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58 SETTLlNQ THE OLD POPLAR-TREE PLACE BY VINSON ALLEN COLLINS Pioneer life has always been much the same; a family pulls up stakes in the home town and sets out for a new life in a new country , where they will be on their own. A lot of the Big Thicket settlers followed that pattern pretty well. Whether they were getting away from something or were looking for something, what they found was big timber and privacy and the chance to prove to themselves that they could be independent. There weren't many towns near the Thicket when the Collins and Hooks and Harts began coming in during the 'forties and 'fifties . There were a few stores in Old Hardin, near present-day Kountze, and there were settlements at WoodVille, and at Concord (the steamboat landing on Pine Island Bayou) and at Drews Landing on the Trinity, but these places were a long way off for most of the settlers. However, the old nesters that came to get some privacy in the Thicket weren't interested in spending much time in town. They liked the lonesome and they wanted to be apart so they could look after themselves. Warren Collins and his family came to the Big Thicket in 1852 from Mississippi. They brought along some poplar tree sprouts in gourds and set them out at their homestead near Honey Island. By one of those miracles of life, the seedlings lived and grew into trees, 22. Vinson A. Collins. and the old home place was known thereafter as the Old PoplarTree Place. Warren Conins was a short, square-set, long-armed, and hammer -fisted sort of man, who ruled his roost and was a power among his clan and neighbors. He fought anything that had the gall to cross him and was the leader of the Iayhawkers during the Civil War. His mind was set as hard as his fists and he didn't reckon that the war between the North and South was any part of his plan of life. He had come to the Thicket in the first place to get away from just that sort of foolishness. Warren Collins was what Robert Burns would call "the man of independent mind," and the customs of his home reflect just that. He was his own man and what he couldn't hunt and gather, the family did without. Warren's son, the Honorable V. A. Collins, wrote the following description of his family life in the Big Thicket 59 60 TALES FROM THE BIG THICKET as it was during the middle of the nineteenth century. "Uncle Yank," as Senator Collins is called, profited largely by his father's independent example and led as fruitful a life in Texas politics as his father did in the Big Thicket. With Mr. Collins' permission, I have edited his article from his history of Hardin County (contained in Mrs. W. J. Norvell's history of the Pitts family), his own family history, and a personal letter. He wrote most of what follows in 1962, when he was ninety-five years old.-F.E.A. It was said to be about five hundred miles from Jones County, Mississippi, to Hardin County, Texas, and they had to make this trip in ox wagons. Stacey Collins, Jr., had a wagon and a yoke of oxen to carry his family, and Stacey, Sr., and Sara Anderson Collins went with their three sons, Newton, Warren, and Edwin, in another wagon. I think it took about twenty-five days for them to make the trip from Mississippi to Hardin County. Uncle Edwin heard that there were no poplar trees in Texas, so he decided to take some along and plant them. He was told that the trip would take so long that the little trees would probably die before they arrived, so he said he would plant two little poplars in gourds and let them take root before they started, and then he would take them along with him in the wagon. This he did. There was no lumber to build regular houses from at that time, but there were millions of pine saplings just the right size to make log houses out of, with the poles notched and laid on each other and then roofed with boards split out of large pines. That would build a very good summer house, but to keep out the cold wind in the winter they had to cut large pines and...


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