HENRY WATKINS COLLIER
and SCOTTS of
Lawrence County, Alabama
The Wyatts and Scotts and Colliers were related to each other in several ways. Cornelius Collier (the grandfather of the distinguished Alabamian, Henry Watkins Collier, who was judge of the Supreme Court and Governor of the State) married Elizabeth Wyatt. He was a wealthy planter of Lunenburg County, Va., and his family seat was “Porto Bello” in York County, Va.
The Colliers were originally from England, but all of them who settled in America were Whigs during the Revolution. It was a mournful illustration of the way family ties are ruptured by civil war, that at the time young Wyatt (son of Cornelius) was pouring out his life blood at the battle of Eutaw Springs in the cause of American Independence, his English cousin, Sir George Collier, a rear admiral of the Red, was ravaging with his fleet the coast of Rhode Island. About the same time Tarleton with his dragoons was trampling the crops at Portobello into the ground; proudly unconscious of the fate, which awaited him at Yorktown. The father of Governor Collier was James Collier, who married Elizabeth Bouldin.
There were three brothers of the Scotts of English origin, in the county of Gloucester, Va., Frank, James and Thomas. Frank Scott married and remained in Gloucester. James Scott married Francis Collier, sister of Cornelius Collier, of “Portobello.” Thomas Scott married Catherine Tomkites.(?) Their son Frank married Nancy Wyatt, the Mrs. Scott, of Lawrence County.
And now a little in regard to the relation of the McGehees to the Scott family. To show this, I will quote a paragraph from Governor Gilmer’s old book, because it has gone for an age out of print. “Micajah McGehee was a native of Virginia and descended from a Scotch family. He was broad-shouldered, short-necked, and was a tobacco planter of the right sort. He knew nothing about books, and spoke out what he thought directly, and in the plainest way. Soon after he became his own man, he was employed by Mr. Scott (Mr. Thomas Scott above mentioned, I suppose) to do some plantation business for him. According to Virginia fashion intercourse between employers and employed was without restraint. Nancy Collier Scott soon saw that, in the looks of young McGehee, which suited her fancy. It is not in woman’s heart to be unmoved by admiration. She looked in return at the hearty, hale, strong-built, rosy-cheeked youth, until his image became so impressed upon her imagination that saw others very indifferently. When two such people have wills under such influences, they are very apt to find a way to do as they want.
The gentility of the Scotts induced them to look down upon the working Micajah, and oppose the union. The young people, nevertheless, got married. Not choosing to belong to the society of those who thought themselves above them, they removed to Georgia. Though Micajah was wanting in polish, his father-in-law understood his worth and gave him liberally of his property.
He made good use of it by purchasing a large body of the best land in Georgia, particularly suited to the production of tobacco, which was then the staple of the State. He was adept at cultivating and putting it up in the best way. Though he was without book learning, he had the instinctive capacity of the Scotch people, for making and keeping money. Mrs. McGehee was kind and hospitable. She added to the genteel habits of her own family the industry of her husband’s. She never tired in working for her husband and children. She performed a feat of industry, which was hard to beat. She Broad River had one.”
Having disposed of the collateral branches of her family, but very briefly, we will return to Mrs. Scott, the mother of Mrs. Jamieson. Mrs. Scott died in 1836, at the house of Mrs. Unity Moseley, near Wheeler, this county (Lawrence), a relative; and the family then scattered in all directions. The plantation was sold first to Major Watkins, then became the property of his son, James L. Watkins, and later now owned by Mr. Hayes Matthews.
Mrs. Scott (Nancy Wyatt) had thirteen children. (*Note – there are some early Jamisons buried in a crypt at Old Town Creek Baptist Church in Lawrence County, Alabama that may be from this family)
The list of them is from Mrs. Benagh daughter of Governor Collier.
