is chairman of the Board of Directors of the S.D. Lee Foundation, which owns the home.
"At the museum, you'll see Civil War memorabilia, china, crystal, doctors' kits, and period clothing, including several wedding gowns of local families during that time," said Davis of the museum that bears her mother's name. "And we love for school groups to come."
The home's and museum's stories are preserved by Carolyn Burns Kaye.
"Carolyn is the devoted caretaker of the Lee Home and is its official hostess," said Davis. "We really could not do all we do without her and her knowledge."
Kaye, the S.D. Lee Home and the museum were recently awarded the Mississippi Department of Archives and History's inaugural Carr Black Award, recognizing outstanding work by Mississippi museums or individuals in preserving, interpreting and presenting public aspects of the state's history, art or culture.
Like many others in Columbus and nearby, Lillian Wade's commitment to the Lee Home is rooted in the past.
"My class was the last class to go all the way through the junior high, to eighth grade, before the school burned," she said. "I had home ec in that front parlor room; the big dining room was a cooking area. I lived across the street from it when the fire happened.
"That house has been a part of my landscape for as long as I can remember, and the way it got saved was a miracle," she continued. "I'm really devoted to keeping it in good condition and having it available to the public."
Like Wade and Davis, the home's many supporters take their mission to heart -- to preserve and pass on to future generations an important part of the past and show how it helped shape us.
Learn more about that interesting past at Sunday's program.
For more information about the Historical Society, contact Wade at 662-328-8012.
Makes about 36 squares
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
13/4 cups flour
Source: Willa Andrews Savelle. "My grandmother lived in a big old farmhouse in Haynes, Ark.. It is still in the family. Teacakes were always in a pie safe in the pantry. I never went to Grandmother's when there were no teacakes."
GENE GASTON'S LEMON SQUARES
Makes 36 squares
2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 sticks oleo
Pinch of salt
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated rinds of 1 to 2 lemons (zest)
Source: Donna Holleman
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, white and yolk separated
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Source: Helen P. Hardy
'NANNY'S' SAND TARTS
2 sticks butter
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
Source: Virginia Heatherly
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.