The Carroll Plantation

 
 
            Ever since I observed weather boarding being removed from the Carroll house on the beach in Bay St. Louis, MS, I began to accept that its name, “The Carroll Plantation,” might not be a misnomer after all. As the workers proceeded with repairs of damage from hurricane Katrina, the removal of the boards revealed the basic construction of the house.
            What I saw was brick-between-posts. It is an early type of construction used often in New Orleans, especially in the rebuilding efforts after the great fires of 1788 and 1795. To some degree, this was dictated by the Spanish Cabildo, whose desire was to build better, stronger and more fire-proof structures. Such notable buildings as the Spanish Custom House and Madame John’s Legacy, both dating back to the late 18th century, have brick-between-post construction.
 
The Carroll Purchases
            The earliest date of the house has not been determined. However, there are two deeds which are pertinent to the period of Carroll ownership. They were found in Hancock County Deed Book C. The first names Daniel Ryan Carroll, who signed his deed in March 1867. The seller was Catherine Clarissa Reed, widow of Joseph W. Reed. All were of New Orleans. The price was $4,700, a great deal of money at that time. The frontage on the Bay of St. Louis was 137 feet, and the depth was forty arpents.
            One month later, the second deed was signed by Carroll, in April of 1867. It was a sheriff’s sale of a parcel that abutted the first part to the north. It was a larger parcel, measuring 192 feet front by 40 arpents, (An exception was made of a small piece separately owned and not included.) Though larger, the price was only $1,805. The difference in value was probably because it was acquired by sheriff’s auction. Another possible reason might be that there were buildings on the first parcel, though the usual word “improvements” does not appear in the wording.
            No information has yet been uncovered about the seller, the widow Reed, or of her deceased husband. Unfortunately, Book A, the earliest deed book of the county since the court house fire of 1853, has not been found since Katrina. There remains a suspicion that the Reeds, or some previous owner, had constructed a house on the first parcel.
            Another deed, from Deed Book B, shows an earlier purchase by Carroll of a lot in a subdivision of Julius Monet on March 23, 1850. It was bought from Judge Constantine Beasley, also of New Orleans. As that land probably was in the area now known as Waveland, it seems independent of the above acquisitions.
 
New Orleans Owners
            A reading of the first deed reveals previous owners. At one time, it was part of the property of Madame Charlo, a huge plot of land covering much of what is now Bay St. Louis. It was granted by the Congress of the United States in 1819.  Very little has been uncovered about the history of Madame Charlo, or her connections to early Mississippi.
            Subsequently, the land was divided several times, and some facts are known about several interim deed holders.  Owners of one part include George Robinson, Henry Fourniquet, and Felix Grima. Another parcel belonged to Publius Rutilius Pray, a noted jurist in Mississippi, as well as Felix Grima and Armand Pitot. There was also a third part of the whole which had been owned by Rosa Montegut, as well as Grima.  These several transfers were made between 1837 and 1858.
            Ownership by important people of New Orleans was not unknown in Hancock County, but early, prominent owners of the same property, all of New Orleans, suggests that there may have been a connection between Carroll and those others of high standing. The inference is that the Carroll family also may well have been among the elites of old New Orleans.
 
The Pitots, the Grimas and the Monteguts
            The Grimas, the Pitots, and the Monteguts were all outstanding leaders and wealthy people of old New Orleans. Pitot had once been mayor of the city. According to Lyle Saxon, in his Old Louisiana, the Pitots and the Grimas were among the leading Creole families of New Orleans at the end of the 18th century.
            A brief mention in a book about Pitot suggests the possibility of a Carroll line going back to Bishop Carroll of Baltimore. In point of fact the author did not explicitly write of any relation of Pitot to Carroll, but simply mentioned both in a paragraph about Masons and Catholics. No direct relationship was indicated. Nonetheless, there was a hint, maybe even a clue.
            The author’s subject was James Pitot, not Carroll. It was Pitot’s son Armand who was one of the early owners of the property. James was an important jurist who had died in 1831. He had been married to Sophie Nicholas, whose sister married Joseph Montegut, another family name appearing in the list of previous owners. He was famous for a number of reasons. As a jurist, he had presided for a while over the suit of Myra Clark Gaines, the longest suit in United States history; it lasted from 1834 to 1891.
            He was close to Edward Livingston, of national fame, a prominent member of the U.S. House and Senate. Livingston practiced law in New Orleans, and later served as Secretary of State under President Andrew Jackson. He owned land located at what is now Pass Christian, then a part of Hancock County. In the 1819 tax rolls it was listed at 15,284 acres was valued at $30,568.
      In the 1819 roll, one Valery Nicholas is shown as owner of 40,000 acres, from a Spanish title. A good assumption is that she was related to Sophie, above. In 1822, Valery Nicholas paid tax on 80,000 acres, valued at $160,000. The property was said to be at “Boderie Point,” probably meaning “Boisdore,” who was once the owner of a huge amount of Hancock County.
 