- Joe Wyatt Scott, who married Polly Carrington, daughter of Gen. George Carrington;
- Katherine Tompkins Scott, who married Dr. Gordon, of Charlotte County, Virginia;
- Sallie Scott, who married Dr. Young, of Missouri;
- Nancy Wyatt Scott who married Mr. Jamieson, of Charlotte County, Virginia (and moved to Lawrence County, Alabama)
- Frank Scott, who married a Miss Price, of Charlotte County, Va. ;
- Judge Thomas Scott, of Louisiana, who married a French lady;
- Charles Scott, a lawyer in Louisiana ;
- Robert Scott, who was a lawyer in Louisiana, and died there;
- Elizabeth Scott, who married a Mr. Williams, of Virginia
- Polly Scott who married Thomas Bowldin Spencer, of Charlotte County, Virginia
- Martha, who died young
- John B. Scott, who married a French lady in Louisiana
- William Scott, who died in Texas – he left two sons, Frank and Tom, who moved to Alabama.
Henry Watkins Collier, was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia Jan 17, 1801, the son of James Collier, who married Elizabeth Bouldin. He was educated in the classical tradition at the log-cabin academy of Dr. Moses Waddel. In 1818, he moved with his family to the Alabama Territory and settled in Huntsville. After reading law in Nashville, Tennessee with Judge John Haywood of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Henry opened a practice in Huntsville. He moved in 1822 to Tuscaloosa and became a partnership with Simon Perry.
Henry married Mary Ann Battle, daughter of William and Mary Ann (Williams) Battle in April 25, 1826 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and they had four children who lived to adulthood. Known children were
- Mary Williams Collier (1830-1899) married Rev. George William Benagh
- James Wyatt Collier (1833-1859)
Her niece, Virginia Tunstall, lived with the family for several years and on February 1, 1843, she married the son of former governor Clement Comer Clay. The alliance of these two families strengthened the political careers of both Collier and the younger Clay.
In 1827, Collier was elected to the state legislature and the next year the legislature appointed him to the supreme court. He served one term, then the legislature elected him a judge of the Third Circuit Court, which also made Collier a member of the ad hoc Alabama Supreme Court. Governor Clement Comer Clay reappointed him to the supreme court in 1836. He became chief justice of that body the next year and served in that capacity for twelve years.
“In 1849, Collier was overwhelmingly elected governor. The slavery debate and the controversy sparked by the Wilmot proviso in Congress occupied much of his time during his two terms in office. The Southern rights faction wanted a convention called to demand a redress of Southern grievances by the federal government. Without assurances from the federal government that slavery would not be restricted in the territories, the Southern rights faction advocated secession. The pro-Union advocates also wanted the federal government to leave questions about slavery to the states, but they insisted that the Southern states remain part of the federal system. Governor Collier was a strong Southern rights supporter, but he opposed immediate secession.
The new governor showed support for Southern rights in his inaugural address delivered on December 17, 1849. Collier called for delegates to attend the Southern convention in Nashville, but he refused to call a state convention for ardent Southern rights advocates after the delegation from the Nashville convention returned to Alabama. The governor never did call a state convention, for he preferred the Congressional compromise offered by Henry Clay.”
Collier was a cautious, conservative man. He accepted the Compromise of 1850 over immediate secession. In the gubernatorial election of 1851, the Southern rights faction supported Collier for re-election as a compromise candidate after William Lowndes Yancey refused to run, and with much conservative support he defeated the staunchly pro-Union advocate B.G. Shields by a decisive margin.
During the 1849-50 legislative session, he supported judicial reforms, especially a constitutional amendment giving the people the right to elect circuit and probate judges. In 1850, Collier entertained social activist Dorthea L. Dix when she visited Montgomery. The governor promoted diversification of the economy and encouraged the introduction of textile mills in the state. Impressed with the advances Massachusetts had made with its public school system, Governor Collier promoted better administration of education in Alabama and more equitable funding for education among communities.
Governor Collier retired from public life in 1853 at the end of his second term in office even though the legislature offered him a seat in the United States Senate. By June 1855, he was virtually bedridden but followed his doctor’s orders to seek treatment at medicinal springs. He journeyed first to Blount Springs and then to Lauderdale County’s Bailey Springs, where he died on August 28, 1855, of “cholera morbus,” an early term for gastroenteritis. He and his wife are married Evergreen Cemetery in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
- Early Settlers of Alabama” written 1899 by Col. James Edmonds Saunders and published in New Orleans.
- Moore, Albert Burton. History of Alabama, 1934.
- Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, 1921.
- Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama, 1975
- Find A Grave Memorial# 7365985 # 68719731# 68719789# 68719713# 68719769# 35352737