1830s and 1840s

The house began its long history as a stagecoach inn on the old Carrollton-Grenada road.  In the 1830s and 1840s, thousands of settlers poured into the Indian treaty lands, claiming their new property at $1.25 an acre and establishing villages and small towns. The roads connecting those communities were crude and rough and not know for easy passage.  Overnight accommodations were rare and unpredictable. A Carroll County entrepreneur, whose name has been lost to the ages, build a two-story, four-room inn on a sweeping hill just a few miles north of Carrollton, hoping to attract the eye and the cash of stagecoach passengers and horseback riders journeying between Carrollton and Grenada.

M.C. Miller, May 2011

References

Miller, M.C. (2007).  Must See Mississippi:  50 Favorite Places. The University of Mississippi Press: Oxford, MS.  p. 83-86. 


Williams, K. (Personal Communication). 

J.Z.George Years (1847 - 1897)

We don’t know how successful this forgotten innkeeper was. We do know that an equally ambitious young lawyer, James Zachariah George (called Jim), purchased the inn from him in 1847 and set about making it a home with his wife Bettie. George studied law and set up practice by age 20, and his aspirations and family both grew at a rapid clip. The roadside hostel was transformed into a Greek Revival mansion over the next few years, with two rooms up and two rooms down added onto the south side of the original structure. When you visit, you’ll notice that the floorboards in the downstairs hall mysteriously change directions about halfway back toward the rear door, and George’s attentions probably explain that oddity.


The end result was the mansion known as Cotesworth, taking its name from a long-time friend of J.Z.Gerge. It featured the typical antebellum floor plan, with formal rooms downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. The interior lacks the ornamentation that we’ve come to expect in Natchez or Columbus homes of the period, a reflection of George’s practicality. This was a working plantation house, and he saved the “extra” touches for the front façade. Giant-order columns support a simple entablature and are separated from the front-porch in the “Carolina style,” a rare detail on a Mississippi house. The wooden siding was carefully scored to resemble stone and louvers shielded the west end of the veranda from the afternoon heat.


It was a large, comfortable house, but nine children can quickly fill even this much space.  An ingenious wing was later added to the east side of the main floor, enclosing a bedroom with screened porches to facilitate air movement and privacy. Because of the high ceiling throughout and tall windows, air conditioning has never been a necessity at Cotesworth.


George finished his renovations around the time that he was chosen to represent Carroll County at the Secession Convention. War duties, Reconstruction challenges, services on the Mississippi Supreme Court kept him away from Carrollton much of the time, but the year 1890 found him back at Cotesworth, laboring away on the Mississippi Constitution that still governs our state.


The small desk where he labored over the details of the constitution is still in Cotesworth’s parlor, but he would also have utilized the resources of the freestanding library, just south of the main house.  The library is one of Mississippi’s most unique and unusual structures, and the only known existing plantation building to serve this purpose.  Tradition attributes its design to James Clark Harris, a local architect whose other works include Malmaison, the Carroll County Courthouse and Stanhope.  The six frame sides are topped by a hexagonal glazed cupola; on the west façade, pieced millwork outlines the small entrance porch.  Inside, tall bookshelves filled with George’s law books and Congressional Records radiate toward the center of the pine floorboards, meeting in a miraculously accurate point.  A wooden fireplace surround is painted to resemble marble.  Sunlight flows in from tall windows positioned between the bookshelves.

M.C. Miller, May 2011

1897-2010

Cotesworth has remained the property of J.Z.George’s descendants from his death in 1897.  For many years, it was left fully furnished and used only as a weekend and summer house.  In 1956, the mansion was once again occupied full-time by Senator George’s family and they have maintained his legacy in an exemplary manner.


Elizabeth Watt George Henderson, Jim & Bettie’s youngest daughter, inherited the property and was known by many as Aunt Lizzy. She and her husband, Timothy Rogers Henderson, lived on and used the property until their deaths. Aunt Lizzy’s early model electric car is still on the grounds.


Lizzy left the home to her youngest brother, Joseph Warren George. Joe and his wife, Katharine Bittammond George had three children.  Their youngest daughter, Elizabeth Saunders, was the property owner.  Elizabeth and M.P. had two children.   Their daughter, Katharine Williams (known as Kat), is the current property owner.  Kat and J.B. had two children.  The Williams added a two-story wing with a family room, kitchen, and screened porch as well as a in-ground swimming pool.