Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Ballad of Tom Collins
The search for
family roots hits a person like a fever. There is no let-up in the
symptoms until a quest is completed and lines of descent are firmly
established. For years I have searched for
the authentic name of the father of Thompson Collins (ca.1785-ca.1854),
who, with his wife Celia Self Collins (ca.1787-1880) were the first Collins settlers in
Thompson Collins was my maternal great, great grandfather. He owned a broad expanse of land in Choestoe District and acreage in adjoining counties as well. He was an independent sort of person, self sufficient and enterprising. Why has it been so hard to establish the Collins lineage before him, to pinpoint who his father was, and others from whom he descended? The search has been complicated because the trail leads to many with the name Thomas Collins.
surface in genealogical searches. I was
encouraged when I read noted author John A. Parris, Jr., who for years
was a columnist for the Asheville
Citizen Times (
John A. Parris,
Jr., in his "roaming" the Smokies, found
imbedded in the folklore of the region the inimitable "Ballad of Tom
Collins." This folk song, as is typical of
ballads, sought to record the story of an unusual character of times
long past whose refuge was the mountainous region of the
of Tom Collins left
Prior to the
Battle of Culloden, some of the Collins highlanders had migrated to
Then enters a
Tom Collins. He
was convicted in 1775 for "sedition of speech," defended by lawyer
William Boulware. Tired
of the Royalist accusations, Tom decided to remove himself and his
The Collinses were among the first settlers in the
When the Tories began to invade the pristine region that was then Collins territory, the legend goes that Tom Collins, hiding in rhododendron thickets, could snipe off these enemies to his freedom with a single shot.
But one Saturday night, according to the ballad, Tom took a bullet in his own lungs from one of his Tory enemies. He struggled to a neighbor's house, took corn liquor for his pain, lay down on the bed and died. His beloved fiancée, Mary, was sewing her trousseau in the next room. That wedding between Tom and Mary, was never to be.
The plaintive ballad records the pathos suffered by Mary:Tom Collins came home one Saturday night,
Tom Collins, the martyr to the cause of independence, had no immediate descendants. But he had brothers. And my belief is that his fiancée, Mary, wed one of them, maybe Francis, for this name is prevalent even to this day in our Collins family. And the name Thomas was carried on in Thompson, our first definitely known-ancestor.
The fever to find answers is still present. Maybe, someday, in unexpected linkages, I'll find just who was the father of Thompson Collins.
This note to my readers: My
beloved husband, the Rev.
Grover D. Jones, is now at
having entered as a patient on February 22: Chaplinwood Nursing Home,
c2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published
Updated May 25, 2008