Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thompson and Celia Self Collins Family (Part II)

With our nation celebrating Thanksgiving and our family members together for the traditional turkey feast and all its trimmings, this is a happy time. One of the items on my gratitude list is the marvelous heritage we enjoy, thanks to the sacrifices and hardships our ancestors endured. May we never take for granted the price they paid that we might enjoy freedom, plenty, and security. We can still learn much from their example. I hope we will never forget, ever be grateful.

We began in last week’s column to chronicle Thompson Collins (ca. 1785-ca. 1858) and his wife Celia Self Collins (ca. 1787-Sept. 3, 1880). He had large land holdings along the French Broad and Mills Rivers and McDowell’s Creek in Buncombe County, North Carolina. In 1822, a general migration of people from that area moved to Habersham County, Georgia. A paper on the migration given at “a lawn party” at the home of Henry Williams in Nacoochee Valley in 1822 lists sixty-two different families who made the migration and settled on lands they secured either by lottery or by purchasing from the Indians prior to their removal to western lands. Thompson and Celia Collins were not in this migration of 62 families originating mainly in Burke and Rutherford Counties, NC.

Two years later, in 1824, Thompson Collins purchased 250 acres of land in Habersham (now White) County, District Four, Land Lot 27. He paid $300 for the land to Daniel L. Richardson of Hancock County, Georgia. The latter probably received it in a land lottery, did not plan to move to the mountains, and sold it instead. Thompson and Celia lived on this land which is now where Loudsville Church is located in White County.

He added 250 acres to his holdings on December 1, 1827 when he purchased from R. M. Richardson of Walton County, GA in Land Lot 28, 4th District for $20.00.

Gold fever struck when nuggets were found at Duke’s Creek in 1828. Whether Thompson Collins ever dug for gold is uncertain. However records in the Habersham County Court house show that he sold fifty of the above-listed acres to Charles P. Gordon of Putnam County, Georgia from Lot # 27 “next to Collins Field” for gold mining. The price he received for the sale was $200.

Thompson Collins’ next land transaction was a purchase of 250 acres in Lot # 75, 4th District, from Averette Bonner of Putnam County for $100.

On February 9, 1831, three prospectors, Elijah Reid, James P. Heath and Michael Brown made a mortgage to Thompson Collins for $200 on parts of Land Lots 27 and 28, District 4, for the purpose of mining.

Another 250 acres was purchased May 18, 1831 from Thomas J. Rush in District 4, Lot # 71 for $150.00.

Collins sold to the said Reid, Heath and Brown for $400 in land lots 27 and 28, 250 acres, “except for 50 acres sold to Charles P. Gordon.”

Collins received from Lewis Clark to secure a debt of $846.30 which Clark owed him the following, delivered to him in person: Negro slaves: a woman named Betsy about 25 years old; Lucy, a girl about 16 years old; Henry, a boy about 8 years old; Patience, a girl about 6; Bill, a boy about 4. The slaves were delivered April 2, 1833 and the transaction was recorded in Habersham County records on August 15, 1833.

Thompson Collins and Henry Turner sold to Francis Logan parts of lots 45, 46 and 51 in District Four (Habersham) and lot 51 in Lumpkin County for $900. Jesse Souther and Olaf Collins were witnesses to the legal transaction. On part of this land, Francis Logan built the Logan Turnpike, a toll road that led from the Choestoe Valley in Union County across Tesnatee Gap and down into present-day White County. This toll road operated until Neal Gap Highway (Hwy 129) was opened in 1925.

The move across the mountain to Choestoe District occurred in the early 1830’s, possibly by the time Union County was formed in 1832. Thompson and Celia Collins were in the 1834 (first) Union County census. By the 1849 tax digest, Thompson Collins owned land in Union, Gilmer, Habersham, and Lumpkin Counties. In District 16 of Union County he owned 2,270 acres. Current owners of land in Lots 82, 95, 96, 112, 117, 118, 121 and 134 in Union County have land once owned by Thompson Collins. In 1849 he owned seven slaves and in 1850 five slaves. It is believed that, upon their deaths, some of these slaves were interred in the Old Choestoe Cemetery, Union County.

