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Submitted by Terry Johnson


Solomon D. Collins, one of the three Melungeon Collins patriarchs, was the father of Mahala Collins Mullins, arguably the most famous Melungeon personality.  He was married to Virginia Jane (Gincy) Goins, daughter of Joseph Goins and Millie Loven.  According to an unsubstantiated narrative in Hancock County & Its People (1989), Solomon D. Collins came to the Newman's Ridge area of Hancock County about 1815 in a covered wagon from near Asheville, North Carolina.  Whether this date is accurate is in some doubt since a Solomon Collins is listed in the 1820 Buncombe County Census of NC.  By most accounts he was born near Asheville in 1795 or 1799, placing him at age 16-20 during this migration.  He does not appear in the earliest known record of Melungeons in East Tennessee, the Hawkins County Tax List of 1810, which listed Benjamin, Vardy, James, and Hennery (sic) Collins.  Unquestionably he is in Hawkins County Tennessee by 1830, when he appears on page 77 of the Hawkins County Census, listing (0,0) with one fpc (free person of color) male and one fpc female between 10 and 24 years of age.  Although this is his first official appearance in Tennessee, he was probably there by 1823-4 when his firstborn child, Mahala, was born, since later census records show her birthplace as TN.  Solomon appears on all subsequent Hawkins/Hancock censuses through 1870. 


Although most of the literature states that he died 28 June 1863 in Hancock County, this is incorrect since Solomon D. Collins appears in the 1870 Census of Hancock County8 with Jane, whom I believe to be his second spouse, and some of his children still living at home.  The confusion surrounding Solomon D. Collins' date of death undoubtedly comes from the records of his son Solomon Collins III, of the First Tennessee Calvary (Union), who died 28 June, 1863, and is buried in the Nashville National Cemetery.


Children of Solomon D. Collins and Gincy Goins Collins were:


MAHALA COLLINS, born 30 March, 18249, Hawkins Co. TN.  Married Johnnie Mullins.  She was known also as "Big Haley", an infamous bootlegger


FRANKLIN COLLINS, b. 1825. Never married*.


SILAS COLLINS, b. Abt. 1827, d. March 24, 1863, Triune, TN. 

Married Orpha Davidson (1860 Census, 712/683)


BAILEY COLLINS, b. August 07, 1827, Hawkins, TN; d. September 22, 1908, Hancock, TN.  Married Melissa Rhea.  First Tennessee Calvary, Co. A


ENOCH (Ink) COLLINS, b. 1830, TN.6


THALAMOS (Tommy?) COLLINS. B. Abt. 1832


SOLOMON COLLINS, b. about 1832, d. 28 June, 1863 in Nashville, TN  First Tennessee Calvary, Co. A.


MALETHA (LETHY) COLLINS, b. 1835.6        Married Thomas Anderson   


ELIZABETH (BETTY) COLLINS, b. Abt. 18376,Married McKinley Collins*


SARY (SALLY) COLLINS, b. 1841 (LDS) or 1839 (1850 Census)


AMELA (Milla Ann) COLLINS, b. 1844.  Married Ham Miser.


RICHARD COLLINS? (LDS)  Undocumented.  Married Sarah Davidson.


Also listed by some researchers: Millie, probably Amela.


* Marriages from notes of Martha Collins, granddaughter of Bailey Collins.


Note:  Most printed references to Gincy have her born in 1793.  This is unlikely since she would have been 51 when her last child was born.  By 1860 I believe Solomon D. Collins was living with another spouse, Jane.  Her age and state of birth are different that Gincy Jane Goins Collins in the Censuses of 1860/1870.  Of course, Gincy could have merely been lying to the enumerator about her age.




Solomon D. Collins left the following documented record in Tennessee:


