Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mary Pyburn Collins

I worked on the Hollinger's this week. Not that I didn't look at William Hollinger, I did, but I am staying away from that issue, there are just so many "rumored" connections, and since I am not a Hollinger, I am just related to a small portion of them, I am sticking to who I am related to. Which brings me back to Mary Pyburn Collins.

I do love the Pyburn's for research. I find the fact that Frances Mullis/Mullins Pyburn lived in Tensaw as a widow with six small children fascinating. Tensaw was in the wilds. Surrounded by Creek Indians who were not so friendly at times, it was not the place you expect to find a widowed woman alone with children. That she remained widowed until most of her children were adults is even more surprising.

Mary Pyburn's family is researched, they just don't take it back that far, mostly because, they didn't know about her. So I am going to talk about this woman and her pretty remarkable family.
In 1905 in the Pensacola Gazette, I.E. Allen wrote about Antonio Collins and his wife, Mary "a Miss Pyburn". (the article can be found here.) Of Mary Pyburn Collins he wrote "his wife was a Miss Pyburn and was said to be a long ways a better man than he". Don't you just love that?

I see this petite little woman with a lot of sass and capability in my head. A woman who owned more property than her husband ( a bit unusual don't you think). Mary came along way from her roots. We know her mother was pretty poor. The family only ever owned one slave, and had two small cabins on their 640 acre property on Tensaw Lake. Without a man to do the work, Frances was likely dependent on her small children to help her with her land. So when Mary set her eyes on James Innerrity (whose land was less than ten miles south), no wonder a relationship developed. Mary had a daughter Teresa Rubina and we also think a son, James with Innerarity.

Her arrival in Pensacola remains shrouded in mystery. Her son was baptized there. Did she follow James to Pensacola? Did she come with her brothers Benjamin and (presumed) James Pyburn? By 1818 Benjamin, Phoebe Pyburn Turvin, and Santiago (James) Pyburn were all in Pensacola, but by 1820 only Mary and Phoebe remain. Whether she was spurned by James Innerarity or Antonio/Antoine Collins just gave her a better offer, they were married in Pensacola by 1810.

The lifestyle of Mary and Antoine was of the planter elite. Antoine's land grant (or perhaps his sister in law's Phoebe Turvins) became Live Oaks Plantation. By the mid 1820's the Collins Hotel in Pensacola was a place to stay. The couple held balls there for the Pensacola elite and the officers who resided or stayed in Pensacola. Mary was the slave owner of the family. She saw to it that her daughters married well. Teresa Rubina married Adam Cornelius Hollinger, a son of Mary's wealthy neighbor from Tensaw. Eulalie married Horace Loomis Higley. Cecelia married a Lt. Bowie and then John Rochelle, a plantation owner from Virginia. Mary Louisa married Alexander Hamilton Bowman, an Army Officer.

Mary's children all moved away from her. Eulalie and Teresa both lived in or near Mobile. Cecelia lived in Virginia, Mobile and then finally , New Orleans. Mary Louisa lived in Barre, Pennsylvania. Son Antonio Jr. killed a man in a duel and escaped prison and ran off to Texas where he died in a bar fight or a duel. James disappears from records.

Mary's life was a hard one. In 1841 a fire burned down the Hotel and several buildings in Pensacola. She rebuilt, or moved the Hotel to the plantation. In 1852 fire struck again, she escaped out a window in her bedroom, at the age of 70!. I don't know if she was alive when the Civil War left her husband destitute. How exactly they lost the plantation and hotel I am not sure, but in 1865, Antoine was convinced by his daughter to come to Pennsylvania. He stayed in the State Hotel, where in despair, he jumped out his third story window and killed himself.

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