The Birth and Death
Although we now know quite a bit about James I's life, we have no real
clue to his date of birth, and his date of death can only be approximately
determined. It seems highly likely that he was born before about 1740(1):
James Collins II was born in 1758, and was almost certainly the eldest
son, so if we assume James I was at least 18 when his son was born this
would point to 1740 or so. But since his father, William Collins,
may have been born as early as 1700, 1740 may be rather late. Another clue
is that James I bought land, in his own right, in 1757 in a deed witnessed
by his father and his (younger) brother Jesse, in the land transaction
mentioned above on Page 52 in his father's biography. That implies that
not only James, but Jesse, was probably at least 18 in that year, if not
older. Since James was apparently older than Jesse, if Jesse was 18 and
thus born no later than 1739, James must have been born even earlier. That
he served on a jury in 1763, as noted above on Page 53, is of course just
further reinforcement of the fact that he was of legal age by then.
On the other hand, James Collins I did not die until after 1815 (the
date of his will), and probably not until sometime in 1819, and this means
he must have been about 80, quite an advanced age for the time and place.
On the other hand, his son James II also lived to be 80, and it seems James
I must have lived to a similar old age.
Although it may seem strange to discuss the death date at the beginning
of the man's biography, it clearly has a bearing on his birth date and
age, and there is some ambiguity about it. Many researchers have concluded
that James Collins I died in 1815, for that is the year he wrote his will.
However, the will was not recorded in the will book until about 1819, and
it was not filed for probate until some time in 1819, which suggests that
he died either in December 1818, or sometime in 1819, perhaps later in
the year as there are also some December Court filings in the same area
of the will book and the inventory was not taken until January 1820. (North
Carolina courts met in "quarter sessions" every three months.) All this
suggests that while he wrote his will in 1815 (and his taxes for that year
were paid for him by his son, suggesting he was frail -- but they were
not paid for his estate, but rather for him), he did not
die until the end of 1818 or more likely 1819. The documentation will be
cited when we come to the end of his life, but it seemed useful to note
this much now.
Virginia Before His Migration
At least until my recent researches in the early Virginia Collins line,
almost every reference I knew about to James Collins (or knew that others
had found) related to his years in North Carolina. Now we can say a little
bit more about his years in Virginia before migrating to North Carolina.
It needs to be remembered that, as will be seen, though he was probably
in North Carolina by 1776, he sold his Virginia land in 1778, though he
or his sons were back there in 1782-1783 for a brief period. After this
they had apparently cut all links. If James Collins "I" was born before
1740, then he had links to the Kingsale Swamp area for over 40 years of
his life. His son James Collins "II", the Revolutionary War soldier born
in 1758, spent most of his youth in Virginia, and as he himself noted in
his Revolutionary War pension application, he spent a year in Nansemond
County after the war as well. His father, the elder James, not only spent
half his life in Virginia, but married there and presumably most if not
all his children were born there.
Naturally enough, all the evidence which exists points to the areas
around where his father, William, his brother Jesse, and his kinsman Jethro,
all previously discussed, were living, in the area near Kingsale and Beaverdam
Swamps in Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties, Virginia.
We have already mentioned one of the most interesting references to
James Collins before the migration, still during the life of his father
William Collins, namely the deed by Susannah Council (Councill in the deed)
to James Collins in 1757, cited above on Page 52. In it, Council sells
300 acres adjoining Beaverdam Swamp to James Collins on October 19, 1757.
John Keen is listed as one of those adjoining the land, and James' two
sisters (or half-sisters) mentioned in his father's will were Keens, either
because his sisters married Keens or his father's wife had previously been
married to a Keen. The witnesses are James' father William Collins, John
Daughtry (both signing with a mark) and Jesse Collins.(2)
James and Jesse do not seem to have used marks, suggesting that they at
least knew how to sign their names at this time. The literacy question
will be dealt with later, on Page 97, but for now we may note that James
Collins I signed his will with a mark but may have earlier known how to
at least write his name.
This shows us that by 1757, the year before James
Collins (II) was born, James (I) owned land in his own right (he may of
course have already owned land passed to him by his father). It shows him
in the same Kingsale/Beaverdam area, buying land from someone who had moved
to north Carolina -- already people were migrating away from Kingsale to
the state to the south -- and it shows him living next door to a Keen.
The next reference has also been mentioned before,
in the biography of William Collins, in this case above on Page 53. This
is the jury summoned in 1763 when, on 1 September, Benjamin Baker
petitioned to build a Water Grist Mill at "Kingsail" and asked an acre
of land from James Tallow. The jury named were William Duck, Abraham Carr,
John Duck, Joshua Council, Jacob Butler, James Collins, Job Holland, Lemuel
Holland, John Daughtry, William Daughtry and Richard Wooten. Though we
have not mentioned the Ducks in our previous history they were a known
family in the area; all the other family names we have seen before as Kingsale
neighbors, and of course the "Kingsail" where the mill was to be built
There is a break in the sequence of references
to James Collins, though we hear of Jesse in Nansemond in 1768 and 1772
(See above, Page 57), and two references to Jethro Collins, the other Collins
male mentioned in William's will, in 1771 (See above, Page 58).
The next mention of James appears in a deed of
26 October 1772, in which we also find the third reference to Jethro Collins.
In this will, Thomas Lankford, Senior (whose son had been a witness to
William Collins' 1767 will), described as of Newport Parish in Isle of
Wight County, sells land to Benjamin Baker of Suffolk Parish in Nansemond
County (again emphasizing the nearness to the line), some 500 acres "on
the north side of Kingsale Swamp adjoining James Collins at the swamp",
as well as William Flemming, James Butler, the Gravely Run Branch and John
This deed, of course, shows that James must have
owned either some of his father's property or the property he bought in
1757, or both, since he is adjacent to Lankford and near John Daughtery.
Gravely or Gravelly Run is one of those names which does not seem to appear
consistently and may be the same as one of the other runs or branches mentioned
in earlier land descriptions. It also reinforces the notion, seen earlier
in our discussion of Jethro Collins, that Jethro lived after William's
death on the Isle of Wight side of the line, as did James Collins, while
all the records of Jesse are found in Nansemond.
Before I knew about one particular deed, I had already put together
enough evidence to demonstrate, over several pages of argument, that the
James Collins of Kingsale Swamp, son of William Collins, was the same man
who moved to Franklin County, North Carolina. I can save the reader those
pages of argument, however, since one deed offers the evidence needed.
On 20 May 1778, "James Collings and wife, Esther
Collings" sold 400 acres on Kingsale Swamp adjoining John Daughtry, Wooten,
Bryan, Jacob Butler and Robertson, to Nathan Carr. The deed was recorded
5 November 1778.(5) This clearly refers
to land, though perhaps not all of it, mentioned in earlier deeds involving
William Collins and James Collins, given the names of the neighbors. And
it names James Collins' wife as of 1778: the same Esther who would be named
as his wife in his 1815 will, survive him as his widow, and live past 1820,
as will be seen below. It provides the connection between Kingsale and
North Carolina, if any more were needed.
If there is anyone who still thinks that further
proof is needed, we may adduce one further record from the Isle of Wight
Deed Book. Note that in 1778 James Collins sold his land to Nathan Carr,
and we have seen Carrs a number of times in the land records referring
to Collinses. Seven years earlier, on 4 February 1771, John Carr "of Bute
County in North Carolina" sold to Richard Bradshaw of Newport Parish in
Isle of Wight some 225 acres in Isle of Wight County adjoining "Griffin,
James Fowler, Edward Gatling, Moses Daughtry, William Carr and John Laurence".
Griffin, Gatling (Gatlin or Gattlin), Daughtry, and Carr are all names
we have seen may times. Though no Collins is mentioned in this deed, nor
is Kingsale, it is interesting that John Carr was now of Bute County, North
Why, since this deed mentions no Collinses, should it be of interest?
Because once the Collinses got to that part of Bute County which became
Franklin County during the Revolution, we find one of the James Collinses
-- it appears to be James the younger, for it is the land on which he lived
most of his life, in the Cypress Creek area -- we find him buying land
adjoining John Carr. (7) There seems to
have been no other John Carr in Bute County, so surely it is the John Carr
of Bute who sold his land in Kingsale in 1771, while James Collins I in
1778 sold his land in Kingsale to Nathan Carr, certainly some kin
Nor is John Carr the only familiar name. In the same deed we find neighbor
had "Eley", an old Kingsale family name, as his first name, Eley Drake.
a Drewry Jones, and Drury or Drewry was often used as a first name in Virginia,
and there were many Joneses in Kingsale. William Webb could also be one
of several men of that name who lived in Nansemond County, though of course
both Jones and Webb are quite common names. But, as will be seen, many
other Isle of Wight and Nansemond family names turn up in Franklin County,
such as Murphrey, Gilliam, and others linked to the Collinses after their
move if not before. With John Carr, however, we have a document naming
the same man in both places, and a deed showing the Bute (Franklin) County
man sold his land in Kingsale.
It is not possible to say, with certainty, that
James' wife Esther was the mother of James Collins II, our ancestor, but
it certainly seems likely. She was married to James I already in 1778,
when he sold his last land in the Kingsale Swamp in Virginia; she was still
married to him when he wrote his will in 1815, survived him, was alive
at the time of the 1820 Franklin County tax list, and probably died by
about 1823, as will be noted at the end of this chapter. She was certainly
his wife from at least 1778 until his death, a period of some 40 years.
Was she also the mother of his children?
There is certainly no evidence, known to me so
far, of any other wife. On the other hand, experience suggests that one
must be cautious. There is also no mention of Esther before 1778, and as
we will see with James Collins II, he had at least one son before he married
Temperance Vinson, though he had 16 children with her and they were married
for 54 years. In the absence of some positive statement to the contrary,
we must be careful about being certain. There is at least some hint that
James I's first two sons, James and William, were quite a bit older than
the other sons, which might mean they were children of an earlier wife.
Nevertheless, in all my charts and the computer database, I list Esther
as the mother of James I's children.
There is no direct evidence about Esther's maiden
name. She married James while he was still in the Kingsale Swamp area,
so one of those names the Collinses later used, such as Holland or Jones
(both local families in Kingsale) might be her maiden name. Since James
I left legacies to the Murphrey family, another family which moved from
the Kingsale area to Franklin County, NC, perhaps she was linked to them
(and there was a woman named Holland Murphrey!). But there is no marriage
record surviving (that I have located), and so it is not yet possible to
say what her maiden name was with certainty.
to North Carolina
It is time to move our history from the Kingsale
Swamp area of Virginia to what is today northeastern Franklin County, North
Carolina, what we may call the "Sandy Creek" area because the earliest
land settled by the Collinses, Vinsons, and several other related families
lay near that creek, though other land later spread out to the south and
west of it.
