Interesting Things

By Ray L. Bellande

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1. History of the Collins Family in the United States

History of the Collins Family in the United States

 

William Collins (1819-1895) was born in Mullin-Au-Tara Rathcormac Cork County Ireland in May of 1819.  He married Susan Cullen in Liverpool, England.  They arrived in this country through the Port of New Orleans in 1847 by sailing vessel, which took three months to make the crossing. This was the timeframe of the great potato famine of 1845 in Ireland and many were looking for alternative means of survival.  It is believed that his passage was paid for by his good friend Pat Kennedy, who settled in Biloxi and wrote to him that the land was good for farming.

 

We believe he was born in May 1819, but there are some conflicting information concerning this date.  In fact, there is some concern that his middle name might or might not have been “Dennis”.  On the census records for 1860, 1870, and 1880, he only listed his name as William Collins.  The 1860 census record also indicated that his profession was laborer and that he “can not read & write”.  The 1880 census record listed his profession as “Farmer”.  The age that he gave the census taker would have make his year of birth be 1822, 1821, and 1824, respectively.

 

Frank Collins, Jr visited County Cork in 1982 and found that there are three distinct Collins families who live in the farming community known as Mullin-au-Tara which is outside the village of Rathcormac.  He discovered this information from baptismal records in the parish church.  Rathcormac is around 15 miles northeast of Cork City.  Rathcormac means town of Cormac, who was the tribal chief.

 

Susan Collins said that her grandmother (Susan Collins) used to correspond with someone in Ireland regularly.  The address (from letters that Catherine Black has) would indicate that the area was west of Cork near the town of Macroom.  She said as bbest as she can remember, it sounded like “Crackston” or “Crockstown”.  A map of Ireland has a town by the name of “Crookstown” a short distance from Macroom.  We don’t know if this is where Susan originated from, or if this is where both of them originated.   If William did come from west of Cork, ther is a possibility that we are related to Ireland’s greatest political figure – Michael Collins.

 

According to Patricia Louise Collins, the oldest daughter of Edward Collins, she tried to find out from Uncle Eddie where William was from.  Uncle Eddie was the oldest and spent time with William.  He said that William was from Athune (spelling?) Ireland where he participated in the battle of Atthune, which Patsy said was a river or creek where the Irish stood the British off in a battle for seven days.

 

One of stories told to Lillian Rose Collins (William’s granddaughter) was that after the long voyage, they landed in New Orleans, it took them an hour to get Susan off the boat, because there were blacks on the dock and she had never seen a black person before and thought they were devils.  She wanted to go back home to Ireland.

 

William worked for a time in New Orleans so that he could save the money to buy land in the Handsboro area.  Handsboro used to be between the cities of Biloxi and Gulfport. They moved to Biloxi in 1857.  After living on West Beach at Debuys Road for a few years, they purchased an 80 acre tract with 484 feet frontage on Pass Road at Debuys. They started a large peach orchard from which they shipped peaches by the carload to New Orleans, via L&N Railroad.  Unfortunately the climate changed and they were no longer able to grow fruit. Their home was the only dwelling between Hansboro and Biloxi.  When the citrus crops failed, they replanted pecan trees. I can remember going through the pecan orchard with my mother picking up pecans and filling grocery bags before Paul and Frank built subdivisions on the land.

 

The land extended from Hansboro to where Keesler Field in now.  The family had donated the land where much of Keesler is located to the city for a Federal Reserve park with the stipulation that if the city didn’t want it, it was to revert back to the family.  However, it was taken by the government by eminent domain for the air base and as a small child Lillian Rose Collins (granddaughter of William and Susan) remembered going to the Federal Courthouse in a lawsuit protesting the government’s action, but they got nothing except $500 for the land.

 

Lillian’s favorite story was about the time William Collins was getting salt from the ocean during the Civil War when Union soldier stopped him on the beach and told him they were confiscating the salt.  She used to say “The hardest thing grandfather ever did was to tell those soldiers they could not have the salt because he was not a citizen of the United States, but a subject of the Queen of England (Victoria) and therefore not involved in the conflict, so he kept his salt,” at a great price to his loyalties.  Of course, the record showed he fibbed because he became a citizen in 1857, having been listed as a subject of the Queen before that.

 

Lillian also relayed the tale that at the time that Jefferson Davis’ hunting dogs from Beauvoir would get into the fields and killed some of his cattle.  She said he sent notes to Jefferson Davis telling him to keep his dogs away from the cattle because they were killing them, but Davis did nothing about it.  The next time a calf was killed she said that William shot the dogs.

 

One thing that they always said (and again repeated the summer before he died) was Williams’ hatred for the English and they always said “He was drug through the streets of Dublin in chains.”  When asked why, they just shrugged and said “The English.”  We don’t know if he was involved in a forerunner of the IRA or was just thrown off land and drug along to build roads or what and they would never elaborate.