1824 Mahala Collins born in Tennessee7

1830 Hawkins County, TN Census, page 77

1831 Entered 50 acres on Newman's Ridge, Entry Book A-1, #22. May 30,1831

1836 Hawkins County Tax List of 1836, District 5 (Salloman Collins)

1838 Solomon Collins (father?) died in Lewis County, VA (now WV)

1838 Edy Collins (mother?) enters 50 acres next door to Solomon D. Collins9

1840 Hawkins County, TN Census, page 232

1844 Entered 50 acres, Newman's Ridge. Entry Book B, p.169.

1845 Bondsman for Zachariah Jones and Delaney Burk in a murder case

1846 Hawkins County Court: Charged with illegal voting.

1848 Acquitted of above charge.

1848 State of Tenn. vs. Solomon Collins, forfeiture of bond in Jones case (1845)

1850 Hancock County, TN Census, age 57

1860 Hancock County, TN Census, page 104. Age 65.

1862 Three sons (Bailey, Silas, Solomon III) enlist in First Tenn. Calvary (Union)

1863 Silas died near Triune, TN in March

1863 Solomon Collins III died June 28 near Nashville

1870 Hancock County, TN Census, #55/53, next door to Bailey Collins





The parentage of Solomon D. Collins remains uncertain.  Grohse represents him to be the son of Solomon Collins of Cumberland County, PA, (born about 1760 - died 1838 in Lewis Co. VA, now WV) probably derived from family tradition.  Until recently, this seemed unusual in that Pennsylvania was not thought of as a Melungeon population center.  However, it now seems certain that at least one branch of the Melungeon tree springs from the Saponi Indian tribe of Colonial Virginia10.  This tribe was part of a group living outside Ft. Christanna in Virginia in 1717-1720.  The group dispersed after losing the protection of the fort against the Cherokees, their traditional enemies, some going to live with the Catawba in South Carolina, some going north to Pennsylvania, and some remaining in the border area between Virginia and North Carolina.  Those who went to Pennsylvania settled near Sunbury, in Northumberland County, formed from Cumberland and other counties in 1772.  Thus, a Melungeon Solomon Collins Revolutionary War veteran from Pennsylvania is certainly possible.


Further, documenting his location in "Melungeon country" has been an issue.  However, if one compares the Pension application of "PA" Solomon Collins with the Pension List of 1820 (Indexed Edition) it is clear he was living in Giles County, Virginia, surrounded by others with Melungeon names:


1806 Tax List, Solomon Collans, one white tithe, p4. (with Daniel and Millinton Collins)

1810 Census, Solomon Collans, p620. (With Danil Collans,Mary Collans, Sam'l Collans)      (2 m 0-10, 1 m 26-45, 1 f 16-26)

1815 Giles Co. Personal Property Tax List, pp 2-8. (Schreiner-Yantis 1970b) Living among a sizeable Melungeon population including John Mullins, Wm. Boling, Thomas Collins, Sr., John Collins, Samuel Collins, Millenton (sic) Collins, and David Goens (sic).

1820 Giles Co Census, Solomon Collens, p113A, near Daniel, Milly, Samuel, Meliton, & Burgess Collens.  Several Mullins families lived nearby.

1820 Pension List, p559. (Indexed Edition)  Last appearance in Giles County. 


Why Solomon applied for Revolutionary pension in Lewis County VA in 1818 is not known, unless Samuel Z. Jones, who attested to his service, lived there.  Interestingly, he did not receive payments directly, but through R. W. Collins of Lewis County, possibly a brother.  Some sources say the pension was denied, but a copy of the approved pension is in the author's possession (S39331).  Strangely, he also stated in his application that he had no family to support.  Unless he divorced or abandoned Edy, this was not true.  (Edy Collins appears on the Hawkins County Census of 1840 as a woman living alone, age 80-90.  In 1838, she entered 50 acres between Solomon D. Collins and Andrew Collins, another piece of evidence supporting the theory that PA Solomon was the father of Solomon D. Collins) 


Grohse lists Solomon's father elsewhere as Benjamin Collins, as does Jack Goins (Jack H. Goins said 1830 p. 77, Solomon Collins 0-0...1 free colored male 10/24 & 1 female 10/24.  "Solomon s/o Benjamin Collins & Benjamin was the son of old John Collins Sr. s/o Thomas Sr. Louisa Co. VA."  Demarce Research).  Like Mr. Goins, I am convinced the Melungeon Collinses of Hancock County all spring from old Thomas Collins, Sr. and his kin, but since "Ben" and "Sol" were patriarchs of separate "clans", I am doubtful that Solomon D. was the son of Benjamin.


Other possible clues are:


Solomon D. Collins stated his father fought in the Revolution, lending at least some weight to the theory that PA Solomon was his father.


There is an unverified statement by Arthur Taylor that Solomon D. Collins was really a Dickerson or Dickenson, but raised by a Collins.  Pat Elder reports in her book that it was a grandmother of some degree who was a Dickerson.  I have no documented evidence, but it is a possibility that unmarried Solomon and Edy Dickerson separated, and Solomon D. Collins was raised in the Collins family.  This would account for the pension information as well as Taylor's statement.  Note also that the 1810 Giles Co. VA census lists only one female 16-26 years old living with Solomon, too young to be Edy5.  This is further evidence they were not living together.