We have already seen that John Carr of Kingsale
moved to Bute County, North Carolina, some years before James and Esther
Collins did, and we will in fact meet him again there, for Collinses later
settled near him. Before looking at the evidence for when James and Esther
moved and where they settled, it is worth noting that they were by no means
alone, nor were the Carrs the only familiar family when they got to Bute
County (now Franklin County), North Carolina. The area in which James Collins
"I" settled, along Sandy Creek in northeastern Franklin County, included
a number of probably interrelated families from their old area. Some were
certainly intermarried with the Collinses, though only occasionally do
the records let us say for certain how. What was probably a small community
of intermarried families in the Kingsale area saw many of its residents
move to various parts of North Carolina. John Carr has already been mentioned,
and he is almost certainly the John Carr who later held land adjoining
one of the James Collinses in Franklin County. Some of the families who
would be very closely linked with the Collinses later in Franklin County,
such as Murphrey, and neighbors such as Eley, Parker, Webb, and Jones,
have names found in Isle of Wight and Nansemond, and the Murphreys even
used the first name Holland, as did the Collinses. The Hollands of Nansemond
did not move, as such, to Franklin County so far as I know, though the
name is not unknown in many parts of North Carolina and some of them, at
least, seem to have gone to other parts of the state. The name Lankford,
another set of Kingsale neighbors, later turns up in Franklin County, NC
as well, though unlike those just mentioned, not in the immediate area
of Collins settlement. More evidence for these links will be provided in
our discussion of the Franklin County neighbors, below, Page 83.
Why this migration? As we noted earlier in discussing
the Kingsale Swamp area, the region south of the James in Virginia has
always had closer links with North Carolina than with Virginia, because
of the difficulty in crossing the wide James and the Great Dismal Swamp
which cuts the area off from Norfolk. The Kingsale Swamp flows into the
Blackwater River, which in North Carolina becomes the Chowan and flows
into Albemarle Sound near Edenton, NC. The natural route to markets for
tobacco and other crops grown in the Kingsale area may have been to the
southward, and certainly the links with North Carolina were close; the
boundary is only a few miles south of the Kingsale area and was only delineated
in 1728. In fact, the area of Carrsville and Holland, Virginia, which certainly
embraces the general area of the original Collins land, is only about 10
miles as the crow flies from the North Carolina line.
Furthermore, much of northeastern North Carolina
was settled from Virginia rather than from the Carolina coastal settlements.
Albemarle Sound in the north and the North Carolina sand hills in the south
helped guarantee that the Carolina Piedmont was settled from Virginia and
Pennsylvania rather than from the coasts.
The migration from Kingsale seems to have begun
before the American Revolution and continued after it; as we will see,
James Collins had some links with Isle of Wight or Nansemond as late as
1782 or 1783, yet had some roots in Bute County, North Carolina already
before 1776. The Carrs and others, and perhaps a Collins cousin, had moved
Why the migration after these families had been
a long time -- in the Collins' case, a century -- in the Kingsale Swamp
area? We can only guess, but certainly to an Ozark boy like me the rolling
farmland of Franklin County, North Carolina is much more attractive than
the flat, swampy "pocosins" of Kingsale Swamp. And tobacco, the main cash
crop, was already beginning to deplete the soil in parts of Virginia. Also
the population had clearly increased, and people who valued elbow room
may have felt it time to move on. Certainly the area of southeast Virginia
suffered from the British during the Revolution -- Suffolk, just a few
miles to the northeast of the Collins land, was burned for the first time
-- and that instability may have helped accellerate the move for those
who came during and after the conflict.
Land in North Carolina
Before looking at the evidence for ownership of
land, it is worthwhile looking at the area to which the Collinses moved:
the first major move in a long migration around the United States. We have
already discussed the land around Kingsale Swamp, where the Colinses appear
to have lived for at least three generations before beginning their migrations.
James Collins moved to what became Franklin County, North Carolina, sometime
prior to the Revolution. It was then Bute County. Bute, named for Lord
Bute, was abolished in 1779 and divided into Franklin and Warren Counties,
named for Revolutionary patriots. Though for reasons to be discussed it
is not certain exactly when our James arrived (other people named Collins
already being in the vicinity), and there is no certain land document I
have found prior to 1780, by then he was already being referred to as "of
Franklin County", and we know from the younger James' Revolutionary War
pension application that he joined in 1776 in what was then Bute County.
Though today in Franklin County, the land where
the Collinses lived lay in two general areas not far from each other. The
original land of James Collins I lay between Sandy Creek and Red Bud Creek
in what was then Bute and is today Franklin County, near the Franklin/Nash
County line. The road still called Collins Mill Road, which runs across
Sandy Creek and between it and Deer Branch, may take its name from him
or from Michael Collins, who may be related (See below, Page 70). Several
roads in the area are named for various people named Collins (Walter Collins
Road, Earlie Collins Road), and there is a small town called Gupton, another
name which appears in the Collins genealogy. David Vinson, the father of
Temperance Vinson who married James Collins II, lived along the southern
side of Sandy Creek to the west of the land just mentioned. James Collins
II at one time owned some of each of these properties, but the land he
owned when he died in 1838, and which had been acquired in the 1790s, was
on the waters of upper Cypress Creek, a little southwest of the area just
mentioned, near Stallings Crossroads (another name intermarried with our
own). There is a Leonard road as well -- two of James Collins' children
married Leonards, and a Leonard served with him in the Revolution and later
made oath for his pension record. So this is an area redolent with the
names of kin. Maps in these biographies will try to define the land more
This land is very different from the flat, swampy
tidewater country of Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties, Virginia. It
is gently rolling Piedmont-style country, not really hills but certainly
not flat. One sees some tobacco grown in the area, which is mostly still
farmland, and it is at least on the edge of cotton cultivation, which begins
to trail off as one leaves the flatter coastal areas, but which can be
found within a few miles of here. The Roanoke River is not far away, and
this is Piedmont area, just above the fall line (Roanoke Rapids is the
fall line of the Roanoke, Rocky Mount of the Tar, the main rivers near
here). It is not quite so hilly as Marshall County, Tennessee, where the
Collinses eventually settled; in fact it is more reminiscent in some ways
of the land where John Collins and his sisters settled in Missouri.
in the Area before James:
Was Michael Collins of Red Bud a Relative?
Well before James Collins I can be shown to have
come to what would become Franklin County, another man of the same surname
was a prominent figure: in fact, he lived within a few miles (at most)
of the later Collins settlement, perhaps even owned some of the same land,
and both his land and James Collins' at one time or other abutted that
of David Vinson. This was one Michael Collins, who would be a militia captain
during the Revolution and whose land was in the Red Bud Creek area of the
eastern county. Before considering the clues suggesting at least a distant
relationship to us, let us see what we know about this man.
Michael Collins was in what became Franklin by
1765. On July 5, 1765, Michael Collins and Stephen Gupton witnessed a land
transaction. (The Guptons would intermarry several times with our Collinses.)
A deed of 1767 from William Collins to Stephen Gupton was proved (probated)
by Michael Collins. Michael Collins shows up again in a 1769 land transaction.
As early as 1765 we find a deed (22 March 1765) in which a transaction
from William Vinson is witnessed by David Vinson, Michael Collins, and
William Vinson and proved by Michael Collins. (There seem to be at least
two William Vinsons here, and as we shall see two or more can be accounted
The Minutes of the Bute County Court show that
on August 9, 1769, Michael Collins was serving on a Grand Jury. The Minutes
also show an order of 15 August 1772 for the County Collector to "pay Michael
Collens one pound Seventeen shillings and six pence proc. for 5 Wolfs scalps".(8)
[All spellings as in original.]
This Michael Collins' land also turns up a number
of times in early descriptions. In 1766 and again in 1771, he appears in
Bute County tax lists, and the name William Collins also appears in Bute
in those two.(9) A William Collins also
appears in the Court Minutes in 1772.(10)
That is a land survey and suggests that this William Collins lived along
Cedar Creek. If that is the Cedar Creek which is today in Franklin County,
and it seems to be, it lies across the Tar River from the creeks where
our Collinses settled, in a different part of the county. This William
may be unconnected, though of course we have seen so many William Collinses
in Virginia that the name is interesting. (William Collins, son of James
Collins I, was probably too young to turn up in the records this early,
as he is likely slightly younger than James Collins II, who was born in
So back to the Michael Collins question. Now on
December 21, 1773 Michael Collins married Elizabeth Drake in Bute County.(11)
This is almost certainly a second marriage. In 1786 we find a file in the
Franklin County estates file showing that Michael Colilns died that year
and (prior to a document dated 19 June 1786) and that his executor was
Mosely Collins.(12) In Franklin County
Willbook A, we find a Guardian Account for "Michael Collins, orphan of
Michael Collins, dec'd.'" An Elizabeth Collins is also mentioned, presumably
the Elizabeth Drake Collins just mentioned. The account covers the period
1787-1792 and is noted in the September Court 1792.(13)
One reading of this might be that Mosely Collins was a son by a first marriage,
and old enough to be executor; Michael Collins Jr. a son by the marriage
to Elizabeth Drake, and young enough to need orphan provisions.
Meanwhile we can also note that Michael Collins
is often called "Captain Collins" in documents and was a local militia
captain during the Revolution. He appears as a signer of a July 8, 1775
Bute County Committee of Safety Resolution supporting the Continental Congress.
Among many other references to him, it is worth noting that on 14 May,
1778 the County Court ordered "that D---- Vinson, Constable, Summon all
the Inhabitants that Muster under Capt Michael Collins"'.(14)
Clearly this reinforces the link between Michael Collins and the Vinsons;
as we shall see under the Vinson profiles, this is almost certainly Constable
David Vinson, father of Temperance Vinson who married James Collins, and
who appears separately as a constable.
It is fairly clear that the heirs of Michael Collins left the Franklin County area for land across the Nash County line. On March 8, 1788 Mosely Collins sold a tract of 50 acres on Red Bud Creek at the mouth of Carter's Branch in Franklin County to William Kirby of Nash County.(15)
This probably represents the sale of part of his
father's land. On p. 94 of the Nash County census for 1800 we find a"Mical
Collins" with one male 16-26 and two slaves. In 1820 in Nash County a Michael
Collins, apparently now 26-45 (consistent with the earlier record) with
several children in "Captain M. Collins' District", presumably a militia
captain like the earlier Michael, though this one obviously was born in
the period 1784-94 and probably (based on children's ages) closer to the
earlier date. Nash lay just across the line from the Collins land and some
of our own Collinses show up there occasionally as well. Other possible
descendants (Collinses who often used the name Michael) later appear in
Warren County to the north.
Now, so far in looking at the Franklin County
evidence, there are no links other than geography to suggest that Michael
Collins is in any way related. But he lived almost in the same place where
James Collins I was to live, and they had the same neighbors; Michael adjoined
David Vinson who can be shown, much later, to have adjoined James Collins
(I or II). Yet he was in the Bute County area long before our Collinses
left Kingsale Swamp, and died before our Collinses begin to show up with
any frequency in the Franklin records. And while our Collinses later turn
up as witnesses to each other's land transactions, buyers of each other's
estates and so on, there seem to be few links between them and Michael
Collins other than shared neighbors.
But there is an intriguing clue lurking in the
records of Bertie County, North Carolina, well to the east. In 1749 a man
named John Collins in Bertie County wrote a will which was filed March
18, 1752, so he died somewhere between those dates. He left his son William
land on "Casshi River" (the Cashie), to his sons John and David each a
Bible, to his son Joseph a plantation on "Guy hall swamp" (Guy's Hall Swamp),
to his son "Mikell" his "survey on Redbud", and other land to sons Demsey,
Jesse, and Absolom, plus bequests to his gransons John Keen and John Collins.
