James Collier, A Vintage Vignette

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James Collier
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
March 3, 2010

The Huntsville-based Southern Advocate newspaper on September 8, 1832, with a by-line of Triana, Aug. 18, 1832, read in part as follows about the passing of James Collier:

“His loss will long be felt by the circle of relations whom he has left behind him; and his memory, as a soldier and a man, will be long and affectionately cherished by all to whom he was known. How often, at the peaceful fireside of this revolutionary soldier, have we heard the tale of the deeds of other years! Even now, can we see, in fancy's eye, the grey-haired sire, traveling with increased emotion through the memorable battles of Gilford, Brandywine, Savannah and Eutaw Springs. His aged and failing eyes glisten again with the fire of youth! At the recollection of their resplendent glories, he springs forward from the venerable chair of age, and in the warmth of emotion, almost forgets, for the time, the lapse of years! But he is gone to the cold and silent tomb, moldering into dust, and mingling again with his mother earth. No more shall his spirit rejoice in the cannon's roar, or the music of the drum.”

Accounts state that James Collier was buried on his plantation, “Myrtle Grove”, near the Tennessee River. His wife Elizabeth is buried beside him. They came here in 1818, six years after some of their older children had already settled in the area. James was born in Virginia in 1757 and Elizabeth in 1763. She preceded him in death, passing in 1828. Their family cemetery today is lost to antiquity, with its exact location unknown, but it would have been close to the plantation house, northwest of Swancott. James Collier was a son of Cornelius Collier and Elizabeth Wyatt of Lunenburg County, Virginia. His mother was closely related to the notable Virginia Lees and Sir Francis Wyatt, Colonial Governor of Virginia. The old flax wheel of James’ cousin, Mary Collier, inspired the insignia of the Daughters of the American Revolution, according to Thomas McAdory Owen’s “Revolutionary Soldiers in Alabama”. James married Elizabeth Bouldin, a daughter of James Bouldin, who was the oldest son of Colonel Thomas Bouldin of Colonial fame. The Bouldins settled in Lunenburg (now Charlotte) County, Virginia. They were noted for their intellect and a preference for the legal profession, including a long history as judges in Virginia.

According to the book “The Lure and Lore of Limestone County (Alabama)” by Chris Edwards and Faye Axford (1978), the family of James and Elizabeth Bouldin Collier included ten children. Bouldin Collier, born in 1789, married Sarah Slaughter of Limestone County. Wyatt Collier (1791-1856) married Janet Walker, daughter of James, an immigrant from Scotland, thought to have been the father of William Walker, who was the President of Nicaragua in 1856. Martha Collier married William Alexander Slaughter of Limestone County. Dr. James Bouldin Collier, born in 1795, married Sarah Land, then Mrs. Frances Slaughter of Limestone County. His daughter Anne married Wyatt Blackwell, a son of William H. Blackwell. Elizabeth Wyatt Collier (1797-1856) married William Henry Blackwell, who was born in Fauquier County, Virginia. William Edward Collier (1799-1833) married Emily Stewart, then Ophelia Jane Stewart Slaughter. He and Ophelia had Amy Raines Collier, who married Dr. William Pickett, son of Steptoe Pickett. Henry Watkins Collier (1801-1855) married Mary Williams Battle. He became a Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and Governor of the State. Thomas Bouldin Collier (1803-1869) married Mary Harrison Dent, a close relative of Julia Dent Grant, wife of Union General and later President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. The sixth of Thomas’ eight children was Eleanor H. Collier, who married Augustus M. Blackwell, a son of Samuel and Sarah Dent Blackwell of Morgan County. The ninth child of James and Elizabeth Collier was Charles Ephraim Collier (1805-1888). Charles married Elizabeth Stewart and had a daughter Emily, who married Dr. Samuel Jordan Withers. Dr. Withers was a grandson of John and Mary Withers, parents of Susannah Claiborne Withers, who married Clement Comer Clay, the eighth Governor of Alabama. The last child of James and Elizabeth Collier was Alford, who died young. The Collier family was quite well connected.

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