Cate Collins, an Indian woman

Cate Collins

THE NAME COLLINS is not listed on any of the deeds associated with the Mattamuskeet Indian Reservation in Hyde County, North Carolina, such as Squires, Barber, Mackey, and Longtom. However, in March 1765, a woman named Cate Collins made an appearance in the Hyde County court minutes.

On motion Patrick Gordan ordered that William Gibbs be summoned to next court to shew cause if any he has why Cate Collings an Indian woman now in his service should not be set free.

In June 1765, there was another mention of this Indian woman.

Ordered that William Gibbs have timely notis [sic] that he shew cause why Cate Collins an Indian woman be not set at liberty.

I was curious as to where William Gibbs was living at the time he had Cate Collins as his servant. Apparently, they were living at Indian Ridge in Mattamuskeet, in the vicinity of the Indian settlement there. Patrick Garrow, in The Mattamuskeet Documents (1975), also noted that the Collins name was absent from the reservation deeds and speculated that the family might have originated on the Outer Banks before moving to Mattamuskeet, suggesting an origin at Hatteras or Roanoke Island. This family remained at Mattamuskeet, and many people of Indian ancestry probably descend from Cate Collins.

However, this was not the only instance of people with this surname being referred to as Indian in records. The Norfolk County Register of Free Negroes and Mulattoes contains the following references:

Douglass Collins, 23 yrs, 5 ft 11-3/4, Indian complexion, Indian descent, 16 Sept. 1850

Douglas Collins’ full name was Presley Douglas Collins. He descended from Kinner Shoecraft Collins, who left a will in Princess Anne County, Virginia, in 1823. Later, as I have shown, he moved to Pennsylvania, where he was counted as Indian in 1860, and white in 1870. Kinner Shoecraft Collins named six children in his will. These were Presley, perhaps the father of Presley Douglas Collins, William Collins, Cary Collins, Patsy Newton, Lucy Turner, and Sarah Collins.

Kinner Collins’ land, I should note, was located along Indian Creek Road in Saint Brides Parish in Norfolk, which also runs into the southern limits of Princess Anne County.

William Collins was probably the father of the William Collins who was listed in the Norfolk County Register of Free Negroes and Mulattoes as a “light mulatto” in 1831. This is the same William Collins who married Jane Bissell and moved to Hertford County, North Carolina. Jane was also from a family that was recorded as Indian. The same Norfolk registry in 1851 listed the following:

Nathan Bissell, 23 yrs, 5 ft 4, Indian complexion, Indian descent, 22 April 1851

Their son John Bembry Collins also listed himself and his family as Indian in 1900:

The family of Cary Collins also retained an Indian identity. Descendants of Cary Collins were included in the 1907 Smithsonian “census” of the Nansemond Indians.

This is interesting as when the BIA reviewed the Meherrin’s application, they stated that there was no evidence to support John Bembry Collins’ claim of Indian descent in 1900. This is clearly not the case. There is ample evidence to support it.

However, the Collins family did not originate at Meherrin Indian Town on the Potecasi in Hertford County, nor at Chowan Indian Town in Gates County. Moreover, it is not listed in early documents with the Bass family, the so-called “Christianized Nansemond” who recently received federal recognition.

Rather, Garrow might have been correct in assuming the family originated on the islands.  These two deeds in Currituck show a man named Thomas Collins appointing Nicholas Lund as his representative to sell land on the Outer Banks, specifically at the “North Banks,” roughly the location of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

[Deed Book 3, pg. 5] Thos. COLLINS to Nickles LUND. Jan. 22, 1738/9. Thos. COLLINS of the precinct of Pasquotank power of attorney to Nicklas LUND to appear at next court in Currituck and “acknowledge in my Name one certain parcell of Land called Rowly park lying on the North Banks”. /s/ Thos. (x) COLLINS. Wit: Robert (x) PAUL. Proved April 3, 1739. Registered Sept. 25, 1739.

[Deed Book 3, pgs. 5-6] Thos. COLLINS to Joseph MIDYETT. Jan. 19, 1738. Thos. COLLINS of the precinct of Pasquotank…planter…£50. Land…on the North Sand Banks…Beginning at the Southern line or creek & N.E. to John ARESES line…150 acres. /s/ Thos. (x) COLLINS. Wit: Nichlas LUND, Robert (x) PAUL. Acknowledged April 3, 1739. Registered June 28, 1739.

