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Carroll Family

The Carroll Family Home:
Exploring A Family's History on Facebook

It all started on July 28, 2010, when Mavis Anne Bryant told Jim Sears that the photo lab she used was closing on a certain date. Thereafter, she would have no way to get her old-fashioned film developed.

Jim responded right away: "Well, that still gives you two days, and it would be a shame to waste half a roll. If you're taking requests, put me down for the funeral home at 515 North Burnett Avenue. In the 1950s, the house was home to two sisters who taught at Raynal School, Wilma Nolte and Venita O’Dell. Mrs. O’Dell was the principal when I was there. I transferred away from Raynal in 1959, and apparently they never got over it. Neither of them lived another decade."

Mavis drove the few blocks and took a few photos of the house.

Front (east) side, 515 North Burnett Avenue
Photo by Mavis Anne Bryant, 2010

 Southeast corner of 515 North Burnett Avenue
Photo by Mavis Anne Bryant, June 2010

Jim Sears was inspired to delve into both documents and his own memories. He discovered:

The 1920 Census showed the Carroll family at 1315 West Main Street. They apparently moved to 515 North Burnett Avenue sometime in the 1920s.

The 1930 Census listed five residents at the Burnett Avenue address:
--John T. Carroll, head of household, 51, railway switchman, born in Tennessee to parents born in Tennessee.
--Meta Carroll, 45, wife, no occupation, also born in Tennessee to parents born in Tennessee.
--Mary Carroll, 23, daughter, saleslady in a hat shop, born in Texas.
--Wilma Carroll, 25, daughter, public school teacher, born in Texas.
--Venita Hartson, 27, daughter, occupation "none" (but industry "public school"), born in Texas.
--Albert Hartson, 32, son-in-law, manager "Texas Co. F.," born in Pennsylvania.

Meta Carroll

John T. "J. T." Carroll

Three sisters: Mary, Venita, and Wilma Carroll, ca. 1930
They grew up in the Carroll family home at 515 North Burnett Avenue.


--Venita Carroll married her first husband, Albert Hartson (June 1, 1897 – September 7, 1973), in 1927 or 1928.

--Hartson's occupation in the 1930 Census was given as "manager, Texas Co. F." The U.S. National Guard Register for 1922 lists Albert J. Hartson as a 1st Lieutenant in Texas Company E. In 1925 he is listed again as a 1st Lieutenant. His regiment is "Special Division Troops" and his company is "36 Sig Co — Denison." That considerable military service (at least eight years, 1922–30) apparently qualified him for his subsequent career in the Denison Police Department.

--Venita teaches at Hyde Park Elementary, 1933

--Albert is listed in the 1938 City Directory as a city patrolman. By 1940, he had been promoted to city detective.

--Venita is listed in 1938 and 1940 directories as a teacher. In 1938, they were still living at 515 North Burnett, her mother’s home. (Venita's father, John T. Carroll, had died in 1937.)

--The next City Directory, 1946, lists Venita Hartson still at the same address. Albert, however, is missing. Apparently they divorced between 1940 and 1946. In 1946, Venita was still a teacher. For the first time, her school was identified in the directories as "Central School."

--The Social Security Death Index lists Van Horn in Culberson County as Albert's last address of record, but the Texas Death Index says he actually died in McLennan County. There is or was a big VA hospital in Waco. He may have gone there from Van Horn for treatment of his last illness. The Texas Death Index says he was single when he died on September 7, 1973.

--By 1949 Venita had been promoted to principal at Raynal School. She is listed there again in 1951. Her name is still Venita Hartson.

--By the time I (Jim) started first grade in 1957, Venita Hartson had become Venita O’Dell, having married Otha O’Dell, a railroad employee born in Grayson County in 1897. They obviously married sometime between 1951 and 1957. It was the second marriage for him, too.

--Venita may have finally moved out of her mother's house after she married Otha. [The 1955 and 1959 phone books list Otha O’Dell (sic) at 1029 East Texas Street.]

--Venita died shortly before Christmas in 1965 at age 62. Otha lived until 1980, but they may have been divorced before she died. The Grayson County Death Index lists her as "Single."

--If they did divorce, she may have moved back to 515 North Burnett (assuming she moved out when they married) before she died. (I don't have a directory or phone book to check that.)

--Venita Hartson O’Dell is buried in Fairview Cemetery. Otha O’Dell is not listed in Fairview's records among those interred.


