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Hon. W. S. Collins


Nature is seemingly very capricious and uneven in the distribution of her favors among men; but, when her action is viewed in the light of a true discernment, it is often seen that she has a true system of balances, and compensations, which makes her distribution far more equitable than they at first appear. To one man she gives opportunity and the school education to prepare him for its proper use: to another she gives the inherent strength and fertility of mind and character to hew out opportunities and compel even obdurate circumstances to yield a full, if not a ready, compliance with his will. To the latter class she consigned Hon. W. S. Collins of Basin, Wyoming, the popular county attorney of Bighorn County, who neither inherited nor found by accident the way to consequence and usefulness, but worked it out for himself with assiduous effort and by constant fidelity to every daily duty. He was born in Campaign County, Ohio, on March 30, 1848, the son of worthy and industrious parents, whose circumstances, however, were such that he was not able to get much education at the schools, being obliged to help to make his own way in the world at an early age. When he was but seven years of age he began to work out among the neighbors of his home, receiving twenty-five cents a day as wages, and, while he may have looked longingly at the little country schoolhouse, wherein others who seemed far more fortunate were drinking copious draughts of the invigorating waters of knowledge, while he could catch only here and there a handful of the sparkling stream, as it sang and danced across his toilsome pathway, he was not discouraged by this condition, but “while his companions slept was toiling upward through the night.” By his own efforts, diligently and judiciously applied, he qualified himself to teach school, and thereafter followed this vocation until he was twenty-three years old. Having earned, and saved, sufficient money for the purpose, he then entered McClain’s Academy at Iowa City, Iowa, where he pursued a course of instruction as a preparation for a more advanced one at college, and in 1870 was graduated from an agricultural college with the degree of civil engineer. In the spring of 1877 he began the study of law with the firm of Hamilton & McGuire, of Springfield, Illinois, and, after completing his course in the profession, he was admitted to practice in the courts of the state by the Supreme Court on an open examination. Soon afterward he moved to Brown County, Nebraska, and, not long after his location there he was made suveryor of the county. From there he moved to Fort Fetterman, Wyoming, and, a little later to Douglas, which had but recently been born and baptized as a new municipal entity, and he took an important part in forming and developing the bantling. Since 1888 he has been a resident of the Bighorn basin, and no man worked harder or more intelligently and systematically to build up this portion of the state, develop its natural resources and establish its civil and educational institutions on a healthy and progressive basic. Just prior to his coming to this section, he organized a company of Nebraska capitalists to develop the Bonanza oil fields, and labored most faithfully for the success of the undertaking, but after an expenditure of $22,000, the company failed. Mr. Collins, however, did not become disheartened, but has firmly held to his belief in the wealth of the region and has been untiring in his efforts to bring it forth for the benefit of mankind. For a number of years he has served as U. S. Commissioner and also devoted his time and energies to the reclamation and improvement of arid lands. He was one of the founders of the town of Basin, and, on the organization of Bighorn County, he became one of its prominent and representative citizens, a leader in Republican politics. In 1898 he was elected county attorney and prosecutor and was reelected in 1900. Prior to this, from the formation of the county, in 1895, he had been zealous and active in developing its industrial, agricultural and financial resources. It was largely through his efforts that the Bighorn County Bank was established, in 1897, The Basin city water-works put into operation, in 1901, and the Bighorn Canal Co. organized and it great irrigating plant set in motion. In 1901 he organized the Basin Publishing Co., and, a year later, the Bonanza Oil Development Co. His latest achievement was the organization of the Basin Light Artillery Co., and through his intercession the state has equipped this company with uniforms, revolvers, sabers and all other things needed for its efficiency, including two rifled field guns. The city and the county are equally objects of his intense and serviceable solicitude, seeing with a clear vision the great possibilities of each, and knowing also the capabilities of the people to work out harmonious and healthy development of those possibilities, he looks forward with abiding confidence to the great future, doing his part day by day and in every line of proper activity to aid in hastening the good results. American citizenship in the Northwest has nowhere a finer, more courageous, more resourceful or more highly esteemed representative.


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