This information is contributed by Jackie Purdy
AUNTIE’S BROKEN ROMANCE By Mary Shelton McArthur English My great-grandfather, John Durham Carroll, had five sons, but only two daughters - Grandmother and Auntie. The Civil War played a major part in the lives of his family. The Atlantic Coastline Railroad was described as the longest continuous Railroad in the world in 1860 -- when it was completed between Wilmington, North Carolina’s principal seaport as well as its largest city, and Weldon a distance of 161 continuous miles of railroad tracks. By the end of the Civil War, it had been extended to Richmond, the Capital of the Confederacy. Supplies shipped into Wilmington were transported by rail to Richmond, and the Yankee soldiers were determined to cut off the supply lines. So, the Carroll plantation, a short distance from the railroad, was in a strategic area. A troop of Union soldiers camped on part of my great-grandfather’s plantation, and the officers even took over part of the house for headquarters, according to my grandmother. Nevertheless, they treated the family with respect and courtesy. From all reports. My grandmother’s sister was a very beautiful young lady. It is unfortunate that we have no pictures of her taken in her youth. Photography was very new. Matthew Brady’s pictures of the Civil War camp grounds, depicting Confederate and Union soldiers, are among the first photographs on record. The only picture of Auntie in the family album was of an elderly lady dressed in black, with a rather sad face - her beauty, and the sparkly in her eyes long gone. One of the Union soldiers stationed at her home fell in love with Auntie - and wrote to her many times after the Union troops moved on. This developed into a very serious family situation. An enemy soldier was assumed to be toying with Auntie’s affections, and this could never be permitted. It was decided (unbeknownst to Auntie) that this romance had to be nipped in the bud. Auntie’s youngest brother, who had remained home to look out for his parents and supervise the work on the plantation, kept an eagle eye out for letters between his sister and her sweetheart. He successfully intercepted enough of the letters, apparently, to end the correspondence. I’ve often wondered if the Union soldier cared as much for Auntie as she cared for him. Was it just a pleasant interlude for a Yankee before returning to his true love in the North? Or did he die in battle? I believe that Auntie - not knowing that her family had intercepted the letters - kept waiting and hoping that he would return after the war. At long last, after her younger sister had been married eight or ten years, Auntie married a widower with grown children and had two sons of her own by him. Her older son, Percy, became an officer with a shipping line and traveled all over the World. Somewhere among my souvenirs is a postcard album filled with postcards sent by Cousin Percy from foreign ports. He married “a foreigner” and died young. Auntie’s younger son, Judson, moved to Georgia. But throughout most of her life, Auntie, who became a widow when her children were small, preferred to remain on or near her Father’s plantation. In the summer of 1924 I visited Auntie for the last time. While with her I made a decision which could have redirected my whole life if I had been able to follow through with my plan. Auntie, who had aged so very much since I last saw her and who didn’t seem able to take care of herself, needed me, I concluded. My idea was to drop out of College for the time being and try to get a position as teacher in the village school. In that way I could stay with Auntie in Magnolia and look out for her welfare. She has always had a warm place in the hearts of my mother and me, her namesakes. Before I had time to investigate the possibilities, however, a sudden death in the family, caused me to hurry home. Shortly afterwards, Auntie’s son drove up from Georgia and took her back to live with him. I’m sure that Auntie would have preferred to spend her last days in the little North Carolina village of Magnolia - a short distance from her father’s plantation where she has spent most of her life. Her daughter-in-law in Georgia wrote Mother afterwards sayings that Auntie often spoke of us. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful”, Auntie would say, “If we could look out and see Mamie coming up the walk!” When Auntie passed away, a small bundle of love letters - yellow with age, and with the ink badly faded - was found among her effects - letters from her Union army sweetheart. The old song, “Wishing Will Make It So”, didn’t work in Auntie’s case. But she was always loved by her family and friends, particularly her two namesakes. Note: Another story written by Mary Shelton McArthur English, Auntie was: Mary Ann Carroll, daughter of John Durham Carroll and Zilpha Chesnutt. The widower she married September 22, 1876 was: Edward Thomas Pigford, he was about 20 years her senior. They had 2 sons: Percy Carroll Pigford, born May 7, 1879 Judson L. Pigford, born October 10, 1881 Mary Ann Carroll Pigford, died September 22, 1928 in Ben Hill County, Georgia where she is buried. The brother that hid the letters was: Owen Judson Carroll, who was about 16 at the time, he went on to serve in CSA, in the Civil War. He enlisted in late 1862 as a substitute for his brother James T. Carroll. This story is submitted by Jackie Purdy of California, Mary Ann Carroll was my Great Grand Aunt. Jackie Dotson of North Carolina, Mary Ann Carroll was her Great, Great Grand Aunt.