It certainly sounds like the land left to "Mikell Collins" on "Redbud"
is the same land later owned by Michael Collins on Red Bud Creek in Bute
Now note several interesting things here: this
John Collins, father of Michael, has a grandson John Keen! And of
course, the will of William Collins, father of James I, mentioned two daughters
named Keen, who either married Keens or were the daughters of his wife
by an earlier marriage. (See above, Page 52 and other references in the
biography of William Collins.) The name Keen is certainly unusual enough
to make us wonder if it is truly coincidental that our Collinses, who were
linked with Keens in Virginia, and these Collinses, linked with Keens in
Bertie County, North Carolina, could turn up living alongside each other
in Bute County, North Carolina.
Keen is not the only suggestive link. The use
of the names William and Jesse is also interesting. It is quite possible,
I believe, that these Bertie County Collinses originated in the Kingsale
Swamp area, perhaps also intermarried with the Keens, but had moved to
Bertie by 1749, and that Michael moved to Red Bud after his father's death.
That would suggest he was perhaps a first or more likely second cousin
of some sort of James I, and therefore not close kin, but perhaps close
enough for the Collinses of Kingsale to have some inkling of what the country
was like even before other Kingsale neighbors like John Carr moved there.
Move to North Carolina: When?
Most of our records (other than his will and estate
settlement) for James Collins I are land records or tax records. Yet one
of the problems in tracing James I is that many land records mention merely
"James Collins", and many of these are late enough to possibly refer to
either the father or the son, who after all had been born in 1758 and was
an adult (and Revolutioniary veteran) by the 1780s. Whichever they mean,
they do give us some indications of the family's movements. But they do
not give us everything: we know from other sources that he was in what
became Franklin County earlier than the first record we have of him there,
and that he or his son went back to Virginia at least briefly. In all probability,
they held land in both places for a few years. So we may have to think
of the move as a somewhat gradual one: first scouting out and perhaps buying
some land, then later moving one's main residence, and only after some
years completely breaking the last links with the old land in Virginia.
The earliest land records of Bute County (later
Franklin) do not seem to mention James Collins, though there are several
references to "Collins' line" or similar phrases. These probably refer
to Michael Collins, discussed above, though since he lived in the same
general vicinity in which James lived later, we cannot always be sure.
A number of land references in the late 1770s refer to the land of a "Collins"
on Red Bud Creek who adjoined people named Richardson, Wells, Davis and
Morris; in some cases this is clearly Michael Collins, but in others it
might have been James, because he certainly adjoined some of these men
later.(17) It is worth noting that while
most of these references are certainly to Michael Collins, who as we have
seen may also have had Kingsale roots, the "Wells" referred to is named
Francis Wells, the same name as the man who lived adjacent to the early
James Collins back in the 1660s and 1670s! It is possible this is a coincidence,
but the number of southeast Virginia families who moved to the Sandy Creek
area was considerable.
The earliest land record I have found so far to
mention James Collins is from 1780, in the midst of the Revolution, with
James II already 22 years old. So it is not the first settlement in North
Carolina: in fact it explictly identifies James Collins as being of Franklin
County, so he presumably was resident there prior to the deed. This is
a deed from Peter Smart of Franklin County to James Collins of same on
December 25, 1780, (Christmas) selling a tract of 140 acres on the South
Branch of Sandy Creek "and on a branch to the mouth thereof adjoining Peter
Smart" for 120 pounds 13 shillings and fourpence North Carolina currency.(18)
One of the witnesses is Edward Richardson, a family name often linked with
the Collinses (and the same Richardson seen in most of the Michael Collins
transactions already mentioned); another witness is Edward Carlile, or
Carlisle in some records, who tax and census records show living near both
James I and James II later. Peter Smart obviously sold part of his land
to James Collins, who may well have already been a neighbor. This 140 acres
seems suspiciously similar to the 150 acres in the same general area which
James Collins held all his life and passed on to his widow when he died,
(and which, as will be seen, lay along Sandy Creek and Beaver Dam Creek),
though he certainly owned much more land at various times, passing it by
sale (or perhaps by gift) to children and in-laws. It is not clear if the
South Branch of Sandy Creek might in fact be Beaver Dam Creek, but we will
discuss that land location in a few pages, on Page 78.
Clearly, though, the migration precedes this date.
James II, in his pension application for his Revolutionary service, clearly
That he was born in the county of Isle of Wight
in the State of Virginia on the 18th day of October in the year 1758 according
to a record of his age which he now has in his pofsefsion. That at the
time he entered into the service of the United States he was living in
that section of what was then the County of Bute which now forms the County
of Franklin, and State of North Carolina.(19)
Soon thereafter, in the same document, James II
tell us he enlisted in the North Carolina militia in support of the Revolution
on May 14, 1776 (See Below, Page 179). Clearly, the younger James was in
Bute County, in the area which became Franklin County, sometime prior to
Takes the Loyalty Oath
Further confirming James II's own testimony is
a 1778 loyalty oath in the name of James Collins. What became Franklin
County was part of Bute County until 1779; Lord Bute was a key advisor
of George III and naturally enough the American Revolutionaries soon disposed
of his name, splitting the county into two, both named for patriots: Franklin
and Warren. In February 1778 the Bute County Court ordered that the justices
in the different districts of the county administer the following North
Carolina state loyalty oath before persons were qualified to vote in elections
(spelling as original):
soe help you God(20)
In the records of those taking the oath, we find
James Collins listed as having taken it before Captain Matthew Thomas.
There is no doubt that this is a militia district embracing the same general
area where we will find James living, because we find Edward and Francis
"Carlile", Eli Eley, Ephraim and Marcus Gilliam, John and William Leonard,
William Morriss, Hollowell Denson, two Murphreys, a Parker, two Richardsons,
David Vinson Constable, David Vinson Senior, Drewry, Thomas, and William
Vinson, Frances "Wills" and several other names who will appear again and
again in early Collins deeds and estate sales.(21)
What is not immediately clear is whether this refers to James Collins I
or James Collins II; since neither "senior" nor "junior" is used the presumption
is that it was the elder man, since the younger man might have been living
on his father's farm. (James II served in the militia in 1776 and again
in 1779 and later, but not apparently in 1778 when the oath was administered.)
And 1778 is, the reader may remember, the date
of the deed by which James and Esther sold their land at Kingsale. By this
time they must have decided to remain permanently in North Carolina, though
that is not absolutely certain because there are indications they returned
briefly after the war.
There is at least one other piece of evidence
that James was in Bute County in 1778: a marriage record for 10 December
1778 for James Carlile and Rebecca Johnson had as bondsman (the man who
posted the marriage bond, often a relative of the bride), James Collins.(22)
The Carliles or Carlisles appear living near James in the earliest land
records; Edward and Francis took the loyalty oath in 1778; and Edward Carlile
witnessed the 1780 transaction mentioned earlier.
The next reference chronologically is also the
first land record to definitely confirm James Collins' presence in Franklin
County, the 1780 deed from Peter Smart quoted above on Page 74. As noted
there, it refers to James as already being of Franklin County.
The next record is from 1789 dated --- 7, 1789
in the published transcript of the deed book. Whether the month is missing
or merely illegible I am uncertain as I have only seen a published version.
Joshua Coggins sold 230 acres to James Collins "lying on the waters of
Red Bud and Cypress" creeks, adjoining Robert Coggins, Eley Drake, William
Webb, Drewry Jones, Carr, and John Booles, part of a tract of land granted
to Coggins in 1785. One of the witnesses is Henry Collins, presumably the
son of James Collins I as he had a son of that name.(23)
The price was 85 pounds. Webb, Carr, and Jones (especially combined with
"Drewry" or Drury) all look like Kingsale Swamp people who have moved to
Franklin County; Carr we learn later is John Carr, who left Kingsale a
few years before James Collins. Eley Drake (though one transcriber read
it "Eliz. Drake") certainly looks like a Kingsale name related to the Eleys.
This land appears to be the first to mention the
upper waters of Cypress Creek, land where James Collins II would be living
at the time of his death in 1838. This land is a bit to the west of where
James I later lived, as will be seen below in our discussion of the family
lands, Page 81, 82. Whether this deed was, then, actually a purchase by
James II (he would already be 31 years old by this time) is not clear;
it might also have been bought by his father and later transferred to him,
but from the 1799s on the son seems to own quite a bit more land than the
On March 13, 1793, Drury Jones -- presumably the
same as "Drewry Jones" mentioned in the previous deed -- sold James Collins
a tract of 64 acres lying near the waters of Cypress Creek adjoining John
Carr (see "Carr" above) and John Denson. Other Densons are found in the
Sandy Creek area as well as Cypress Creek. One of the witnesses is Jordan
Bass; one of Tempey Vinson Collins' sisters married into the Bass family.
The price for the 64 acres was four pounds 10 shillings Virginia currency.
In this period of the early republic, before Federal currency had really
taken hold, the individual state currencies exchanged at different rates:
note that the earlier deed specified North Carolina currency while this
one specifies Virginia.(24)
This deed is interesting for several reasons:
not only is it again on Cypress Creek, but it adjoins John Carr. There
is every reason to believe that John Carr here mentioned is the same John
Carr we saw earlier selling his land in Kingsale Swamp and moving to North
Carolina. "Drury Jones" may have also originated there: both "Drury" and
"Jones" were families found in Isle of Wight and Nansemond. And these people
are using Virginia currency, not North Carolina.
Another record which may relate to either James
I or James II is a November 4, 1800 entry for 50 acres of land on the South
side of Sandy Creek "on the Beavrdam Branch Joining David Vinson Line Williamson
John Leonard Line and his own Line", with the warrant issued May 27, 1801.(25)
This looks like part of the 150 acres which James I owned when he died,
as will be noted shortly. The fact that from the 1790s through his death
James I seems to have paid taxes on only 150 acres while his son James
II's land grew and varied makes me think that many of the transactions
referring to James Collins refer to James II rather than James I, but this
one is likely James I since the land seems to be part of that he owned
for the rest of his life.
the Land Lay
Insofar as these records help us locate the land,
they confirm that the earliest settlements were in the same general area
where Michael Collins and the Vinsons lived. Red Bud Creek is a branch
of Sandy Creek and may in fact be the "South Branch" of Sandy Creek mentioned
in the first land record, though there are others. Another possibility
is Beaver Dam Creek, for indeed the land owned by James I when he died
was apparently at Beaver Dam's intersection with Sandy Creek. Cypress Creek
and Red Bud Creek do not join; although both ultimately are tributaries
of the Tar River they belong to different drainage systems. As a result
the land lying on Red Bud and Cypress Creeks must be land between the two
creeks straddling the watershed. This fits with the plat we have of James
Collins II's land at the time of his death, which lay to the north and
west of the locality today called Stallings' Crossroads. (Note that the
Stallings family later intermarried with our Collins kin, and will be discussed
in a moment.) It seems clear enough that this area of northeastern Franklin
County was the area of early Collins settlement.
