Alexander McClung

On September 16, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

McClung’s portrait from the Mississippi Hall of Fame.

One of early Jackson’s most colorful citizens was Colonel Alexander Keith McClung (1811-1855).  Contemporary of Charles Henry Manship, Alexander McClung was known as a Mexican War hero, orator, statesman, and as a duelist.  Originally from Kentucky, McClung arrived in Jackson in the early 1830s to establish a law practice.   Although not very successful as a lawyer, McClung was active in Whig politics, and fought gallantly in the Mexican War with Jefferson Davis.  He was perhaps best known and feared as a duelist.  Dueling in the early 1800s was a formal, ritualized method of settling matters of honor.  McClung was reputed to have fought in as many as fourteen duels and killed ten men.  He committed suicide with his own dueling pistol in the Eagle Hotel in 1855.

One of McClung’s most noted duels took place on December 29, 1838, across the river from Vicksburg.  The Southern Marksman, Clinton, Mississippi, January 1, 1839, reported the event as follows:

“The following are the particulars of the duel between McClung and Menifee, given us by a person who was present at the fight.

THE DUEL AT VICKSBURG. – The duel between McClung and Menifee came off on Saturday the 29th ist., they were to have fought at 11 o’clock A. M. the time specified, and many started across the river as early as day break, thinking that the time reported was to evade the multitude that would be assembled, and that the fight would take place at sun rise, and boats were continually crossing from that time until the parties met on the ground for combat.  There were as many as 35 skiffs and yawls crossing and recrossing at one time, until a quarter past twelve o’clock M. at which time there were assembled from six to seven hundred persons to witness the scene.  Menifee and his party were on the ground before eleven o’clock – McClung and his party arriving about 12.  Both parties appeared to be very collected, and in fact, in high spirits.  The prevailing opinion was that McClung would be killed, as he had practiced but a few days with a rifle; whereas, Menifee is considered a proficient in the use of that weapon.  McClung took his station 2 or 3 minutes previous to the arrival of Menifee on the ground laid out.  On perceiving his opponent (Menifee) dressed in light summer coat buttoned close, he threw off his green blanket coat, and taking a bowie knife and a large pistol from his belt, deposited them on the ground, and went through the preliminaries of the duel in his shirt sleeves, when his coat was replaced by his second.  At the signal, both fired, Menifee’s party having won the word, McClung fired first, Menifee in a second afterwards; McClung’s ball passing over Menifee’s head, and Menifee’s ball passing within an inch of McClung’s body, in the range of the abdomen as was discovered by examination, as Menifee’s ball lodged in the fence in the rear of McClung, and directly in a range of the line where he stood.  McClung appeared to be very much vexed after the first fire, and threw his gun (which was a United States Yauger) four or five feet from him, exclaiming that he had fired in the air, as it went off before he had taken aim-but for myself I thought he had brought the gun to a dead level; and Menifee and some of his party heard the ball as it whizzed by them, and it passed as they supposed within 2 or 3 inches of Menifee’s head.  After this, both parties retired to their respective cabins, and were on the grounds in fifteen minutes after, all prepared, the word given, McClung fired and Menifee fell-and for one minute, all supposed him dead; the wound being directly above the right eye, was supposed by many to have passed through the head; but it was different, as it was only a scale of the ball, the ball having struck the extra guard that protects the tube of Menifee’s rifle, broke it off, knocked off the cap, and broke the hollow part of the hammer that presses on the tube, thereby glancing and striking him as above stated, the ball being split.  It was the opinion of many, that had not the ball struck the guard it would have passed over Menifee’s right shoulder, and would not have injured him.  In about ten minutes after Menifee fell he was on his feet and expressed a wish to walk to the boat, which his Physician and friend Jackson would not permit.”


Howell, H. Grady, Jr. Invocation to Death: The Final Hours of Col. Alexander Keith McClung. Madison, Miss., 2014.

The Southern Marksman, Clinton, Mississippi, January 1, 1839.


Manship Recollections

On September 4, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

Personal record written by Charles Henry Manship. Call number Z/1129.000 MDAH collection.

