William Collins, Mystery Man

Where did he go? What happened to him?

Our mystery man is the son of Ruth Gamble Collins. We don’t know who his father is, because a recent discovery by a new DNA cousin shows that Ruth’s husband Deaderick A. Collins was killed in a train accident on October 2, 1871. William was born about 1874.

Well, that’s awkward. Even more awkward is that Ruth had a total of 4 children after Deaderick Collins died.

Two of those children were born before 1880, and two more after 1880. Before I found out about the train wreck that killed Deaderick in 1871, I knew that Ruth reported herself as a widow on the 1880 census. When I put on my thinking cap, I decided that perhaps the two children that I knew were born after 1880 were foster children, adopted children, or her grandchildren.

Learning that Deaderick died in 1871 meant that 4 children were born after his death:  William, Birdie, Ivy, and Joseph.

There are no family stories handed down that our ancestor died in a train wreck, or that his widow Ruth sued the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad Company.

From a Google books search, my cousin found this court case.: Ruth A. Collins v. East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad Co.

The accident which occasioned the death of said Deaderick Collins, occurred on the 2nd of October, 1871. He was a fireman on the defendant’s train which, on that day, ran over some cattle, whereby the engine and tender were thrown from the track, and the tender upsetting fell upon said Collins, killing him instantly.

But who was William Collins? He was the first child born, in 1874, after Deaderick died. YEARS after Deaderick died.

Another cousin that I corresponded with about 18 years ago had a theory that William had gotten into some trouble and moved off and changed his name. Two things back up this theory.

“Carolyn calls Uncle Walt Uncle Will”

William Collins

A letter from Ruth’s brother Larkin Boling Gamble to their sister in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, in 1913 that mentions all the living children except William. Instead, the letter mentions Walter Oliver.

Here’s the link to that post with the letter. Click here.

We don’t know which sister he was writing to. Martha Rhea, also known as Mattie? I requested a death cert for a certain Walter Oliver in Siloam Springs, and the cert could not be located.

This might call for a trip to the archives…




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