Nancy Schmidt spoke up. “I am Mr. O'Dell’s niece, Nancy Colson. My mother was his sister. He had three sisters on Munson Street: Mrs. Tennie, Mrs. Millie Mays, and my mother. Aunt Venita was a very sweet lady. Someone said that Uncle Otha was buried out at our cemetery east of town. He and Aunt Venita are in Fairview Cemetery north of town on the road to the lake [Texoma]. Oh, no, I forgot Aunt Opal; she lived in half of my mother's house at 222 West Munson Street. It's all gone now. It's hard for me to go down Munson … I enjoy these pictures and stories. Thanks to all who send in the stories. God bless.”

Vinita Pierce Ray, granddaughter of Venita’s sister Mary, replied: “I remember Mr. O'Dell's sister then, but I remember her name as ‘Charlie’ Mays (I always called her ‘Aunt Charlie’). Of course I was very little and could be slightly mistaken about the name, but she lived down the street from my mother and me on Munson. We visited her all the time. She was so sweet. I loved her to death. She was about the only family left from my dad's side.”

Pat Barnhill added, "Mr. O'Dell was a very nice man. He is buried in a family cemetery east of Denison. I never saw him  that he wasn't well dressed with a hat on his head or in his hand."

Venita Carroll-O'Dell


“I heard years ago that Mrs. O’Dell died in a fire.” Jim Sears spoke hesitantly. “I have been reluctant to say so, because my memory plays tricks on me sometimes. For instance, I thought I remembered that she spelled her last name ‘Odell,’ but it turns out that she actually spelled it with an apostrophe and a capital D—‘O'Dell.’

Steve Armstrong knew for sure, though: “Mrs. O'Dell died in a house fire the night before we were to have our Christmas parties at Raynal in 1965. Raynal closed one day early for Christmas vacation because of her death. I was in the third grade at the time. The presents that the kids drew names for the parties were exchanged in January, after returning to school. There used to be a portrait of Mrs. O'Dell over the entrance to the cafeteria. Mrs. O'Dell loved purple, all right—Raynal's school colors were purple and white. I still have a purple Raynal pennant.”

Kay Clark had an idea: “Perhaps Brenda O’Dell (who graduated from DHS in 1960) would be able to answer some of these questions. I believe they were related but may be mistaken. Her father, Pierce O’Dell, built many of the homes in the Hyde Park area. Brenda lives in Houston ... Mr. and Mrs. O’Dell were awesome. Very welcoming and kind.”

Pat Barnhill reported next: “I had a visit with Mr. O'Dell's niece tonight. Mr. and Mrs. O’Dell lived on East Texas Street. Mrs. Nolte and Mrs. O'Dell were wrapping Christmas presents. Not sure if Mrs. Nolte lived there with them or if she was just spending the night. All went to bed and woke up to a burning house. Mrs. O'Dell called the Fire Department and said she was right behind them, but she never came out of the house. She was not burned in the fire; she died of smoke inhalation. The fire was ruled accidental from an ashtray being dumped in trash with wrapping paper. I didn't meet Mr. O'Dell till after this had happened. He was a very nice man.”

Raynal School report card
Venita O'Dell, Principal

Wilma Carroll-Nolte


--Wilma Margaret Carroll, a Denison school teacher, married Howell W. Nolte in Durant, Oklahoma, in August 1933, when she was 28 and he was about 35.

--Mrs. Nolte taught first grade at Raynal School. Howell was a manual arts teacher at Denison High School. He is mentioned three or four times in Bryant and Hunt’s book, Two Schools on Main Street.

--In 1930, Howell Nolte was still listed in the City Directory with a previous wife, Jewell M. Nolte, also a school teacher. Their son, William Howell (Bill) Nolte, was born in October 1932.

--Perhaps Jewell died, for Wilma raised Bill. He graduated from Denison High School in 1949, when he was not yet 17. (Perhaps having three parents and an aunt who teach school is an academic advantage.) In 2010, he was living in Ormond Beach, Florida.

--In the 1946 Denison City Directory, Howell Nolte is still listed as a school teacher, but by 1949 he had changed careers, becoming a field specialist for the U.S. Veterans Administration. He died in November 1949, at about age 52.

--By 1951, Wilma had moved from 624 West Gandy Street back to 515 North Burnett. Howell’s son Bill had moved with her. At that time, the Carroll family home was owned by her mother, Meta D. Carroll (widow of John T. Carroll).

--Bill is listed as a student in 1951. Since he graduated from high school in 1949, he must have been attending college somewhere. I have found so many references to "William Howell Nolte" on the Web that I suspect there may be more than one person with that name. He may have become an English professor, literary critic, doctor, pilot, real estate agent, or all or none of those things.