The Carroll Lands
            The properties did not have a large frontage on the beach, but their depth of forty arpents measured 7,680 feet, almost a mile and a half. This kind of dimension was not unusual in plantation days, whether it be in Shieldsboro (the earlier name of Bay St. Louis) or along the Mississippi River. Many plantations had narrow strips on the Gulf side, as they needed water frontage for shipping, even if only a small measurement. The depth of 40 arpents was often used.
            A study on this web site about Book B deeds shows that in the 1850’s, almost all the beach lots measured back 40 arpents. Other evidence available in the Hancock County Historical Society indicates that the Carroll plantation grew cotton (Scharff, Louisiana’s Loss, Mississippi’s Gain). This is consistent with what we know about other plantations, such as those owned by JFH Claiborne, Andrew Jackson, Jr., and Jesse Cowand, all of whom raised Sea Island Cotton. On the other hand, the same reference approximates a date of construction as the 1840’s, whereas the kind of construction would indicate an earlier date.
 
 Genealogical Evidence
            The connection of the Carrolls of New Orleans to those of Baltimore has been found in correspondence with Mrs. Cheryl Carroll. A genealogist, she is the wife of Sean Patrick Carroll, originally of Harahan, LA. His father was Daniel Joseph Carroll, married to Betty Jo Hussey. The latter Carroll’s father was also Daniel Joseph, born 1900. His father was Frank McDonald Carroll, born 1876, who was the son of Charles Victor Carroll, born 1847 and married to Mary McDonald. She was born before 1860 in Natchez (Adams County). Charles Victor was son of Daniel R., born 1818 and married to C. Louisa Bendy, also born 1818.
            In addition, papers in the Hill Memorial, LSU’s special collections library, were also consulted, and proved invaluable. Housed there are the family papers of Daniel R. Carroll, showing his marriage to Louisa Bendy. This was the bit of information which matched with genealogical records of Mrs. Cheryl Carroll.
            This Daniel R., born 1818, was the Daniel Ryan Carroll who bought the land in Shieldsboro. He was a man of nearly fifty years of age when he bought the parcels in 1867. LSU documents confirm that he was a native of Baltimore, the location of the famous Carroll family.
 
The Carroll Family, Baltimore and New Orleans
            A Wikipedia article, “Darnall’s Chance,” states that Eleanor Darnall married the first Daniel Carroll in 1727. Her father had once owned 27,000 acres in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Daniel and Eleanor had two sons, one who served in the Continental Congress and the other a bishop. 
            The two sons were among the most prominent of early United States history. The bishop was John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the United States, and founder of Georgetown University. He was born 1735, and had an older brother named Daniel, who was one of “only five men to sign both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.”
            The earlier Carrolls were all of the Maryland area, in and around Baltimore. No evidence has been uncovered at this date as to the reasons for some of the descendants migrating to New Orleans. However, it is evident that Daniel Carroll who signed the 1867 deeds had taken his rightful place among important people of New Orleans, and like many others, became an owner of land in Hancock County.
            We do not know particulars of his operation of a cotton plantation during his tenure at Shieldsboro, but it is known that in later years, probably from 1877, he owned the Ackbar Plantation in Barataria, Jefferson Parish, LA. It was a sugar plantation, but there are indications of the planting of rice as well. This too is from LSU’s papers, which includes letters from J.R. Carroll, said to be John Ryan Carroll, a brother or cousin to Daniel.
            Items of note in the family papers have to do with a copy of an oath of allegiance signed by Daniel Carroll in 1864, and a presidential pardon given by Andrew Johnson in 1865. While the purchase of the Mississippi properties was not made until 1867, it invites conjecture about the timing of these events. For the oath to have been administered late in the Civil War means that Carroll had first of all been active against the Confederacy, and secondly, that he must not have been living in New Orleans up to that date.
            We know from the Koch letters, [cf. Mississippi’s No-Man’s Land, by Marco Giardino and this writer] that some New Orleanians who would not take the oath were transported to Pass Christian. One wonders whether because of prior friendships the Carrolls might have been given quarters in Shieldsboro before 1867. The availability of monies for a large purchase price must have come about after the pardon.
 