The Thompson Collins family made their home on land along Choestoe Creek. Six of their ten children were born in Buncombe County, NC before they moved to Habersham County, Georgia. The remaining four were born in Georgia. Children and their spouses were: Archibald Collins (1811) married Mary “Polly” Nix (1818); Sarah “Sallie” Collins (1812) married Jarrett Turner (1806); Elizabeth “Betsy” Collins (1814-1856) married James Nix (1812); Francis (Frank) Collins (1816-1846) married Rutha Nix (1822-1893); Thompson “Thompie” Collins (1818) married Sarah “Sallie” Ingram (1817); Ruth Collins (1820) married Jacob “Jake” Butt (1808); Celia Collins (1826) married James West (1812); Nancy Collins (1829-1888) married John Combs Hayes Souther (1827-1891); Olive Collins (1831-1853) married Robert “Bob” McCoy (1826); and Ivan Kimsey Collins (1835-1901) married Martha J. Hunter (1840-1920).

In 1834 the first extant minutes of Choestoe Baptist Church list Thompson and Celia Collins as members. They were interred in the Old Choestoe Church Cemetery where descendants erected a monument in recent years on which the names of the couple’s children are listed.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 25, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Ask many of those bearing the Collins surname who still live in Union County and they will know that Thompson and Celia Self Collins were among the first settlers in the Choestoe District of Union County. Many, even with surnames other than Collins, can trace their roots back to this hardy pioneer couple.

Those who claim Thompson Collins as an ancestor could wish for more documented information about his origins. Searches have not authenticated who exactly were Thompson Collins’ parents. Since the name Francis was passed down through several generations, it seems reasonable to assume that Francis Collins who died in Buncombe County, North Carolina in 1806 might have been Thompson’s father who had migrated there from Virginia. Another assumption, unauthenticated, holds Nancy Collins (maiden name unknown) to be Thompson Collins’ mother.

The family name of Collins was a distinguished English surname found in authentic records in England more than a thousand years ago. However, Collins is considered to be Irish in origin, derived from O’Coilean and meaning “victory of the people.’ Lords of manors and landowners by the O’Coilean name lived in the North Desmond section of Ireland until wars drove them southward in the thirteenth century.

Another possible origin of the Collins surname is the Welsh Collen, signifying hazel---those with hazel-colored eyes or those who lived near hazelnut groves. Another origin of Collins may be from the Gaelic word Cuilein meaning darling, and referred to one held dear (as a pet puppy).

Collins immigrants were among early settlers in America. One of the earliest was Henry Collins and his wife, Ann, three children and five servants who sailed from England on the ship “Abigail” in 1635. That family settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. Henry Collins soon became a landed gentleman, owning 800 acres. Their son, Joseph, married Duty Knowles in 1671 from whose line many of the northern states Collins descendants came.

In the southern colonies, the first Collins immigrant was John Collins who sailed from Kent, England in 1655 and settled in Lawns Creek Parish, Surrey County, Virginia. He married Elizabeth Caulfield, a daughter of Captain Robert Caulfield. John, Sr. died in Virginia in 1693. Their son John became the progenitor of the Virginia and southern Collins descendants. Although a direct line from them to Thompson Collins, born about 1785 in North Carolina, has not yet been traced, the John, Sr. of England and Virginia is reasonably the progenitor of the Union County Collinses.

Two Collins gentlemen from Virginia, George and Joseph, served in the American Revolution. A rash of trials in Virginia by the Tories (Loyalists) brought charges against any who were patriots. Thomas Collins was convicted of treason against the crown in 1775. Following his trial, in which he was defended by Lawyer William Boulware, he moved his family out of Virginia and into the remote mountainous area of North Carolina where he would be free of the Royalist accusers. The Thomas Collins family moved from Polecat Creek in Caroline County, Virginia. He had sons named John, Francis, James and Thomas, Jr. Since early census takers sometimes missed the trails that led to remote cabins in hidden coves in the mountains of North Carolina, there is no census record of this Thomas Collins, Sr. family in 1780. By the 1790 census, ninety-six Collins families were reported as living in North Carolina.

The Collins family crests I’ve seen show two mottos. One is Favente Deo et Seduliatate,” which, translated, means “By favor of God and assiduity.” The word assiduity is a character-defining word meaning strong diligence, unremitting attention, persistence. That motto seems to define the Collins clan in general throughout history. The other crest motto reads “”Vincit Pericula Virtus” and, translated, means “Virtue Conquers Danger.” Either motto is idealistic and descriptive of character.

