Carroll County, Mississippi
In 1850, William Alexander McCain purchased Waverly Plantation in Carroll County. The original 2,000-acre cotton plantation is now 1,500 acres but still remains in the McCain family. As typical of plantations before the Civil War, the McCains owned slaves who worked the fields; however, it is what happened after the Civil War that is more unusual. When the war ended, many of the freed slaves remained closely entwined with the McCain family and stayed in the area of the plantation, which later became known as the Teoc community. These freed slaves whose surname reflected the name of their former owners became tenants and sharecroppers of the white McCains. Unlike other sharecropping relationships of the time, they worked in a more hospitable environment.
The white and black McCain families took different paths, but both produced leaders. The white McCains produced military leaders with two Navy Admirals, and John McCain, who was a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War, became a U.S. Senator and later the 2008 Republican nominee for president. The African American McCains and other Teoc descendants have a rich history of military service since World War I, worked rigorously to advance the Civil Rights movement, were active participants in the NAACP, and produced Leflore County’s first African American school superintendent and Greenwood’s first African American fire chief. Other important family members include Elizabeth Spencer, from the white McCains, who is a prize-winning novelist, and “Mississippi John” Hurt, of the African American McCains, who was a famous blues guitarist. In the 1990’s Teoc’s African American church began organizing a Teoc reunion which has grown to include both white and African American and started a modern dialogue between Teoc decedents.
There are a couple of surviving plantation era buildings including the former manager’s home, which became the white McCain family home when the original home burned in 1892, and a potato house. The former manager’s home is in ruins and open to the elements. There are several extant buildings from the early 1900’s in rural Teoc, including the commissary which is vacant and deteriorating. An iron bridge crossing the Little Teoc Creek survives, although its future is unclear as it has been replaced by a concrete bridge. Also extant is the John T. Long House, dating from the 1890’s, in excellent condition with a log smokehouse. Other surviving structures include a cotton crib in deteriorating shape and a single chimney remaining from a 1930’s log community house. Many members of the African American McCain family are buried at the Teoc cemetery, which was begun in the late 1800’s on land donated by the white McCain family.
It is important to save this unique piece of Mississippi not only for the physical places that remain but also for the unique history of the people of Teoc that produced both white and African American leaders.
2017 Update – No Progress
According to Pam Lee, Mayor of the nearby City of Carrollton, no progress has been made to preserve the remaining structure of Teoc.