James Miner Carroll was born on Oct. 29, 1815 near Kingwood, Preston County, WV, the only child of Anthony and Sarah (Miner) Carroll. He was a well known educator, soldier, constable and hotel-keeper in Kingwood, and his life is profiled in Morton’s 1914 History of Preston County.
James married Elizabeth Burke (1820-1884), daughter of William and Harriet (Reed) Burke.
They are thought to have lived on his father’s farm near Masontown, and had nine children – Sarah Jane Everly, Louisa F. Dunn, Mary Carroll, Martha E. Carroll, Catherine Carroll, Joanna Carroll, John W. Carroll, Paul Carroll and Hardin Duvall Carroll.
James was born on a farm later owned circa 1906 by a man named Dorsey. After his mother died, he went to live with his grandfather and namesake, James Carroll, “in a cabin in the woods near Kingwood, on a 400 acre tract of land….”
James’ widowed father remarried, to Temperance Alley, and had a family of eight children. Thus James’ step-siblings included Eugene Carroll, Mary Herndon, Col. John S.P. Carroll, Lucinda Carroll, Katherine Kemble, Margaret Carroll, and two who died young.
As a boy, James attended Kingwood Academy and later an academy at Morgantown, Monongalia County, WV. When he was 15, he returned home to his father and step-mother in Kingwood, and
…there remained in active life until his death. He was public spirited and filled several positions of honor and trust, was constable over 20 years; first lieutenant of the 148th Regiment of the Virginia Militia, commission dating from May 1, 1858; was a member of the Board of Education, for which position he was well qualified by education and experience.
The federal census of 1850 shows James, Elizabeth and daughters Sarah, Louisa and Martha living in the 45th District of Preston County. James is marked as working as a farmer.
During the Civil War, James wrote to his younger half-brother John Jackson Solomon Paul Carroll, who served as captain of the 9th West Virginia Infantry, Company D and later as lieutenant colonel of the 1st West Virginia Veterans Infantry (Company S). In one letter dated Aug. 3, 1863, later published in the Huntington (WV) Day Book newspaper in November 1863, James penned the following (in the usage and spellings of the day, with some punctuation added for clarity):
set myself down this morning to drop you a few lines. This will inform you that
we are al well at present and hope these few words may reach you and find you
and yours al well. the people is mostly wel her.
The Morgantown Chronicle once said that James "had a wonderful memory, and almost to the day of his death could tell of the early settlements made in the two counties." The Preston County Journal added that he "was very familiar with the west half of the county."
Tragically, and with heartache that cannot even be imagined, according to the Journal, "six of his children perished in the epidemic of 1863." The children who fortunately survived were Sarah, Louise and Hardin.
When the federal census was taken in 1870, the 55-year-old James is shown to be employed keeping a hotel in Rowlesburg, near Kingwood. Living under his roof were wife Elizabeth, son Hardin (age 6), aunt Mary Herndon (age 72), half sister Catharine Carroll (age 35), farm laborer Michael Dunn (age 45) and domestic servant Cordelia E. McCauley (age 12). The census taker marked that neither James nor Elizabeth could read or write.
During 1878-1879, when a new house of worship was being planned and erected for the Kingwood Methodist Episcopal Church, James contributed funds for the work. The dedication service was held on May 25, 1879. Several of James' kinsmen also made financial contributions to the effort, including his uncle John S. Murdock and cousins James Eyster Murdock Sr., Marcellus Hugh Murdock, Henry Harrison Gribble and John Allen Fawcett.
Sadly, Elizabeth died at the age of 45 years on Oct. 15, 1884. Her burial place is unknown.
The Preston County history states that James once purchased the Herndon Hotel in Kingwood and later sold it to Mary Herndon, widow of S.P. Herndon. Wiley's 1882 History of Preston County states that:
Mineral Paint Spring.--About a mile from James M. Carroll's, and near Cheat River, out of a cliff of rocks in a deep hollow, bursts a reddish stream of water, which leaves a heavy brown deposit where it falls. This deposit is used as a brown paint for buildings, with satisfactory results. In the same cliff, a spring makes deposits of what is asserted to be crude alum and copperas.
In later life, James resided in Morgantown, and resided with his married granddaughter, Alice Ringer and her husband Samuel.
James suffered from kidney problems, and died of their effects on Jan. 26, 1906, at the age of 90. The Chronicle eulogized him as "one of the oldest residents of this section of the state." He was buried at the "old" Graham Cemetery near Masontown, Preston County.
Two years after James' death, he was mentioned in an article about the Carroll genealogy in the April 23, 1908 issue of the Preston County Journal, part of a series entitles "Pioneers of Preston," by H.S. Whetsell. In the article, the author lamented James' death, saying: "Being a close observer and having a retentive and accurate memory of early events, the lack of [James'] assistance has been keenly felt by the compiler of these articles."
In 1979, he and Elizabeth were mentioned in a profile of the Carrolls, authored by granddaughter Myra Carroll, in the book Preston County West Virginia History, published by the Preston County Historical Society.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2006, 2009-2010, 2017 Mark A. Miner