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Confabulations of History: William Faulkner, Edgar Francisco, and a Friendship that Never Was

Confabulations of History:
William Faulkner, Edgar Francisco,
and a Friendship that Never Was
by Jack D. Elliott Jr.
And when he came to understand what it meant he was so
taken with it that he began to retail the story himself, until at
last he must come to believe he really had. Anyway he related
long pointless anecdotes of his undergraduate days, speaking
familiarly of dead and departed professors by their rst names,
usually incorrect ones.
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
On February 11, 2010, the New York Times announced that a set of
antebellum plantation ledgers had possibly served as a major inuence
on the work of the writer William Faulkner by providing “the source
for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his ctionalized
Yoknapatawpha County.”1 The ledgers had been kept by north Missis-
sippi planter Francis Terry Leak (ca. 1803–1863) from the late 1830s
through the early 1860s and consisted primarily of diary-like entries
along with business records.2 The ledgers are now in the Southern
1 Patricia Cohen, “Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered,” New York Times,
February 10, 2010, accessed November 19, 2013,
books/11faulkner.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. This article was probably stimulated by
the publication of Sally Wolff, “William Faulkner and the Ledgers of History,” Southern
Literary Journal 42 (Fall 2009): 1–16, which rst announced the discovery.
2 The ledgers are sometimes referred to as “diaries” and in fact the bulk of them consists
of entries of a diary nature. However, other parts are simply records of business matters.
JACK D. ELLIOTT JR. is an adjunct professor at Mississippi State University–
Meridian, where he teaches courses in archaeology, geography, and religion.
The author wishes to thank Seth Berner, Marcus Gray, Stephen Slimp, Brian
Fennessy, Justin Randolph, Jane Isbell Haynes, Robert Hamblin, Hubert McAl-
exander, Maria Bustillos, and Frank Hurdle.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 309 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.
The discovery was announced by Faulkner scholar Dr. Sally Wolff of
Emory University, who stated that “[t]he diary and a number of family
stories seem to have provided the philosophical and thematic power
for some of his major works.” According to the New York Times article,
scholars “have been stunned and intrigued not only by this peephole
into Faulkner’s working process, but also by material that may have
inspired this Nobel-prize-winning author.” John Lowe of Louisiana
State University called it “one of the most sensational literary discover-
ies of recent decades.”3 The excitement over the discovery was rapidly
disseminated through the media.4 In September 2010, Wolff’s book
Ledgers of History: William Faulkner, an Almost Forgotten Friendship,
and an Antebellum Plantation Diary (hereafter Ledgers) was published,
presenting the authoritative version of the discovery.5 A lecture at the
Library of Congress followed soon after.6
Although the ledgers caused signicant excitement, in reality their
connection to Faulkner was not self-evident. Instead, the relevance of
these ledgers to Faulkner’s life was based on the claims of the great-
I use the term “ledgers” because of its more comprehensive denition.
3 Cohen, “Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered.”
4 The day after the release of the New York Times article, February 11, 2010, Sally
Wolff was interviewed by Melissa Block and Michele Norris on National Public Radio’s
All Things Considered, in an episode entitled “Plantation Diary Yields Clues to Faulkner’s
Work,” NPR, accessed November 19, 2013,
On the same day (February 11, 2010), Emory University issued a news release “Find-
ing Faulkner with a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Discovery,” accessed March 13, 2014, http://nding-faulkner-with-a-once-in-
lifetime-discovery.html#.UyHzr8t8OUk. A few days later the editorial board of Emory’s
student-run newspaper Emory Wheel applauded the “positive national attention” brought
to the university and predicted that “from now on, whenever scholars and students study
Faulkner, they will encounter a contribution from Emory.” See “Our Opinion: Emory’s
Faulkner Connection,” Emory Wheel, February 15, 2010, accessed November 19, 2013,
Alison Flood, “Newly Discovered Plantation Diary Was Key Inspiration for Faulkner’s
Novels, Says Academic,” Guardian, February 12, 2010,
books/2010/feb/12/plantation-diary-inspiration-faulkner-novels, and Allison Adams, “A
Diary’s Secrets,” Emory Magazine 86, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 6–7.
5 Sally Wolff, Ledgers of History: William Faulkner, an Almost Forgotten Friendship, and
an Antebellum Plantation Diary (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010).
6 Sally Wolff, “William Faulkner and the Ledgers of History,” lecture presented at the
Library of Congress, August 9, 2011. YouTube, accessed November 25, 2013, http://www.
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great-grandson of F.T. Leak, Edgar Wiggin Francisco III (born 1930,
hereafter referred to as Francisco or EWF3 to distinguish him from his
father), a native of Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi, now
living in Georgia. Beginning in March 2008, Francisco was interviewed
extensively by Wolff, and about half of Ledgers consists of transcripts of
these interviews which presented—often in considerable detail—what
are purported to be his memories and tales told by his father, Edgar
W. Francisco Jr. (1897–1966, hereafter usually referred to as Edgar).
In these interviews, he reveals what he claims to have been a decades-
long friendship between Faulkner and the elder Francisco, the “Almost
Forgotten Friendship” alluded to in the book’s subtitle, a friendship that
by the book’s account had a formative effect on Faulkner’s writing, and
that brought the writer into contact with the Leak ledgers. The claims
made by Francisco are audacious and if true would be of considerable
signicance to Faulkner scholarship. However, the question that was
seldom asked was, are the claims true?
“Tell Me Again, Edgar”
According to Francisco’s testimony, the friendship between Faulkner and
Edgar Francisco began as early as 1899, when the two families would
meet to celebrate the respective birthdays of the two boys.7 Over the
years the two continued to visit and spent time riding ponies and hunting
together. Most of the visits seem to involve Faulkner coming to Holly
Springs, with nothing said about Edgar visiting Oxford. In Holly Springs
the Francisco family resided in their home McCarroll Place on Van Dorn
Avenue. The home took its name from the earliest family members to
reside there, Mr. and Mrs. John R. McCarroll, and at the turn of the
last century it housed an extended family of McCarroll descendants.8
7 Wolff, Ledgers, 75. EWF3 places these initial visits in New Albany, Mississippi, where
Faulkner was born in 1897, not seeming to realize that the Falkners lived in Ripley from
1899 until 1902. He makes no mention of Ripley nor of celebrating the birthdays of the
younger Falkner boys, nor did the younger Falkner boys, Murry and John, ever recall the
Franciscos. See John Faulkner, My Brother Bill: An Affectionate Reminiscence (New York:
Trident Press, 1963); Murry C. Falkner, The Falkners of Mississippi: A Memoir (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967).
8 John Ramsey McCarroll (ca. 1803–1873) and his wife Elizabeth C. Eddins McCarroll
(ca. 1814–1872) rst began residing at McCarroll Place before the Civil War. In 1900
resident family members included Edgar W. Francisco Sr. (1867–1940), his wife Betsy
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 311 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
During the1920s Edgar Francisco and William Faulkner attended
dances in Holly Springs with their dates.9 After their marriages, both
in 1929, Faulkner continued to visit McCarroll Place, where his visits
involved poring over the Leak ledgers and socializing with Edgar. The
visits continued through about 1939, when the two began to drift apart.10
From his earliest days at McCarroll Place, Faulkner had listened
to Edgar’s older McCarroll relatives who lived with the Franciscos: “As
boys, he and Dad would have listened to Grandmother Amelia’s and
Aunt Sallie’s stories …. Aunt Sallie told stories, but Gramaw Amelia was
the real storyteller. Dad would sit for hours and listen to Gramaw tell
stories.”11 After the deaths of the two women, Edgar continued telling the
stories.12 As EWF3 recalled, “Dad was very much lled with the story of
the family and the Civil War, and he grew up on it. So when he talked
about an event, you could think it must be just happening, but it could
be something his grandmother told him happened in 1865 or in 1870.
He seemed to live on those stories. So I’m sure that Faulkner was very
much aware of these stories during the ’20s. Those were probably the
main years he was picking them up.”13 Edgar “talked of eighty-year-old
events as if they happened that morning.”14 During these storytelling
sessions “Faulkner seemed to love to sit there and scribble with his
pen and record them … It was as if he could listen all day to Edgar’s
stories. That’s sort of the relationship they had—Dad telling the story,
and Faulkner would say, ‘Tell me again, Edgar.’ He would ask to have
some story repeated, and Dad was happy to tell it again.”15 “Faulkner
had a huge imagination and could create a short story out of a much
briefer story that Dad would tell him.”16
Leak Francisco (1869–1931), and their two children, Edgar Francisco Jr. and Amelia
Belle Francisco (born 1894). Also residing there were Betsy’s mother, Amelia McCarroll
Leak (ca. 1842–1909), the daughter of John R. McCarroll and the daughter-in-law of F. T.
Leak, and Amelia’s two unmarried sisters, Elizabeth “Bettie” McCarroll (ca. 1853–1913)
and Sarah “Sally” McCarroll (ca. 1840–1917). From the US censuses for Marshall County,
Mississippi, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and from headstone inscrip-
tions in Hill Crest Cemetery, Holly Springs.
9 Wolff, Ledgers, 78–79, 91.
10 Ibid., 90, 92.
11 Ibid., 98.
12 Ibid., 75, 82, 118, 140–41, 166.
13 Ibid., 141.
14 Ibid., 177.
15 Ibid., 92.
16 Ibid., 77.
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In addition to listening to Francisco family lore, Faulkner was also
fascinated by the Leak ledgers:
Probably he was the only person who had really read these
diaries since they were written—which is sort of amazing, re-
ally. Equally amazing, the bundle of diaries remained wrapped
up and undisturbed from about 1872 to Faulkner’s discovery
of them sometime in the 1920s—over fty years later. He read
and took notes over about a ten- to fteen-year period. They
were back in the drawer until donated and typed.17
Then Will would pull out notes and ask for a particular volume
of the diary and turn to the page he wanted. Then he seemed to
totally change. He became sober, focused, sometimes agitated
and angry, and talked to the writer of the diary. Thinking of
it now, it was as if he were back with Francis Terry Leak, as
Leak was writing, and Will talked angrily to him. He was in
conversation with Leak, to the total exclusion of Dad and me.18
The thrust of the testimony is that the Francisco family and the
ledgers played a seminal role in Faulkner’s writing career through pro-
viding background information for what would become Yoknapatawpha
County. As EWF3 noted, “He used a lot of material from right around
here, and his rst short stories were about McCarroll Place.”19 Not least
of the purported inuences was a girl’s name, Ludie, etched into a glass
window probably in the 1860s, which supposedly inuenced several of
Faulkner’s novels.
I was initially intrigued by the announcement of the discovery of
Francisco and his testimony, opening what appeared to be a window
into a bygone time. However, based on my own experience with oral his-
tory I soon became uneasy with the testimony. Much was related with
a quasi-omniscience, recalling details of century-old conversations and
answering questions with the self-assuredness of someone who had only
recently witnessed the events. This indeed raises questions—especially
when virtually no corroboration is offered—suggesting as it does the
possibility of fabrication.
Credible testimonies involve points of intersection with known facts.
While there is a framework of basic genealogical data (names and dates)
17 Ibid., 143.
18 Ibid., 142.
19 Ibid., 77.
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and some memories of personal history, the greater bulk of the testimony
offers little intersection with known facts. This includes the central fo-
cus of the transcripts, namely the friendship between Edgar Francisco
Jr. and William Faulkner which purportedly lasted for four decades.
