Bishop Elias Cottrell (1853-1937) was born into slavery in Marshall County.  As a young child, Cottrell was educated by his father, and eventually became one of the founding members of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1870s.  Cottrell rose in the ranks of the church over the next twenty years, before becoming Bishop of the church in 1897.  Besides his religious endeavors, Cottrell also owned many acres of farmland in Marshall County and soon became one of the wealthiest African-Americans in the South.  By 1910, Cottrell was said to be worth $30,000 (over $800,000 in 2018 dollars).

Bishop Cottrell’s enduring legacy was the founding of Mississippi Industrial College (1905) in 1905.  The Mississippi Industrial College, along with nearby Rust College (1866), was one of the earliest African-American colleges in the area.  The first building built on the campus was Cathrine Hall, which incorporated an earlier antebellum house into the Colonial Revival building.  Several other buildings were soon built, including the Carnegie Auditorium, which was one of the largest buildings in Mississippi used primarily by African-Americans.  For almost 80 years, Mississippi Industrial College educated many generations of African-Americans.  The college closed in the early 1980s, and several of the historic buildings have been lost, though Rust College has begun efforts to save the last remaining buildings.

Soon after the founding of Mississippi Industrial College, Bishop Cottrell began construction on a magnificent Queen Anne Victorian house at the very edge of Holly Springs, at the corner of Chulahoma Avenue and Boundary Street.  This house, with its unusual central turret and surrounded by a wide full-length porch, was the centerpiece of a 20 acre farm.  By all accounts, Bishop Cottrell’s house was a hub of social activity during the early 20th century.  Bishop Cottrell lived in this house until his death in 1937.  The house fell into disrepair over the next 10 years, and was destroyed by 1950.  Today, a modern home sits on the same lot.

4 thoughts

  1. I remember Bishop Cottrell since we lived on the Southeast corner of Chulahoma Ave. and West Boundary. I was born in Oct. 1932 so I was 5 yrs. old when he died. He invited several of us children in to see his Cookoo clock in his library which had two big sliding wooden doors. The library was to the left from the front door. I remember seeing shelves of books and a world globe. He was a kind man and I think he loved little children. We certainly loved him.
    Bobby Seale


    1. Bobby, I thought of you when I made this post, because I was certain you had some kind of interaction with Cottrell. I’m glad I was right! I really wish this house was still around. I imagine it looked beautiful on that big corner across from your house. Thanks again for the memories!


  2. Mr. Knecht, Thank you for Rev. Harris credit that you gave her for sharing information from the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum. I’m writing because you caught my attention with your artwork – a new flavor and photography techniques. Rev. Harris is now compiling her book – a walk through a museum and highlighting Blacks’ contribution to the development of Holly Springs. I wanted to know if and how I could get your written permission to use some of your pictures to enhance her story entries in her book.


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