Douglas Collins

Douglas Collins 1Douglas Collins 2

I came upon this listing for Douglas Collins in the 1860 census in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. This is a town equidistant from Gettysburg and Tuscarora National Forest in the southern central part of the state. Douglas Collins is listed as an Indian, and as being from Virginia.

Interestingly, at the bottom of the page, it shows that census takers counted his family as “white” in the total count of white and colored residents. This would be relevant later, because in 1870, the family of Douglas Collins, this second time using perhaps his real first name, Presley, is listed as white.

Douglas Collins actually appears in the Norfolk County Register of Free Negroes and Mulattoes in 1850. “Douglass Collins, 23 yrs, 5 ft 11-3/4, Indian complexion, Indian descent, 16 Sept. 1850.” The same register lists William Collins, Cary Collins, and Presley Collins, all as mulatto, rather than Indian. However, the year their names were recorded was 1831. The William Collins listed is the progenitor of a family now known as Meherrin Indian, and that listed itself as Indian in the 1900 US Federal Census of Hertford County, North Carolina. I have written about that family here.

All of these names, William, Cary, and Presley Collins, are connected to Kinner Shoecraft Collins, who left a will in Princess Anne County in 1823. In that document, and others, Cary, William, and Presley are named as his sons. A century later, another man named Cary Collins is listed in the 1907 census of the Nansemond Indians. This was clearly an Indian family, as supported by multiple documents. Moreover, this family had some European ancestry. This is demonstrated by the fact that not only was Douglas Collins counted as white in Pennsylvania, but Kinner Collins was taxed as white until 1820.

My own ancestors were considered white in most documents. However, some were characterized as colored, especially around the time of the Civil War. My own matches with Hall and Weaver descendants, other Indian families from the east side of the Great Dismal Swamp, plus the appearance of my ancestor’s name “Graham Collins” among the Indian communities at Mattamuskeet, seems to incontestably link my family to these families. It’s worth noting that my ancestor Graham Collins’s sister Claresia married Thomas B. Hall in Gates County. These Halls were another one of these racially ambiguous families that were described as white in some documents and black in others.

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