A SHORT HISTORY OF COLLINWOOD
Written by the late Eva BURNS SMITH LUTTRELL
Collinwood, located in the center of Wayne County is included in the 150 acres tract of land that was granted by the State of Tennessee to Mr. A. G. McDOUGAL by Grant No. 28 containing 2500 acres of land on Butler and Shawnattee Creek. This was on April 12, 1847. Then on September 11, 1849, the 150 acres, of which Collinwood is located, was conveyed to James TILLEY by Mr. McDOUGAL for $20.00 in hand.
Five years later, Mr. TILLEY sold the land to Harmon LAKEY and authorized McDOUGAL to make Mr. LAKEY a deed to it. Then Mr. TILLEY moved to Arkansas, Mr. LAKEY fenced in some of the land and farmed it for forty-six years. He died in 1898 leaving a son William LAKEY as his only heir. Nine years later William LAKEY sold the land to Jasper McWILLIAMS for $250.00. Three years later on September 1904, Jasper McWILLIAMS sold to a Mr. G. N. SCOTT for $500.00. Seven years later on December 29, 1911, Mr. G. N. SCOTT sold it to a Mr. W. M. SCOTT for $2,000. One year later, August 17, 1912, Mr. W. M. SCOTT sold it to a Mr. Wes McGEE for $2,500.00 and then seven days later Mr. McGEE sold it to Mr. J. E. WILBURN for $2,500.00. At this time there were just a few scattered houses owned by settlers who did some farming and timber work.
Early in 1913, the Superior Lumber and Tie Company purchased several acres of forest land around the area where Collinwood is now located. W. W. COLLINS was a Superintendent of the operations for the company and it seems was a man of great energy. He hurriedly set up the company’s sawmills, and started a plan toward building a town. He named the town Collinwood - Collin for him and wood because of the great wood industry. At this time the Collinwood Land Company was formed by the businessmen of the town along with the companies. They purchased the land from Mr. J. E. WILBURN for $12,000.00. They hired an engineer, a Mr. Edward LULL, to lay out the town. They sub-divided a portion of the land into town lots and laid off and located a number of streets and alleys.
In December of 1913 the first train pulled into the settlement. Work had begun one year before by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Company who had a contact to build and operate the railroad known as the Tennessee Western Railroad Company, and to furnish telegraph equipment and lines from Collinwood to St. Joseph, Tennessee. There was much excitement ion the town when the first train pulled in for its first shipment of lumber.
As soon as possible buildings were started being built. Some of the first buildings were a Drug Store owned by S. E. BYLER, a Grocery and Dry Goods Store owned by J. L. BURNS, and a Hardware Store owned by Gard WHITTEN, a Feed Store owned by Harman BRYANT and a Boarding House owned by T. A. ADKINSON.
In 1917 the Collinwood Land Company sold out to the Tennessee Valley Iron and Railroad Company for $5.00 cash and other goods and valuable sufficient considerations.
A brick plant was constructed where the Lumber Company is now situated and bricks were made to build the brick buildings, one of the first being the Bank of Collinwood.
The crashing sound of falling timber, the hissing of locomotives and the rush of immigrants gave Collinwood a real boom town air and the population reached two thousand. All this was before World War I. The town was incorporated in 1915, but this lasted only a couple of years. During this time a Mr. HOLMES started publishing a newspaper called the Collinwood Pilot and it had all the splendor of a frontier newspaper. A beautiful depot was built.
When the outbreak of war in Europe came and Uncle Sam began scouting around for something to fight his war with, the still large reserves of hardwoods beckoned and in almost not time two thousand men were at work setting up a chemical plant with which to manufacture alcohol, acetate of lime, car tar, pig iron and charcoal. The furnace for the plant was shipped from Rusk, Texas. In order to keep a supply of wood for the chemical plant and logs for the sawmills, a tram line made if wood and similar to a railroad was constructed to haul the logs from the forest to the mill. These trams were first pulled by a steam engine but they didn’t prove successful. Then mules and horses were used to pull them. This brought on a demand for horses and some car loads of wild western horses were being shipped to the Collinwood area and sold at auction.
The town took on a very lively atmosphere. Three trains came in each day, two of them passengers. Each time the train whistle would sound the town would gather at the depot because each time the train came it meant more new people. They came from all sections of the country but most of them came from the North and East and the Southern people could hardly understand their language. Included with these people from the East were the personnel of the companies. They built fine homes in the area where Hassell & Hughes Lumber Company is now located. These homes had running water and baths which was unheard of until then.
The Collinwood Hotel, called the Highland Inn, was rapidly constructed and the company built a huge commissary and did a thriving business along with the other stores that were built. Even a silent moving picture theater was built and each week it was filled with people to see Hoot Gibson and other great actors of that time. Each week a boxing match was staged as an added attraction. This drew many fans as well as boxers. There were several boxers from this area who were great. One who was champ for quite a while was Earl CARTER.
During these days of wealth and merriment, three horseless carriages were brought into Wayne County. One of these was owned by J. D. DUNN. It was an air cooled Franklin and the many predicaments Mr. DUNN got into with it were quite interesting.
The first doctors in Collinwood were S. E. BYLER, who was Doctor and Druggist; Dr. W. W. RIPPY, Dr. REYNOLDS, and Dr. J. F. TOWNSEND. The first dentist was Dr. BLACK.
Miss Mamie ADKINSON taught the first school, a one room building. Later a larger school was built where the present elementary school now stands.
The Southern Methodist Church was built in 1917 and the First Methodist Church in 1918.
Then came Armistice Day. The war was over. The government closed down the plant and Collinwood suffered a slight depression. But in 1919, workers were sent back and the plant was operated for about a year then the Tennessee Valley Iron and Railroad Company was declared insolvent and the Tennessee Charcoal Company bought most of the property including the vast forests. They cut lumber and shipped it out to other plants and kept the town going for several more years.
Along about 1928 Collinwood’s world quivered and tottered. The stock market broke too. Work on every project stopped. The hotel burned down and Collinwood folded. The charter was revoked by the legislature. The railroad were taken up and most of the Northerners moved out and as one reporter put it, "It took on the look of a ghost town."
The Tennessee Charcoal Company was declared insolvent and Bon Brother Corp. bought the property in 1929. They employed a few people in lumbering. But the main form of livelihood was farming and many people had to move away in order to live.
Then Hassell and Hughes Lumber Company bought the property and set up a lumber industry that helped almost every family here.
When World War II broke out bomb racks were made here and many people were now being employed in the Muscle Shoals area. There was a growing demand for lumber and the lumber company expanded and hired more men.
At the present time  we have a new manufacturing plant that employs about 350, mostly women and another lumber industry, the By-Far Products operated by Allen FARRIS that employs several.
Our population now is around 1,000 with new people moving in regularly. We have a new high school that everyone is proud of. We also have five churches, two new supermarkets and other stores that help us.
Since Collinwood is the only town on the Natchez Trace, many tourists come through especially in the summer and this helps gas business immensely.
We now have two policemen – only one was needed in the early days. The old depot is now being used for a Senior Citizens Center.
We may never reach the population of 3,000 as in the old time, but as one old timer said, "It’s a good place to live."