Despite the fact that Faulkner’s life has been thoroughly documented
by biographies, interviews, reminiscences by family members and ac-
quaintances, and published correspondence, there is not one reference
to the Francisco family in this material, nor are there known references
in the Oxford Eagle newspaper or in the Ripley newspapers.20Ledgers
provides no corroborative evidence nor does it even acknowledge that the
absence of such might have a bearing on the credibility of the testimony.21
Indeed, Sally Wolff hardly addresses the problem of credibility, as-
suming perhaps that the testimony of someone who “hold[s] six degrees
20 Major sources that would be likely to reference the Francisco family, but do not, in-
clude: Joseph Blotner, Faulkner: A Biography (New York: Random House, 1974); Joseph
Blotner, ed., Selected Letters of William Faulkner (New York: Random House, 1977);
Louis D. Brodsky and Robert W. Hamblin (eds.), Faulkner: A Comprehensive Guide to the
Brodsky Collection, vol. 2, The Letters (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1984);
Joel Williamson, William Faulkner and Southern History (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1993); James G. Watson, ed., Thinking of Home: William Faulkner’s Letters to
His Mother and Father, 1918–1925 (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1992); and the
aforementioned John Faulkner, My Brother Bill, and Murry C. Falkner, The Falkners of
Mississippi: A Memoir.
Specic mention should be made of Robert Cantwell, “The Faulkners: Recollections of
a Gifted Family,” in M. Thomas Inge, ed., Conversations with William Faulkner (Jack-
son: University of Mississippi Press, 1999), 30–41. Cantwell recalled a lengthy visit with
Faulkner in 1938 and also a ride in which the two discussed the land, its history, and
Faulkner’s ction. Although they passed through Holly Springs nothing was said about
the family and home that were according to the Francisco testimony at the heart of the
writer’s inspiration.
Regarding newspapers, I have perused every known extant newspaper from Ripley,
Mississippi, for the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. For the Oxford Eagle
see James B. Lloyd (compiler), The Oxford Eagle, 1900–1962: An Annotated Checklist of
Material on William Faulkner and the History of Lafayette County (Mississippi State
University: Mississippi Quarterly, 1977). I have personally perused the Oxford Eagle
issues from 1902 through 1925 and November 1936 through January 1938.
21 By EWF3’s account his family preserved a wealth of documents: “The house was
lled with stacks of documents, diaries, and letters that lled drawers, shelves, and
boxes. Dad’s mother had saved boxes of clippings and letters from the same time period,
including letters her mother had received. Grandfather Francisco apparently saved most
letters he received, neatly bundled by year from 1910 to 1939—thousands of them, led
away and never read again. He had maintained a huge correspondence.” Ledgers, 136.
If this was indeed the case, with all of this material available one wonders why not a
single photograph, letter, or newspaper clipping was presented as evidence of Faulkner’s
connection to McCarroll Place.
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from several academic institutions” and who is “shy, courteous, and
modest” is perhaps beyond reproach.22 I do not know Edgar Wiggin
Francisco III. I do not question that he might seem credible or that he
might even believe his statements. However, in and of itself the truth
of his testimony is not compelling, as we shall see.
The Origin of the Ledgers
The claim that William Faulkner frequently used and was inuenced by
the Leak ledgers is based on the proposition that they were actually at
McCarroll Place during his purported visits prior to their being donated
to the Southern Historical Collection in 1946. Upon examination this
proposition appears to be questionable.
The ledgers were presumably composed at the home of F.T. Leak on
his plantation in Tippah County (now in Benton County), Mississippi.
After Leak’s death, his son Walter John Leak married Amelia McCar-
roll, the daughter of J.R. McCarroll. A few years later, in 1872, Walter
John died, leaving Amelia to return to her family home in Holly Springs
along with her young daughter Betsy, who would later marry E.W.
Francisco Sr. According to EWF3, Amelia brought the Leak ledgers to
Holly Springs and placed them “in a bottom drawer” at McCarroll Place
where they lay virtually untouched for almost half a century until they
were discovered by Faulkner in the 1920s and used for “about a ten- to
fteen-year period.”23 Afterward they were occasionally displayed during
pilgrimage tours of the house.24 Then, according to Wolff, the Francisco
family in 1946 “agreed to give the original, handwritten copy of the ‘Di-
ary of Francis Terry Leak’ to the Wilson Library at the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill; in return, the family asked the library to
prepare a typed transcription of the original and give Edgar Francisco
Jr. a set of the bound volumes.”25 That is, at any rate, Francisco’s ver-
sion of the story.
In this light, one who peruses the typescripts of the ledgers will be
surprised to read on the title page of each that they were “Copied from
22 Wolff, Ledgers, xi.
23 Ibid., 104–5, 110, 143.
24 Ibid., 143.
25 Ibid., 5.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 315 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
originals given by/ Mrs. Gerard Badow/Holly Springs/Mississippi”; there
is no reference to the Franciscos having in any way been the donors.
Perle Strickland Badow was a cousin of the Franciscos and their next-
door neighbor, living at Strickland Place on the east side of McCarroll
Place; she was also a Leak descendant by virtue of her mother Janie
Leak Strickland being the sister of Walter John Leak. According to Sally
Wolff, EWF3 claimed that when the representative of the Southern
Historical Collection came to Holly Springs looking for manuscripts
he found the ledgers in the possession of Edgar Francisco Jr., who was
initially reluctant to donate them. Somewhat later he had a change of
heart and decided to donate them, but passed them to cousin Perle next
door, and she gave them to the representative, and in so doing she was
the one who received recognition for the donation.26 This explanation
seems contrived.
Regardless, the story falls apart upon inspection of the records of
Joseph G. de Roulhac Hamilton, the representative and founder of the
Southern Historical Collection. It was he who located and acquired the
ledger for the Collection. On November 19, 1944, Hamilton drove from
Memphis to Holly Springs and spent much of the day pursuing leads,
one of whom, a Mrs. Gholson,27 told him that he should visit the Badow
home, Strickland Place. About this he writes:
From there went to see Mrs. Gerard Badow. Mrs. Gholson
told me to be sure and see her. Found a funny and very nice
elderly woman, married to a pleasant German in a rat’s nest
of a house. She is, by descent, one of the Anson County, N.C.
Leakes. She has a perfectly gorgeous plantation diary in
several volumes. I offered copies [i.e. he offered to give her
transcribed copies in exchange for the originals] and I think
she came very near letting me bring them along. But she de-
cided to think it over and I’m to write her. They were kept by
Francis Terry Leake who came here from North Carolina.28
26 Telephone communications with Sally Wolff, July 4 and September 18, 2013.
27 “Mrs. Gholson” was apparently the wife of the Dr. Norman Glasgow Gholson (1875-
1951) whom Hamilton had visited earlier that day: “I went to see Dr. Gholson. He has
been paralyzed and is very pathetic. He has none of his father’s papers.” Dr. Gholson was
a member of an old Holly Springs family, and his wife was Eliza McNeel Penick Gholson
28 Joseph G. de R. Hamilton, diary entry, November 19, 1944, Series 3, Diaries, Joseph
Gregoire de Roulhac Hamilton Papers, 1895–1961, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson
Special Collection Library, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.
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It is clear that this visit was Hamilton’s rst contact with Mrs. Badow
and his rst encounter with the ledgers. Although he mentioned visiting
several residents of Holly Springs in regard to their possibly owning
manuscripts of interest, the Franciscos were never mentioned, which
stands in contrast to EWF3’s story that Hamilton had initially found
the ledgers in his father’s possession. Furthermore, upon subsequent
visits to Holly Springs on May 3, 1946, and April 9, 1948, Hamilton never
mentioned the Franciscos, strongly suggesting that they had nothing
that he was interested in and calling into question EWF3’s claim that his
father was the one who was rst approached about donating the diaries.29
Subsequent to his rst visit, Hamilton sent Mrs. Badow a letter on
January 9, 1945, promising to give her four typescript copies of the
ledgers if she would donate the originals to the collection. He noted
that these copies would allow “several members of a family … to have
copies of the diary in attractive and easily read form.”30 On May 3, 1946,
he returned to Holly Springs to retrieve the ledgers and noted that
instead of four copies the Badows “only want two copies.”31 Hamilton’s
statement coincides with accession records from the Wilson Library
of UNC–CH, which indicate that one copy of the typescript volumes
went to the Badows and one to the Franciscos.32 So it appears that
Mrs. Badow requested two copies, one for herself and the other for the
Franciscos, which explains the copies in the possession of EWF3. Yet
instead of acknowledging Perle’s role in the donation and for requesting
typescripts for the Franciscos, EWF3 claimed that his father was the
real donor. Regardless, Hamilton’s diaries make clear that the ledgers
were in Perle Badow’s possession when he rst encountered them and
that Edgar Francisco had no role in the donation.
29 Hamilton, diary entries, May 3, 1946, and April 9, 1948.
30 Letter, Joseph G. de R. Hamilton to Mrs. Gerard Badow of Holly Springs, Missis-
sippi, January 9, 1945, Series 1, Correspondence, 1885–1961, Joseph Gregoire de Roulhac
Hamilton Papers, 1895–1961, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collection
Library, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.
31 Hamilton, diary entry, May 3, 1946.
32 “Two typed copies of the diary, all completed in 1955, were sent to Mr. Gerard Badow,
Greenville, Miss. One of these will go to his cousin, Mr. Edgar Francisco, Holly Springs,
Miss., and the other will eventually go to the Univ. of Miss.” Accession sheet for the Francis
Terry Leak collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collection Library,
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Having died in 1948, Perle Badow never saw
most of the transcribed volumes; Gerard Badow (1879–1956), remarried by this time to
Caroline Metcalfe (1895–1981), moved to his new wife’s home in Greenville, Mississippi,
where he died a few years later. Badow was buried in the Greenville Cemetery.
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Furthermore, Hubert H. McAlexander, who is in a unique position to
speak to the problem at hand, has recently provided additional insight
into the ownership of the ledgers. Born in 1939, McAlexander grew up
in Holly Springs, a member of an old family. He knew Edgar and Ruth
Francisco and their son Edgar III. McAlexander has published several
historical works on Holly Springs and Marshall County and has written
a dissertation on Faulkner while teaching his writings for decades.33
Regarding the ledgers he has written:
In the 1960s, I borrowed from Ruth Bitzer Francisco the
typed copies of the Francis Terry Leak plantation ledgers,
which the Southern Historical Collection at the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill provided …. I had known the
chain-smoking but charming Ruth Bitzer Francisco rather
well through the Presbyterian church. She told me at the time
that the original ledgers had been given to Chapel Hill by Perle
Strickland Badow, Leak’s granddaughter, who saw to it that
her cousins, the Franciscos, also Leak descendants, were given
a copy. I went through the copies making various historical
notes …. If there were any connections between … [Faulkner’s
works] and the ledgers, I would have noted them long ago.34
McAlexander then found no reason to believe that the Franciscos
had ever owned the manuscript ledgers nor did he nd any evidence
that Faulkner had used them. All indications are that during the early
twentieth century they were in the possession of Perle Badow, who
probably inherited them from her mother, Janie Leak Strickland, who
was the daughter of the ledgers’ author F.T. Leak. Janie moved to Holly
Springs about the time of her marriage to attorney William M. Strick-
land (1823–1908) on May 1, 1867, a few years after her father’s death.
The question that comes to mind is: Did the Franciscos ever possess
the ledgers? The earliest reliable information for their being in Holly
Springs places them in the possession of Perle Strickland Badow in
November 1944. Because her mother was the daughter of the ledgers’
33 Hubert McAlexander is Josiah Meigs Professor Emeritus, Department of English,
University of Georgia. His work includes “History as Perception, History as Obsession:
Faulkner’s Development of a Theme” (PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin–Madison,
1973); A Southern Tapestry: Marshall County, Mississippi, 1835-2000 (Virginia Beach VA:
The Donning Company, 2000); “The Saga of a Mixed-Blood Chickasaw Dynasty,” Journal
of Mississippi History 49 (1987), 288-289; and “General Earl Van Dorn and Faulkner’s
Use of History,” Journal of Mississippi History 39 (1977), 357-361.