Such speculations aside, Solomon's middle name was almost certainly Dickerson.  At least the census of 1860 listed him as "Solomon D".  Since Edy lived next door, she was likely his mother, who possibly moved to Hancock County in 1838, the year of her husband's death.  To date, I have found no marriage record in VA, NC, or TN for Edy and Solomon.  In all likelihood, whatever time they had together was without benefit of legal marriage.


In any case, my conclusion is that the preponderance of available evidence suggests that my family traditions are correct: Solomon D. Collins of Newman's Ridge was the son of Solomon Collins of Pennsylvania.


Sorting Out the Solomons


One fact not mentioned in the literature: Other than the well documented Solomon Collins who married Delila Nichols (see below), there is no record of two Solomon Collinses being in Hawkins County concurrently up to 1838, the year of PA Solomon's death.  For this reason, I believe PA Solomon never came to Tennessee. Many researchers as a result confuse the various Melungeon Solomon Collinses of TN, NC, and VA.  The following is based on census and pension information and tax lists:


Solomon Collins (PA Solomon), born about 1760, died 8 February, 1838, Lewis Co. VA (now WV), NOT in Hawkins County TN.  Pension #S39331. Residence documented in Giles County, Virginia 1806-1820.  In Lewis County by 1835.


Probably the father of:


Solomon D. Collins, b. 1795-99, NC, died after 1870, place uncertain, probably Hancock County.  This is the Melungeon patriarch of Newman's Ridge later known as "Old Sol".


Father of:


Solomon Collins III, b.1832?, TN, died June 28, 1863 during the Civil War, near Nashville,TN.  First Tennessee Calvary, Co. A.



Other Solomon Collinses


For those researching other Solomon Collins lines:


A Solomon Collins appears in the 1832 Tax List of Morgan County IN.  A narrative in "Pioneers of Morgan Co" (see information on this site) states he had a daughter "Jincey".  He moved west by 1836.


A Solomon Collins (who may be the person above) was in Hawkins County in 1814 when he was drafted.  (Pension Records)  His Pension application states he was born in NC about 1787.  He married Delila Nichols in Claiborne County TN 1 Oct 1812 and had a son Tipton, perhaps others.  His whereabouts are uncertain until 1850, when he appeared in the Ozark Co MO Census, and in 1880 in the Douglas Co MO census.


A Solomon Collins was born 1813 in Ashe County, NC, probably the son of Elisha Collins.  He married Mary Hollingsworth 23 July 1844 in Clay County KY.  Their children were Jackson, Sally, and Solomon.  He died in 1891 in Clay County KY.


A Solomon Collins (DAR 86648) was born 1766, location unknown, to Bathsheba Hoxie and unknown father, married Sarah Perry 8 March 1792.  He served in 2nd Rhode Island in the Revolution, and died 1823.


There are three Solomon Collinses from Massachusetts who served in the Revolution, the most interesting being Solomon from Chatham, MA (1778 Census).  His record indicates he was 5'7" tall and had "a dark complexion".


For reference, some Solomon Collins marriages:


12 March 1789 to Alley Tignor in NC

14 April 1800 to Alifare Simpson in NC

27 April 1827 to Lucinda Blackley in IN

21 March 1821 to Katie Ardeston in Roane Co TN


Finally, all Melungeon researchers are indebted to Dr. Virginia E. Demarce, whose impeccable research sets a standard for us all, Pat Spurlock Elder, whose excellent book on Melungeon origins demonstrates that truth is more interesting than myth, Jack Goins, whose pioneering research led the way for us all, and Brenda Collins Dixon, whose untiring efforts in Melungeon research continues to inspire.   





1 1810 Giles Co., VA Census, Schreiner-Yantis 1970a, page A4

2 1820 Buncombe Co., NC Census, page 22

3 1820 Giles Co., VA Census, page 113a

4 1830 Hawkins Co., TN Census, page 77

5 1840 Hawkins Co., TN Census, page 232

6 1850 Hancock Co., TN Census

7 1860 Hancock Co., TN Census, page 104

8 1870 Hancock Co., TN Census, #55/53

9 Hawkins Co. Entry Book B, page 68, #1829

10 Pat Spurlock Elder, Melungeons: Examining an Appalachian Legend,  Blountville, TN, Continuity Press, 1999.  Highly recommended resource for Melungeon researchers