I have many wonderful memories of my grandfather, Francis Jasper “Bud” Collins (January 30, 1855-December 17, 1941), although I was only a child when he passed away. Among my pleasant recollections of childhood are those times spent at my grandfather’s house where I always enjoyed going to his country store when someone came and rang the bell for service. Grandpa was always generous with the luscious chocolate drops, orange slices and various stick candies he dispensed in his store. He may have inadvertently made me the “chocoholic” I am with his gift of a chocolate drop each time we went into the store.
The day of his death is indelibly printed in my memory. Already another traumatic event, which we’d heard about on radio, had happened ten days prior to his death. That was the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the U. S. declaration of war against that enemy and our country’s entry into World War II. My brother and my cousins were volunteering rather than waiting for the inevitable draft.
Then on the late afternoon of December 17, I looked out our kitchen window as I heard a car approaching on the road below our house. I recognized my cousin Clyde Collins’ car. I knew instinctively that he came as bearer of the news of Grandpa Collins’ death. I was right. That was the sad message he brought to my mother, Azie Collins Dyer. Here, so close to Christmas, when we were practicing Christmas programs both for Choestoe Elementary School and Choestoe Baptist Church, we had to bury our Grandpa Bud, a legend in his time. It was a very sad Christmas that year.
It was not until later that I learned something of the stature and importance of citizen F. J. Collins. He served as Union County’s representative to the Georgia legislature in 1911-1912, in 1915-1917, and in 1917-1918. It has been said that he never wore a “store-bought” suit, but preferred the homemade wool serge suits made completely from the wool gathered from his own sheep, spun, dyed, woven into cloth, and tailored into a suit, first by his wife Georgianne Hunter Collins, and then by his daughters who learned the craft of weaving. Today, one of his wool serge suits is in the archives of the Atlanta Museum, the same suit he wore to the legislature when he represented Union County.
I wish I had listened more to the stories of his days in politics. He must have gotten to Atlanta by riding a horse or mule across Logan Turnpike to Gainesville, boarding the animal there, and catching the train on to Atlanta. I remember the leather satchel which my Aunt Avery and Aunt Ethel told me was his “suitcase” as he went to the legislature.
Francis Jasper Collins was primarily a farmer. He lived on a 400 acre spread, part of the land on which his grandfather, Thompson Colllins, Sr. settled. Bud Collins owned the first threshing machine in the Choestoe community and pulled it from farm to farm with a team of oxen to thresh his neighbors’ grain. Later he got a power-driven engine for the thresher. He was also a merchant, a cattle trader, and a miller. He made sorghum syrup in the fall, sometimes making in excess of 5,000 gallons. His house was the first on Choestoe wired for electricity from the Delco plant he installed.
My first trip to Gainesville, GA when I was a child of six was in Grandfather’s truck, with Garney Fortenberry as driver. I perched on my father’s lap in the cab of the truck with Grandpa between us. While Grandpa traded chickens and eggs bartered at his store for goods to take back to the store for Christmas stock, my dad took me to my first movie. It was a grand day, a highlight in a child’s memory. It was a long day’s trip over Neal Gap to Gainesville and return in the same day by truck.
Bud Collins was said to be mathematically inclined, figuring out intricate arithmetical problems in his head. Always with a keen business acumen, he was able to acquire a good deal of money for his day. He often loaned money to his neighbors and others, never taking a note for the loan. He contended that a person’s word was his bond; otherwise, a piece of paper would not guarantee repayment of the loans. Following his death, since there was no record of loans, many, no doubt, went unpaid. But others, who were honest, paid what was owed to the estate.
Francis Japer Collins and Georgianne Hunter (April 5, 1855-October 3, 1924) were married on January 30, 1873. They lived first in a log cabin Bud built. As their family increased, so did the house, which is still standing today. They had thirteen children as follows:
(1) Ida Collins married Perry Hood.
(2) Andrew (Andy) Collins married Sarah Alice Davis.
(3) Olza A. Collins married Mary Nix.
(4) Eda S. Colllins died at age four.
(5) India Collins never married.
(6) Esley L. Collins, never married.
(7) Lillie Collins married Herschel A. Dyer.
(8) Sarah Collins (Dec. 21-1891-Jan. 10, 1893)
(9) Francis (Frank) Collins died at age nineteen.
(10)Azie Collins married Jewel Marion Dyer.
(11)William Harve Collins married Northa Maybelle Dyer.
(12)Avery Collins never married.
(13)Ethel Georgianne Collins married John Mervil Clement.
Bud Collins’ nephew, Joe G. Collins, lawyer in Gainesville, wrote his uncle a letter on December 5, 1941, twelve days before the elder Collins’ death. In it he paid this tribute to his uncle: “Your character for honesty and making your word your bond and your life of square dealing and fair treatment of everybody has helped others in knowing of it and in coming in contact with you, as it has me.”
At Christmastime we remember a good legacy, and pleasant contacts with a dear grandparent. It is as though hands and hearts from the past reach over time to touch us and make us who we are today.
May yours be a blessed Christmas.
c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published December 23, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.