34 Email correspondence, Hubert H. McAlexander to Jack D. Elliott Jr., March 18, 2014.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 318 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
author, it seems reasonable that she could have received them from
her mother. On the other hand, EWF3 claims that they had been in
his family’s possession since Amelia McCarroll Leak had returned to
Holly Springs following her husband’s death in 1872. However, given
that Francisco’s credibility has been marred by his claims regarding
the donation of the ledgers, it appears more likely that the ledgers were
where they were rst documented, that is in the possession of Perle
Badow, and not Edgar Francisco.
The Evidence of the Ledgers
A recurrent theme in the Francisco testimony was Faulkner’s fascina-
tion with the Leak ledgers, to which over a period of years he devoted an
enormous amount of time, obsessively poring over and taking extensive
notes from them, presumably to be used in his writing. We might ask if
the ledgers actually “provided the philosophical and thematic power for
some of his major works,” as Wolff has suggested,35 and if so whether
or not this is self-evident.
Following EWF3’s claims that Faulkner heavily utilized the ledgers
in his stories, Wolff presents a litany of items that seem to suggest an
inuence on Faulkner.36 I will examine a sample of these.
Faulkner’s references to the physical appearance of the diary
[in Go Down, Moses] match precisely that of the old Leak Diary,
written in brown, thin, fading ink, Faulkner apparently was
literally describing the old Leak ledger books with their odd,
irregular sizes and their cracked, yellow, leather bindings.37
Having used nineteenth-century ledgers from Mississippi for decades,
I nd nothing in Faulkner’s descriptions that would not apply to almost
any set of ledgers from that time period.
Much is made over similarities between personal names in Faulkner’s
work and names in the Leak ledgers.38 The following provides an ex-
Old Rose, Henry, Charles, Tom, Ellen, and Milly were slaves
35 Sally Wolff, quoted in Cohen, “Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered.”
36 Wolff, Ledgers, 16–49.
37 Ibid., 30.
38 Ibid., 18, 20–22, 28, 31–38.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 319 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
on the Leak plantation …. In Absalom, Absalom! the character
Milly is the daughter of the man who will eventually murder
the plantation owner. Rose, Ellen, and Milly are common
southern names, to be sure, and they are slave names in this
and other diaries of the time, but in the Leak Diary they ap-
pear close together in the slave lists. Perhaps their names
and circumstances caught Faulkner’s attention and prompted
him to imagine their lives more fully. They seem to be strong
prototypes for the major female gures of Absalom, Absalom!
Charles Bonner is a less common name that appears in the
Leak Diary with a parallel—slightly shortened to “Charles
Bon”—in Faulkner’s novel …
In Absalom, Absalom! Henry and Charles, the sons of Thomas
Sutpen, are crucial characters. In the Leak Diary, Henry and
Charles are slaves whose names appear next to each other in
several Leak slave lists …39
Here we have six fairly common names from the ledgers that are
then matched with names from Absalom. When one considers, however,
that Leak had fty slaves on his Mississippi plantation in both the 1850
and 1860 censuses, that provides quite a few names to be matched with
fairly common names from Absalom. The implication is that Faulkner
was unable to come up with common names on his own and was reduced
to copying them from the ledgers.
Early in Absalom, Absalom! Thomas Sutpen and his slaves
begin to build Sutpen’s grand plantation house. Faulkner
appears to have derived some of the details of that project
from Leak’s description of how his plantation house was
constructed …40
The details provided from the Leak ledgers are comparable to what
would have been found in any description of the construction of a large
house. Absalom on the other hand does not provide nearly the level
of detail—its description of the construction of the Sutpen house does
not appear to bear any distinctive characteristics of the Leak house
Leak’s slaves make tens of thousands of bricks … Leak …
39 Ibid., 21–22.
40 Ibid., 23.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 320 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
prepares “the Kiln” … Likewise, Faulkner writes in Absalom
that ‘Sutpen had built a brick kiln’ …41
Regarding antebellum houses, stories are still common today about
how the brick were made and burned on the site of the respective home.
These stories were even more common in the 1920s and 1930s and would
have been familiar to Faulkner. He certainly did not need to resort to
the Leak ledgers to nd out about brick kilns.
Leak buries his dead in the family cemetery … and “sets out
four Cedar trees” there. Faulkner’s Sutpen likewise has his
own family cemetery among the cedars.42
During the nineteenth century cedar trees were commonly used in
landscaping both in yards and cemeteries. Faulkner would have known
of this practice from many places, including his own home Rowan Oak
and the Oxford Cemetery.
Legal terminology used in the diary nds its way into the novel
[Absalom, Absalom!]. Francis Terry Leak was a lawyer … and
frequently uses terms like “Quit claim deed” or “Quit claim
title” … Legal terms … appear in both Leak’s and Faulkner’s
texts. In Absalom, Thomas Sutpen uses a number of these
terms ….43
Faulkner came from a long line of attorneys that included T. J. Word,
J.W. Thompson, W.C. Falkner, James Word Falkner Sr., J.W.T. Falkner
Sr., J.W.T. Falkner Jr., J.W.T. Falkner IV, and M.C. “Jack” Falkner,
while one of his best friends and a key mentor was attorney Phil Stone;
legal jargon would not have been uncommon in Faulkner’s social circle.
The diary, with its enumeration of such needed farm equip-
ment as trace chains, halter chains, hames, and a cross-cut
saw, may have provided Faulkner with some of the realistic
detail found in The Hamlet.44
Faulkner’s father operated at various times a hardware store and a
livery stable in Oxford. In 1938 Faulkner purchased a farm where he
operated a commissary for the tenants and raised mules. Farm hardware
would not have been unfamiliar to him.
41 Ibid., 23.
42 Ibid., 24.
43 Ibid., 25.
44 Ibid., 28.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 321 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
The Leak Diary mentions sawmills and gristmills … [the] mills
suggest the one at which Rider works in ‘Pantaloon in Black.’45
Mills were ubiquitous in rural Mississippi during the nineteenth
century and early twentieth century and are recorded in many media
with their names often preserved as toponyms. I see no reason to think
that Faulkner was inuenced by these particular references.
Finally, Wolff sees a parallel between an inscription from the ledgers
and the dedication in Go Down, Moses. According to her,
[t]he diary’s title page reads:
Diary of Francis Terry Leak
[While] Faulkner’s dedication page in Go Down, Moses reads:
To Mammy
Caroline Barr
The similarity of this dedication that commemorates the life
of his ‘mammy,’ Callie Barr, to the title page of the Leak Di-
ary may serve to show the connection of the two documents.46
However, any connection between the passages is based on the ob-
servation that supercially they are similar. In her haste to produce yet
further evidence for her thesis, Wolff forgot what she surely must have
known at one time, namely that the inscription from the ledgers does not
appear in the original manuscript versions that Faulkner purportedly
studied. Instead it appeared only in the typescript volumes that were
produced circa 1946–55, years after Go Down, Moses was published in
1942.47 Consequently, Faulkner could never have seen the inscription
in the 1930s because it did not exist at the time, so he certainly could
not have been inuenced by it.
The ledgers present an overview of mid-nineteenth century culture
in north Mississippi and include references to commonplace activities
45 Ibid., 45.
46 Ibid., 30–31.
47 Both the manuscript and typescript versions of the ledgers can be viewed and
compared online at,Francis_Terry.html#d1e85,
accessed February 8, 2014.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 322 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
on a rural plantation. In this capacity they refer to a wide range of cul-
tural phenomena and list hundreds of personal names. Given this vast
cornucopia of cultural information it is not surprising that there are
numerous overlaps with Faulkner’s work, which also covers a similar
range of cultural phenomena and names. Behind the claim that Faulkner
was heavily dependent upon the ledgers for inspiration is the implica-
tion that he was unable to see the same range of cultural phenomena
all around him, in cultural landscapes, in newspapers, in local histories,
in oral history, in cemeteries, and in general in his own life experience,
and consequently resorted to effectively transcribing these elements
from the ledgers. Similarly, as discussed below, Francisco’s testimony
suggests that Faulkner copied rather minor events and tales from Mc-
Carroll Place into his stories. The implication is that rather than an
inspiration that provided “the philosophical and thematic power for
some of his major works,”48 McCarroll Place seemed to be little more
than a mine for cultural trivia … assuming that he ever visited there.
It is not self-evident that Faulkner borrowed from the ledgers; he
could have found the same information almost anywhere. Indeed at one
point Wolff appears to admit this when, as Kate Borger reports, she “said
that without knowing Faulkner had read the journal, it would be very
difcult to make the connection to his works.”49 On the other hand, Wolff
noted elsewhere that given the apparent lack of corroboration for EWF3’s
testimony the ledgers would perhaps have to serve as corroboration.50
It appears though that if the ledgers are to provide corroboration, they
would not do so convincingly.
Castles in the Air
The problem of further ascertaining the veracity of an account such
as Francisco’s is complicated when so many of the related events fall
outside the realm of documentation. For example, Faulkner’s visits to
Holly Springs are usually described without dates, making it impossible
to establish that he might have actually been elsewhere at a particular
48 Wolff quoted in Cohen, “Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered.”
49 Borger, “Wolff-King Finds Faulkner Link.” This passage was called to my attention
by Marcus Gray.
50 Telephone conversation between Elliott and Wolff, July 4, 2013.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 323 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
time. There are two notable exceptions. In the rst EWF3 noted that “My
earliest clear recollection of Faulkner is 1936 … I couldn’t place any of
[… my recollections] in specic time–place memory until the rst grade
in the fall of 1936. That’s when I recall listening to Dad and Will talk-
ing, especially about escapades when they were just a little older than
I was.”51 However, in the fall of 1936 Faulkner was living and working
as a screen writer in Hollywood, California, having left Oxford in July
and returned in late August/early September 1937.52
Also, Francisco states that after his parents were married in Mon-
treat, North Carolina, on August 4, 1929, they “had a one day honeymoon
at a hotel in Asheville and drove back to Holly Springs the next day.”
When they arrived at McCarroll Place, “There sat Will, [on the gallery]
with a beer in one hand and—as I recall Dad’s account of it—a dead
rabbit and a couple of dead squirrels that he had shot in the other.”53 On
the face of it this story with all of its elaborate details raises questions:
Why such a short honeymoon? If the couple was already in the Blue
Ridge Mountains why would their honeymoon not last for several days
or even weeks? How would Faulkner have been able to coordinate with
the newlyweds, so that he could plan to kill several small animals and
then meet them upon their arrival? Where were Edgar’s parents while
Faulkner was sitting on the gallery? McCarroll Place was their home,
so where were they while Faulkner was waiting with his beer and dead
game? As it happens, upon investigation the story appears questionable.
In August the bride-to-be Ruth Bitzer (1895–1992) was vacationing
with her family and friends at the Bitzers’s cottage, “Heart’s Desire,” at
Montreat when she and Edgar decided to marry. The newspaper refers
to their marriage as a “surprise wedding,” occurring not on August 4,
as EWF3 claimed, but on August 22. After the wedding the couple de-
parted for the Vanderbilt Hotel in Asheville to spend their honeymoon
and were to return “early in September” but the specic date apparently
was not known.54 By September 5, the couple had not returned, but it
was reported that they would arrive sometime “this week.”55 In other
51 Wolff, Ledgers, 67.
52 Blotner, Faulkner: A Biography, 941–69; Michel Gresset, A Faulkner Chronology
(Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985), 47–49. Thanks to Marcus Gray for
pointing out this contradiction.
