Carrollton Pilgrimage

img_1342Taffeta dresses and hoop skirts are back in style in downtown Carrollton, as tour guides make guests welcome for the annual Carrollton Pilgrimage and Pioneer Festival.

Girls in gorgeous gowns and men wearing Civil War era costumes escort guests from all over the state through just a few of the over 60 nationally recognized homes and other public structures within the Carrollton Historic district.

“I think it’s just delightful,” said Michelle Hudson of Jackson. “I love to go to pilgrimages. Carrollton is unique to be so small and have so many historic places to see.”

20161008_141142_resized_1Clinton Bagley, historian with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said this was his fourth year to visit the Carrollton pilgrimage.

“I am thoroughly enjoying the pilgrimage,” Bagley said. “Carrollton is one of my favorite towns.”

Carrollton’s Mayor, Russell Wilson, also serves as the trolley driver for pilgrimage weekend. He drives visitors around to view all of the houses on the tour, allowing them to stop by the house for about 20-30 minutes before the trolley will come back around to pick them up.

“I love meeting people on the trolley,” Wilson said. “There are so many people from out-of-town, and former students that you don’t recognize! The tour is different every year because not everyone can open their house every year. Because the houses interchange each year, the pilgrimage is always different. I think that makes it interesting for everyone, especially the trolley driver!”

20161008_141150_resized_1This year, Mary Beth Marchbanks, Angie Cole and Olivia Crick were at Cotesworth, the home of one of Carroll County’s most famous residents, J.Z. George. While many on the trolley say they love the J.Z. George library outbuilding and mentioned that this home was featured in the movie, The Help, these ladies have a different perspective on the beautiful house.

Olivia Creek loves the antique doll collection on display in what would have been the dining area. She also loves the kitchen and the dishes on display.

Her mom, Angie Cole, loves the property, with all of the beautiful large trees in the front yard and surrounded by hills of trees.

20161008_140944-1_resized_1Mary Beth Marchbanks of Oxford loves old houses and loves Cotesworth and all of the history that the home represents. Built in 1843, the Greek-Revival home was the residence of J.Z. George who was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1881 until his death in 1897. It is said the Mississippi Constitution was written in the J.Z. George Library. Senator George’s great-granddaughter, Katharine Saunders Williams is the current owner of the property.

Cotesworth was one of five homes on the Fall Pilgrimage tour this year, and the only home located in North Carrollton. This home is about two miles from downtown Carrollton and the other homes on the tour, but with so much history, organizers felt including this special home was well worth the few extra minutes on the tour.

20161008_140733_resized_1Other homes filled with gorgeous antiques and costumed tour guides included:

* Shades Rest is the home of Bo and Shonda Milton. It is unknown when the home was originally built, but the earliest records go back to 1839.

* Tanglewood (also known as the Costilow home) is the residence of Drs. Steve and Reba Bailey. The house has a history “as rich as the town of Carrollton.” The house and grounds are undergoing a complete restoration.

* Wayside is a Victorian cottage-style home built in 1902. It is the current home of Keith and Amanda Ferguson.

The fifth home, Mathairs Feith, owned by Bill and Judi Gillespie, was open on Saturday only. While not a historic home, it was constructed as a celebration of Carrollton’s historic architecture.

A sixth home, The Oaks, owned by Craig and Kathleen Clark, was open on Friday only.

Historic churches open for touring included: Carrollton Baptist, Carrollton Methodist, Carrollton Presbyterian and Grace Episcopal.

Barbara and Tommy Rayburn are pilgrimage committee members in charge of ticket sales, so they are in contact with a lot of visitors over the two-day event.

“We have had a lot of people from different areas throughout the state to stop by,” Tommy Rayburn said.


On Saturday around the square, art and crafts vendors are lined up near a wide variety of food vendors. There are inflatables for the children and live music on the courthouse lawn. On and around the square, educational exhibits from the Winterville Mounds to Civil War Re-enactors are always part of the Pioneer Day Festival. And some of the historic buildings on the square are open for tours, including the Courthouse, The Merrill Museum, Gee’s Store, and the Old Jail. With any luck, the North Mississippi Dulcimers are playing songs that pioneers would have been happy to hum along to, just outside the historic Masonic Lodge.

The Annual Fall Pilgrimage and the Pioneer Day Festival events are sponsored by the Carroll Society for the Preservation of Antiquities.

For more information about the Carrollton Pilgrimage, go to




This story was featured in the October 13, 2016 editions of The Winona Times and The Conservative at

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