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Today is September 21, 2017

Mississippi Seen

The town that time forgot, almost

The town that time forgot, almost

A town that time forgot? Or a town ahead of its time with GPS-guided tours? By the way, the Carrollton Pilgrimage is Oct. 6-7  this year. Photo: Walt Grayson

Highway 82 didn’t run through the town but instead chose a route just to the south of it. The railroad bypassed it too, taking the more level ground the other side of Big Sand Creek, just to the north. And when the railroad was built, a new town grew up along the tracks as happened quite a bit back then.

But in the case of this town, it didn’t fade away as many did when bypassed. To this day it is still nestled there snug between the railroad town to the north and the highway to the south.

Carrollton is the town I’m talking about. It was created as the county seat of Carroll County, sharing that honor with Vaiden today as one of our counties with two county seats.

Carrollton was about as progressive as any town in Mississippi. It was the center of commerce for the area. It was also a popular place where some Delta planters built their fine homes, up in the hills away from the heat and bugs of the swampland where their cotton acreage was.

Carrollton was the home of notable folks too, such as Sen. J.Z. George, who chiefly authored Mississippi’s 1890 Constitution, under which the state operates today, much of it written at his home, Cotesworth.

Cotesworth, with his unusual Hexagonal library, is a cultural center today just north of North Carrollton.

I can just see it in my mind the busy little village of old with its dusty dirt streets full of people and horse-drawn wagons back in its heyday. ‘Course, it’s not too hard to imagine Carrollton like that if you ever saw the 1960s era movie “The Reivers,” based on the William Faulkner novel. Steve McQueen starred in it along with Will Geer. Much of it was shot in Carrollton.

For the movie, the paved streets were covered with dirt and horse-drawn wagons were all over the place. That’s why it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see the town looking like that. Just pull up the movie and watch it.

Some of the signs painted on the sides of buildings as set-dressing for the movie are still there. One advertising “furniture and coffins” comes to mind. It’s on the side of what is the town’s museum, today. At one time it housed a business that really did sell furniture and coffins, among other things.

When the new railroad to the north created the town of North Carrollton, trackside, there was very little need for Carrollton to do any further progressing. So it seemed to slow down in time. There was no real need to tear it down, either. So Carrollton still sits sort of as it was in the 1920s.

Businesses have come and gone, obviously. Some of them you may be familiar with. The famous Carroll County Picture Show of “Ode to Billy Joe” fame was right there on the square, across from the courthouse. The picture show is gone but the building is still there. A lot of the old buildings and homes still stand in Carrollton, making it a popular pilgrimage destination for nostalgia and history buffs.

But Carrollton has brought its past into the future with the launching of a GPS-triggered downtown walking tour. Load the app and follow the town’s stories with your smartphone. And I appreciate the folks in Carrollton inviting me to be the voice for the tour.

I learned a lot about the town in the process of recording the narration. And learned there are no places time forgot. Not in the internet age. And I never imagined I’d be an app!

Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television, and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact Grayson at walt@waltgrayson.com.

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