53 Wolff, Ledgers, 84–85.
54 “Francisco-Bitzer Surprise Marriage,” South Reporter, August 29, 1929.
55 “In Holly Springs and Its Vicinity Social-Personal,” South Reporter, September 5, 1929.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 324 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
words, seemingly no one in Holly Springs knew their planned arrival
date. While Faulkner’s exact whereabouts cannot be established for
early September, it seems very unlikely that he—not living in Holly
Springs—would have known their planned arrival date. With so many
questionable details, including wrong dates, the story begins to appear
to be more of a confabulation than the truth. In this example and the
one preceding, Francisco’s stories demonstrate a tendency to fall apart
under close examination.
Another example of this tendency is the story of the building of the
family home McCarroll Place. The story recurs throughout his testimony
and concerns the building of the home by John R. McCarroll in 1833, a
narrative purportedly based upon a story that Edgar often told in the
1930s.56 The importance of this story is that there is adequate material
to demonstrate that the events never occurred. Furthermore, it can
also be demonstrated that Edgar Francisco probably never even told a
story like this.
I will rst examine the standard historical narrative of McCarroll
Place that has appeared in newspapers and pilgrimage brochures for
decades since the 1930s. Presumably these accounts would reect the
story that Edgar had told. The earliest known version of this story ap-
peared in 1932 in a brief, unsigned article in the newspaper the South
Reporter. The pertinent part reads:
The old John R. McCarroll residence … probably holds the
record, in this city, ninety-two years, for the continuous resi-
dence of one family.
John R. McCarroll I., bought the lot in 1840 from “Byrd Hill
and wife, Louise A. Hill,” one acre, more or less for $500. From
the price it is presumed that Mr. McCarroll built the house.
[i.e. the writer is assuming that there was no house on the
property in 1840] …57
The following week’s issue (“Shower for Mrs. Francisco, Jr.,” September 12, 1929) tells
that a shower was held for the bride on Tuesday, September 10, indicating that the couple
returned between September 5 and 10. Ruth was the daughter of George Leese Bitzer
(1860–1934) and his rst wife Eliza “Lila” Alvis Penick Bitzer (1866–1899). Bitzer served
as pastor of the Holly Springs Presbyterian Church from 1926 until his death in 1934.
56 Wolff, Ledgers, 175–76.
57 “Family in Same Residence for Ninety-two Years,” South Reporter, December 15,
1932. The story was possibly written by Ruth Francisco, judging by the fact that only a
few years later a lengthier version entitled “The McCarroll Place” appeared under her
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 325 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
The central event of the standard narrative was the 1840 purchase
of the property by McCarroll from Byrd and Louisa Hill (the latter was
the sister of McCarroll’s wife Elizabeth), which effectively dated the
beginning of the McCarroll family’s residence. The 1840 date became a
standard feature of the basic narrative that began to appear and reap-
pear for years after, usually in promotional material associated with
the Holly Springs Pilgrimage but also in other sources.58
Despite the importance of the 1840 date to the McCarroll Place
story, it is doubtful. The deed for the family’s purchase of McCarroll
Place was never recorded. Nevertheless, the data for the purchase ap-
pear to have come directly from a deed as suggested by the nature of
the information and the legal phraseology employed: the names of the
grantors, “Byrd Hill and wife, Louise A. Hill” (listed in quotes), year of
sale, purchase price, and size of parcel “one acre, more or less.” Although
this information appears to come from a deed, it was not from the right
deed. On November 10, 1840, J.R. McCarroll purchased from Byrd and
Louisa Hill, a one-acre lot for $500.59 The primary data of this deed (i.e.
name in the WPA Source Material for Marshall County, Mississippi, pages 101–3. She
had an interest in the old homes of Holly Springs and was a founder of the Holly Springs
Pilgrimage in 1936. Robert Milton Winter, Shadow of a Mighty Rock: A Social and Cultural
History of Presbyterianism in Marshall County, Mississippi (Franklin, TN: Providence
House Publishers, 1997), 389.
58 As noted, in the mid-1930s, Ruth Francisco wrote an article entitled “The McCarroll
Place,” a passage from which reads: “The McCarroll Place was built before Holly Springs
took out her charter [May 12, 1837], by a cousin of the rst John R. McCarroll, named
Byrd Hill [the two were actually brothers-in-law having married sisters]. Bought in 1840
by John R. McCarroll, sheriff of Marshall County for thirty-two consecutive years, it is
the only residence in the city owned and occupied continuously by ve generations of one
family ....” WPA source material for Marshall County, Mississippi, 1938, 101.
This text continues the notion that the property was purchased from Byrd Hill (1800–
1872) in 1840. While the 1932 version extrapolated that the house was built in or after
1840, in this version it was extrapolated that the house was built by Hill prior to 1837,
which is extremely unlikely considering that there is no evidence—as will be seen—that
Hill ever owned the land. The theme that the family’s ownership and occupancy of the
site began in 1840 would continue for decades in pilgrimage promotional literature as
evidenced by a blurb from 1974 which reads in part, “Six generations have occupied the
home since 1840: John R. McCarroll, sheriff of Marshall County for 32 years, being the
rst …. ” See also the collection of newspaper articles and brochures pertaining to the
Holly Springs Pilgrimage ranging from 1936 through the 1970s. “Holly Springs Pilgrim-
age” le, Special Collections, Mississippi State University; also repeating the 1840 date
was Helen Kerr Kempe, The Pelican Guide to Old Homes of Mississippi, vol. 2, Columbus
and the North, 2nd ed. (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1984), 91.
59 Marshall County Deed Book H, page 565.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 326 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
grantor and grantee, date, price, and size of parcel) correspond exactly
to the transaction mentioned in the 1932 sketch. However, the parcel
sold was Lot 302, not Lot 363, which is McCarroll Place’s designation
on the Holly Springs plat. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Byrd
Hill ever owned Lot 363.60
It is apparent that the story of Hill selling the McCarroll Place
property to McCarroll in 1840 is the product of an error that probably
arose from someone searching for the deed for McCarroll’s acquisition
of the property and mistaking the deed for the 1840 sale of Lot 302 for
the desired deed, and subsequently incorporating the wrong information
into the historical sketch. Consequently the standard narrative that ap-
peared decade after decade was both spare and based on a fundamental
error. By contrast Francisco’s narrative was elaborate and pushed the
origins of the house back to 1833, well before the founding of Holly
Springs and well before the dates that had previously been used. His
story is essentially as follows:
Between 1820 and 1830 John R. McCarroll came to the Chickasaw
territory where he “met several Loves, members of a prominent Chicka-
saw family. One named Sam Love offered to help him build his log house”
at “Sam’s favorite spring” which was on the south side of what became
McCarroll Place.61 Sam was described in some detail:
At rst it appeared that the help would be limited to Love’s
companionship as he sat under a shade tree. In time, McCar-
roll came to realize that the help was in approval or blessing,
and in what Sam taught him about the Chickasaws. Sam was
bafed by the white man’s belief that Chickasaw treaties ceded
ownership. Since the Chickasaw did not own the land, what
they ceded was use and responsibility. He would point to the
spring and note the water bubbling up, owing a distance,
and disappearing into the sand. He would say that the spirit
60 As late as December 1839, Lot 363 and the adjacent Lot 362, land that constituted
the bulk of what became the McCarroll Place property, were sold by Claiborne Kyle and
Beverly G. Mitchell to Jesse Lewellen and James C. Alderson for $360. Kyle and Mitchell
were owners of considerable Holly Springs real estate acquired from John B. and Delilah
Love Moore. Delilah had received the entire section on which Holly Springs was located
as part of her land allotment from the federal government, she being a member of the
Chickasaw tribe. See Marshall County Deed Book G, pages 477–78; Deed Book N, pages
692–96. This evidence provides a complete title for the lot from its original grant as an
Indian allotment through its sale in December 1839. McCarroll presumably acquired Lot
363 at an unknown date after this period, although as noted, the deed was not recorded.
61 Wolff, Ledgers, 13, 66, 175, cf. 80, 125, 130, 169.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 327 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
lifts up the water and then turns it loose. So it is foolish for
us to imagine we own that which belongs to the spirit. Sam
said that if man attempts to control the waters, the waters
will control man.62
In 1834 upon the birth of his daughter Mary a fourth room was added
to the house,63 and in 1836 McCarroll rolled the house northwards uphill
about 200 yards to its current site on Van Dorn Avenue and built two
rooms onto the northern side of the house.64 The lot on which it was
placed had been purchased by Byrd Hill in 1836 immediately after the
survey of the Holly Springs plat. In 1840 McCarroll purchased the lot
from Hill.65
This at any rate was the way that EWF3 told the story of the build-
ing of McCarroll Place, a story that can be questioned for a number of
reasons. First, the elaborateness of the account raises questions that are
further exacerbated by the lack of documentation. Even with relatively
good documentation, dating the construction and modication of historic
houses is usually problematic and generally provides only estimated
dates. Yet Francisco dates every phase of the house’s construction with
great specicity and without one shred of evidence other than to claim
that the story came from his father. Furthermore, much of the account
does not seem realistic. For example, building a house in a low area near
a spring is contrary to my observation that houses tended to be built
on high, well-drained areas that were as open to breezes as possible.
Furthermore moving the house uphill would have entailed a tremendous
cost and effort during a period when the settlers had little time for such
matters as they were establishing themselves in a new territory.
Another unrealistic element is the story of Sam Love, who is char-
acterized as being in tune with the environment and ready to offer his
nature-wisdom to John McCarroll. While EWF3 was correct in saying
that there were several Loves in the area who constituted a “prominent
Chickasaw family,” they were not traditional Chickasaws so to speak; the
Loves were members of a prominent mixed-blood family, the children and
grandchildren of Thomas Love (ca. 1745–1832). They along with other
mixed-bloods had come to dominate the tribe politically and economi-
62 Ibid., 175–76.
63 Ibid., 124, 169.
64 Ibid., 66, 125, 130, 175.
65 Ibid., 124–25.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 328 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
cally. While Francisco’s Sam Love could not understand the concept of
land ownership, in reality the Loves thoroughly understood the concept
of land ownership and the value of money. Among the Loves in Marshall
County during the 1830s and early 1840s were Benjamin, Henry, and
Isaac Love, who owned hundreds of acres and numerous slaves. Their
sister, Delilah Love Moore, wife of John B. Moore, acquired 2,250 acres
of land from the 1832 Treaty of Pontotoc Creek that included Section
6 Township 4 Range 2 East, on which the town of Holly Springs was
founded in 1836. Finally, Sam Love was born on August 3, 1823, making
him only ten years old when he purportedly assisted in building McCar-
roll Place. His age alone would call his role in this tale into question.66
There is no reason to believe John McCarroll ever lived in Holly
Springs prior to about 1837. Indications are that he and his brother
James A. McCarroll moved from North Carolina to Madison County,
Tennessee, in the 1820s, and there John resided until moving to Mar-
shall County around 1837, when his name rst appeared in the county
tax rolls.67
66 Hubert H. McAlexander, “The Saga of a Mixed-Blood Chickasaw Dynasty,” Journal
of Mississippi History 49 (1987): 288–89; Marshall County Tax Rolls 1836–1843, accessed
November 19, 2013, Samuel Love
(August 3, 1823–September 10, 1893, buried near Mead, Bryan County, Oklahoma) was a
son of Thomas Love and his second wife, Homahota. Marie King Garland, The Chickasaw
Loves and Allied Families (Ardmore, OK: Ardmore Photocopy Co., 1970), 169–70.