The land he deeded was known as “Rowsepock,” the Indian name for Kill Devil Hills. Thomas Collins meantime had become a “planter” in Pasquotank County, which then also included modern-day Camden County. He also signed with a mark. It is unclear how this Thomas Collins obtained land on the North Sand Banks. While he is not referred to as an Indian, he shares the surname of people later identified as Indian in the same area.  It is also important to note that those same people were often not described as any race. They were likely of mixed European ancestry as well, as both Kinner Collins and his grandson Douglas Collins were recorded at times as white. Moreover, I can find no deed in Princess Anne County or Currituck County that mentioned the granting of this land.

Where did he get the land from?

There was a Collins family that later lived at Indian Ridge in Currituck County, in the vicinity of Yeopim-associated families like the Ferebees, Gregorys, and others.

A woman named Euphan Collins paid 5 pounds for a parcel of land on the border owned by William Reed and his wife Lucy of Princess Anne County in 1782.

Nov. 10, 1782 – William REED & his wife Loosey (Lucy) of Princess Anne County Virginia for and in consideration of the sum of 5 Pounds paid to us by Euphan COLLINS for a percel of land adjoining the province line of North Carolina various courses to the first beginning. Witness: William MULDER, Willoughby READ, Malachi READ; Registered May 21, 1783

Euphan Collins apparently married Butler Turner, who was listed in the 1787 Princess Anne Personal Property List, along with the Weavers and Shoecrafts, as well as Kinner Collins and his son Cary Collins.

Nov. 29, 1788 – I Butler TURNER & Euphan my Wife of Princess Anne County Virginia for the sum of £5 paid to us by William REED for a tract of land adjoining the province line of North Carolina various courses to the first beginning.  Witness Ked. MULDER, Malachi READ, Archalous MORSE; Registered Aug. 13, 1789

The Turners are listed as “other free” in the early Currituck County censuses. This is another surname that is found spread among the Algonquian-descended people of the coasts. The name is found on the 1786 sale of Nansemond Indian Reservation in Southampton County, Virginia, as well as at the Nottoway Indian Reservation.

In the aforementioned Norfolk register, one finds the following record:

Mary Turner, 42 yrs, 5 & 1/2, a bright Indian complexion, Indian descent, 15 Sept. 1851

So apparently the Collinses and Turners living on both sides of the border in Princess Anne and Currituck were of Indian descent. This provides some evidence that the Collins family found across the region had its origin in the coastal borderlands between Virginia and North Carolina, which was originally populated by the Nansemond and Yeopim.

I also descend from this family. My ancestor Thomas Collins is named on this will in Norfolk County from 1803, along with Stephen Price, another Nansemond/Yeopim man. The same year, he witnessed the transfer of 10 acres to Sarah Butler in Gates County.

ellis will

2 thoughts on “Cate Collins, an Indian woman

  1. I am a descendant of the COLLINS, CHANCE & BARBER families of Hyde County, NC. Early census records show three women with the COLLINS surname. They are my ggg-grandmother Milly b circa 1788, Abijah, aka Abigail b circa 1790 and Charity b circa 1792. I have always believed them to be sisters, but cannot prove it. In 1820 Milly was in Somerset County, MD, although Abijah and Charity were in Hyde County. In subsequent years they are all in Hyde. I read your article with great interest because I never thought they were originally from Hyde County. I also feel they are connected to Cate COLLINS and could be her children. I’m wondering if you have come across this branch of the COLLINS line in your research? Any information you could provide would be most appreciated.

    1. Hi Lilian. The interesting thing is that there were no Collinses named on the Mattamuskeet land deeds. This has led some to suppose they arrived to the area from elsewhere. The first record that mentions Cate is from 1765. It’s possible she came to the area via Currituck (as there are Indians later recorded in Currituck and Norfolk with the name Collins). The link to Somerset County, Md., is very interesting. The Collinses there were living with the Harmons, and they also lived side by side with the Harmons in Princess Anne County. So if the Milly Collins there is the same as the one in Hyde, it could clear up some questions about this family’s origins. Are you on GEDmatch?

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