The historic legacy of Huntington’s Madie Carroll House

All houses have history, especially the old ones. Each one has a story to tell, but more than this, their very existence forms a thread to the past. It is how we connect with our history long after the memories fade and the stories form holes that cannot be filled.
The Madie Carroll House is no exception. Located at 234 Guyan St. in Guyandotte, the house has strong ties to the Civil War, Marshall University and the city of Huntington.
The upkeep of the house is overseen by The Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc. One of the society’s members, Victor S. Wilson, is not only dedicated to the preservation of the structure itself, but its history as well.
“The Madie Carroll house was constructed in 1810 in Gallipolis, Ohio,” Wilson said. “It was owned by a man named James Gallagher, who had the house transported down the river on a flatboat and pulled onto land using mules, oxen and timbers. The house has actually existed in three states. Ohio, Virginia and in 1863, the newly formed West Virginia.”
Gallagher became a very successful businessman and trustee of Marshall Academy, which is now Marshall University.
In 1824, the house became the property of Wilson’s great grandfather Robert Holderby and his brother James, who owned the land on which Marshall Academy was built. Holderby Hall was later named after him.
In 1885, the property was bought by Thomas Carroll. Unlike the former tenants, he made his home into an ‘ordinary,’ the nineteenth century equivalent of an inn.
In 1861, the Civil War began. It was in November of that year that the battle of Guyandotte occurred, an event that culminated with the burning of the city as an act of retaliation for the
residents involvement in aiding the confederates who attacked the town the day before. Wilson said that the only reason The Madie Carroll House did not burn is due to the actions of Thomas’ wife, Mary.
“As I like to say it’s not just history, but it’s also herstory (her story), because this house stands today due to the valor of Mary Carroll.” Wilson said. “There was a pounding on her door that day and when she answered it, there were union soldiers on the other side showing her their orders to burn the house. She said that if they burned her house it would have to be with her disabled husband and infant children inside. The soldiers became so aggravated, that they chose to burn her barn. Well, the joke was on them because she had leased the barn to the union army a couple of months earlier and it was full of their tents and military supplies. So, they burned their own stuff down, and that just goes to show that government waste is not new.”
In 1869, the house was visited by railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington, who had a less than favorable experience that led to the formation of the city for which he is named.
“Huntington was visiting this region because he wanted a western terminus for the railroad he had just bought,” Wilson said. “He came to the Carroll House either for a meal, libation or to stay the night. He tied his horse up in front of the house and it became untied. There are two stories about what happened after that. There’s one story that the horse defecated in the street, the other is that it tore up the neighbor’s yard. In either case, the constable of Guyandotte saw this and wrote him a ticket for $5. After that fine, Huntington crossed Guyandotte off his list of terminuses and decided to build his own city next door.”
In the early 1900’s, the house was passed down to Madie Carroll, Mary’s granddaughter. Madie was still living in the house when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Her nephew, Lewis Carroll, gained possession of the house when Madie died in 1975.
Lewis deeded the house to the greater Huntington Park and Recreation District in 1984. In 1988, the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society was formed to restore the dilapidated house for use as a historic museum.
Wilson said that The Madie Carroll House is an important and unique landmark in this area.
“Guyandotte was the pre-cursor to Huntington and the Madie Carroll House is the essence of Guyandotte’s history,” Wilson said. “What is so unusual about the house is that it represents the history of middle class America. That’s something we don’t often see, we see estates and mansions being preserved, but as far as the mercantile class is concerned, we don’t usually see the preservation of their environment. That’s why it is so unique.”

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