There is a similarity between Sam Love and Faulkner’s character Sam Fathers, whose
father was a Chickasaw chief and whose mother was a black slave. Sam Fathers was
depicted as a wise older man who spurned civilization to live at Major de Spain’s hunting
camp. In Go Down, Moses he taught the young Ike McCaslin the ways of nature, learning
to live with nature and not trying to dominate it. This story sounds very similar to Sam
Love teaching the not-quite-so-young John McCarroll the way of nature. They also have
the same rst name. One suspects that as discussed elsewhere herewith that Francisco
incorporated Faulkner’s motifs into his narrative to provide further evidence of how his
family inuenced the writer’s development. William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (New
York: Random House, 1942), 163–331.
67 John Ramsey McCarroll was born ca. 1803 in North Carolina, probably in Chatham
County, the son of Thomas McCarroll and Sarah “Sallie” Ramsey McCarroll. See unsigned,
undated typescript, “John, Matthew & Ambrose Ramsey,” accessed November 19, 2013,
After the Jackson Purchase cession of western Kentucky and Tennessee in 1818, John
and James moved to Madison County, Tennessee, in the 1820s. James A. McCarroll’s
name appears as early as December 1823, with subsequent references in 1825. Madison
County Clerk’s Ofce Minute Book 1, pages 252, 515–518. Copy on microlm in the
Tennessee Room, Jackson-Madison County Library, Jackson, Tennessee. John R. Mc-
Carroll’s name is listed on several occasions in Madison County. On November 6, 1826,
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 329 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
It is also claimed that McCarroll built the house’s rst addition in
1834 when his daughter Mary was born, yet the censuses indicate that
she was born in Tennessee and not Mississippi, further indicating Mc-
Carroll and family were not in Mississippi at the time.68
While the earliest parts of the story were apparently fabricated from
new material, the latter part assimilates the spurious 1840 purchase of
McCarroll Place as if to link the tale into the standard narrative of the
house’s history. In the context of Francisco’s narrative, the purchase
he was appointed as the administrator of an estate; on June 17, 1830, he was married to
Elizabeth C. Eddins at the same ceremony in which Byrd Hill married Elizabeth’s sister
Louisa Eddins; and on November 7, 1831, John was appointed as guardian of two Tyson
children. Jonathan K.T. Smith, A Genealogical Miscellany III. Madison County, Tennessee,
(1996), 6, 13, 24, accessed November 19, 2013,
misc/gmmc/gmmc3-10.htm#three; Jonathan K.T. Smith, A Genealogical Miscellany III.
Madison County, Tennessee, (1996), 6, 13, 24, accessed November 16, 2013, http://www.
On March 9, 1833, as secretary of Union Lodge #69, McCarroll published an announce-
ment in the Southern Statesman newspaper, Jackson, Tennessee, for a funeral service to
be held for a freemason, the Reverend Elijah Cross, who had married John and Elizabeth
McCarroll three years earlier. “Descendants of Elijah Cross—of Carroll and Hardeman
Counties in Tennessee,” accessed November 19, 2013,
SectionL.pdf. On July 27, 1833, the Southern Statesman published a list of letters remain-
ing in the post ofce in Covington, Tennessee, which included the name John McCarroll.
“Abstracts from the Southern Statesman, 1833,” accessed November 19, 2013, http://www. On September 14, 1833,
McCarroll purchased fty acres in Madison County, Tennessee, see Madison County Deed
Book 3, page 494. This purchase suggests that McCarroll was not considering moving
at the time. The rst tax roll of Marshall County, Mississippi, dates to 1836, but John
McCarroll’s name is not listed. The following year, though, his name does appear, and
it continues to appear in subsequent tax rolls and in the 1840 census. McCarroll’s rst
recorded land transaction in the county dates to July 17, 1838, when he purchased the
N ½ Section 21, Township 4, Range 2 West, 320 acres of rural property. This purchase
suggests that upon initially moving to Marshall County, McCarroll and his family may
well have lived outside Holly Springs prior to moving into town, see, Marshall County
Deed Book E, page 318.
I called Sally Wolff’s attention to the discrepancy between Francisco’s placing McCar-
roll in the Holly Springs area at a time when documentary evidence places him about a
hundred miles away in Madison County, Tennessee. She asked Francisco about this, and
he replied by modifying his story, claiming that McCarroll did indeed reside in Madison
County while traveling on hunting trips to Holly Springs. While not impossible, such
hunting trips for that time and place are in my experience unprecedented while bearing
the appearance of being awkwardly contrived to make believable a story that seems alto-
gether unbelievable. Email correspondence, Elliott to Wolff, July 12, 2013, Wolff presented
Francisco’s modied story to me in a telephone call on September 14, 2013.
68 According to the 1850 and 1860 US censuses for Marshall County, Mississippi, Mary
McCarroll was born in Tennessee.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 330 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
appears somewhat odd, stating as it does that McCarroll built his home
seven years before he purchased it. The primary signicance of the
1840 event is that it demonstrates Francisco’s anachronistic suturing
of a historical error that originated in 1932 into what he claims to be a
family story passed down by word of mouth from the 1830s.
If Edgar Francisco Jr. had told this story so often, why did it not
appear in the standard narrative that was used to promote McCar-
roll Place for the pilgrimage? Such histories usually try to festoon old
homes with as much antiquity and glamour as possible, often with little
documentation. Being able to claim that the house was built in 1833
by McCarroll and his Indian friend years before the founding of Holly
Springs would certainly have been more appealing than claiming that
McCarroll had simply purchased it in 1840. The absence from the stan-
dard narrative of Francisco’s elaborations suggest that his story was not
available when the narrative was composed. This issue also calls into
question Francisco’s chief “source,” the testimony of his father. If this
was questionable or even nonexistent, the younger Francisco’s testimony
is further called into question.
The analysis suggests there is little reason to believe Francisco’s
story about the origins of McCarroll Place. It appears to be a fabrication
in which a few facts, or what were believed to be facts (e.g. the 1840
purchase), provided a framework around which imaginary additions
were added, all of which were presented as a story received by oral
transmission through his father. The construction of the story seems to
exemplify a general process at work behind EWF3’s testimony in which
he builds elaborate stories around a few basic facts or dates. Further
evidence of this will emerge.
Ludie-in-the-Window and Other Stories
A recurring theme in Francisco’s narrative is that William Faulkner was
heavily inuenced by his visits to Holly Springs and McCarroll Place
and integrated much that he saw into his stories. As previously noted,
“his rst short stories were about McCarroll Place.”69 Here Francisco
was apparently referring to three short stories: “Ambuscade,” “Raid,”
69 Wolff, Ledgers, 77.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 331 12/9/2014 10:24:37 AM
and “Retreat,”70 which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 193471
and were later incorporated into the novel The Unvanquished that
was published in 1938. Two of the incidents from McCarroll Place that
were purportedly incorporated into Faulkner’s stories can be dealt with
fairly quickly. One was the story of EWF3 as a child having his mouth
washed out with soap for cursing.72 This story was purportedly the basis
of references to “get the soap,” to wash out the mouth of young Bayard
Sartoris. Based upon recollections from my childhood and youth, threats
to wash someone’s mouth out with soap were quite common, although I
never knew anyone who actually experienced it. The claim that Faulkner
was basing his writing on an incident that supposedly happened at Mc-
Carroll Place seems strange when the image was so commonplace. It is
somewhat like having a horse with spots and claiming that Faulkner
based his story “Spotted Horses” on it.
The other incident from McCarroll Place is a story about the family’s
silver, supposedly buried during the Civil War and perhaps recovered,
perhaps still buried.73 Stories of hidden gold, silver, and jewelry have
been ubiquitous in Mississippi and other areas where they spawned
efforts to nd buried treasure that probably never existed in the rst
place. Why would Faulkner need to copy the specic McCarroll Place
story when the image is so commonplace? As with the soap story, claim-
ing that Faulkner was dependent upon a particular experience in a
particular place for his possession of such widely diffused imagery is
less than compelling. To claim that these stories were “about McCarroll
Place,” meaning that the home played a central role in the story, is at
minimum hyperbolic.
A more elaborate and sustained claim for the Francisco family’s
inuence on Faulkner centers on the name “Ludie” etched into a win-
dowpane at McCarroll Place, the name being the nickname of a relative,
Mary Louisa Baugh.74 According to Francisco, the etching became the
basis for Faulkner’s creation of an image that was rst used in the short
story “Ambuscade.” The key text is short and reads “one day General
70 Ibid, 50, 70–74, 84.
71 Gresset, A Faulkner Chronology, 43.
72 Wolff, Ledgers, 69–74.
73 Ibid., 57, 73–74, 101–2, 138.
74 Mary Louisa Baugh (1845–1869) was the daughter of Richard D. Baugh (1814–1893)
and Emily Eddins Baugh (1820–1845). Two of Emily’s sisters married John R. McCarroll
and Byrd Hill.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 332 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
Forrest rode down South Street [now known as South Lamar Street] in
Oxford where there watched him through a windowpane a young girl
who scratched her name on it with a diamond ring: Celia Cook.”75
Prior to the appearance of Francisco’s claim, the origin of the name
etched in glass was fairly certain. While there is indeed a name etched
in glass at McCarroll Place,76 there is also one in Oxford that had long
been considered the model—and with good reason. This etching and its
background were described almost half a century ago by E.O. Hawkins
Jr. in a short, compelling article,77 in which he demonstrated the con-
nection between the Oxford etching and Faulkner’s image. The etch-
ing was apparently made by Jane Taylor Cook (1847–1882), who as a
teenager scratched her name into the window of her home on South
Lamar Street in Oxford during the Civil War. After the war Jane mar-
ried William Montgomery Forrest, son of Confederate General Nathan
Bedford Forrest.
The house on South Lamar burned in 1935. A fragment of the glass
pane with the name was salvaged and donated to the Mary Buie Museum
(now part of the University of Mississippi Museum), where a variant
of the story was incorporated into a label for the artifact. The relevant
portion reads:
When the 7th Tennessee [Cavalry] retreated through Oxford in
’63 [sic, actually December 1862] Jane Taylor Cook, who then
lived in this home, watched through this glass. She carved
her name with a diamond ring she wore, then went out in the
street and “cursed the men out” for running from the Yankees.
She later became the bride of General Forrest’s son, Captain
William Montgomery Forrest, who was with the 7th Tennessee
Troops when they came through Oxford, and saw Jane Taylor
Cook at that time, admiring her loyalty came back later to
75 William Faulkner, The Unvanquished (New York: Random House, 1938), 17.
76 The window pane has apparently been removed from McCarroll Place. There is a
similar pane on display in the Marshall County Museum that was interpreted as being the
original in the Holly Springs newspaper, South Reporter. Lois Swaney Shipp, “Museuming:
New Window Installed at Museum,” South Reporter, May 19, 2011, accessed November
25, 2013,
However, I was informed at the museum that the pane on display is one of two copies,
the other being located at McCarroll Place, while the original pane, presumably because
of its newfound notoriety, was placed in a vault at an undisclosed location.