Late in life, Charles Henry Manship recorded some of the incidents in his long life for his children.  This version, entitled “Record of a few of the incidents and events in the life of C. H. Manship dedicated to his children,” includes his recollection of Alexander K. McClung, soldier, duelist, and statesman.  A transcription of the second paragraph follows:

…In 1861 was Secretary Democratic Executive Committee.  When I came to Jackson found the State House just fairly started.  The walls up to 1st story window sills, and old man John Robb preparing the sills of sand stones from a quarry just below the Miss. Springs.  The Legislature of the State was in session where my shop now is, the Old State House.  This session was led by the brilliant Sargent S. Prentiss and Hon. S. J. Gholson, leaders on two sides of a vexed question, “The admission of the Chickasaw Delegation.”  There was quite an array of talent on each side such as our modern legislature is not burdened with.  The election of U. S. Senator had just transpired and R. J. Watkins had won the post, leaving many bitter stings to be healed.  A. K. McClung a very brilliant and fearless man, ready for strife at a moment, had several conflicts from this cause.  He and Wash Coffee were on opposite sides, which it was thought would produce bitter bloodletting at their first meeting,  It so happened I witnessed that 1st meeting.  Both men ready, but after staring a few seconds the charm was broken.  Parties being between them this spell which very intense was broken and no blood as predicted.  Coffee shortly after moved to Arkansas and died.  Col. McClung after a varied fortune committed suicide blowing his brains out with his own trusted dueling pistol…


Household Hints

On August 14, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

Manship House sitting room.

In the nineteenth century, women were responsible for the care of the home and family.  Household guides often provided instruction and guidance for keeping house.  The Home and Farm Manual, by Jonathan Periam, published in 1884, offered the following household hints:

Seventeen Facts. – A good housekeeper kindly sends the following maxims and recipes, “all warranted tried and approved:”

1.  Simple salt and water cleans and preserves matting more effectually than any other method.

2.  Tepid tea cleans grained wood.

3.  Oil-cloth should be brightened, after washing with soap and water, with skimmed milk.

4.  Salt and water washing preserves bedsteads from being infected by vermin; also, mattresses.

5.  Kerosene oil is the best furniture oil; it cleanses, adds a polish, and preserves from the ravages of insects.

6.  Green should be the prevailing color for bed hangings and window drapery.

7.  Sal-soda will bleach; one spoonful is sufficient for a kettle of clothes.

8.  Save your suds for the garden and plants, or to harden yards when sandy.

9.  A hot shovel held over varnished furniture will take out spots.

10. A bit of glue dissolved in skimmed milk and water will restore old rusty crape.

11. Ribbons of any kind should be washed in cold suds and not rinsed.

12. If flat-irons are rough, rub them well with salt, and it will make them smooth.

13. If you are buying carpet for durability, you must choose small figures.

14. A bit of soap rubbed on the hinges of doors will prevent them from creaking.

15. Scotch snuff, if put in the holds where crickets run out, will destroy them.

16. To get rid of moths and roaches from closets and bureau drawers, sprinkle powdered borax over and around the shelves, and cover with clean paper.

17. To remove grease-spots apply a stiff paste to the wrong side of the material or garment; hang it up and leave it some time; the grease will have been entirely absorbed by the paste, which can then be rubbed off.


Best Corn Bread

On July 29, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

Weekly Clarion, November 28, 1877.

The Manship family often entered their best recipes at the state fair and frequently won in a variety of categories.  In 1877, fifteen year old Minnie Manship won for the “Best corn bread.”  Minnie’s older sister Kate owned the cookbook Common Sense in the Household, a Manual of Practical Housewifery, by Marion Harland, published in 1872.  The cookbook offered the following information and recipe for corn bread:


There is a marked difference between the corn-meal ground at the South, and that which is sent out from Northern mills.  If any one doubts this, it is not she who has perseveringly tried both kinds, and demonstrated to her own conviction that the same treatment will not do for them.  An intelligent lady once told me that the shape of the particles composing the meal was different–the one being round and smooth, the other angular.  I am inclined to believe this.  The Southern meal is certainly coarser, and the bread made from it less compact.  Moreover, there is a partiality at the North for yellow meal, which the Southerners regard as only fit for chicken and cattle-feed.  The yellow may be the sweeter, but I acknowledge that I have never succeeded in making really nice bread from it.

Indian meal should be purchased in small quantities, except for a very large family.  It is apt to heat, mould, and grow musty, if kept long in bulk or in a warm place.  If not sweet and dry, it is useless to expect good bread or cakes.  As an article of diet, especially in the early warm days of spring, it is healthful and agreeable, often acting as a gentle corrective to bile and other disorders.  In the winter, also, it is always acceptable upon the breakfast or supper table, being warming and nutritious.  In summer the free use of it is less judicious, on account of its laxative properties.  As a kindly variation in the routine of fine white bread and baker’s rolls, it is worth the attention of every housewife.  “John and the children” will like it, if it approximates the fair standard of excellence; and I take it, my good friend–you who have patiently kept company with me from our prefatory talk until now–that you love them well enough to care for their comfort and likings….

