Continuing investigations into the history of Baldwyn, Mississippi, and its notable predecessor Carrollville, provide the substance of the stories found in TALK OF THE TOWN. A census record here, a land deed there, a date on a headstone in a neglected cemetery – all these add to the portraits of the people who wrestled this patch of ground from a wilderness dominated by Chickasaw Indians prior to the Treaty of Pontotoc in 1832. Photographs, newspaper clippings, family stories and court records are just a few of the items pored over by the amateur historian who hopes to build the most complete sketch possible of a specific person or event.For historical investigations centered in and around Baldwyn, however, there are a certain unique sources that go beyond the run-of-the-mill marriage certificate or family Bible record in shedding light backwards through time.
First, there is a diary written by Carroll Elisha Washington Milton, an early settler, who came to Tishomingo County in 1849 with his father and mother and several siblings. Tishomingo County, prior to the Civil War, included modern day Tishomingo, Alcorn and Prentiss Counties and had its county seat in Jacinto, a city located at the geographic center of what was then Mississippi’s largest county. Carroll Milton was a teacher, a farmer, a photographer and a member of a surveying team that cleared the way for the Mobile & Ohio Railroad through Itawamba (modern Lee) and Tishomingo Counties. He was also an excellent writer and a keen observer of the local populace of Carrollville, which was located about five miles south of his home on the Blackland road. Milton’s diary documents church revivals, municipal celebrations and the progress and details of railroad construction, along with more than a few lurid courtships, drunken murders, and back-stabbing business deals. Milton’s diary ends in 1860. His death came on New Year’s Eve in 1861, its cause likely tuberculosis given the symptoms recorded in his journal.
Second, the well-studied diary of the Reverend Samuel Agnew, a pastor at the Bethany A.R.P. Church in the late 1800’s, is the single source of the greatest amount of specific information on the early days of Baldwyn and Carrollville. The Rev. Agnew came from Due West, South Carolina, with his father, Rev. Enoch Agnew, and a large contingent of Scots-Irish Presbyterians in 1851 to found Bethany Church at Brice’s Crossroads. Beginning in 1850, Samuel Agnew recorded the daily goings-on in the area for more than fifty years – virtually every single day. While the Presbyterian minister’s descriptions were decidedly more pious than those of Milton, he nevertheless accurately recorded from his perspective the full range of human activity in a wide circle around Bethany. His diary has been studied extensively by Civil War historians for its firsthand account of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, but there is much yet to be learned from his voluminous writings on the topics of local genealogy and history.
The third unique source of valuable information on early Carrollville and Baldwyn is an interview, or at least the facts obtained from an interview, with Thomas G. Stocks, a Baldwyn mayor in the 1870’s. Mayor Stocks gave an account of Carrollville that was handed down to him by his mother, Susan Taylor Stocks, who arrived at that original city in 1838, just one year after the Treaty of Doaksville forced the final removal of the Chickasaw Indians to Oklahoma. Stocks’ interview was given to the Mississippi Historical Society for a 1902 publication, and information from the resulting document has often found its way into the works of local historians Simon Spight and Claude Gentry. This interview, with its citation of over thirty names of original Carrollville settlers, is the best starting point for any comprehensive study on the history of the immediate area around Baldwyn, Mississippi.
These are the names found in the interview: Wylie Belsher, Jack Thompson, Joe Galling, the Holcombe brothers, George Wilburn, William Gates, R.B. Clayton, Guilford Stocks, A.I. Taylor, David Mills Allen, Robert Traylor, the Robinson brothers, Porter Walker, Robert Lowry, James Robinson, T.B. Stubbs and brother, W.H.H. Tison, William Smith, P. Langley, William Waldrow, John Outlaw, William Waldon, John Rogers, Walder Moffet, a tailor named Carpenter, Sam McCarley, Sprightly Williams, Dr. Burton, Dr. Booth, Dr. Scruggs, Dr. Long, Dr. Smythe, William M. Cox, John Mills Allen and Thomas G. Stocks.
Over the next few weeks, TALK OF THE TOWN will present additional information on the characters whose names are mentioned in the Stocks’ interview, information that will hopefully reveal the dramatic, entertaining and meaningful lives of the pioneering folks who declared: “We will live here.”