77 E.O. Hawkins Jr., “Jane Cook and Cecilia Farmer,” Mississippi Quarterly 18 (1965):
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 333 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
claim her as his bride.78
Hawkins pointed out that some of the story’s details were inaccu-
rate—Forrest was not in command during the retreat through Oxford,
and his son W.M. Forrest apparently was not there either, although Jane
Cook did in fact later marry him—but the historicity of the details is not
of importance. Taken as a whole the story is clearly the prototype of the
sentence: both involve a young girl named Cook, both are set on South
Lamar in Oxford, both involve the passing of Confederate cavalry, and
both are connected to General Forrest.79
A discovery has recently been made that provides even greater cre-
dence to the story. Heretofore Jane Cook’s home has only been identi-
ed as being on South Lamar Street. However, an investigation into its
location has revealed that this was the same house that was occupied
by the Murry C. Falkner family (William Faulkner’s family) from 1906
through 1912. In other words, as a youth William Faulkner resided for
a half dozen years in the very house where the etching was located, and
he was exposed to it on a daily basis. This fact would make it almost
certain that he was aware of and adapted this image.80
78 Quoted in Hawkins, “Jane Cook and Cecelia Farmer,” 249–50. The sentence construc-
tion is rendered accurately.
79 The story of the name etched in glass evolved in two subsequent publications. The
second version appeared in Intruder in the Dust, where the young girl—this time un-
named—was the daughter of the jailer whose family resided in the jail—not in Oxford but
in Jefferson—where “scratched into one of the panes of the fanlight [actually “sidelight.”
Faulkner apparently had his terminology wrong.] beside the door was a young girl’s
single name, written by her own hand into the glass with a diamond … who stood at
that window that afternoon and watched the battered remnant of a Confederate brigade
retreat through the town, meeting suddenly across that space the eyes of the ragged
unshaven lieutenant who led one of the broken companies … she didn’t know his name
then, let alone that six months later he would be her husband.” See, William Faulkner,
Intruder in the Dust (New York: Random House, 1948), 50–51. Although the setting was
changed, there are still unmistakable elements borrowed from The Unvanquished and
from the Oxford lore: the young girl, her name etched in glass as she watched the retreat
of Confederate cavalry, one of whom would become her husband. The nal variation of
the story appears in its most lengthy form in “The Jail” section of Requiem for a Nun.
Here the young girl is again the daughter of the jailer—this time with a name, Cecelia
Farmer, reminiscent of Celia Cook. See William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (New York:
Random House, 1951), 229–62.
80 The identication of the house was based on the following evidence: the house was on
South Lamar and was occupied and presumably owned by the family of Jane Taylor Cook,
whose father was James M. Cook. In the early 1930s, the same house became the home of
Mr. and Mrs. Henry L. Tate Jr. as indicated by information in the Hawkins article. The
only real estate owned by James M. Cook that fronted on South Lamar was Lot 3, which
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 334 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
Jane Taylor Cook’s name etched in glass seems then to be without
question the prototype on which Faulkner based his three literary im-
ages. Yet EWF3 claims that Faulkner’s use of the name etched in glass
came not from the image in the very house where Faulkner had lived
but from McCarroll Place and the name Ludie. According to EWF3,
Faulkner “would say, ‘Edgar, tell me some more about Ludie.’ He was
referring to the windowpane with ‘Ludie’ on it. Dad was quite willing to
tell the story.”81 Faulkner was seemingly obsessed with the story: “He
would walk in and go straight to the window. Not even a nod or ‘hello.’
He would stare at the window and then through it and say, ‘Ludie is
still there’ … Then he sat down and talked about Ludie.”82
As related by Francisco the story provided the background to Ludie’s
etching in the usual quasi-omniscient discourse lled with an abundance
of questionable detail:
In 1860, at the age of sixteen, Ludie moved to Holly Springs to
live with her aunt Elizabeth and uncle John [McCarroll]. She
lived here from the beginning of the war until the war was over.
The town absolutely fell in love with her. She was frail but
beautiful. She was the daughter of the mayor of Memphis. She
was lovely and fragile. It was a heroine-type story....
he owned from 1857 through 1876. See, Lafayette County Deed Book H, page 673; Book
U, page 239. By the twentieth century, Lot 3 had been subdivided into a north half and a
south half, with the Cumberland Presbyterian manse on the south half. This house still
survives. In 1925–26 the north half came into the possession of W.W. East, whose daughter
Katie Belle had married Henry L. Tate Jr. See Lafayette County Deed Book 91, page 319;
Deed Book 97, page 35. Although the Tates never owned this parcel, they did reside there
as indicated by the 1930 census, which lists their street address as 603 South Lamar,
which is to say the north half of Lot 3. Having established that the Cook–Tate house was
on the northern half of Lot 3, I then noticed that the same home was owned by the M.C.
Falkners in 1906–12. See Lafayette County Deed Book XX, page 42; Deed Book 1, pages
295, 387. Also see Jane Isbell Haynes, William Faulkner: His Lafayette County Heritage
(Ripley, MS: Tippah County Historical and Genealogical Society,1992), 21–22; Williamson,
William Faulkner and Southern History, 152; the Falkners’ residence at this location was
mentioned by: John Faulkner, My Brother Bill, 35, 37–38, 85–87; Murry C. Falkner, The
Falkners of Mississippi: A Memoir, 31; John B. Cullen and Floyd C. Watkins, Old Times
in the Faulkner Country (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961), 3. The
house burned on January 13, 1935, while leaving enough of the structure intact for the
window to survive. Oxford Eagle, January 17, 1935. Following the re, a fragment of
the pane with the etched name was salvaged and eventually donated to the Mary Buie
Museum. Hawkins, “Jane Cook and Cecelia Farmer,” 249.
81 Wolff, Ledgers, 80.
82 Ibid., 132.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 335 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
During the war, the town changed control six times, I under-
stand … so it was probably before the rst Union occupation
that she etched her name, and I imagine it was soon after
she arrived. She was watching the troop movements. She was
standing in the sitting room looking east, out the open gallery
and watching the troops move back and forth on the road to
the depot. This road was later named Van Dorn Avenue for the
Confederate general. She inscribed her name on the window,
and the pane of glass is still there.
Ludie was out in the yard on occasion with Dad’s grandmother
when the troops went by, and the two women passed out little
pecan pies that they had made. They were counting groups
of soldiers going through, and they made marks on the house
with lumps of coal. The coal marks were there until the house
was painted.
Dad told me that his grandmother thought the Confederate
soldier Ludie married was one of the soldiers they had talked
with while handing out the pies. In any case, six months after
meeting a soldier in Holly Springs, Ludie married him, and
immediately after the war, they left.83
Here are all the elements—the young girl, the name etched in the
glass pane, the Confederate troops passing by, one of whom would later
become her husband. It appears that many of the details were invented
so that Ludie could serve as an alternate prototype for Faulkner’s name
etched in glass, when there is already a prototype that is virtually be-
yond dispute. Francisco described Faulkner’s transformation of Ludie
83 Ibid., 82. The level of detail suggests that much of the story was fabricated although
most of it cannot be falsied. However, EWF3 did make a statement about Ludie that can
be falsied, “In 1869, the town received word that she had died. No one knew where she
had gone, or where she was buried. No one could get in touch with anyone who knew.”
Ledgers, 83. While he claims that Ludie virtually vanished, this story is not true. An obitu-
ary indicates that she died in Memphis at the home of her father R.D. Booth at 7:15 p.m.
on January 11, 1869, and that her body was transferred to Holly Springs for burial. See
Memphis Daily Appeal, January 12, 1869. Furthermore on January 15 in Holly Springs,
someone with initials M.A.W. wrote a memorial for Ludie. See, “In Memoriam,” Memphis
Daily Appeal, January 24, 1869. There seems then to have been little mystery about her
death except that which was invented. In another passage Francisco used her supposed
disappearance for dramatic effect contrasting her absence with the continuing presence
of her name: “Ludie was gone, vanished, her whereabouts unknown, so only the etching
remained. She managed to leave that evidence of her having existed for Will Faulkner to
stare at seventy years later and say ‘She is still here.’” Wolff, Ledgers, 55.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 336 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
into the passage in The Unvanquished: “Ludie was called ‘Celia Cook.’
Will accurately described her as a young woman looking out at soldiers
marching. He changed what would be Van Dorn Avenue in Holly Springs
to South Street in Oxford, and he changed Van Dorn’s troops … to Gen-
eral Forrest.”84 He is thereby claiming that Faulkner changed the details
in the Ludie story so they almost exactly matched the details from the
Jane Cook story. The intent behind this is transparent.
He also tells us that “I think the story appeared in one of the same
short stories in the Saturday Evening Post, ‘Ambuscade’ …. Apparently
he had told Dad about this in 1934 and retold it to me when I was old
enough to remember.”85 In telling this story Francisco does not seem
to realize that while “Ambuscade” did appear in the Saturday Evening
Post in 1934, that version did not include the name etched in glass line
that would not appear until 1938 when the novel The Unvanquished was
published. It is impossible that Faulkner told Edgar Francisco about
the publication of a story motif that did not yet exist. If Francisco had
in fact remembered when the motif was rst published, he would have
recalled the 1938 publication of the novel. To claim that he recalled its
appearing years earlier when “Ambuscade” was published in the Satur-
day Evening Post is clearly an invention based on inadequate research
into the publishing history of the line in question.
Also Francisco claimed that Faulkner liked to see the name Ludie
in reverse:
He was fascinated by it. He would say to my father, “I always
see her name in reverse, Edgar” … Will would sit in the rock-
ing chair in the sunroom, but he was looking at the window
pane in reverse—from the outside, looking in. He talked about
how the etching represented changelessness and eternity and
There is a clear connection between this description and a passage
from Intruder in the Dust where Faulkner wrote: “he would go up
onto the gallery to look at it [the name-etched glass], it cryptic now in
84 Wolff, Ledgers, 84.
85 Ibid., 84. Also, William Faulkner, “Ambuscade,” rst appeared in the Saturday Eve-
ning Post (September 29, 1934), 12–13, 80, 81; this version of the story was different than
the version that appeared in the 1938 novel The Unvanquished. The original version was
reprinted in Joseph Blotner, ed., Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner, (New York:
Random House, 1979), 3–16, cf. 681–82.
86 Wolff, Ledgers, 82, cf. 133.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 337 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
reverse, not for a sense of the past but to realise again the eternality,
the deathlessness and changelessness of youth.”87 Both describe view-
ing the etching in “reverse” and ascribe to it a sense of “eternity” and
“changelessness.” Francisco seemingly intended to convey the idea that
Faulkner’s experience and thoughts at McCarroll Place in the 1930s were
resurrected a decade later in a single line from Intruder in the Dust.
This was accomplished through taking Faulkner’s words from 1948 and
incorporating them into a “memory” from the 1930s.
Similarly, we recall the description of Ludie: “She was frail but
beautiful … lovely and fragile.”88 In Requiem for a Nun the girl who
etched her name in the window is described as “frail” and “fragile.”89
In another example of probable borrowing, there is the statement that
“Will would say: ‘Edgar, I feel as if she is standing in the middle of the
room. Edgar, she’s right here. The past doesn’t die, Edgar. It’s right
here. Ludie is right here.’”90 Compare this with Faulkner’s famous line:
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”91 The similarities between
Francisco’s testimony and Faulkner’s wording suggest either that the
former recalled Faulkner’s exact words from the 1930s, words that he
would not even use for years, or that he did background reading on the
name-etched glass image, picked up on Faulkner’s phraseology, and in-
corporated it into his “reminiscences.” The latter seems more plausible,
especially given Francisco’s tendency to anachronistically incorporate
later material into memories of earlier times.
There is another question. Faulkner was known to have given au-
tographed copies of his books to friends. If Edgar Francisco was such
a close friend, and if Faulkner’s experience at McCarroll Place was so
seminal in terms of developing ideas for his work, why would there not
be copies of autographed books in the Franciscos’ possession? Yet along
with the other lack of corroboration, there are apparently no autographed
volumes; at least none have been brought forward as evidence of a
Faulkner–Francisco connection.