In fact, as the map shows, the Collins and Vinson
lands, and those of most others we will be discussing, lay in the watershed
between Cypress, Sandy, and Red Bud Creeks, apparently along these creeks
and including the higher ground drained by them. As will be noted later,
the land owned by James Collins I during most of his life appears to have
been a little farther to the West, along Sandy Creek and Beaver Dam Creek,
shown on the map here and in the more detailed map on Page 81, 82.
From 1798 onward, as will be seen, James Collins
I appears in every tax list to list an acreage, as owning 150 acres of
land. After his death, his widow Esther appears in the 1820 tax list with
150 acres. These records are discussed below between Pages 91 and 95.
Although the tax lists are not specific enough
to tell us for certain that James I held the same 150 acres for
the last 20 years or more of his life, that seems to be a reasonable supposition.
His sons were already old enough to have land of their own -- at least
the elder two sons were -- and perhaps they acquired some of their father's
land. But since every record I have found from 1798 until the early 1820s
refers to 150 acres as the land of James Collins 1, then of his widow Esther,
it seems a safe, if not quite certain, assumption that this was the same
As it happens, we have a somewhat better description
of this land at the end of its time in the Collins family than at
any earlier period. In 1824, James Collins II, as executor for James I,
sold 150 acres to William Gupton for $520. That sale clearly seems to have
been the sale of the land left by James I, and therefore must be evidence
that Esther, who had been living on it, had also died by this time. (This
will be discussed at the end of the chapter.) The sale provides the clearest
description existing of the land:
This Indenture made and entered into this the
fourth day of May A.D. One Thousand Eight hundred & Twenty four between
James Collins Exct. of James Collins decd. of the Stat eof North Carolina
& County of Franklin of the one part -- William Gupton of the State
& County aforesaid on the other part -- witnefseth that I the said
James Collins Execustor of James Collins decd. hath bargained sold &
by the present so bargain sell & convey unto the said William Gupton
one certain tract or parcel of land lying or situated on the South Side
of Sandy Creek adjoining the lands of William Leonard Federick [sic]
Leonard & others containing one hundred & fifty acres moe or lefs
bounded as follows (viz.) beginning on the South side of Sandy Creek on
a gum at William Leonards corner thence runing with said Leonards line
as they vary to the Bever dam branch and thence down the run of said branch
to Sandy Creek & then up the said creek to the first station for and
in consideration of the sum of five hundred and seventy dollars to me in
hand paid . . .(26)
It would appear that the land was located along
both Sandy Creek and Beaver Dam Branch, bounded on the third side by the
Leonards, and since from the intersection of Beaver Dam Branch and Sandy
Creek the line runs up Sandy Creek (which flows from west to east),
it must have lain in the southwest corner of Beaver Dam Branch and Sandy
Creek's confluence. Since I do not have a plat of the Leonard's land, the
exact boundaries cannot be determined, but we can estimate roughly what
the 150 acres must have comprised. This was, if not the first land James
Collins I held in North Carolina, the land he owned in his old age.
The deed transactions probably do not reflect
a complete record of land held; for one thing we do not have any records
as early as we know James Collins was present. The Bute records seem to
be incomplete, and the Franklin records are confusing: the numbered deed
books are in the wrong order, deeds from the same year are entered in different
books, and generally record-keeping seems to have been somewhat haphazard.
Return to Virginia after the War
There is one interlude which I cannot quite explain,
namely evidence that either James I, or at least James II, returned to
the area from which they came in Virginia shortly after the Revolutionary
War. In his pension application, James Collins II says that "since the
revolutionary war he has lived (with the exception of nearly one year during
which he lived in Nansemond County, Virginia) in the County of Franklin
aforesaid, where he now lives". He does not specify that "nearly one year"
in Nansemond County, but we can probably place it in 1782. After the mention
of Jesse Collins in Nansemond in 1772 and James Collins' sale of Kingsale
Swamp land in the Isle of Wight records in 1778, we next see Collinses
there, briefly, after the Revolution, and then not at all. In a tax list
for Isle of Wight County, Virginia, in 1782, we find James Collins with
four taxable persons. It is not clear if this is James I or James II (who
would have been 24 in that year), but it seems likelier to be the father
as James II did not have that large a family in 1782, before he married
Temperance. At most he had an earlier wife and his son Peter.
This 1782 entry has caused some confusion. The
1790 first federal census for Virginia was lost, destroyed when the British
burned Washington in 1814. In the late 19th century, when the published
versions of the 1790 census for the other 13 original states were being
published, a number of Virginia tax lists for various years in the 1780s
were compiled together and published as a reconstructed "1790 census" of
Virginia. But a close look shows that the Isle of Wight entries were taken
from the 1782 tax list, eight years earlier. Many people looking at the
bound volume labeled the "1790 census" of Virginia have doubtless assumed
this is a different James Collins from the two who appear in the 1790 census
for North Carolina, but in fact, it is one of our Jameses during that "less
than a year" that James II said he lived in "Nansemond". (As we have seen,
the old land lay along the county line and records may appear in either
In the 1783 tax list for Nansemond, just a year
later, we find three Collnses: Thomas and William in Willis Parker's District,
and Samuel in Holland District. Both districts sound like they are somewhere
near Kingsale swamp: Holland certainly, and "Willis Parker" combines two
names we see a lot of in that area. It is not clear who these men are.
William could be William Collins, son of James I and brother of James II,
but no other record refers to a Thomas or a Samuel in this area. They could
be connections of Jesse or Jethro, or sons of James I not mentioned by
name in his will, either because they died young without children or for
some other reason. We just don't know.
But from that 1783 tax list onward, there is no
sign of Collinses in the Kingsale Swamp area, and only rarely elsewhere
in Isle of Wight and Nansemond. The 1787 tax list, sometimes called the
state census, does not include these men, and the two Jameses and William
turn up in 1790 in North Carolina.
While Thomas and Samuel cannot be accounted for
at this time, it seems clear that some or all of the Collinses who moved
to North Carolina moved back to the Kingsale area briefly just after the
Revolution. This might add to the possibility of assuming they moved south
in the first case because of the troubles created in Southside Virginia
by the British during the war. Or it may just mean they still held some
land there and were considering working it. In any event, whyever they
went back, James II tells us it was for less than a year, and the tax lists
suggest that year may have been 1782 or part of 1783.
But now, back to North Carolina, for after 1782-83
the Collinses were definitively settled there, and James Collins II would
live there until his death in 1838.
Before we continue tracing James Collins I in
the tax lists and census records of the new republic, it is worth pausing
for a moment to get acquainted with the community of people who settled
the same area he did and who in many cases would be intermarried with the
Collinses, some not only in this period but later in Tennessee as well.
The map on the next page provides a better sense of where the lands we are discussing lay in comparison with localities today.
Sandy Creek Community
I am calling the community of intermarried families
settled near the Collinses the Sandy Creek community, though there is no
evidence that name was used at the time. There were no towns there then,
and even today the land is rural, consisting of areas near but not necessarily
including the little communities of Wood, Centerville, and Stallings' Crossroads.
As late as the 1850 census there was not even a township name (though there
would be later), and the area was simply listed as "Louisburg P.O.", though
Louisburg is some miles distant. Even today I believe that the post office
is Louisburg. And James Collins II's land was south and west of Sandy Creek,
so the name is less appropriate for him than for his father's land.
A good many of the families who settled in this
area, besides our Collinses, had Virginia roots, probably most of them.
Several at least came from Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties, and a
number from Kingsale Swamp.
The old Virginia tradition of using a surname
as a first name is interesting too, because we see in the Collins family
such names as Holland Collins and Jones Collins, both of which probably
reflect intermarriages with those families. Willis Collins might have a
similar origin since a Willis family is frequently encountered, though
it also could have stood alone.
Some Kingsale families who are not found in the
Sandy Creek area may be seen echoed in these first names. Although the
Hollands did not settle in the area, the name Holland appears as a first
name among the Collinses and there is a Holland Murphrey, about whom more
in a moment. Similarly, the Council family we met so often in Kingsale
do not seem to have moved to Sandy Creek, but we find a Council Carr in
the tax lists, clearly one of the Carrs of Kingsale. Parker Murphrey, a
neighbor mentioned in James I's will, carries two old Kingsale Swamp names.
So does neighbor Drury or Drewry Jones.
Among the families we will encounter again and
again in the Collins saga, and who in fact help us at times determine which
Collinses are which, were these Sandy Creek neighbors:
James Collins II married Temperance Vinson, and
there are other Collins-Vinson or Vincent alliances later on. As our own
direct ancestry includes the Vinsons, a full family history will eventually
be prepared. For now, a few general observations are in order. Temperance
was a daughter of David Vinson, whose will and estate settlement in 1810
leave no doubt about that, and eventually almost all his land ended up
owned by James Collins II. Some Tennessee Collins descendants have decided
that James "Vincent", who died 1809, was Temperance's father, but I cannot
see why: James' will does not mention her, his widow can be shown to be
only about Temperance's age, and plenty of other evidence suggests that,
if he is related, he is Temperance's older brother who died before his
father did. The spelling "Vinson" and "Vincent" alternated for years, and
do not seem to have settled down to one or the other at the time we are
There were no fewer than five Vinsons in the list
of those taking the 1778 loyalty oath. David the father of Temperance was
proabably the "David Vinson, constable" in that list, not the "David Vinson,
Senior", who was likely his uncle. The Vinsons came from Northampton County,
North Carolina, but seem to have originated in southeastern Virginia originally.
We have already noted that John Carr sold his
land in Kingsale in 1771 and was at that time already of Bute County, North
Carolina; he seems to the same John Carr who adjoined the James Collins
land on Cypress Creek. As mentioned, old Kingsale names were also used
in the Carr family: there was a Council Carr.
We did not actually meet the Murphreys in our
discussion of Kingsale, because they do not appear directly in the Collins
deeds, but they were an old family of the area. This name, which is also
sometimes spelled Murfree, sometimes turns up in documents as the more
common "Murphy", but the "r" should definitely be there. All the Murphreys
and Murfrees of the south may have originated in the Isle of Wight/Nansemond
Murphreys are found in several parts of Isle of
Wight, and in Nansemond as well. That they lived in Kingsale can be shown
from a deed of 1745 in which William Murfree of the Upper Parish of Nansemond
County sold 150 acres in Isle of Wight to Joseph Holland, this land being
described as touching George Keen's land and the land of several Sanders.
The Keens, of course, lived near the Collinses and are linked to them.(27)
How the Franklin County Murphreys link into the
Kingsale Swamp ones is not clear but there is surely some connection. In
the 1778 loyalty oath list, "Arthur Murphey" and "James Murphey" both appear
in the same district as James Collins, and others appear in later tax lists.
In James Collins I's will, he leaves one share of his estate to "Doctor
Murphey, son of Parker Murphey"; other records refer to Parker "Murphrey".
James I's will seems actually to treat Doctor Murphey as if he were a grandson,
so perhaps his mother was a Collins. This is not explicitly stated, though,
as will be seen when we discuss James I's children.
