Sep 22

North Georgia Jay Food

Recently, I had the opportunity to read a couple of excerpts from a manuscript written by Joe Bailey in which he relates memories of growing, harvesting, and food preparation of the Jay Family. The title: North Georgia JAY Food? It’s Growing, Harvesting, Preparation and Other Interesting Stuff.

We are fortunate that Mr. Bailey provided me with the complete eleven-page manuscript and has given me permission to publish his work in this blog. I really enjoy his way with words and know y’all will too. My plan is to include Mr. Bailey’s introduction in this post, then tomorrow and subsequent Fridays to post one or two additional entries.

Joe Bailey is a descendant of Mary Emily (Jay) Martin shown in the above photograph.

Manuscript Introduction

“I knew my grandma (Mamma), Bessie Mary Ann Martin (1879 – 1965) and I ate a lot of the food she cooked between my birth in 1940 and her death in 1965. While I did not live full time in the rural Dawson County home place, I spent enough time visiting to have participated in all of what I have written here regarding the subject of the food that was served here. I must only assume that most of what she cooked was learned from her mother, Mary Emily Jay – Martin (1847 – 1934). Both of these ladies, my grandmother and my great grandmother spent most of their lives in rural Hall and Dawson Counties in Georgia. Mary Emily Jay was the daughter of Isaac Morrow Jay (1820 – 1894), son of William Jay (1789 – 1860), son of David Jay (1765 – 1839), son of William Jay (1711 – 1773). My reference in this article to “Mamma” is identifying Bessie Martin. Reference to “Uncle Charlie” is her brother who never married and remained with his parents on the home place. Mamma’s husband, J. O. Hughes died in 1923and Mamma returned to the Dawson County home place to live with her brother, Charlie.”

The Marion Martin Home Place on War Hill Road, Dawson County, Georgia (Ca 1900)

[Left to Right: Charlie Martin, Marion Martin, Mary Emily Jay-Martin, Odus Martin, and unknown male]

Mary Emily Jay-Martin (1847-1934)


“All the food I mention here, with the exception of Popcorn, was cooked on a woodstove with four burner eyes and double ovens. The stove was fired by pine “stove wood”, which was my job to keep ‘toted in” from the woodpile. Water was drawn with a rope tied to a well bucket from a 50’ deep well located in the side yard. The rope was wrapped around a pole made from a pine log with a handle attached at one end. The rope ran through a pulley in the rafters of the “well shelter”. One of my jobs, when I visited, was to keep the two 2 gallon water buckets in the house supplied with fresh well water.”

“With this as a background and introduction for presenting this information, I felt it might be interesting to the Jay Family Association members to hear about what I remember of my grandmother’s food, which I am sure she learned most of from her mother Mary Emily Jay and can be considered “Jay Food”. Maybe some of this will sound familiar to you also as being on your tables when you were growing up. Probably there will also be some regional variations in the food selections. I would suspect that the Texas cousins would be exposed more to beef than the pork that was the mainstay of the Southeast. Our Northeast and Midwestern cousins also may have many recipes/remberances of good foods that they enjoyed as “pass downs” from their Jay ancestors. ”

Contact the Author

Mr. Bailey would like to hear from anyone about their memories of any foods they think may have been passed down from their Jay Ancestors. Just send me a message at linda @ lindageiger.com and I’ll see that Mr. Bailey gets the message.

Joe Bailey owns the copyright for this story and the three images in this post. Please respect his copyright.


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