As demonstrated in the previous section on the building of the Mc-
Carroll house, there is a denite tendency for EWF3 to tell stories that
87 Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust, 50.
88 Wolff, Ledgers, 82.
89 Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun, 229, 232, 236, 257.
90 Wolff, Ledgers, 83.
91 Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun, 92.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 338 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
draw in part on a few facts—or what are perceived as facts—that are
then substantially embellished with imaginative constructions. In this
section we see a similar pattern of story construction but with an added
emphasis on demonstrating a connection between Faulkner and Mc-
Carroll Place. In this regard elements such as the Ludie window, the
McCarroll-buried silver, and the soap incident are used as the focus for
stories about Faulkner’s translating his experience at McCarroll Place
into incidents in his Yoknapatawpha ction. While the stories are overall
not convincing they also exhibit contradictions that further undercut
their credibility. In regard to the Ludie window, Francisco appears to
have engaged in background reading in the works that pertain to the
girl-in-the-window motif and incorporating Faulkner’s words retroac-
tively into memories from the 1930s.
A Tale Told with Fear and Anguish
Throughout the Francisco transcripts one question keeps nagging: if
there had been such a long friendship between Faulkner and Edgar
Francisco Jr., why was it virtually unknown until a few years ago? The
growing fascination with one of the most renowned authors of modern
times would have certainly been an incentive for someone to at least talk
about this. Yet to my knowledge no one ever spoke of it prior to Francisco.
In his testimony Francisco seems to be obsessed with providing expla-
nations for why no one seems to recall the Faulkner connection. These
explanations often appear contrived and even bizarre. The purported
ignorance about Faulkner’s visits is in part explained by the claim that
hardly anyone in Holly Springs knew him.92 This seems difcult to
believe given the decades of visits to a small town where a continuing
presence is not likely to go unnoticed. Furthermore, while Faulkner’s
visits to Holly Springs are central, nothing is said about Edgar Francisco
visiting Oxford. If the two men were so close would Edgar have not re-
ciprocated with visits to Faulkner? Was there an underlying rationale
for not having Edgar visit Oxford? Silence on this matter would certainly
reduce the need to tell stories about Oxford and the need to explain why
no one in Oxford remembered Edgar Francisco.
Beyond these issues, there is also the need to explain why members
92 Wolff, Ledgers, 90.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 339 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
of the Francisco family themselves had never spoken of this friendship
before EWF3 broke the silence in 2008. The explanations for the silence
are couched in terms of angst and outrage associated with Faulkner,
and how these feelings effectively mufed the family so that despite
Faulkner’s growing celebrity they would not or could not bring them-
selves to speak of their old friend.
For example, Ruth Francisco, who lived until 1992, apparently never
spoke of the Faulkner connection. According to EWF3 his mother de-
tested the writer because of his cursing and beer drinking. “There was
great animosity between Mother and Will.”93 Faulkner’s visits to the
Francisco home were times of tension between Ruth and the writer:
“Probably every time that he came over, she became agitated about it
and upset and was unhappy about it. So eventually they [Faulkner and
Edgar] just stopped seeing each other.”94 In later years “She asked Dad
never to tell that Faulkner came to our house. She said, ‘That goes for
you, too, Eddie [EWF3],’ … she never would—she just never would say
that she knew him. Mother never admitted that she knew him. That is
so sad.”95 So the decades of silence were attributed to the pent-up rage
of his mother.
The silence on the part of EWF3 is also attributed to trauma or an-
guish associated with Faulkner’s visits and the ledgers from which he
noted the writer frequently reading and taking notes. However, rather
than a dispassionate reading, Faulkner would purportedly “curse and
yell at the diarist … scribbling with fury all the while.”96 He was “agi-
tated and angry, and talked to the writer of the diary … talked angrily
to him. He was in conversation with Leak.”97 The claim that Faulkner
would “curse and yell” at Leak was ostensibly because of references to
slavery; Leak was a slave owner.98 However, the claims of emotional
outbursts do not seem realistic from someone investigating a historical
document. They appear more like histrionics in a bad melodrama. To
read the Leak diaries is to read the dispassionate day-to-day business
operation of a progressive planter who was certainly no Simon Legree.
There is nothing sensationalistic in them, so it is difcult to imagine
93 Ibid., 73, cf. 12, 89–90, 93.
94 Ibid., 90.
95 Ibid., 117.
96 Ibid., 106.
97 Ibid., 142.
98 Ibid., 99.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 340 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
anyone reacting in the manner described by Francisco—especially after
more than a decade of constantly poring over the ledgers.
Regardless, Faulkner’s purported reactions were the beginning of
Francisco’s trauma that was seemingly triggered by the writer’s strange
reaction to the ledgers, a trauma that drove Francisco into silence over
the whole affair for decades. As he told the writer for the New York
Times, “There were long-repressed things that Faulkner uncovered
that I didn’t know were in the family …. I just bottled all that up and
forgot about it.”99
In the transcripts he discusses this response in more detail:
I had watched Faulkner for two years as he got very angry
reading some old farm journals and cursing the writer. I had
come to dislike the diarist as much as Faulkner did. I had only
the vaguest idea of what was upsetting my fascinating friend,
but I was ready to punch out the diarist. Then suddenly I real-
ized that this man I had learned to hate was family, not past
history, but my family now …. I thought that Faulkner, the
most fascinating man I knew, had learned something so bad
that he probably would never speak to me again. I ed to my
room and would not come out ….
I vowed never to touch those old diaries and never to talk about
or think about any of that again. My nine-year-old self could not
cope with the overwhelming sense of loss, the loss of approval
from this person so important to me. The problem was not what
made Faulkner angry, an issue about which I had only the
vaguest understanding at age nine, but as an adult assumed
that was the problem. But it was the fear of abandonment by
this person so important to me that I bottled up and totally
repressed it for seventy years. When memory of the vow and
the anguish of the fear I felt so long nally popped back into
conscious memory, I was astonished that the anguish I felt
was just as fresh and overwhelming as when that feeling of
abandonment was bottled up and hidden away ….100
These passages are lled with “anguish” and “fear of abandonment.”
Francisco also spoke of “anxiety attacks,” of an “angry confrontation
with Leak,” and of “the trauma it has caused me and the difculty I
have talking about it.”101 He extends these claims to include his reading
99 EWF3, quoted in Cohen, “Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered.”
100 Wolff, Ledgers, 177–78.
101 Ibid., 178.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 341 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
Faulkner’s works, specically Go Down, Moses, stating that “I tried to
read that book years ago, but I got so angry I threw it across the room,
and it stayed there for months.”102 The level of emotional torment is
suggestive of someone who has endured a childhood horror of great
magnitude. It is difcult to believe that such a reaction could result from
listening to someone ranting about a nineteenth-century text, a rant that
is unbelievable in itself. This idea seems as incredible as the story of his
mother refusing to mention Faulkner’s name decades after his death.
Both are explanations for why the Franciscos had never mentioned their
relationship to Faulkner, both are lled with a sense of angst, and both
appear to be fabrications probably designed, however awkwardly, to
explain why the Faulkner revelation was so late in surfacing.
Regarding his mother’s silence on the matter of Faulkner, Francisco
makes a further claim:
Apparently people came around after Will died. They came
to Holly Springs and said that they heard that Will had been
there. They wanted to look at the etching of Ludie and asked
whether Mother knew if Ludie was Will’s inspiration for
several etchings on windows. Mother was perfectly happy to
show them the etching and tell them the story of Ludie, but
when it came to “Did Faulkner use it?” she had no idea, she
would say—she didn’t know. So she never would—she just
never would say that she knew him. Mother never admitted
that she knew him.103
The implication is that there were several people who had not only
heard of Faulkner’s association with McCarroll Place but who were
making a connection between the Ludie window and Faulkner’s use of
the name etched in glass. This appears to reect in part a story that was
told as part of the pilgrimage tour of McCarroll Place that suggested that
Faulkner had seen and been inuenced by the etching. In this regard
Oxford attorney and Holly Springs native Frank Hurdle recalled that
during the early to mid 1970s when he served as a tour guide at McCar-
roll Place, “The glass etched with Ludie Baugh’s name was pointed out
to us and it was stated then that Faulkner was a friend of the Franciscos
and that he later incorporated the etched glass detail into one or more
literary works.”104 Stories associated with house tours are notoriously
102 EWF3, quoted in Cohen, “Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered.”
103 Wolff, Ledgers, 117.
104 Frank Hurdle, “Hurdle on Faulkner: The Holly Springs Connection,” Hotty Toddy,
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 342 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
unreliable, being usually based as much on speculation and hearsay as
fact. The story in question likely began as a speculation about a connec-
tion between Faulkner and the Ludie etching, although we have seen
that such etchings were fairly common during the nineteenth century
and that there had been one in Faulkner’s childhood home.105 With time
the speculation developed into a story to be told during pilgrimage that
would bring notoriety to McCarroll Place.
The story was investigated by Jane Isbell Haynes,106 who visited
McCarroll Place on March 12, 1985, after being invited by Ruth Fran-
cisco’s niece, Sarah Doxey Tate (later Sarah Doxey Greer, 1933–2013) to
see the Ludie window. Haynes interviewed Ruth Francisco along with
Ruth’s sister, Mary Bitzer Doxey (1906–2002), and Mary’s daughter,
Sarah. If there had been a Faulkner connection, these women would
have known about it. However, none had any knowledge of his having
actually been there, let alone having been a regular visitor. In the end
Haynes produced an article which presented evidence that Faulkner
had been to Holly Springs—not surprising given its proximity to Ox-
ford—but found no evidence that he had ever been to McCarroll Place.
In lieu of such evidence she suggested that he had perhaps seen the
Ludie window while touring McCarroll Place during the Holly Springs
Pilgrimage when he “had ample opportunity to see this window and to
hear the oft-told story of Ludie.”107 Of course as we have already seen,
the hypothesis that Faulkner used the Ludie etching is superuous
April 28, 2014, accessed May 8, 2014,
105 I recall here the aforementioned Jane Taylor Cook etching. Furthermore there is also
a fragment of windowpane with the etching of the name Jennie Garland in the University
of Mississippi Museums, a photograph of which appears in George G. Stewart, Yoknapa-
tawpha: Images and Voices (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2009), 39.
On the same page Stewart remarks that “The existence of three known examples from
in and near Lafayette County suggests that this practice may have been a fashion for
young, engaged women, particularly during the Civil War era.” In an endnote on page 89
the three are identied as Jane Cook, Jennie Garland, and Ludie Baugh.
106 Haynes would eventually publish two books that related Faulkner to his background
in Ripley and Oxford: William Faulkner: His Tippah County Heritage: Lands, Houses, and
Businesses, Ripley, Mississippi (Columbia SC: The Seajay Press, 1985) and the previously
cited William Faulkner: His Lafayette County Heritage: Lands, Houses, and Businesses.
107 Jane Isbell Haynes, “Another Source for Faulkner’s Inscribed Window Panes,” Mis-
sissippi Quarterly 39 (1986), 365-367. Francisco states that he was shown this article
some years ago. Wolff, Ledgers, 118. Email corresponsdence, Jane Isbell Haynes to Jack
Elliott, March 15, 2012.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 343 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
given the facts associated with the Jane Taylor Cook window in Oxford.