When Arthur Murphrey or Murphey died, prior to
December 1803, Parker Murphrey and William Collins (son of James I) conducted
the sale.(28) Arthur Murphey or Murphrey
died about 1802; many Collinses and connections bought goods in both sales,
and Paker Murphrey probably belongs to the next generation from those of
the loyalty oath, perhaps being a son of Arthur.(29)
When Parker Murphrey died, sometime in 1820, we
learn that his widow's name was Holland Murprey! His children were James,
Bird, Elisha, William, Gray, Garret, Doctor, Nancy, Joel, Jordan, John
and Mary.(30) Holland may not have been
the mother of all these. She was still alive in the 1830 Franklin County
census, a woman between 50-60 years at that time. Conceivably she could
even have been a Collins, explaining why James I left part of his estate
to Doctor Murphrey, but then the Collinses later always used "Holland"
as a man's name. Clearly though, there is a Kingsale connection here, with
the Hollands, Collinses and Murprheys all linked in some way, perhaps several
Another family with many Collins links through
the years is the Guptons. They may have lived on the north side of Sandy
Creek, where today there is a Gupton Creek and a small community named
Gupton; an abandoned store in the area carries the sign "Gupton Store".
The Guptons are intermarried several times with the Collinses, not so far
as I know in our own direct line, though Henry Collins (1795-1860) named
a daughter Mary Gupton Collins.
The Guptons were also from Virginia, though not
from the Kingsale area. Stephen Gupton and James Gupton, who came to Franklin,
were sons of Stephen Gupton of Orange County, Virginia, who in turn was
a son of William Gupton. Their line originally came to Old Rappahannock
County, Virginia (now Richmond County in the "Northern Neck") in 1662.(31)
James Collins II's daughter Temperance married
Bennett Stallings, and the family owned land adjacent to James II in the
upper Cypress Creek area, near where there is still today a locality called
Stallings Crossroads. A Stallings genealogist has identified Bennett Stallings
as the son of John Stallings who lived until 1857 and supposedly was born
in England and came to America in the 18th century under a British land
grant.(32) Unless he lived to a very ripe
old age indeed, something seems wrong with this. Quite a few Stallings
appear in the early records, and it is also a common name in southeast
Virginia: Stallings and Stallins and sometimes even Stallions appears regularly
in the Upper Parish of Nansemond County Vestry Book, for example. Since
"Bennett" was also a common name in Isle of Wight County, I think it at
least possible that these Stallings were in fact from that area of Virginia,
if not actually from Kingsale.
I do not know the origin of the Leonards of Franklin
County, but they were to have many links with our Collinses. They did apparently
come from somewhere in Virginia. John Leonard and William Leonard took
the 1778 loyalty oath. Van Leonard witnessed the will of James Collins
I. James Collins II served in the militia with a William Leonard, who attested
to his service in his pension application; that is probably the same William
Leonard still living, age 90, and born in Virginia, at the time of the
1850 Franklin County Census. Two of James Collins II's children married
Leonards: his daughter Salley married Will Leonard, perhaps a son of the
man he served with; his son George Washington Collins married Mary P. Leonard.(33)
In his will, James Collins I left part of his
estate to Esther Gilliam (below, page 90), mother of Dixon Collins. She
may have been the widow of a Collins who remarried a Gilliam, or some other
relationship, but in any event the Gilliams have more than one connection
with the Collinses and often appear in land and other records as living
nearby. And years later in Kentucky we find her apparent son, Dixon Collins,
connected with an Ely family and a Mark "Gilham". (On this see the biography
of Henry Collins, below, p. 161.) We find Ephraim and Marcus Gilliam (Is
Mark Gilham Marcus Gilliam?), among others, fairly early on in Sandy Creek.
The name, sometimes spelled Gillum, also appears in southeastern Virginia,
though not in Kingsale.
The fact that there are Joneses in both southeast
Virginia and in Franklin County is not of course surprising; it is one
of the most common surnames. But there is some reason to think that the
Joneses who lived near the Collinses in Franklin had links with the Isle
of Wight/Nansemond area. We have already mentioned a land sale by Drury
or Drewry Jones; Drury was a southeast Virginia family name which was often
used as a first name by many families in Franklin County.
The Joneses may have been linked with the Collinses
in some way, or with the Vinsons/Vincents, for there are hints there too.
James Collins II named a son Jones Collins, and other Jones Collinses followed.
Josiah Collins, a son of Peter Collins, also named a son Jones, though
since Josiah married a Fanny "Vincent", the name might in both cases come
in from the Vinson side.
Edward Richardson is mentioned in some of the
earliest Collins land transactions. Much later, in James Collins II's pension
file, is a list of children's ages which, in addition to the Collinses,
inexplicably lists three Richardson children. Years later still, in Marshall
County, Tennessee, Henry Collins' daughter Frances Ann Collins married
James C. Richardson. His father, Harvell C. Richardson, probably came from
Franklin County. Thus the line may be connected through several generations
and more than one state. Randolph Richardson of Akron Ohio, a descendant
of Frances Ann, is the source for much of the little I know about this
The families just mentioned seem to be those most
closely linked by marriage, land and other ways to the Collinses, but they
are not the only links to Kingsale. Based on a reading of the early censuses
and tax lists, other families from Kingsale who turn up again in Franklin
name found in both locations, and living near the Collinses at times.
Saunders, though as a common name this may be a coincidence.
found in both places.
Webb, though again this is a common
name, but there may be links.
We have frequently met the Eleys in our discussion of Kingsale, and early
on in Franklin we find a man named Eli or Ely Eley. He may even been the
Elias Eley who turns up in Nansemond County.(34)
The Eleys of Franklin do not seem to have been closely linked to our Collinses,
but they lived near them, and in the 1809 Franklin County tax list, James
Collins, probably James II, is listed as paying the taxes for the Executors
of Ely Eley's estate. And another Eli Ely or Eley had a daughter who married
Elisha Collins, probably James I's son Elisha.(35)
are Lankfords in Franklin County, though not the Sandy Creek area. As we
noted earlier, the Lankfords lived near James Collins I prior to his leaving
Looking at all this material, we begin to get
a picture of the Sandy Creek community. Most of the families had Virginia
roots; several came from the same general area from which James I came.
In a rural setting, miles from any towns of any size, the families naturally
intermarried closely over time. A look at almost any of the estate sales
of Collinses, Murprheys, Carrs, Gilliams, etc. shows most of the other
names, and most of our known kin, among those buying.
Children of James Collins I
That, then, was the community into which James
and Esther Collins had moved. It is appropriate next to discuss their children,
since their names will turn up in the records which follow and if one has
not met them yet, there may be some confusion.
The list of children of James Collins I and his
wife Esther (or perhaps earlier wives) may be reconstructed from his will
and some other information, though it may not be complete. He names his
living children, and grandchildren by children who had already died, but
any children who died without issue are presumably omitted.
James Collins II,
our ancestor, is listed first among the sons in the 1815 will of James
Collins I. However the will mentions grandchildren through two other sons,
David and Jesse, who apparently have died previously, but they first appear
as landholders much later than James II and William, making it likely that
James II was the eldest son and Wiliam the next oldest. We know that James
II was born in 1758 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, so he gives us a
benchmark for the others. James was one of two executors, with his brother
Listed after James II in his father's will, James and he were the two executors,
further strengthening the probability that they were the two eldest sons.
William regularly appears living close to his father, even after James
II is found mainly in the Cypress Creek area, and William paid his father's
taxes in 1815. He appears in the records through the tax lists of 1820.
There seems to be no reason to doubt that this is the same William whose
will is dated 15 May 1821, and mentions his wife Nancy, sons Jesse, James,
William, Theodorick, Littlebury, Littleton, daughters Nancy and Patience,
and son Nathanael. Nancy is probably the Nancy Wadkins or Watkins who married
a William Collins on 31 August 1802. (Nathanael is not listed among the
"six sons", but after the daughters. He may have been a child too young
to inherit.)(36) Many of these names turn
up in later Franklin County records, so apparently William's progeny, like
James II's, were numerous. Among interesting notes: Theodorick married
Martha Nelms on 8 January 1825 and Littlebury married Sally Nelms on 2
January 1822, presumably sisters. This younger Jesse may have been the
one who married Mary Ann Murphy on 25 November 1847, and/or the Jesse who
married Patsey Cooke on 23 November 1814, or of course both if he married
twice. William's son William may have been the one who married Temperance
Gilliam on 27 December 1823. Patience, not married when William made his
will, must have been the Patience who married Newton Davis on 9 February
1829, though the name also existed in other branches. His descendants can
be traced for several generations, and one line, through his son Nathanael's
son William C. Collins, intermarried with the descendants of James Collins
in Marshall County, Tennessee. I have also corresponded with a descendant
of one of William's daughters, Mr. Robert Alford. What I know, or think
I know, about the descendants of William Collins appears in the descent
tables at the end of the work.
Henry Collins. The
third son listed in the will. James II would name one of his sons (our
ancestor), Henry, presumably for this brother. This Henry, assuming he
is the one who appears in the Franklin County records occasionally, is
listed as 26-45 in the 1800 census, which only tells us that he was born
after 1755 (which we knew, as he's younger than James II born in 1758)
and before 1784. In 1800 he seems to have had a wife and at least seven
children. He is not in the 1810 census but, as argued elsewhere, is probably
the man who was in Logan County, Kentucky in 1810.(37)
The 1815 will seems to treat him as still being alive.
Elisha Collins. James
II also named one of his sons Elisha, probably for this brother of his.
Elisha appears in the tax list of 1799, but not in the 1800 census. He
may be the "Elisha Collings" (that old spelling again!) who entered 200
acres of land on the north side of Shocco Creek (to the north of Sandy
Creek) on November 10, 1800, recorded May 27, 1801.(38)
He is most likely the Elisha Collins, married to a daughter of Eli Ely,
of Logan County, Kentucky, who appears among other Sandy Creek names in
1810 and later.(39) The 1815 will of James
I makes it sound as if he is still alive.
David Collins. Presumably
David Collins had died before his father, for the will mentions William
Collins (son of David Collins) and James Collins and Milley Collins (children
of David Collins). Why they are listed separately is not clear, nor does
the will explicitly say that David was a son of James I, though
it does refer to "grandchildren" at the beginning of the list. James Collins
also named a son David Collins, but then Temperance Vinson's father's name
was also David. David may have been the "Davie Collins" who married Betsey
Willis(40) on January 31, 1803. David almost
certainly is the David Collins whose estate was inventoried September 15,
1808 and sold soon thereafter; his widow's name was Elizabeth. Thus she
could have been "Betsey" Willis; if so, the one son, William, must have
been at most only four or five when his father died, unless he was born
to an earlier wife. James Senior and Junior were among those buying parts
of the estate, as were William Collins (presumably David's brother, not
his young son), Peter Collins, and others.(41)
If this identification is correct, he is not the David Collins in the 1815
tax list, who is probably David, son of James II, who was born 1791.
Jesse Collins. Again,
Jesse had obviously died before his father's will was written in 1815.
The will lists Whitney Collins & Elisha Collins (sons of Jesse Collins).