Receipts for Corn Bread made of Southern Indian Meal.


1 teacupful sweet milk.

1 teacupful buttermilk.

1 teaspoonful salt.

1 teaspoonful soda.

1 tablespoonful melted butter.

Enough meal to enable you to roll it into a sheet half an inch thick.  Spread upon a buttered tin, or in a shallow pan, and bake forty minutes.  As soon as it begins to brown, baste it with a rag tied to a stick and dipped in melted butter.  Repeat this five or six times until it is brown and crisp.  Break–not cut it up–and eat for luncheon or tea, accompanied by sweet or buttermilk.


Beaten Biscuits

On July 14, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

The Weekly Clarion, November 27, 1873.

In 1873, Mrs. Charles Henry Manship won a $5.00 prize for the “Best Beaten Biscuit without soda or chemicals” at the State Fair.  Daughter Minnie Manship Phelps was also known for her excellent beaten biscuits.  Highly prized for their soft flaky layers, beaten biscuits were very labor intensive to make.  Since beaten biscuits contain no leavening agent, the dough was either beaten with a rolling pin or mallet, or fed though a machine called a biscuit brake to create flaky layers.  Similar to an old fashioned clothes wringer, biscuit brakes had rollers operated by a hand crank.  The biscuit dough was folded and fed through the rollers over and over to trap air between the folded layers.

The following recipe was passed down from Manship family descendants:

Beaten Biscuit

2 cups Postel’s Elegant Flour (soft winter wheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 pound butter which has been chilled and cut into pea sized pieces

1/2 cup ice water

Cut butter into flour mixture until it is the consistency of fine meal.  Add water slowly.  Knead until dough is very stiff.  Roll dough through rollers of beaten biscuit machine over and over until surface of the dough blisters.  Place on a marble-top slab and roll with rolling pin until thin – about 1/8″ thick.  Work with half the dough at a time.  Flour marble-top lightly.  Cut out with 1 1/2″ cutter.  Place 1″ apart on biscuit pans.  Bake in moderately hot oven for 30 minutes until barely brown.  Butter while hot or split and fill with thin slices of “old ham.”






Chimney Repair

On July 2, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

Work to repair the two Visitors Center (Phelps House) chimneys has been completed.  Over the years, the mortar on both chimneys had become badly deteriorated.  Little or no mortar remained in some sections, allowing water to seep in through areas of mortar loss.  To repair the chimneys, the old crumbling mortar was carefully removed by hand.  New mortar matching the strength of the existing mortar was applied.  The repair will prevent further chimney deterioration.


Summer Fireplace Treatments

On June 18, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

Parlor fireplace, Manship House Museum.

During the nineteenth century, fireplaces were often decorated during the hot summer months.  The empty fireplace was considered to be unsightly when not in use and the source of falling soot and other chimney debris.  Ladies’ magazines were filled with clever suggestions for ornamenting the empty fireplace opening.  Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, April, 1859, provided the following instructions:

In the warm summer days, the open fireplace is an unsightly object, and pretty devices to hide it are very acceptable to the careful housekeeper.  We offer our readers one that is pretty, new, and easily made.

Take a piece of board that fits exactly into the space.  Tack over it with small tacks a cover of green baize, stretching it tightly and smoothly over it.  Make out of stiff, green paper a number of leaves, dahlia, rose, tulip, lily, etc., making them very large, and enough of them to cover entirely the green baize.  Baste these leaves down at the stem, curl them at the edges with the scissors, and gum them down on the baize.  Do not sew them anywhere except at the stem.  Now make large paper-flowers, or, if you have them, take artificial flowers, and smooth them over.  Place the flowers among the leaves, either following our pattern, or using your own taste in the arrangement.  Five large roses should be placed at the corners and in the centre.  Sew the flowers at the stem; but if you wish to fasten the flowers themselves down, use dissolved gum-Arabic.


Summer Home Decorations

On May 28, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

Summer fireplace treatment, Manship House Museum.

Ladies’ magazines often contained suggestions for adorning homes during the summer months.  The Ladies’ Floral Cabinet, June, 1886, provided the following ideas for decorating the empty fireplace:

Summer Decorations for Fireplaces.

