Cofield’s Corner

Published 12:53 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023

By John Cofield

The Barr family of Lafayette County goes back to somewhere near the Pontotoc County line, slaves in 1840. With the end of the Civil War, and their bonds, the family came closer to Oxford.

In the first years of the 20th century, Carolyn “Mammy” Barr Clark came to work for Maud Falkner as nanny to her three sons, Billy, Jack and John. Later, William Faulkner would model one, if not more, of his black female character after Mammy in some way.

Email newsletter signup

Faulkner lore says she lived to be 100 before passing away at her cottage on the grounds at Rowan Oak. Some historians say maybe it was not quite 100, but if it is Faulkner’s fiction, then that is fine.

Mammy was Molly’s auntie. Molly made her own name for her many acts of kindness for everyone, from the children she gave bags of candy to to the railroad hobos who knew to jump off near Molly’s for a hot meal.

And Molly had a large family. Three sons left Oxford for World War II and only two came back. Of those two, standing there on the old Ice House dock for 40 years, was the legendary James Barr. Respected and loved by all.

From these three local icons of their times has come a large extended Barr family of Lafayette County today. A handful of years ago I thought how fitting it was and how proud Mammy and Molly and James would be to see that a young man carrying their name forward was marching across the Ole Miss graduation stage with his Ph.D.