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.