We have not found either the exact birth date or the marriage date of Thompson Collins (b. about 1785). He and Celia Self, daughter of Job Self, married about 1810 in North Carolina. She was born to a neighbor of the Collins family about 1787. Her father was Francis Self. She had known siblings Sarah, Jesse and Job.

The first legal documents relating to Thompson Collins are filed in the court house at Asheville, NC and relate to land transactions as follows:

(1) April 3, 1809, from Elliott Jackery to Thompson Collins, 40 acres of land on the French Broad River.
(2) December 21, 1810, from McLain Ephraim to Thompson Collins, 100 acres of land on a small branch of the Mills River for $160.00.
(3) November 24, 1813, on McDowell’s Creek, west side of the French Broad River, purchased 50 acres. Thompson Collins owned 50 acres of land where he now lives, completed transaction December 12, 1812, registered April 13, 1830. This deed shows that a land grant was made to Thompson Collins by the State of North Carolina for fifty shillings for every hundred acres of land.

We learn that Thompson Collins loved the land and added to his acreage as opportunity arose. Perhaps it was the lure of more land, the call of adventure, or the fact that a general exodus of citizens from Buncombe County, North Carolina moved to Habersham County, Georgia in 1824 or 1825 that he moved his family there.

[Next: More on the family of Thompson and Celia Self Collins.]

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 18, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

James Lon Duckworth, Corporation Lawyer

A younger brother to Chief Justice William Henry Duckworth of the Georgia Supreme Court was James Lon Duckworth who also chose a career in law.

James Lon Duckworth was born October 29, 1899 to John Francis (known as Jack) and Laura Jane Noblet Duckworth. He was the fifth child of ten, eight of whom grew to adulthood. When his father died December 26, 1910, Lon was eleven years of age. The family was living on a farm near Old Liberty Church, part of the property where David and Mary Williamson Duckworth had settled. Lon’s lineage went back to early settler David; David and Mary’s oldest child, John Williamson Duckworth who married Susannah Jackson; General Jackson Duckworth who married Celia Emaline Collins, parents of Lon’s father, John Francis Duckworth.

Laura Duckworth was faced with a challenge at age thirty-five when she was left a widow with eight children. For a time she managed on the Choestoe farm, but desiring that her children have better educational opportunities, she moved to Young Harris. She worked hard to keep the children with food and clothing. The children early learned to work hard.

At a young age Lon Duckworth vowed that if he were ever financially able, he would see that his mother had a good house and economic stability. She moved from Young Harris back to Choestoe where she married, second, Joe Townsend, a farmer and miller, and they had thirty years together before his death. She then moved to the Jacksonville community near Young Harris where J. Lon Duckworth helped to provide a comfortable and convenient house for her declining years.

J. Lon Duckworth graduated from Young Harris College in 1920. From there he entered the Emory University Lamar School of Law and graduated in 1923. He spent a year practicing law in Lousiana, but returned to Atlanta where he was in the McElreath and Scott law firm, and soon was made a partner in that firm with the partnership name of McElreath, Scott, Duckworth and DuVall.

The Life Insurance Company of Georgia invited him to become its corporation lawyer and he began work there on January 1, 1942. Through hard work, integrity and vision, he became Vice-President and General Counsel of the company and held that title when he passed away on October 31, 1964 at a farm he owned near Powder Springs, Georgia. Two days before his death, he and his family had celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday.

He taught the Men’s Bible Class at the Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta for many years, and at the Kirkwood Baptist Church as well. He was active in Kiwanis International, serving as Lieutenant Governor of the Georgia District and as president of the downtown Atlanta Club in 1955-56.

His greatest support, however, went to the school that befriended a farm lad eager to get an education and with little money to pay costs. He was on the Board of Trustees of Young Harris College and served as Executive Vice Chairman of the Board.

Less than a month after his death, the Board of Trustees of Young Harris College, meeting in Atlanta on November 12, 1964, passed a resolution honoring the long-time Board member. Citing his “unselfish service to Young Harris College,” the resolution applauded his business acumen in “a path that led ever upward.” Noted also were his “gentleness and humbleness…He never forgot the way he had come; nor did he ever put from his mind the simple faith and beliefs learned from his Christian parents.”

