Many of the children of Union County citizens through the years have left the county to find their place in the world beyond the confines of the mountains that surround our peaceful valleys and meandering streams.
Such was the case for Ivan Thomas Collins, born March 3, 1891 to James Johnson Collins (1868-1967) and Margaret Nix Collins (1871-1927). Tom, as he was known, was the first-born of this couple, whose marriage had brought together two notable families in the county, Collins and Nix. Tom's father was a son of Ivan Kimsey Collins (1835-1901) and Martha J. Hunter Collins (1840-1920). Note that his grandfather Collins's first name, Ivan, was given to this first-born of James and Margaret's children, and Thomas is another way of having the child bear the name of Thompson Collins, James Johnson's great grandfather, who was the first Collins settler in the Choestoe District.
Margaret Nix Collins, the baby Ivan Thomas's mother, was a fourth generation Nix, daughter of Thomas James Nix (1848- 1902) and Martha Jane "Sis" Ballew Nix (1852-1951). Tom Nix joined the Confederate Army and served in Company I, 23 Regiment, of the Georgia Infantry. It is said he was only thirteen years of age when he enlisted. Again, Margaret and James Collins's first born go a family name, Thomas, from her father, Tom Nix.
In 1886, four years before Margaret married James Johnson Collins, her father, Tom Nix, left his wife and children behind in Georgia and went to the Cripple Creek, Colorado gold fields near Rye. It is reported that Tom Nix did find gold, but that his claim was stolen from him. Martha remained several years in Union County, but then moved to Colorado to join her husband. They both died there, Tom Nix in 1902 and Martha lived to the ripe age of 99 when she died in1951. Tom was buried in the Roselawn Cemetery, Pueblo, Colorado, and Martha in the Eaton, Colorado Cemetery.
Colorado held a fascination for the children of James Johnson Collins and Margaret Nix Collins. A great drawing card was because their grandparents Nix had migrated there and lived out their lives in Colorado.
Six children were born to James Johnson Collins and Margaret Nix Collins. First, was the above-mentioned Ivan Thomas Collins; second was Mary Viola Collins who married Francis Thurman "Bob" Collins; third was Fannie Maybelle Collins who married Harvey Allen Souther; fourth was Dessie Dora Collins who married Haralson J. Hood; fifth was Sadie Collins who married William Jesse Hunter; and sixth was Charles Roscoe Collins who married LaVerne Cheshire.
The Collins family valued education for their children and encouraged them to attend the one- and two-teacher schools in the community until they were ready for high school. Some of them went to the Blairsville Collegiate Institute after its founding in 1904. But Ivan Thomas, the elder son, went to Hiawasse, Georgia where he attended the school variously called the Hiawassee Institute and/or the Hiawassee College. It had been founded by the two noted Baptist ministers, cousins, Dr. George W. Truett and Dr. Fernando Coello McConnell on land given by the McConnell family. Several young men from Choestoe attended the Hiawassee Academy. They would rent a cabin, "batch," or do their own cooking and housework, and attend classes. Their being able to attend this school represented a sacrifice on the part of their parents to provide the money for tuition and books, and to rent a place for their children to live, even as low as higher education costs were in those days.
Following his graduation from Hiawassee Academy, Ivan Thomas Collins then went to Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. It seemed a natural choice in his next step in education, for other boys from Choestoe, like Tom's cousin, Mauney Douglas Collins, who later served for twenty-five years as Georgia's State School Superintendent, and his friend and distant cousin, Norman Vester Dyer, who also became a noted educator in Georgia, attended Mercer University.
On October 8, 1916, Ivan Thomas Collins married Martha Estelle Tucker of Centerville, Georgia. Her parents were John T. and Jesse Reynolds Tucker. By the time of their marriage, Tom was in his chosen career of banking. After graduating from Mercer, he took graduate courses in business administration, banking, accounting, and commercial law. He was named to a national post, that of Comptroller of the Currency. His job took him into most of the states of the union where he was what we might commonly call a "bank inspector."
Tom and Estelle Tucker Collins had three children: Ivan Tucker Collins who married Lillian Andrea Price; Doris Ophelia Collins who married Russell Bobbitt; and Kreeble Nix Collins who married, first, Josephine Adeline Marino of Italy, and, second, Helene Vite of France. Ivan became an engineer; Doris married a banking executive; and Kreeble spent his entire career in the Air Force, earning the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
After his stint as Comptroller of Currency, Thomas Ivan Collins became president of a bank in Athens, Tennessee where he spent ten years before his semi-retirement due to heart difficulties in 1952. He returned to the county of his birth, Union, where he and his beloved wife, Estelle, lived until their deaths. Martha Estelle Tucker Collins preceded her husband in death (10/08/1897- 05/29/1968) and Tom died ten years later (03/30/1891- 12/25/1978). They were both interred at the New Choestoe Cemetery.
Ivan Thomas Collins is a good example of a young lad who went out from Union County to make his living, but in retirement returned to the land of his birth to live out his days. Industry, integrity and ingenuity marked his character.
c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 8, 2007 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.