--Wilma Carroll Nolte died in 1968, at age 63. She is buried at Fairview Cemetery. Howell Nolte died in 1949 and was buried in his home town, San Angelo.


Wilma Carroll-Nolte

The third sister, Mary Carroll-Pierce, and her son Dan Mitchell Pierce
Couresy of Vinita Pierce Ray, granddaughter of Mary Carroll-Pierce and daughter of Dan Mitchell Pierce

Dan Mitchell Pierce on the front steps of the Carroll family home, 515 North Burnett Avenue, Denison Texas Courtesy of Vinita Pierce Ray, daughter of Dan Mitchell Pierce

Dan Mitchell Pierce between his parents, Mary Carroll-Pierce and Dansby Pierce



Some considerable time had passed before we unexpectedly heard from Vinita Pierce Ray, the granddaughter of Mary Carroll-Pierce, who was Venita and Wilma’s sister. Vinita wrote:

WOW! I think Jim knows more about my family than I do! I was, by the way, named for Venita, only my mother chose to change the spelling slightly. Let's see what I can add to the story.

1. Venita did die in the house fire.

2. My grandmother, Mary Carroll-Pierce, was shot by my grandfather as she lay sleeping in the downstairs apartment of the Carroll family home. She was sleeping next to her sister Wilma. My grandfather, Dansby Pierce, then walked upstairs and shot himself. I am unsure of the exact year but believe it was around 1961 or 1962.

3. My father, Dan Mitchell Pierce, died in a motorcycle accident on Breezy Hill [on Texoma Parkway between Denison and Sherman] in August 1968. His Aunt Wilma died within hours of finding out about his passing, due to the heartbreak of so much tragedy.

4. My mom did not inherit the home because of my dad dying first, just hours before Wilma. Everything reverted to her and her heirs. I do have tons of pictures, some of the china, and a suitcase full of memorabilia. It is such a shame that this house [at 515 North Burnett Avenue] is just sitting there.

Dan Mitchell Pierce and pals, in front of 515 North Burnett Avenue


Marvin Hunt recalled: “Miss Nolte told me my real name was Marvin, not "Dust", in first grade, 1955. I cried so much my dad had to come to the school.”

Dianne Henry Stiff had this to say: “Loved these two wonderful ladies. Mrs. Nolte was my first-grade teacher and made learning so much fun. She was a remarkable person with little ones, as she made everyone feel so special. Can't remember anyone not wanting to go to school. Mrs. O'Dell was a good principal, and I always remembered that her favorite color was purple. [She wore] purple glasses and purple clothes. Always firm with the kids that needed to be firm with and had them eating out her hand. Everyone respected her and didn't want to be on her bad side. I feel blessed to have gone to a school that had wonderful teachers that cared and gave so much to their students. I am so glad to read this information on the Carroll sisters. Venita and Wilma were very special to me as well as to many others in this era.”

Carole Moody had a special connection: “My youngest sister is named for Ms. Venita O'Dell. Her name is Venita, and she is also a teacher!!!!!”




Pierce Grocery Store, 811 South Armstrong Avenue, January 1956
Courtesy of Vinita Pierce Ray, who wrote, "My dad (Dan Mitchell Pierce) outside the Pierce Grocery.
The store was owned by my grandfather Dansby Pierce and my grandmother Mary Carroll-Pierce."

"Deuce Cut-Rate Liquors" Sign
The store, located at the southwest corner of Armstrong Avenue and Day Street, was owned by Mary Carroll-Pierce and Dansby Pierce. It later became the Ark Christian Book Store


 Deuce Cut-Rate Liquors, southwest corner of Armstrong Avenue and Day Street, ca. 1960.
Owned by Mary Carroll-Pierce and Dansby Pierce.
The building was Betty's Beauty Salon around 1970–1980.
Later it became the Ark Christian Book Store. 

Interior, Deuce Cut-Rate Liquors, southwest corner of Armstrong Avenue and Day Street

Dan Mitchell Pierce (in white jeans and shades) and some of his buddies lounging outside the Magic Wand Car Wash, ca. 1965. The two on the right may be James (Jimmy) Lively and Wayne Green. The tall one holding the cigarette may be Jimmy Wilkins. According to Steve Armstrong, the photo was taken "behind the gas station on the northwest corner of Crawford Street and Austin Avenue. You can see the old Vita-Way feed mill in the background." 




Elaine Nall Bay