17 December 2009

Decatur, Georgia: Mary Gay: Literary Landmarks of the Southern United States, #31

Mary Ann Harris Gay (1828-1918) was born in Milledgeville and was a strong supporter of the Confederate cause. On the early death of her father, she moved with her mother to Decatur, where her mother re-married but her husband died, and as heavy investments were made in Confederate bonds, they were in a desperate financial situation after the Civil War.

Gay re-published her book Prose and Poetry by a Southern Lady (1858) as The Pastor's Story, and sold it from door to door. Twain mocked the book in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but Gay managed to support her family during Reconstruction on the proceeds of many sales. The Baptist church in Decatur was rebuilt as a result of her fundraising skills, and the church appointed her as a fundraising agent, and she spent thirty years traveling the South in this capacity.

She is mainly remembered for her book Life in Dixie During the War (1892), in which she tells of smuggling food and information to the Confederate army. On 22 July 1864, the date of the Union Seige of Atlanta, the family hid in the cellar.

The house was moved from its original site in Marshall Street, and has been extended and considerably altered.

The Mary Gay House is now chiefly used for weddings.

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