Based on the 1893 biography of Thomas Collier, together with my own research and Cora Story Yates’ “Ancestral Annals,” here’s what we think we know, starting with the oldest known generation.
John Collier (m. Mary Corn?)
of Irish descent, had seven sons, lived in North Carolina, fought in the Revolutionary War and at time of death left a large plantation
John Collier, b. 1761 in North Carolina, d. March 1836 in Pope County per county probate record
arrived in Pope Co., Illinois c. 1810, squatted on land reserved for lead miners
m (1.) unknown Deas,
unknown son, d. 1821 in Missouri
m. (2) Elizabeth Pitchford in Pope Co., Illinois, 1818
1. unknown son, d. 1821 in Missouri (birth order unknown)
2. unknown son, d. 1821 in Missouri
3. David Hughs Collier
4. Thomas Collier
Let’s examine that first John Collier. First, we’ll make an educated guess of his birthyear. If he had a son in 1761, we can assume an age from 20 to 70 in 1761. So the range of best-guess birthyears can be set at 1691-1741. However, the 1893 biography also stated that this John Collier fought in the Revolutionary War, so we would favor an age of 16 to 60 during the years 1775 to 1783. This would narrow the range of birthyears to 1715-1741.
The biography states that he lived in North Carolina; that wouldn’t preclude him from living in other areas of the US. Many families of the Carolinas had originally migrated from Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The younger John first married a Dees or Deas. So, it could be significant to locate Colliers in North Carolina that were in proximity to Dees families. It’s always useful to keep your eye out for familiar family names from one location to another. Often, people who lived as neighbors in one location migrated and settled together in the next.
Because of the appearance of the names in younger generations, we should also look for Collier families that included the names of David, Hughs, “David Hughs,” John, Thomas and Elizabeth. We also know that when John was used in a later generation, it was as John Nelson Collier, so there’s a possibility that “John Nelson” has some significance.
We know that Cora Story Yates believed that our John Collier was the John Collier that was connected to property in the Stinking Quarter Creek area of Randolph County, near present day Liberty, North Carolina. However, through my research, we know that our John Collier is not the Col. John Collier of Randolph County, whose home was near Sophia, NC. His family and movements are well documented and, to date, exclude the possibility of our Pope County John Collier being his son.
So let’s look at some other clues, the 1880 U.S. Census is the first census that recorded “place of birth” for both mother and father of individuals. If we look at the records in Pope County, both David and Thomas Collier have “Virginia” for the birthplace of both parents. The 1890 census was destroyed by fire so we don’t have it. In the 1900 census, Thomas gives “North Carolina” as the birthplace for his father and “Georgia” as the birthplace for his mother.
It’s best to be aware of all the possible spellings of Collier that one finds in records, these include Coller, Collar, Coler, Colar, Colyer, Colyar, Collyar, Callar and others.
Let’s start with the first US census in 1790. Right away, the bad news is that even at that early time there were numerous Collier families in North Carolina, a total of 15. The 1790 census only recorded the name of the head of the household, number of free white males of sixteen years and older, number of free white males under sixteen years, number of free white females, number of all other free persons, number of slaves, and sometimes town or district of residence.
Is there a John Collier? Yes, there is, there’s a John Collier in Randolph County, with 2 free white males under the age of 16, 1 free white male 16 and over, 7 free white females. However, when we look at the original record, we find several Dougan families just a few lines down. (Proximity in census records almost always indicated proximity in real location.) This record would most likely be Col. John Collier because he was connected to the Dougans through his mother, Susannah Dougan. From past correspondence with descendants and research, we know that Col. John Collier did, in fact, have a son named John. However, his son John is documented as having married Rebecca Register and died in Greene County, Tennessee in 1826. So, not our Colliers, although interestingly this family repeatedly uses the names of James, Thomas and John, and Col. John’s father, James, is believed to be a native of County Donegal, Ireland.
I go back to the listings of Colliers in the 1790 census in North Carolina. I find a Mary Collier in Dobbs County with seven people in the household and three slaves. Interesting, and for some reason, Cora Story Yates thought that the older John Collier had married a Mary Corn. Maybe worth looking closer at.
Enter “John Collier Dobbs Carolina” in Google. One of the returned links is this:
In this document, we quickly find “1. 6 May 1773 – Indenture – JOHN COLIER, planter of DOBBS to MAJOR CROOM, planter, of Dobbs – 21 pds, 10 shillings – NS Nuce River both sides of Briery Swamp adj ABRAHAM BOYD – 150 acres – part of tract granted to JOHN RICE by Patent 27 Sept 1754”
We look further and find a number of references to John Collier, planter, of Dobbs, and several other Colliers, including a 1788 reference to “part of land purchased of JOHN COLLIER, SENR and part of JOHN COLLIER, JR.” This looks promising, a John Collier, planter, who looked to be a significant landowner in Dobbs County, North Carolina and who had a son named John. Also, there are entries here referencing a Thomas Collier. What else can we find out about John Collier of Dobbs. Let’s go back to Google.
Here’s someone’s research of early North Carolina land grants. Search for “Collier” and you’ll find
“20 December 1763 at Wilmington, NC, signed by Arthur Dobbs. Warrant #261. 640 acres to ARCHIBALD BELL beginning up Briery, head of Little Briery ADJ: MILLWRIGHT BROWN, COL. CASWELL, JOHN COLLIER, GEORGE BELL, PRICE.”
Interesting, it’s a John Collier that was established in this location as early as 1763, a clear indication that he would have been old enough to have fathered a son in 1761. Also, these are original land grants from Arthur Dobbs, a great indication that this John Collier is from Ireland. Read about Dobbs here:
Going back to Google, how about this link?
It’s the 1779 voters’ list for Dobbs County. Be sure to read about the election and how that the men that voted were those most dedicated to American independence. During this period, the Carolinas were full of Loyalists, “Tories,” and it was dangerous to come out strongly on the side of independence. In fact, the Col. John Collier of Randolph County had his house burned and eventually left North Carolina for Tennessee with his entire family because of persecution by the Tories that continued as late as 1792.
On this voters’ list is the name of John Collier. Right above it are two Cogdill men. What other names that appear later in Pope County are here? There are four Holloman men. There’s a Potts and a Hicks, and several other family names that later turn up in Pope County. So here’s my gut feeling…these are ours, the Colliers of Dobbs County, the Mary Collier of the 1790 census in Dobbs County is our John’s widow and this is where we’ll focus our research.
(Dobbs County no longer exists. What once was Dobbs County is now Greene, Wayne and Lenoir Counties, North Carolina. One of the biggest obstacles to genealogy here is that the Lenoir County Courthouse, which included original Dobbs records, burned twice, in 1878 and 1880, destroying virtually all birth, death, marriage and land records. If you want a general idea of the location for John Collier, planter of Dobbs, locate Kinston, NC.)