The Duckworth Library at Young Harris College honors James Lon Duckworth and his brother, Chief Justice William Henry Duckworth. Lon’s wife, Ruth and their daughter, Margaret Duckworth Sewell, survived him.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 11, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

From Humble Beginnings to Chief Justice: Honorable William Henry Duckworth

William Henry Duckworth was the third of ten children born to John Francis (called Jack) and Laura Jane Noblet Duckworth. He was born on the Duckworth farm just east of Old Liberty Baptist Church, Choestoe, where his grandparents, General Jackson and Celia Emaline Collins Duckworth had lived. His birthday was October 21, 1894. Grover Cleveland was serving his second term as twenty-fourth president of the United States. Times were hard. A depression was sweeping the country (not the Great Depression of three decades later, but a time when many were without work and the economy was shaky). The Duckworth family on Choestoe had food grown on their farm, and like their neighbors, managed the best they could.

When Henry was fifteen years of age, his father, Jack, met an untimely death in a shooting match near his home on December 10, 1910 at the hands of a cousin, Jeptha Collins. Henry’s mother, Laura Noblet Duckworth, was left to rear eight children (two had died in infancy). By sheer determination and hard work, Laura Duckworth was able to see the eight children turn into fine, productive citizens.

William Henry Duckworth got his early education in the one-teacher schools in Choestoe. A bright lad, he was invited by Dr. Joseph A. Sharp, then president of Young Harris College, to take a job working there to help defray his tuition. A great uncle of Henry’s, Francis Marion Duckworth, who, with his wife, Nancy Davis Duckworth had taken Henry’s mother into their home to rear when she was a small child, loaned the young student some money for college. In 1917, William Henry Duckworth graduated from Young Harris with honors. Later in his life he would ardently support the college through donations and service. The library at the college is named Duckworth Library, honoring William Henry and his brother, James Lon, also a lawyer.

During World War I, Henry Duckworth joined the U. S. Navy where he served as an Ensign.

His desire to become a lawyer was not thwarted due to lack of finances to attend law school. He read law, a practice generally followed then, in the law office of his friend, E. D. Rivers. He took a correspondence course in law from LaSalle University, Chicago, where he earned the LL. B. degree in 1919. He successfully passed the bar examination. He went to south Georgia where he met and courted Willabel Pilcher, daughter of John Preston and Ida Singletary Pilcher. They were married July 2, 1922 in Thomas County. Three children were born to them: Dorothy, Mary and William Henry, Jr. He practiced law in Cairo, Georgia for several years.

He was elected senator from the 7th District of Georgia in 1931. This launched his career in state government. He successfully managed the gubernatorial candidacy for E. D. Rivers when he was elected Governor of Georgia. They had been classmates at Young Harris College.

He became assistant Attorney General of Georgia and served in that capacity during 1937-1938. He was hoping to be appointed to the next vacancy on the Georgia Supreme Court, only to be told by the incumbent governor that he was “too young” for the position. He ran for the position in a three-man race and won. From October 18, 1938 through January, 1956, he was an associate justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. He was presiding justice from January 1, 1947 through September 10, 1948 when he was installed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, a position he held until his death August 9, 1969.

Keeping his deep-seated integrity and his fearlessness, he wrote some noteworthy decisions in the annals of Georgia law. One was when Governor Eugene Talmadge died before taking office. The Georgia Legislature appointed Herman Talmadge, Eugene’s son, to become governor on the basis of a few hundred write-in votes. The two other contenders for the office of governor were incumbent Governor Ellis Arnall and Lieutenant Governor M. E. Thompson. Chief Justice Duckworth declared M. E. Thompson as the next governor by “majority opinion.” It was said to be the “most explosive” political decision up to that time in Georgia history.

Known for his intensive questioning and his search for truth, Supreme Court Justice Duckworth was adept at finding weak points in arguments and lack of evidence.

During the last sixteen years of his life, he suffered with and was treated for chronic leukemia. In 1953 he had a heart attack that slowed his work for several weeks while he recuperated. It was a heart attack that brought his demise on August 9, 1969.

He had fulfilled his youthful dreams of becoming a lawyer and a Georgia Supreme Court Justice. In 1955 he was elected as chairman of the National Conference of Chief Justices, made up of the top jurists from all the states of the union.

His pastor at Druid Hills Church, Decatur, the Rev. Louie D. Newton, sometimes known as the Dean of Georgia Baptist pastors, conducted his funeral at Spring Hill Chapel, Decatur, on Monday, August 11, 1969. Interment was at Decatur City Cemetery.

Another man went out from the hills of Union County and made his distinctive mark in history.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 4, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.