James I, of course, also had a brother Jesse. The fact that the name Elisha
appears yet again may be worth keeping in mind in tracing the family further:
it may be an old family name. Another Jesse Collins died about 1824, leaving
a widow Patsey and a son Willis Collins, but I believe that Jesse to have
been the son of William Collins, elder brother of this Jesse, who seems
to have died before his father. The Jesse who appears in the 1820 Franklin
County tax lists would thus be this other Jesse.
Esther Gilliam? The
will also mentions, along with the grandchildren, Dixon Collins, son
of Esther Gilliam. If Dixon is a grandson, Esther would seem to have
been a daughter of James I, which makes sense since his wife's name was
Esther. But if she married a Gilliam, why is her son named Dixon Collins?
The likeliest guess is that she had married a son of James Collins and
then remarried a Gilliam, but then wouldn't he have named the dead son?
Dixon might have been illegitimate and she was a Collins who then married
a Gilliam, or she was a Gilliam who had an illegitimate son by a Collins,
but there is no real evidence. The Gilliams we have mentioned before (See
Page 86) A James Vinson -- one of our kin -- married Sarah Gilliam on 9
January 1836 (and a Leonard -- another much intermarried name -- witnessed
it); Mary Ann Collins (exact relation uncertain) married James Gilliam
on 19 November 1854; and as mentioned a William Collins married Temperance
Gilliam on 27 December 1823. But who Esther Gilliam in 1815 was is still
unclear. However, her son Dixon Collins seems to be the same man who turns
up later in Logan County, Kentucky, near Henry and Elisha Collins (sons
of James I) and Holland Collins (son of James II), and who was linked to
the Eley or Ely family as well as to a man named "Mark Gilham", perhaps
echoing the "Marcus Gilliam" of Sandy Creek. (See the biography of Henry
Collins, below, Page, 161.)
The will also gives a full share (actually twice
what each of the sons received, since each one got a half share) to "Doctor
Murphrey son of Parker Murphrey". "Doctor" Murphrey is, by the way, a given
name not a title: the man was named Doctor. If these were relations, it
is not clear what sort, but then before beginning his list (the will is
quoted in full below), James said he was spelling out how the estate would
go to his children and grandchildren, suggesting that all those named were
one or the other. As mentioned in the section on the Murprheys on Page
84, Parker Murphrey's widow was named Holland Murphrey, and the Murphreys
were an old Kingsale family. Doctor Murphrey was only one of a number of
Murphrey sons, but perhaps his mother was a Collins and the others were
by other mothers. Parker Murphrey also shows up on the Vinson side, selling
James Collins the younger some land he bought from a son-in-law of David
Vinson. Clearly they were neighbors if not kin. Perhaps another daughter
married Parker Murphrey?
Tax Lists and Census Records
Let us return now to the documentary evidence
for the life of James Collins I. Although some later deed references to
James Collins may refer to James I, most appear to refer to James II, who
clearly held much more land than his father did.
The federal census every ten years, and the Franklin
County tax lists, give us considerable information and some snapshots of
the development of the family. In the first US census, 1790, both our James
Collinses appear to turn up in Franklin County, which was part of the larger
Halifax District. William Collins also appears, who is pretty certainly
William, the second son of James I and brother of James II. William has
a household consisting of one free white male over 16, three free white
males under 16, and three free white females. All appear on page 59 of
the printed edition of the 1790 North Carolina census. The sparsity of
information, particularly the fact that adult ages are not broken down
at all, makes it hard to be sure which of the two James Collinses is the
father and which the son. One has two males over 16, five under 16, and
one female, while the other has one male over 16, five under 16, and two
females. The fact that there are still uncertainties about the dates of
birth of James I's children (other than James II) makes it hard to judge
which of these fairly similar families is which. None of the three Colllins
entries in 1790 shows any slaves. Because the census list for Franklin
County in 1790 was more or less alphabetized, the order does not give us
a clue to who was living near whom.
We learn a bit more from a Franklin County tax
list for 1798. In Captain Lewis Webb's district (again, a Webb), we find
James Collins Junior holding 688 acres and paying taxes for one white poll,
James Collins Senior holding 150 acres and paying only for one black poll,
and William Collins holding 130 acres and paying for one white poll. Determination
of how many "polls" one paid for depended on several things and sometimes
varied, but it is not the total number of persons in the household. In
this tax list we also find Henry Collins, apparently Henry son of James
I, with 100 acres, one white poll and one black. (42)
In a 1799 tax list we find, again in Captain Webb's
district, James Collins Senior with 150 acres, one white poll and three
black polls, listed immediately after Francis "Wills" (Wells) and before
David Vinson. James Collins Junior is in the same list, again with 688
acres and one white poll; William Collins with 130 acres and one white
poll; and Henry Collins with 100 acres, one white poll, one black poll,
and one stud horse, for which there was an extra tax.(43)
In Captain Carr's district (which also includes a David "Vincent" and,
as the name Carr shows, was somewhere in the same area), we find Elisha
Collins with one white poll. This is presumably James I's son Elisha, in
his first appearance in a tax record.(44)
The next year, 1800, we have the second federal
census. We find James Collins Junior with five males under 10, three 10-16,
one 26-45 (himself, at 42), three females under 10 and one between 26-45
(Temperance). James Collins Senior is listed immediately following with
one male under 10, one male 16-26, one over 45, one female over 45 and
one slave. Next in the list is Frederick Leonard, one of those intermarried
Leonards, and then after him, William Collins, with three males under 10,
one 10-16, one 26-45 (presumably William), one female under 16 and one
26-45. On the next census page is Peter Collins (who as we will see in
the next chapter is the eldest son of James II, by an unknown first wife),
who is listed as one male 16-26.(45)
One must wonder about that one male under 10.
Did James and Esther have a son in the 1790s? It seems unlikely if Esther
was also the mother of James Collins II in 1758, though she might have
been a second wife and there is some reason to think that the other sons
were a bit younger than James II and William. And we know that at
least two of James' sons died before he did, David and Jesse. But David
turns up in the record for some years and Jesse at least as late as 1804,
though not after that date, as we'll see, so presumably neither was dead
yet. Perhaps this explains the Dixon Collins reference (the son of Esther
Gilliam) in the will. But the boy could also be a son of the male
16-26, or a nephew, or a farmhand or other non-relative.
Henry Collins turns up several census pages later,
with one male under 10, two 10-16, one 16-26 and one (presumably Henry)
26-45; three girls under 10, one female 26-45, and two slaves.(46)
As far as I can tell Elisha Collins, though taxed in 1799, does not appear
as a separate head of household in the 1800 census.
In an undated Franklin County tax list which the
editor who published it believes dates from 1800-1803, we find, again in
Captain Willis Webb's district, James Collins Senior with 150 acres and
one black poll, William Collins with 169 acres and one white poll, Henry
Collins with 100 acres, one white poll and one stud horse, and for the
first time Jesse Collins and David Collins, each with one white poll (but
no acreage listed), as well as Peter Collins again with 388 acres and one
white poll.(47) James II does not appear
on this list, but as subsequent lists show that his land (probably the
Cypress Creek land) was now in a different militia district, that is probably
The 1804 tax list sheds some more light. In Captain
Eley's district -- another old Kingsale name -- we find James Collins with
512 acres and one white poll. The presence of John Carr and other familiar
names, and the presence elsewhere of James Senior, makes it clear that
this is James II, and that his land, probably the Cypress Creek land, is
now in a different miiltia district from his father's. This is probably
because of increasing population; the county was being subdivided into
smaller units. The changing acreage reminds us that James II seems to have
traded a lot in land. In the same 1804 list, back in Captain Willis Webb's
District, we still find James Senior with his 150 acres, Wiliam with his
169, Henry with his 100, Jesse with 100 acres now (and a stud horse), David
Collins with no acreage but one white poll, and Peter Collins with his
388 acres.(48) (Did Henry sell his stud
horse to Jesse, one wonders?)
There is little change in 1805: James II is in
Eley's District while James I, William and Peter are in Webb's, but Henry
and Jesse and David all seem to have dropped from sight. There is no change
in acreage.(49) In 1806 James II with his
512 acres seems to appear in both Captain Hunt's District and Captain Moody's
District, with the same 512 acres; in Moody's he appears adjacent to John
Carr, which points to the Cypress Creek land.(50)
In Willis Webb's District we find James with his 150 acres and two black
polls, William, now with 221 and a half acres and one white poll, Peter
with his 388 acres, and David Collins again, after an absence, with one
white poll but no acreage listed.(51)
The next year, 1807, we find basically the same
entries for Webb's district, only now it is called Captain Stuart's District,
with the same Collins entries, except William's 221 and a half acres seems
to have become 212 acres, unless the transcriber misread it.(52)
I haven't found James II listed for that year; perhaps his militia district
return did not survive. In 1808 he has his 512 acres in Captain Hunt's
District,(53) while over in Captain Stuart's
District we find the usual entries, though William Collins land is now
listed as 220 acres and David Collins, though still without acreage, has
both one white poll and one black poll. James I is steady with his 150
For 1809, in "Capt. Stewart's" District, presumably
the same man as Captain Stuart in early years, we find James Collins Senior
with his familiar 150 acres, but the other Collinses are not listed in
that District. In Captain Jones' District for that Year we find James II
with his 512 acres and one black poll, plus James Collins again paying
taxes for the Executors of the estate of Ely Eley deceased, on 178 acres.(55)
The 1810 federal census shows James Collins Senior
with one male 10-16 (presumably the under 10 from the 1800 census), one
male over 45, one female over 45 and two slaves.(56)
This fits his listing in the 1810 tax list, which shows him with two black
polls, and the usual 150 acres. In the tax list he is again in Captain
Stuart's District (the spelling having reverted to "Stuart"), preceded
by William Collins, who now has 211 acres and one white poll.(57)
James Junior now appears in the same district with his 512 acres (the district
lines must have changed), as well as administering 530 acres for David
I do not know of any references to James I between
1810 and 1815. In 1815, James Collins wrote his will, which we have mentioned
before and will discuss shortly. The will is dated 22 May 1815. There is
a Franklin County tax list for 1815, and in it, in "Captain Davis's District",
we find William Collins paying the tax for James Collins' 150 acres. James'
150 acres in that year were valued at three dollars an acre, twice the
valuation put on Wiliam's and thus the tax was $450. William himself had
340 acres in that year, but valued at only $1.50 an acre, for a total of
$510. David Collins had slightly over 58 acres; this must be David, son
of James II, born 1791 and now about 24; David son of James I appears to
be the man who died about 1808, and James I's will indicates he died before
his father. Peter Collins' land had increased to 479 acres. James II, again,
is in a different militia district, this time Captain Wood's District,
and has 847 acres.(59)
Note for the moment that William Collins paid
the tax "for James Collins" not "for the estate of" James Collins. This
will be relevant when we discuss the date of death.
It seems pretty clear that for most of the latter
part of his life, James Collins I owned 150 acres of land and one or two
slaves. Whether the land coincided closely with the 140 acres he bought
from Peter Smart back in 1780 is hard to say. Certainly some of the land
he acquired passed to James II, William, and perhaps the other sons Henry,
David, Jesse and Elisha; some may have also passed to Peter, eldest son
of James II, who is a landholder by 1800. James II's landholdings were
always larger, and William's usually a bit larger, than their father held
in his own name. On the other hand, in the 1815 tax assessment we see James
I's land assessed at twice the price per acre as William's nearby land,
probably because it was mostly fertile bottomland along Sandy Creek as
we have seen above. (On the location of the 150 acres, see the quotation
on page 79 and the map on page 81, 82.)