Many fireplaces are not sufficiently pretty to be visible when the time for open fires is past, and yet it is a puzzle to know just how they can be made more pleasing to the eye.

If it is an open fireplace the prettiest manner of decorating is to fill it with growing ferns, concealing the pots in which they are planted with moss; and if the ferns die replace them from time to time, as may be necessary, with fresh ones from the woods.  Lace above the ferns, slanting from side of the fireplace, a branch covered with gray lichen, and if possible a stuffed squirrel, as if it were running, or a gay-plumaged stuffed bird.  The effect is more pleasing than can be imagined.  Should the fresh ferns be considered too troublesome, as they will of course require care, a moss-covered log can be laid across the andirons, and the squirrel or bird placed on this.


Spring House Cleaning

On May 21, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

Sitting room, Manship House Museum.

Before the days of air conditioning, homes were transformed to survive the hot summer months.  The first step was a spring house cleaning of gigantic proportions.  The Home and Farm Manual, published in 1884, provided the following instructions:

XXI. Spring House-Cleaning.

     Now is the time that tries women’s souls, and no sound is heard o’er the house save the scrub-brush, the mop and the broom.  The spring cleaning is at hand.

     Blankets and Furs. – And first, there are all the woolens, blankets, etc., to be washed, and all that can be spared (for we dare not put them all out of sight, lest we provoke another snow-storm), are to be packed away in deep chests, and plenty of cedar boughs strewn over them, or else powdered camphor gum.  The fortunate possessor of a cedar-wood trunk need have no apprehensions, but without that, the moth-millers will make sad havoc among your furs, woolens, etc., unless you guard them carefully.

     The Carpets. – All carpets do not need to be taken up; those which do not, can be loosened at the edges, the dust-brush pushed under a piece, and a clean sweep of all the dust can be made.  Then, wash the floor thus swept, with strong soap-suds, and spirits of turpentine after.  Then, tack the carpet down.  The odor is soon gone, if you open your windows, and you can feel safe for this summer, at least.  Upholstered furniture can be treated to the same bath, if applied with a soft, clean cloth, and the colors will receive no injury.  But before using it, brush the cushions with a stiff hand-brush and a damp cloth, so as to take away all the dust.

     A good way to clean straw matting after it is laid, is to sprinkle corn-meal over it, or damp sand, and sweep it thoroughly out.

     Windows Washed. – Windows are hard to wash, so as to leave them clear and polished.  First, take a wooden knife, sharp-pointed and narrow-bladed, and pick out all the dirt that adheres to the sash; dry whiting makes the glass shine nicely.  I have read somewhere, that weak black tea and alcohol is a splendid preparation for cleaning the window-glass, and an economical way to use it would be to save the tea-grounds for a few days, and then boil them over in two quarts of water and add a little alcohol when cold.  Apply with a newspaper and rub well off with another paper, and the glass will look far nicer than when cloth is used.

     The Beds. – When mattresses and feather-beds become soiled, make a paste of soft-soap and starch, and cover the spots.  As soon as it dries, scrape off the paste and wash with a damp sponge,  If the spots have not disappeared, try the paste again.


Periam, Johnathan.  The Home and Farm Manual.  New York: Greenwich House, 1984.  (Reprint of the 1884 edition.)


Summer Dress

On May 14, 2015, in Manship House, by mjones

Master bedroom, Manship House Museum.

During the nineteenth century, families prepared their homes to survive the oppressive heat, dirt and insects of the hot summer months.  Each spring, households received a very thorough cleaning.  Carpets were taken up, cleaned, aired, and stored for the summer.  Straw matting was generally used in the summer for coolness and comfort.  All upholstered furniture received light cotton or linen covers to protect them from sunlight and dust.  Fireplaces were cleaned and adorned for the summer.  Brass andirons were removed, cleaned, and stored until fall.  Mosquito netting or gauze was draped over beds to help deter insects.  Gauze, muslin, or tissue was used to cover gilded surfaces such as picture frames or parts of chandeliers to protect them from insect damage.  Shutters and blinds were often kept closed to discourage mosquitoes and flies, which were a constant problem.  Families adjusted their living arrangements to fit the weather, choosing to reside wherever it was cooler and more comfortable.  Chairs could be moved to windows and doorways to allow inhabitants to enjoy any slight breeze.  These changes would remain until the early fall, when another extensive house cleaning took place and the heavy winter furnishings were returned to the rooms.