A Fascinating Story Told in a Newspaper Article
            The following is an abridged quote from the records of the Hancock County Historical Society. It was called “The Handwriting on the Window,” and connected another famous family to the Carroll House. This was the family of John M. Parker, a former governor of Louisiana.
“A framed copy of this newspaper article was brought to the Hancock County Historical Society on Aug 22, 1994…. It was most likely from the Sun Herald but no name appears, only the date, January 26, 1959.
“Immediately to the left of the serene little Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis is one of the most interesting still surviving old Southern homes on the Coast almost concealed from the passing traffic on the Beach Drive by one of the Coast's magnificent patriarch oak trees, its ancient huge branches almost sweeping the ground with the weight of their years.
“Known to the generation before… as the Daniel R. Carroll plantation home.  Still in evidence are survivors of the long line of lovingly planted oaks that once lined the carriage entrance.  Still with its fireplace intact are the old slave quarters.  Still existent is the necessary sprawling expanse of grounds that in those days was needed to accommodate the outside kitchen and outbuildings and the necessary adjuncts and appendages to the big house on a self contained plantation. 
“Shortly after they [new owners] had purchased the home in 1938 a lady stopped one day who introduced herself to [the owner] as the sister of the wife of Governor Parker of Louisiana and immediately gave proof that she knew more about the house than its new owners.
“She pointed out the double French lock on one of the outside shutters and asked to be allowed to see her grandmother's room where, she informed [that there] was a pane of glass in the window with the date October 6, 1872 scratched on it by a diamond engagement ring.  Sure enough, the date was still there just as she said it would be, and is still there today carefully treasured.
“The grandmother of the lady who called, and whose room contained the date on the window had been Miss Virginia Carroll who married Thomas Lee Airey in 1860.  She was one of several Carroll sisters and undoubtedly the date on the window was significant to one of her sisters because she had been married 12 years when it was scratched.  It was her daughter, Cecile Airey, and sister to the lady caller, who in 1888 married John M. Parker who was running mate with Theodore Roosevelt on the Bull Moose Ticket in 1916 and Governor of Louisiana from 1920 to 1924.
“And so, a simple scratch on a window pane in a home in Bay St. Louis 87 years ago, can state a genealogical chain of stories concerning prominent coast families of the last century that can keep this column and its readers busy from now on.”
            So ends the unidentified newspaper account. However, I have confirmed an important detail through a friend, a lady who has been in the house recently. She was a member of the family of later owners, and has personal knowledge that the pane of original glass, wavy from the time it was made, remains as it was, writing and all, and has endured the winds and waters of Katrina.
Invitations to Further Research
             Some things remain through the years. Others never surface.
            Many questions are still unanswered about the Carrolls. They concern, for instance, the matter of how long they continued in Hancock County, and whither they went subsequent to that period.
             Besides what we found in the LSU papers about Ackbar Plantation, Genealogist Cheryl Carroll has found several references to other plantations. One indicates that Daniel R. Carroll sold his Coosa Plantation to son-in-law T.W. Castleman in 1879. It was located in Concordia Parish, LA, across the Mississippi River from Natchez, MS. Another mention is that he was the former owner of Virginia Plantation, in Iberville Parish, near to Baton Rouge; the date of the reference is 1901, long after his death, but the period was probably around 1880, when his son Charles V. Carroll was listed is the 1889 census as “planter.”
            There was even another called “Carroll Plantation,” that being in Concordia Parish, LA, near Lafayette. This is found in the records of a suit in 1886 brought by Daniel R. Carroll with regard to his sugar plantation.
            Chief among my own questions is how members of this prominent Maryland family came to make their homes in Mississippi and Louisiana. Several approaches to an answer have been made, not least among them a seeking of whether there was a connection between Carrollton in Maryland and the town of Carrollton in Louisiana, which is now part of New Orleans.  As inviting as that search might appear, it was fruitless. According to Msgr. Henry Charles Bezou, author of Metairie, a Tongue of Land to Pasture, the only link was probably that it was named “…after Charles Carroll of Maryland, the only Catholic to have signed the Declaration of Independence and the last of the signers to die. His death occurred in 1832, the year before Zimpel [a city planner] received his commission to plot the area.”
            Another source tells us that both East and West Carroll Parishes are said to be named after Charles Carroll of Carrollton of Maryland, but no real connection is given.
            A search like this has no ending, but readers are always invited to add whatever information they have which might add to the human side of recordings of cold facts of deeds and dates.
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