One item which may be related to James Collins
I is a note in Franklin County Will Book C, p. 134, dated October 17, 1808,
appointing commissioners to lay off land for the heirs of one William Kirby,
deceased, referring to "one acre on southside of Redbud Creek, also called
Collin's old mill". "Collin's" here must mean Collins, but whether it refers
to Michael Collins or to James I is hard to say; the latter seems a bit
more probable. The road today still known as "Collins Mill Road" runs through
the old Collins areas.
Snapshot of James I's Farm: His Estate Sale
Before we come to the death of James Collins "I",
it is worth taking a brief look at the best evidence we have for such early
American farmers, the inventories of their estates when sold after their
death. These are sometimes very revealing and sometimes not so much so,
but they do give us some faint picture of the life our ancestors led. Sometimes,
especially later on, we may learn the names of books they owned; for James
II we learn he had two stills, one of which sold at a quite hefty price.
There is nothing so revealing for James I. Still, the estate inventory
is the best description we have of what he owned on that 150 acres of land
he held in northeastern Franklin County, North Carolina.
The inventory and account of the sale, dated 3rd
January 1820, is worn along both edges and in some places the microfilm
is illegible; I have not seen the original, only working from a microfilm
copy.(60) The purchasers include many people
from his immediate family, in-laws, and neighbors in the extended Sandy
Creek Community which we have discussed, and some who do not seem to fit
any of these lists. I have not sought to list every purchase and its price
here. The various items sold from the estate totaled Some $586 and forty-some
cents, the last digit illegible and enough earlier ones also unreadable
to make exact computation impossible. Some $10 owing to James Collins from
a Jeremiah (Parker?) brought the total value of the estate to some $597.
The numbers of each item are hard to read as they
are in the left margin which has been badly worn off. There were four plow
hoes and frames, two (?) grubbing hoes, a plow and several "Sundry articles"
of a type not readable but listed with the plows and hoes; a weeding hoe,
related sundries, a Kettle and sundries, Horse collars, and a "Barrel &
We find one save, one mortar, a barrel (?) of
"sundries", another hogshead and barrel, three "Gums" (it appears, though
it might be guns: perhaps it means gum or rubber raincoats or tarps). There
is a stove, though I cannot make out the word before "stove", and it comes
with a poker, a pair of (some sort of) hooks, a spinning wheel, and then
a word I cannot make out.
Next come three lots of earthen ware, sold to
three different buyers, then a half dozen earthen plates, one (?) dozen
"puter" (pewter) spoons, (one dozen? Number uncertain) pewter plates, and
a pewter "bason" or basin. There are some sales of "Sundries (lumber &C)"
and what appears to be a barrel (or bushel) of Corn, though this is at
the bottom of the page and partly worn away. It appears to be rated at
so much a barrel.
On the second page of the inventory come two more
barrels of corn at differing prices, then a number of hogs (the numbers
here are particularly smudged) and other swine: there are three lines listing
hogs, though the numbers are unreadable, then two listing pigs, then three
listing, apparently, stoats, then one pig, and one sow. The prices seem
to vary; clearly there was an auction of the property or some other means
of determining fair price. Since the numbers involved are hard to read
it seems pointless to discuss specifics.
After the last sow comes one pair of Cart Wheels,
one Black Horse (sold for $30), one Bay Mare (sold for $68.20), another
Bay mare who went for only $36, a bay colt who sold for $25, and a "Sorel"
(sorrell) colt which went for $20.
As for cattle, there is an entry for one (something)
Stear (something) which sold for $12, and which may refer to a type of
steer but is not clear to me; a cow for $15.15, a cow and calf for $14,
and a "Heffer" for $8.25.
Next we find "a Quantity of Shacks" (possibly
"Shocks"), two stacks of fodder, one saddle, some sheep, number unclear,
which sold for $11.75, one "Disk" (or possibly "Desk"?), one shotgun (only
55 cents to his son William Collins), a saddle, a pair of steel yards,
a chest, sundries which seem to include "Howel and crose" (?), two lots
of lumber, two trays, one meat tub, and four more entries for kitchen goods
of which only one frying pan is clear on my microfilm copy.
On the third and final page of the inventory we
find one Looking Glass, one pair of candle molds, (it appears to say "Moles"),
"Books" which sold to Parker Murphrey for 56 cents, and are not otherwise
described, a decanter, one table, two pot racks sold to different buyers,
one "Spice Mortar", presumably a spice grinder.
We find four separate lines each listing "1 Bed
& Furniture and B.Stead", "furniture" here probably meaning the bed
linens. Each set sold for between $17 and $25.50. Then we find two tables,
one jar, one set of "Knives and Forkes", one item which appears to be "Guse"
or "Gust" and which I cannot identify, two entries for a "Bason and Dish",
an Iron Wedge, an "E. Mug" or possibly "P. Mug" (perhaps "pewter mug"?),
an Auger, several stacks of fodder.
Also we find "4 Sitting Chears", which I take
to be chairs, and then several items which are both smudged and cut off
at the edge and which I cannot read.
Limited experience in this period suggests we
are dealing with a fairly typical farm, though the number of beds reminds
us that a number of children had grown up here.
Was James Collins I Literate?
One question which comes up in going through the
sparse evidence for James Collins I's life is whether or not he could read
and write. His son James II certainly could not: throughout his life he
signed with a mark. But there is some reason to believe that James I may
have, at the very least, been able to sign his name in his earlier years,
though his will was signed with a mark. And there are those "Books", not
otherwise identified and selling for a mere 56 cents, mentioned in his
estate sale just recounted.
The earliest records of James Collins, found in
the Isle of Wight County, Virginia records, and recounted above, and some
seem to show he signed his own name (See for example above on Page 57).
I have mostly seen printed versions or abstracts, but these have supposedly
recorded signatures by mark where they occur, and while they show William
Collins (James' father) signing with a mark, and in the 1778 sale of land
by James and Esther, show Esther signing with her mark, they do
not show this for James. It seems possible that he could read a little,
or at least sign his name. He was probably close to 80 when he wrote his
will, and either did not bother to try to sign or perhaps was constrained
by arthrities or other ailments. I have seen other cases where ancestors
who could clearly sign their name (if little more) in youth signed their
wills in old age with an "X". And presumably someone was reading those
"Books" which sold without title listed for 56 cents. But if James I could
read, and it looks like his brother Jesse could too, neither his father
nor his son James II could do so.
We have quoted the will a number of times. It
is worth publishing it. A photocopy appears in the appendix. The will(61)
In the name of God Amen. I James Collins of Franklin
County being sound of mind and perfect in memory (Blessed be God) do this
twenty second day of May 1815 make constitute and ordain this my last will
and Testament in manner and form following (Viz.)
Item 1th I Lend to my belovd Esther Collins during
her natural life, all my lands and property of every kind whatsoever, and
after her death it is my will & desire that the whole of my estate
of every kind whatsoever Should be sold and the monies arising from the
sale thereof should be equally divided between my children and grandchildren
in the following manner (Viz.)
Item, to James Collins, William Collins, Henry
Collins, Elisha Collins, Dixon Collins (son of Esther Gilliam) and William
Collins son of David Collins; each half a share --
Item, to Whitney Collins and Elisha Collins (sons
of Jefse Collins) each half a share. Item To James Collins and Milley Collins
Children of David Collins half a share each --
Item, To Doctor Murphey son of Parker Murphey
a full Share --
And I do hereby nominate and appoint my Sons James
Collins & William Collins Executors to this my last will and Testament.
In Witnefs whereof I have hereunto set my hand & Seal the day and Year
first above written.
James X Collins
P.S. It is further my desire that my Sons above
mentioned should act as Guardians for my grand children until they arrive
at full age or of Lawful age to choose for themselves.
Witnefs my hand & seal the day and date written
James X Collins
Collins I's Death
The will we have been quoting is dated 22 May
1815,(62) and since William Collins paid
the taxes for James I in 1815 (for him, though, not for his estate), he
may at least have been in ill health at that time. Because of the date
on the will, some descendants have listed James' death as occurring in
However, the will was not recorded then. It was
recorded in Will Book F at Page 222, interspersed with other documents
containing dates from December 1818 through December 1819. The inventory
carries a date of 3 January 1820(63), and
filed with the June Court of 1820.(64).
It would appear that the earliest quarter-session court to which the probate
filing might belong would be the March Court of 1819, suggesting
a death from December 1818 onwards, but that it could also have been filed
later in 1819. Certainly by the 1820 tax list, the 150 acres is firmly
in the hands of Esther Collins (see below), and the fact that he left his
estate to her while she lived probably explains some of the confusion.
But James must have died no later than some date in 1819.
The estate sale was carried out by James Collins
II as adminstrator of the estate. The purchasers included people with many
of the names we have already gotten to know: Collinses and Leonards and
Guptons and Murphreys. The inventory and sale has already been discussed
After James I's Death
James Collins I's widow Esther survived him, as
is shown both by the will itself of 1815 and an 1820 Franklin County tax
list, wherein she appears on p. 485. The 1820 Franklin County census is
missing, so this tax list is all we have for that year. She is in possession
of that same 150 acres acres, still assessed at "3 [dollars] per acre"
or $450; she is also taxed for one black poll, meaning at that time one
adult male black between 12 and 50. She is listed between James Collins
(II), who is obviously he because he now has 900 acres, and Patience, daughter
of Peter Collins. Another James Collins (there were several in the next
generation) is listed after Patience.(65)
These were all in Captain Jackson's District, but we cannot tell the location
of the land because within that district the names were roughly alphabetized.
Presumably, though, we are again dealing with the old 150 acres at Sandy
Creek and Beaver Dam Branch, described above, Page 79.
Esther does not appear in later tax lists, and
we have other clues about when she died. Although the will left her all
of James' estate and lands, some as we have seen was inventoried and sold
in January 1820. But there is another estate sale listed, with fewer buyers,
dated July 5, 1823 and filed in September Court of 1823. This certainly
looks like the property being sold off was that which had been left in
Esther's hands: one lot of "Puter" (pewter), one quart pot, one iron skillet,
one iron pot and hook, an diron spit, a spinning wheel, a stove and jug,
a bed and furniture, two sheets, one counterpane [an old word for a woven
bedspread], two more lots of two counterpanes each, a pine chest, a water
pail, "1 Negro Man Ned", "1 Negro woman Alice" -- both sold to James Collins,
presumably James II -- and the 150 acres of land sold to William Gupton.(66)
Though the latter sale was only officially recorded in May of 1824, (See
above, Page 79), it appears in the 1823 estate sale.(67)
Clearly enough, this looks like the widow's provisions.
It is all household material, cooking pots and such, and the bedclothes
and a couple of slaves to work the land, plus the land itself. It makes
it virtually certain, then, that Esther had died before July 5, 1823, though
-- perhaps because James "lent" her his belongings in the will -- it is
treated legally as part of James', not Esther's, estate.
