The Rev. Wm. H. Collins was born in Slego, Ireland, November 21, 1795. His parents emigrated from Ireland in 1796 and took a goat with them on the ship so as to have milk for the baby. The new emigrants landed at Baltimore and made their first home in Maryland. Later they lived in Virginia and finally came to Ohio, where William was married in Cincinnati, April 18, 1825. to Miss Rebecca Brinkerhoff.
Wm. H. Collins was a saddler by trade, but became a Methodist minister and was a "circuit rider" for many years. He preached at Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio and by changing from one conference to another worked westward, preaching a year or so in Indiana, and finally settling in Virginia about the year 1830. Here for many years he preached as a "circuit rider," traveling the long distances on horseback, with a pair of leather saddle-bags strapped on behind the saddle containing his meager supply of clothing, a book or two, besides his well-worn Bible, and doubtless a good supply of quinine, as fever and ague were much in evidence in those times. (I now have these saddle bags.) In later years when settlers and towns became more numerous, and roads improved, he had a buggy and often took his wife with him.
He was, as most Methodist ministers were in those early days, a great horse trader.
Sometimes he drove one horse and sometimes two. My earliest recollections of my Uncle William are of his coming to my mother's home two miles east of Virginia, in a very large old clumsy two seated carriage, which we children all called the "old barouche."
He generally arrived after dark, sometimes as late as ten or eleven o'clock, and had a very peculiar "hello!" and when we heard it there was great excitement in our humble home, for in those primitive times great respect and reverence was paid to all "preachers". My brothers would hurry out to help care for the horse, receiving most minute instructions from my Uncle. We children (Ira and myself) had the fun of carrying in the bundles while my dear, good mother and sisters made ready a dainty, hot supper of tea, soda biscuits and preserves. At the close of the repast the children generally enjoyed a taste of the good things and stayed up for the Bible reading and the long family prayers. A little later if we could get a reasonable excuse we would slip in the room to see the unpacking and get a glimpse of the little jolly old Uncle in his pointed night-cap.
Surely there must be many "old timers" in and around Virginia who well remember "Uncle Billy Collins," as he was familiarly called, and his wife, "Aunt Becky," for two odder or better people never lived in Virginia. Aunt Rebecca's favorite beverage was black tea, and she always carried some in her reticule, so if her hostess did not use black tea, she could supply the deficiency.
Wm. H. Collins was the oldest of eight children, and his parents were Pratt and Elizabeth Collins, married in Dublin, Ireland, November 9th, 1794. Pratt Collins is buried at Little Rock Ark., and Elizabeth was buried by the side of my father, Thomas J. Collins, in the Robinson graveyard, east of Virginia.
Wm. H. Collins and wife had a daughter Elizabeth who died at Cincinnati, aged six weeks, in 1833.
Wm. H. Collins and wife, also her father, Mr. Brinkerhoff, and her maiden sister, Sarah Brinkerhoff, all died in Beardstown and are buried there.
Wm. H. Collins was never a man of means but for many years owned a home in Virginia on the street going south from the old Dunaway hotel. He also owned a home in Beardstown for some years before his death.
The church he labored for in those olden times was known as the Methodist Protestant, or Protestant Methodist, but I do not know what distinction there was between it and the Methodist Episcopal church, but I do know my Uncle was a zealous, enthusiastic worker in the chosen field of his belief.
Hon. David C. Dilley, for many years the assessor and treasurer of Cass county, was a nephew of Rev. William H. Collins. Mr. Dilley now resides at Lebanon, Missouri. Concerning his uncle he writes, under date of May 5, 1906.
"My sister, Mrs. H. A. Baldwin, of Centralia, Illinois, has Uncle Collins' family Bible. He was about 70 years old and died about 1868 and was buried in the Beardstown City Cemetery, at the east end of the ground. His wife died about 1880. He was about 5 feet 4 inches in height; hair black or brown, before it became gray; light eyes. He was a very positive man in his ways; when he believed anything was right, he would go any length to carry it out. He wore himself out in the service of the Protestant M. E. church. he was a kind husband. and a good citizen.
A letter addressed to Mrs. Baldwin, brought no reply. An incident which occurred many year since is worthy of a place here. It had been announced that Rev. Newton Cloud would preach in Virginia upon a certain occasion in the old church, which stood just west of the west side of the public square. As Rev. Cloud was a democrat, N. B. Thompson, a prominent merchant here, who was not a church goer, but was very much of a democrat, concluded to go and hear him preach. Mr. Thompson, who prided himself upon his personal appearance, walked to the front unusually well dressed, and attracted the attention of all the audience. It happened, that the expected preacher could not come, and it was arranged that Rev. Mr. Collins, should conduct the service. When Mr. Thompson discovered the situation, he arose with his accustomed dignity, started to leave the building: Rev. Collins halted a moment, and then quietly remarked: "The wicked flee, when no man pursueth:" and then proceeded with the religious service.