Regarding Mrs. Francisco’s purported hatred of Faulkner, it is dif-
cult to believe that a sane person could harbor such rancor that she
would not acknowledge having known him over two decades after his
death, decades during which any resentment would have probably
faded, likely hastened by an appreciation of Faulkner’s international
renown. Second, if she did maintain a pathological hatred of Faulkner,
it would seemingly have been difcult to maintain her composure dur-
ing a meeting where the discussion must have centered on the object of
her scorn. It also seems improbable that she would have countenanced
the Faulkner story’s being told during tours of her own home. Third,
as noted, Mrs. Francisco was not the only person in attendance at the
meeting; there were also her niece and her sister, neither of whom knew
about Faulkner’s having been at McCarroll Place. Did they also bear a
pathological hatred for him? If Mrs. Francisco was in fact suppressing a
hatred for Faulkner, perhaps her sister and niece might have humored
her by not saying anything that might upset her. But if this was the
case I think that Doxey and Tate would have had the courtesy to pull
Haynes aside and explain the situation to her, that is that we cannot
openly talk about this in front of Ruth, but yes, Faulkner did come here
often. It especially seems strange for Tate to inform Haynes of the etch-
ing, effectively set up her visit, and yet say nothing about a connection
with William Faulkner if in fact there had been one.
Finally there are the observations of Hubert McAlexander, which are
of considerable importance considering his unique background relating
to Holly Springs and Faulkner. This background provides weight to his
grave doubts about the veracity of the Francisco testimony: “When the
book [Ledgers] was published, I was contacted by friends, many of whom
thought the study was a hoax based on their own intelligent readings
of the book. Everything I knew from having grown up in Holly Springs
added to that conclusion.”108 Regarding Francisco’s claim that his father
had regularly hunted with Faulkner,109 McAlexander writes:
I knew Edgar Wiggin Francisco, Jr. … He was a short, small,
and very gentle man. When I asked the son of Janis Tyler
Calame to inquire of her whether Mr. Francisco had ever been
a hunter, she replied, ‘No. Far from it.’ Born in the nineteen
108 Email correspondence, Hubert H. McAlexander to Jack Elliott, March 18, 2014.
109 Wolff, Ledgers, 10, 68-69, 77-79.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 344 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
teens and still very alert, she is the niece of Harvey McCroskey,
a contemporary and lifelong friend of Mr. Francisco. Her state-
ment supported my impression of the man. Neither did I ever
hear that he was a friend of the writer William Faulkner.110
Furthermore, he goes so far as to say: “Finally someone has shown
that the emperor is wearing no clothes. So it appears that the whole story
now in wide circulation through radio, national newspapers, scholarly
presses and journals is a complete hoax. Those in the Faulkner literary
establishment who supported and applauded this fraud owe the public an
apology.” 111 Regarding other Holly Springs natives, I have never found
anyone who claims to have heard of the Francisco–Faulkner relationship
prior to EWF3’s disclosures.112 If the Franciscos were so traumatized
that they wanted to bury, silence, and obscure any linkage to Faulkner,
it appears that they did a good job; there is no evidence to be found.
Yoknapatawpha Apocalypse … or Apocrypha?
The Francisco testimony leads the reader into a world that initially
appears as a mosaic of randomly recalled events that coalesce into a
seemingly forgotten and formative portion of Faulkner’s life. This is
the dream-like world of McCarroll Place where the writer frequently
dropped by with his beer—and possibly a couple of dead squirrels to
110 Email correspondence, Hubert H. McAlexander to Jack Elliott, March 18, 2014.
111 Ibid.
112 Milton Winter is a historian and pastor at Holly Springs Presbyterian Church and
a former resident of McCarroll Place; he knows nothing about a Francisco–Faulkner con-
nection. Email correspondence, Milton Winter to Jack Elliott, July 8, 2013. While Henry
Fort Gholson (1920–1989) was a friend and hunting companion of Faulkner, his children
Bea Gholson Greene and Harris Gholson II know nothing about the Francisco connection.
Frank Hurdle records Greene saying that “she remembers her father hunting a number
of times with Faulkner and her parents getting together with the Faulkners for dinner.
They rst met in the mid- to late-1950s while Faulkner’s nephew, Jimmy Faulkner, was
building their house. She knew absolutely nothing of the Francisco friendship.” Hurdle,
“Hurdle on Faulkner: The Holly Springs Connection.” Hurdle also presents the observa-
tions of an anonymous source: “It would amaze me if Edgar and Faulkner were friends. He
was just not the type that you would expect to hang out with a bohemian like Faulkner.
He was a meek, mild little man; and Miss Ruth, she’s not the type that I would expect to
allow any carrying-ons in that house.” Quoted in Hurdle, “Hurdle on Faulkner: The Holly
Springs Connection.” Chelius Carter, current director of the Marshall County Historical
Museum, was also unable to nd anyone who knew of the Francisco–Faulkner connection.
Email correspondence, Chelius Carter to Jack Elliott, November 25, 2013.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 345 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
cook—to listen attentively as Edgar Francisco tells and retells the same
stories. There Faulkner would nd the characters and incidents that he
would copy in minute detail into his work. After listening to the usual
round of stories, he goes to the ledgers and continues adding to his al-
ready voluminous notes, impressive compilations of trivia that would
be translated into literary masterpieces. The note-taking abruptly ends
when he ies into a rage, cursing an unseen presence. Ruth Francisco
looks on in seething disapproval, offended not so much by the bizarre
outburst as by the cold beer sitting insolently in open view; she resolves
that in future years Faulkner’s name would never be mentioned in her
home—no matter how famous he might become. Shaken as though by
a nightmare, the small boy runs to his bedroom locking the door behind
him and vowing that he will never come out. He eventually suppresses
the memory of the event and of the literary genius who found his in-
spiration there; with the passage of time all was forgotten … almost.
To a large degree the surreal atmosphere derives from the feeling
that one has entered a parallel universe where some things seem fa-
miliar yet little meshes with the world that we know. Faulkner may
appear, yet he is shorn of his personal connections to Oxford. On the
other hand, Edgar never ventures into Faulkner’s world at Oxford so no
one recalls him and his friendship with the author, nor do they recall
the formative role that McCarroll Place had in the development of the
writer’s ction. Faulkner and Edgar inhabit a world to themselves, as
the younger Francisco recalled, like “the last two surviving members
of a secret order.”113 But after lying hidden for decades, the boy who
had willfully forgotten, now a man, had recovered and revealed the
dream world in its apocalyptic portent, a portent aptly summarized by
Lois Swaney Shipp, then director of the Marshall County Historical
Museum when she proclaimed not without amazement that “Faulkner’s
great imagination began with our local happenings”114 and that “most
of … [his] stories came from Edgar Francisco’s grandpa’s ledgers and
diaries. So maybe Holly Springs was Faulkner’s ‘Yoknapatawpha,’ not
anywhere else.”115
113 Wolff, Ledgers, 176.
114 Lois Swaney Shipp, “Museuming: Visit Eddie Francisco May 11,” South Reporter,
12 May 2011, accessed November 25, 2013,
115 Lois Swaney Shipp, “Museuming: New Window Installed at Museum,” South Re-
porter, 19 May 2011. Accessed November 25, 2013,
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 346 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
When I rst encountered the Francisco testimony the overall strange-
ness of the narrative provoked an inchoate uneasiness.116 My initial
impression was supported by subsequent investigations that cast doubt
on the claim regarding the original provenance of the ledgers and upon
the overall credibility of Edgar Francisco III. Given the duration of the
purported friendship between Faulkner and Edgar Francisco Jr., one
would expect there to be corroborating evidence, yet none was found.
In fact there is nothing that even suggests a linkage between Faulkner
and McCarroll Place, that is, not until the appearance of the story told
for pilgrimage tours that suggested Faulkner had been to McCarroll
Place and what he experienced there had shaped his work. This story
dened the essence of Francisco’s testimony, which appeared as an
ever-growing, amorphous expansion upon the theme. After a bit of
background reading in the appropriate works, he could tell and retell
Ludie’s story in a manner that would echo Faulkner’s writing and even
incorporate other “inuences” from McCarroll Place. So, as the story
developed, Faulkner had not only been to McCarroll Place and seen the
etching, he had also been a familiar gure in the Francisco household
for decades where he was inuenced by Edgar Francisco’s stories; he
was inuenced by events in and around the house; he was inuenced by
the Strickland cousins next door, who were the models for the Compson
family;117 and of course he was inuenced by the ledgers. Additionally,
the story provided endless fodder for others to look for and even nd—
so to speak—previously undiscovered Faulknerian inuences.118 What
began as a speculative story to titillate tourists evolved into nothing less
than the apocalypse of a formative nexus in Faulkner’s experience; a
chapter of history once suppressed and forgotten is now recovered for
all to see and be amazed by.
Francisco’s apocalypse falls into two categories: rst there are the
116 Despite my reaction to the Francisco testimony, many of the Faulkner experts seem
to accept it at face value; at any rate, few have openly questioned it. Furthermore, the
manuscript of Ledgers passed through a professional review process, leaving one to wonder
where the critical judgment was that should have prevented a tale with such ramications
from going to press without a shred of corroboration.
117 Wolff, Ledgers, 61-62.
118 For example at the 2012 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, a paper session
entitled “William Faulkner, the Francis Terry Leak Ledgers, and the Forms of History”
was devoted to uncovering the inuence of the ledgers on the writer. Apparently no one
questioned the underlying assumption that he had actually seen the ledgers.
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 347 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
parts that are subject to examination in the light of external evidence.
In these cases the testimony has proven to be improbable if not demon-
strably false. Second, there are the parts that fall outside the realm of
external evidence. For these one can only rely upon the credibility of the
witness. However, given that the testimony of the rst part has proven
to be dubious, how much credibility is left that would support the bal-
ance of the testimony? At best Francisco’s testimony is unreliable; at
worst it is a total fabrication.
I was once inclined to believe that there might be a core of truth in
the testimony. Now I am not so inclined. There is no reason outside of
the testimony itself to believe that Faulkner used the ledgers; there
is no reason to believe that he was a friend of Edgar Francisco Jr.;
and there is no reason to believe that he modeled his Yoknapatawpha
stories on his experiences at McCarroll Place. I am inclined though to
see the testimony with its extravagant claims, not as “one of the most
sensational literary discoveries of recent decades,”119 but as one of the
most sensational literary frauds of recent decades. In the end the story
of Faulkner at McCarroll Place appears to be not so much apocalypse
as apocrypha.
119 John Lowe quoted in Cohen, “Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered.”
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 348 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
01_Elliott-Faulkner_REVISED.indd 349 12/9/2014 10:24:38 AM
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
On the same page Stewart remarks that "The existence of three known examples from in and near Lafayette County suggests that this practice may have been a fashion for young, engaged women, particularly during the Civil War era
  • Ludie Baugh
I recall here the aforementioned Jane Taylor Cook etching. Furthermore there is also a fragment of windowpane with the etching of the name Jennie Garland in the University of Mississippi Museums, a photograph of which appears in George G. Stewart, Yoknapatawpha: Images and Voices (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2009), 39. On the same page Stewart remarks that "The existence of three known examples from in and near Lafayette County suggests that this practice may have been a fashion for young, engaged women, particularly during the Civil War era." In an endnote on page 89 the three are identified as Jane Cook, Jennie Garland, and Ludie Baugh.
Francisco states that he was shown this article some years ago. Wolff, Ledgers, 118. Email corresponsdence
  • Jane Isbell Haynes
Jane Isbell Haynes, "Another Source for Faulkner's Inscribed Window Panes," Mississippi Quarterly 39 (1986), 365-367. Francisco states that he was shown this article some years ago. Wolff, Ledgers, 118. Email corresponsdence, Jane Isbell Haynes to Jack Elliott, March 15, 2012.