Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Life and Times of Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins – Part 2

Front row, left to right: Dora Collins, Mary Louise Jackson Collins, Jean Benjamin Collins (holding dogs, Tip and Tige); Albert Dyer (Mary's son-in-law); on Albert's lap, Watson Benjamin Dyer (Mary's first grandchild) Second row, left to right: Mauney Douglas Collins; Norman Vester Collins; Laura Collins; Callie Kate Collins; and Nina Collins Dyer. In this family portrait, Mary Collins was holding the family Bible. The children are holding ceramic objects they wanted to display. Some are "a hen and chicks," an indication that they had survived a chicken pox epidemic.

Death by typhoid fever had claimed the life of Mauney Douglas Collins’ father, Archibald Benjamin, on April 4, 1897. Being the eldest boy in the family at age eleven (his older brother, Francis Arthur, had died as a one-year old), and his mother, Mary Louise Jackson Collins having seven children to raise, the young M. D. (as he was called) buckled down to responsibility and hard work. Some would say these hardships made a man of him. An examination of his subsequent life shows that, indeed, he did become a man—and an outstanding one at that.

Herself recovering from typhoid and the birth of Dorothy Dora one month earlier, Mary Jackson Collins faced her grief in a weakened condition. But with sheer determination she assessed her possibilities.

First under consideration were the two country stores her husband Ben owned, one at their home in Choestoe and one at the Coosa Gold Mines. With no one to take over the management, go to Gainesville for supplies, and tend the stores—combined with the deficits of thousands of dollars “on the books” which she could not collect from debtors, Mary Collins decided to close out both the stores. She then concentrated on the farm and livestock. Her frugality, hard work and good management kept the large family from starvation.

In each of her children, and especially in Mauney Douglas, there came both from precept and example a strong sense of work ethic and responsibility. Mauney plowed the fields, planted crops, cultivated them and reaped a bountiful harvest, enough to keep the family going from year to year.

Education was a very high priority with Mary Collins. All of her children finished grammar school at Old Liberty, mainly under the tutelage of her brother, Thomas K. Jackson, a good teacher. As they finished seventh grade, she began to seek ways to educate them further.

When M. D. finished Old Liberty School, Mary Collins went with him by wagon to Hiawassee, Georgia to the Hiawassee Baptist Academy, a school founded in 1886 by Dr. George W. Truett, noted Baptist leader who had been born in nearby Hayesville, NC.

At Hiawassee, Mrs. Collins rented a small house. They took provisions from home for M. D. to live on at that small cabin near the school. At the time the young Choestoean entered Hiawassee Academy, tuition was $1.10 and rent on the cabin was fifty cents per month. Students had to purchase their textbooks, provide their furnishings, fuel and food. It was twenty miles over a rough mountain road by way of Brasstown from Choestoe to Hiawassee.

M. D.’s first roommate at Hiawassee Academy was another Choestoe lad, Jack Lance, who would in the future himself become a noted educator and president of Young Harris College. The boys got along well as they “batched” in the small cabin, doing their own cooking and studying by the light of an oil lamp. Trips back to their respective farm homes in Choestoe replenished their supplies of food. They did not live in luxury by any means, but they got by. And both did extremely well academically.

M. D. Collins had $14 in cash in his pocket when he went to Hiawassee Academy. Somehow, he made it stretch over five months of his first term there.

His first teachers at the academy were the president, Professor A. B. Greene; Mr. Leonard Kimsey; and Mr. Frank Lloyd. Through those excellent teachers, M. D. was introduced to the classics of Latin, Greek, the world’s great literature, and “higher” mathematics, social and physical sciences, and archaeology.

He distinguished himself both in academics and in the debate society. At the end of his first five-month term, his business acumen had been so frugal as to allow him to purchase at Berrong’s Dry Goods Store his first “store-bought” suit for $2.75. His new suit was striking, with pin stripes. He completed his ensemble with tie and a dress shirt with a celluloid collar. Up to that time, his dress suits had been made by his mother from cloth woven at her home loom from wool gathered from their own sheep.

In the summer of 1902, Mauney Douglas Collins began his own teaching career back at Choestoe at Old Liberty School from which he had graduated seventh grade. His uncle, Tom Jackson, was still the teacher there. That summer, a record of over 100 pupils were enrolled. Mr. Jackson needed help so he enlisted his nephew as the second teacher.

M. D. Collins was seventeen when he began teaching at Old Liberty. He kept this job for four years. His beginning salary was $22.50 per month, $112.50 annually for a five-month term of school. He taught in the summer when crops were “laid by,” and again in the winter months.

Spring terms, he again attended Hiawassee Academy, continuing his own education. When he was home at Choestoe, he helped his mother with farm tasks. Life was hard, but the family had plenty to eat and Mary Jackson was a good manager. She and her children kept lofty goals as a major priority. Propelled by his drive to learn and to achieve, much lay ahead for M. D. Collins, intelligent and aspiring lad.

[Next week: The Life and Times of Dr. M. D. Collins will continue.]

c2003 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 2, 2003 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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