Holly Springs: Finley Place (1859)

Finley Place, previously known as the “Jones-Shuford Place”, was built in 1859 by Martha Reese Jones (1820-1874), the widow of Egbert Rufus Jones (died 1856).  The Jones family were pioneers in the area, and originally settled in the now-lost town of Tallaloosa, southwest of Holly Springs.  Egbert Jones owned a plantation near Tallaloosa called “Prospect Hill”, where the Jones family lived until the death of Egbert in 1856.  After her husband’s death, Martha moved to Holly Springs with her children and built this house.

During the Civil War, the house was occupied by Union soldiers under the command of General Grant.  In the 1860s, Martha’s daughter Elizabeth Reese Jones (1841-1917) married Dr. Franklin Brevard Shuford (1820-1891).  Before Martha’s death in 1874, she deeded the house to her son-in-law, Dr. Shuford, in 1872.  The Shufords raised their two children, Rufus Jones Shuford (1871-1949) and Augusta Reese Shuford (1875-1961) in the home.  The house remained in the Jones-Shuford family for over forty years, until Reese Shuford deeded the house to George J. Finley (1838-1910) in 1906.

George Finley named the house “Woodland”, but the house has been known as the Finley House since 1906.  After George Finley’s death in 1910, the house was eventually deeded (in 1923) to George’s youngest son, Thomas Finley (1881-1967).  Thomas Finley had already married Ruth Leech Finley (died 1967), and the couple had two children, Ruth Finley (1911- 1984) and Margaret Finley (1915-1998) who both grew up in the Finley House.

Ruth and Margaret Finley inherited a love of birds and nature from their mother, and this love would eventually result in the preservation of two important historic homes and the conservation of thousands of acres of woodland.  While Ruth Finley remained in Holly Springs, unmarried, the rest of her life, her sister Margaret traveled around the country before marrying Dr. John W. Shackelford (1902-1985) in 1945.

After the death of Thomas and Ruth Leech Finley in 1967, their daughters Ruth and Margaret inherited not only Finley Place, but also the old Davis Plantation and antebellum Davis House outside Holly Springs.  While Ruth Finley continued to live in and maintain the Finley House, Dr. John and Margaret Shackelford moved back to Holly Springs and began to restore the old Davis House.  In 1983, Dr. John Shackelford, his wife Margaret and her sister Ruth decided to deed the entire Davis Plantation, the Davis House, all 3,000 of the surrounding acres and the Finley House to the National Audubon Society.  This enormous gift would only go into effect upon the passing of all three individuals.  Ruth Finley died in 1984, and Dr. Shackelford died in 1985.  Before Margaret Shackelford’s death in 1998, the Audubon Society was already beginning to take control of the old Finley Place, which had been empty since Ruth’s death in 1984.

After Margaret Shackelford’s death in 1998, the Strawberry Plains Audubon Society was formed, creating a large 3,000 acre conservation area centered on the Davis House.  The Finley Place was used for several years as the Mississippi State Office for the Audubon Society, and in recent years the house was used as the primary residence of the Strawberry Plains director.

In 2016, the Audubon Society decided to sell Finley Place.  The house was purchased by Gary and Michelle Pleasants, who moved into Finley Place just before Thanksgiving, 2016.

Famed local artist Kate Freeman Clark painted the front portico and columns of the house in her painting known as “Shuford House”.  It is one of only two paintings of Mississippi subjects known in the Kate Freeman Clark collection.  Kate Freeman Clark was raised in the Walthall House, located just to the south of Finley Place.

Finley Place is a two-story Greek Revival flanking-gable frame home, with a two-story single-bay pedimented portico supported by octagonal columns, the trademark of famed local architect Spires Bolling.  The front entrance had a transom and sidelights, above which is a cast iron balcony.

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