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Footprints left behind by Judge Thomas Battle Carroll and his son, Stanley Carroll     

June 25, 2011

  It was Easter time in the year of 1977 when I was inspired to paint a beautiful yard filled with spring flowers on a very busy South Montgomery Street with the home of Eva Carroll Hartness sitting on a hilltop in the distance.The most wonderful thing that I also captured on this canvas that day was her father, Stanley Carroll, the son of Judge Battle Carroll, L.L.B., who was the author of our "Historical Sketches Of Oktibbeha County, Mississippi" which is the history of this county. His book is still used today for historical purposes. I was told years ago by another fine historian, Miss Katie Prince Ward, that Judge Carroll was born in the white wooden home right across the street from the old Ward home. Both the Ward and Carroll families were "walking neighbors" to our family home. All three old homes still exist today on Louisville St. It was a few days before Easter in 1977 when I found this lovely home all "dressed up" for Easter, and it was filled with spring flowers in full bloom. I found the oldest native of Oktibbeha County, ninety-year-old Stanley Carroll rocking in a big old rocking chair, sitting in his front yard and enjoying the warm sunshine surrounded by the beauty around him. He was now living with his daughter, Eva.
 
    He was as dignified as his father. Judge Carroll's purpose was to collect all items of general interest, to write a comprehensive story extending from the first settlement of Oktibbeha by the whirte men through the achievements of their descendents in the first quarter of the twentieth century. I remember that early morning when I pulled up to begin setting up my outside art studio for the day after having called Eva the night before to see if I might borrow her yard and home to paint the next day. I wanted especially to paint her father, sitting in the yard as well. They both graciously agreed, and I was so excited to paint this beautiful landscape as well as the son of Oktibbeha County's favorite judge. His father had taken the time and energy to write down on paper the where, why, and how of what life used to be like for us to now read and re-read for years to come. Stanley was delightful as he sat in his rocking chair and told me stories. My early morning turned into afternoon as I painted to my heart's content, enjoying every second of sketching and painting this landscape and being with the son of our famous Judge Carroll.
 
    On the back of my stretched canvas I placed an article from The Starkville Daily News by Patsy Carter, a writer, on November 24, 1977 that I want to share with you, my readers, of this column today to give us a different story and a special insight into the history of MSU. The title is "Stanley Carroll Recalls Entering MSU in 1901":
 
    "When Stanley Carroll entered prep school at MSU in 1901 the students wore drab grey uniforms, had to split wood and haul coal for heating their dormitory rooms and were required to have written permission to leave the campus. As a day student, he had more freedom but still had to wear the uniform al the time even to town, and the girls liked the boys' dorm better than their own."
 
    Mr. Carroll will be 92 on December 12.
 
    He attended the first public school in Starkville, where Overstreet School now stands. Until then, there were only private schools in town.
 
    Mr. Carroll remembers when Main Street in Starkville consisted of a court house, a Lodge hall, a few stores and two hotels. There was a hitching place behind the present City Hall for horses and buggies and two wells in the middle of Main Street to provide water for residents and their horses.
 
    General Stephen D. Lee, Confederate veteran and first President of Mississippi A & M College, came in a horse and buggy to the First Baptist Church where Mr. Carroll worshipped.
 
    There were just nine grades then in public school, so he entered college prep classes at 15. "I was good in history and math, but I didn't like school," remembered Mr. Carroll, "I wanted to fool with livestock and horses. He weighed about 100 pounds at the time and played baseball for Starkville and football for an intramural team at MSU. Those were the days before the forward pass. Footballs were larger and rounder, and field goals had to be drop kicked.
 
    State's coach also played on the team and was paid $75 a month, a big salary then. "We just played Alabama and Ole Miss," recalls Mr. Carroll.  "We always beat Ole Miss and Alabama beat us, just like it is now."
 
    The depot at the college was a busy place. The railroad also provided a path for the two boys who were walking to school, since there were no sidewalks or streets. 
 
    Students walked wherever they needed to go, except when they were lucky enough to ride in a horse and buggy.
 
    Mr. Carroll remembers his first date at age 14, walking a girl and her friend to a little brunch or get-together. At age 23, he married Julia Nash of Pheba.
 
    His two daughters, Mary Eva Hartness and Julia Ella Watson still live here in Starkville. He has three grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
 
    After three-and-a-half years at MSU, Mr. Carroll quit school and took his first job as a clerk for $1 a month. Later he went to work for Security State Bank for $40 a month and began farming.
 
    His favorite hobby was competing in harness races, and he still enjoys watching them. 
 
    Mr. Carroll does not get to talk about old times much now, because none of the friends he knew in school are still living. He enjoys gardening and walking near his home on South Montgomery. He likes to watch the news and sports events on television, and he's a big fan of "As The World Turns."
 
    Looking back through the years, he says the most important event in his lifetime was the invention of Henry Ford Model T. He said, "It changed the world."
 
    "Young folks didn't have the temptations in my days as they do now, " he says, "Children didn't have as much to play with or as many places to go, but think they had more fun than they do now."
 
    The day I painted this painting it was a delightfully sunny and warm day with so many flowers in full bloom. The home in the distance had green shutters, and the big old pine tree was surrounded by azaleas in full bloom. Look at all the shades of pink. Stanley Carroll gave this painting the life it needed as he sat in his old rocking chair in the foreground with his hands folded, big straw hat on his head to protect him from the warm sunshine, his blue sports coat, and darker blue slacks, his matching dark blue shirt and wide tie. He looked very much like a true southern gentleman.
 
    His own father had taken time to sit down and compile a history book for each one of us for generations to refer to and enjoy reading about our past history in this county. I thumbed through my own copy to page 79 to read about my McReynolds family and found, "About 1855 Harvey Smith established a tanner in section 8, township 18 , range 12. After a year he sold it to Joseph McIlwain and Joe McReynolds. McReynolds ran it until 1899, but did little business after 1865. I remember my own Daddy said, "Grandaddy Joseph Dixon McReynolds made boots for the soldiers in the great Ameican Civil War in his tannery." I personally have been to this very tannery site and seen the indentions of the old tannery equipment still there within the soil of the land.
 
    I loved that pretty spring morning and early afternoon that I spent sketching and painting a beautiful home and yard as a landscape, but what I loved most of all was getting to chat, know, and love one of our native sons, who was at the time the oldest living native sons. I got to paint Judge Carroll's son's portrait sitting in a big old rocking chair surrounded by the beautiful blooming flowers in the springtime of the year on one of the busiest streets in Starkville as we both were just passing the time and day away. Judge Carroll and his son, Stanley, are both gone now, but we still read, refer to, and enjoy reading about his fathers's history book he left behind us. We all leave footprints behind. What footprins will each of you leave behind? What contributions will you leave behind? A son, Stanley and his own father, Judge Thomas Battle Carroll both left footprints behind. 

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