James Collins II as James I's executor did not
render his final accounting to the court until the June Court of 1824.
This included an accounting for several loans and receipts accrued during
the period, plus interest etc., as well as clerk's fees for the sales etc.,
and "6 gallons of Brandy furnished at sale", worth six dollars. The auction
must have been well lubricated. This seems to have been common enough at
backcountry elections, and must have also been popular to draw people to
an estate sale. (From the account, it appears this refers to the 1820 first
sale.) And as a comparison we may note that the same account charges, for
"Clerks fees for Probate, return of Inventory & acct. of sale" all
of $1.60. Obviously, legal fees were not the priorities in these sorts
of estate sales.(68) (One does wonder:
if there were six gallons of brandy provided for an estate auction,
what did they do for a wedding?)
These records show quite clearly that both the
land, and the household goods, held by Esther in 1820 had been sold off
in July of 1823. Remember that Esther was left the lands and estate only
for her lifetime (the will seems to read "I lend"); it then to be distributed
to the children and grandchildren as specified. No explanation other than
Esther's death comes to mind: if she had moved away, would it not have
been she who sold the land, rather than her husband's executor.
We have also already mentioned the sale, formalized by deed in 1824, of
the 150 acres to William Gupton, already mentioned in the 1823 estate sale.
Thus, though we do not have exact dates of death, it looks as if James I died in 1819 and his wife Esther prior to mid-1823.
2. . Isle of Wight County Deed Book 9, p. 539, 19 October 1757, recorded 2 March 1758, abstracted in William Lindsay Hopkins, Isle of Wight County, Virginia Deeds 1750-1782, Iberian Publishing Co., Athens, GA 1995, p. 161. See also the discussion above on Page 52.
3. . Isle of Wight Deed Book 11, p. 199, for 1 September 1763, recorded 1 December 1763, abstracted in Hopkins, Isle of Wight ...Deeds 1750-1782, p. 83. See also above, Page 53.
4. . Isle of Isle of Wight Deed Book 13, p. 19, for 26 October 1772, recorded 5 November 1772, abstracted in Hopkins, Isle of Wight ...Deeds 1750-1782, p. 131.
5. . Isle of Wight County Deed Book 14, p. 16; abstracted in Hopkins, Isle of Wight Deeds ... 1750-1782, p. 161.
6. . Isle of Wight County Deed Book 12, p. 396; abstracted in Hopkins, Isle of Wight Deeds ... 1750-1782, p. 120.
7. . In 1789 James Collins, probably the Revolutionary veteran (by then), bought 230 acres from Joshua Coggin "llying on the waters of Red Bud and Cypress" [creeks] adjoining Robert Coggins, Eley Drake, William Webb, Drewry Jones, Carr, and John Booles. Among the witnesses was Henry Collins, a brother of the younger James. (This land is discussed in greater detail in James II's biography.) See Franklin County Deed Book 7, p. 133. A 1793 deed by Drury Jones to James Collins make it clear the Carr in question was John Carr; Deed book 10, p. 34.
8. . Bute County Minutes, under the dates cited. Published as Bute County, North Carolina: Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions 1767-1779, by brent Howard Holcomb, Columbia SC 1988.
9. . Clarence E. Ratcliff, North Carolina Taxpayers 1701-1786, Volume I, Baltimore 1984, p. 43. (for 1771); same author, North Carolina Taxpayers 1679-1790, Volume II, Baltimore 1987, p. 43 (for 1766).
10. . Holcomb, Bute County North Carolina Minutes, p. 154.
11. . Bute marriage bond in the published Warren County records, p. 69.
12. . Franklin County estate papers, "Michael Collins 1786" file.
13. . Franklin County, NC Will Book A, #101.
14. . Court Minutes, under the date.
15. . Franklin County Deed Book 6, p. 119, abstracted in Joseph W. Watson, Abstracts of the Early Deeds of Franklin County, North Carolina 1779-1797, Rocky Mount, NC 1984, p. 115.
16. . J. Bryan Grimes, Secretary of State, Abstract of North Carolina Wills, Baltimore reprint 1967, p. 77. Today there is a Redbud or Red Bud creek shown on some Bertie County maps, but it does not appear in even the best gazeteers of North Carolina, or early maps, so it seems likely that this will refers to the larger Red Bud Creek in Bute.
17. . See for example Bute County, NC Land Grant Plats and Land Entries, Compiled by Brent Holcomb, Edward Richardson entry of 15 June 1778 (refers to "Collins' new entry"), p. 85; William Morriss disputed entry of 9 April 1779, referring to the lines of "Captain Collins" (which is Michael Collins, a militia captain), p. 101; sale to Richardson of 21 June 1779, p. 107. Also see Dr. R. B. Pruitt, Abstracts of Land Entries: Bute Co., NC 1778-1779; Franklin Co., NC 1779-1781; Warren Co., NC 1779-1791, 1992, showing Michael Collins' March 16 1778 entry on p. 2, for 640 acres on "waters of Sandy Creek and Red Bud Creek" also with a line on Deer Branch; other references on pages 8, 23, 28, 30. All seem to refer to Michael Collins.
18. . Franklin County Deed Book 5, page 2. An abstract is found in Joseph W. Watson, Abstracts of the Early Deeds of Franklin County, North Carolina 1779-1797, Rocky Mount, NC, 1984, page 43. Watson notes that Deed Book 5 appears incorrectly as Deed Book 9 on the microfile at the North Carolina Archives in Raleigh, but that the copy at the Franklin County Courthouse has been corrected. I do not know if this confusion is still the case in the Raleigh archives.
19. .See Below, Page 107. James Collins' II's pension is cited in full below on Page 104 in Footnote 177.
20. . Bute County Committee of Safety, Minutes 1775-1776, p . 56.
21. . Bute County Committee of Safety, Minutes 1775-1776, pp. 62-63.
22. . Bute County marriage records.
23. . Deed Book 7, p. 133, cited in Watson's Abstracts, p. 152.
24. . Franklin County Deed Book 10, p. 34; Watson's Abstracts, p. 172..
25. . Microfilm of Bute County Land Entries, p. 140.
26. . Franklin County Deed Book 21, Page 340. An abstract appears in Joseph W. Watson, Kinfolks of Franklin County, North Carolina 1793-1844, Rocky Mount NC 1985, p. 154, but does not give the number of acres, which of course is crucial to the argument here. Patricia Pittman of Cary, NC, a descendant of William Collins, kindly provided me with a copy of the original.
27. . The entire deed appears in Kirk Davis Holland, Holland: To Those Who Care. A History of the Virginia Holland Families from 1620 to 1963, pp. 35-38.
28. . Franklin County, North Carolina Loose Estates Papers, Volume I, 1777-1810, Abstrated by Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., p. 52.
29. . Franklin County ... Loose Estates Papers, I, p.52-53.
30. . Franklin County, North Carolina, Loose Estates Papers, Volume II 1811-1825, Abstracted by Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., pp.73-74.
31. . Annis Gupton Shipp and Georgia Gupton Beard, The Guptons and Related Families, Campbellsville, Kentucky 1975; p. 3, which also cites Keister's The Van Hook and Allied Lines pp. 263-264, which I have not seen. The late Judge George D. Taylor of Beaumont, Texas, who provided me with many descendants of Peter Colllins, had Gupton ancestry and reportedly had considerable material on them as well.
32. . James Henry Stallings, Stallings Family, Volume I, typescript in DAR Library, Washington DC. Volume I, pages 1 and 2.
33. . Sources for these statements will be found at the appropriate place in the biographies of the Collinses mentioned.
34. . Numerous Eleys or Elys occur in the records, and there is an Elias Eley listed as an indigent person cared for by William Wright (another Kingsale name0 in the Vestry Book for Nansemond County, 249 (original 272) in a list dated February 11 1784. Eli Eley may have already been in North Carolina at the time.
35. . For Elisha, see below, page 89; for the details on the Ely connection, See below, p. 161.
36. . Franklin County Will Book G, p. 69; abstracted by Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., Will Books D,E,F,G, Franklin County, North Carolina 1812-1824, p. 65.
37. . See the biography of Henry Collins, p. 161.
38. . Microfilm of Bute County Land Entries, p. 41.
39. . See the biography of Henry Collins, P. 161.
40. . Note that the name Willis, as a first name and occasionally as an intermarried surname, occurs frequently in the Collins descent.
41. . Franklin County Will Book C, pp. 29, 125, 137.
42. . Franklin County North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, Transcribed by Dr. Stephen E.Bradley, Jr., page 5.
43. . Franklin County North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, page 8.
44. . Franklin County North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, page 8.
45. . Franklin County 1800 census page 478, with Peter at the top of 479; see also the transcript in The 1800 and 1810 Federal Census, Franklin County, North Carolina, Abstracted by Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., p. 6.
46. . Franklin County 1800 census page 483; Bradley's transcript p. 6.
47. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 15.
48. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 24-25 for Eley's District with James on p.25 (p. 9 of original), and page 29 for Webb's District (p. 24 of original).
49. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 32 (39 of original) for Eley's Distrit and p. 33 (41 of original) for Webb's.
50. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 38 (63 original) for Hunt's; p. 40 (69 original) for Moody.
51. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 42 (77 of original).
52. . Captain Stuart's District, Franklini County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1790-1810, p. 49 (100 of original).
53. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 53, original p. 115.
54. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. p. 55 (original 120).
55. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 63; page 153 original (James I) and 151 original (James II).
56. . Franklin County 1810 census, page 100; also Bradley's abstract, p. 19.
57. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 71 (original 183).
58. . Franklin County, North Carolina Tax Lists 1785-1810, p. 71 (original 182 for James II, 184 for him as executor for David Vinson Estate).
59. . Rosemary Richardson, Franklin County, North Carolina 1815 Tax List, James I, William, David and Peter on Page 20 (p. 333 of original); James II on p. 16 (327 of original).
60. . Everything which follows is from the Franklin County, NC estate records, the file for "James Collins 1815" based on the date of the will.
61. . The will is here quoted from the original document in the "James Collins 1815" file of Franklin County Original Wills, taken from the microfilm of those files, though it also is recorded in Will Book F, p. 222.
62. . Will Book F, no. 584, p. 222.
63. . First page of actual inventory paper, estate files, Franklin County.
64. . Exterior of estate inventory, which claims it was recorded in Book F, p. 206, though another external note says Book K, folio 223.
65. . See The 1820 Tax Lists, Franklin County, North Carolina, abstracted by Stephen E. Bradly Jr. of South Boston, VA, 1987, numbers 589 (James), 590 (Esther), 591 (Patience) and 592 (James III?).
66. . Will Book G, p. 165. I owe the original to Patricia Pittman; it is also abstracted in Dr. Stephen E. Bradley Jr., Will Books D,E,F,G, Franklin County, North Carolina 1812-1824, p. 75.
67. . On the 1824 estate sale see above, Page 79, Footnote 133, where it is quoted at length with full references.
68. . Franklin County Will Book H, p. 26. For an abstract which, however, gives none of the details, see Will Books H,I,J, Franklin County, North Carolina 1824-1834, abstracted by Dr. Stephen E. Bradley Jr., p. 6.