Brenda Collins Dillon March 16th, 2003
I am your host, Brenda Collins Dillon. WELCOME
My family lines are deeply rooted in the mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky. They are a mixture of White, Black, Indian, and Melungeon. My search has gone from the State of Washington, in the West, to Virginia and North Carolina in the East. I married a man from Massachusetts, so my children are descendants of the Sampson & Standish & Alden lines off the Mayflower.
Bloodlines are important but there are also those lines that are not related by blood but have raised us and left inside us the morals, and characteristics that make us who we are today. My mother was adopted when she was two days old and raised by a wonderful loving couple that had no other children. My stepfather was orphaned at six weeks and tossed from one family member to another until he was old enough or big enough to work. I was a child without a daddy until my mother married and that gentle man raised me as his own. Yes, these lines are not blood kin, but just as important.
I was born Brenda Bennett-Collins on December 26, 1944. My parents were never married however, since they lived near each other and my father’s sisters were my mother’s best friends it was my aunt Pearl & uncle Archie Spencer that took her in and where we lived until I was 5 years old.
My aunt & uncle lived on Fenwick Mountain in Nicholas County, West Virginia. Their home sat in the hollow of the mountains above Richwood. It was a small four room house with an attic, back porch big enough for sitting in the evenings and listening to the sounds of the night, slightly crowded but full of love. Outside the front of the house was a big dogwood tree that was in radiant bloom every Spring. The road leading down to the house was a dirt one with fields on both sides that was planted every spring with vegetables for the entire family. A year or so before I left there uncle Archie planted the field across the main road that lead down into the hollow with potatoes as the family was getting bigger and required more. On the hill to the left of the house he grew hay for the animals and nestled into that hill was aunt Pearl’s cold/storm cellar. To the right back of the house was the tool shed and fenced in field and at the far back of the property was a barn. It looked so big to a 5 year old but I am sure it wasn’t more than about 5 acres cleared. Down over the hill ran a little stream that watered the livestock and where I waded on those hot summer days.
These are some of the earliest memories I have of my childhood:
- Cornbread and milk sitting behind the wood cook stove in aunt Pearl’s kitchen
- Looking at the first snow through the window
- Going to see Grandma Vernie & grandpa Ervin Collins
- Carrying my little water bucket to mother working out in the field
- Christmas sitting on uncle Archie’s knee by the old pop-belly stove
- Going to church with the whole family
- Giving my cousins the measles
- Picking wildflowers with mom and aunt Pearl
- Walking on a hollow log…..that is where mom said she found me
- Listening to uncle” Tunnie” sing at church
- Walking everywhere we went…..something I really miss.
- Listening to uncle Archie stories….tall tales…..jokes
- Listening to aunt Pearl and mom singing as they worked. I still sing many of the same hymns.
When I was 5 years old mom met Arthur Shoulders at church and a few weeks later they were married. I had mixed emotions about this. One I wanted a daddy but, the farm and this family was all I ever knew.
Mom had been left a 5 acre piece of land by her adopted father when he died. It was here that became my new home. I adjusted, started school in a one room schoolhouse, and still got to see all my family at church on Sunday.
In May 1951 I got a new baby sister followed the next year with another. Hazel was named for daddy Top’s sister and the other sister was named Karen. Karen was just a few weeks old when I was told that the farm was sold and we were moving to Washington State. Life would never be the same.
My home today is in Massachusetts not far from Cape Cod and Plymouth. I live near all my children and grandchildren. I started doing family history in 1964 when my mother started searching for information on her natural family. She had been adopted when her mother died when she was two days old. Family history interest me for the history part of it but also because a number of health problems had surfaced and I felt the need to know where they had came from.
Hazel, my sister, had two beautiful boys but when they were very young they were both diagnosed with Duchannes Muscular Dystrophy. Daniel died when he was just 20 years old and Lance Michael was only 16. Duchannes MD is a killer of young boys. It is a disease that is passed on from the female to the male children. A few years ago we discovered my own daughter’s youngest child, Jamie Nicole, is a carrier of this same disease.
My own health problems have also made me dig further into the history. I was only about 21 when I was diagnosed with three types of arthritis. Remembering back I can remember my grandpa Collins with his twisted fingers sitting on a cot in the living room with his crutches not far away. I can never remember grandpa without crutches. When I ask what was wrong with grandpa the folks would reply, “he has Collinitis”.
Diabetes is also something that was passed down through the Collins line but I was cursed with it on both sides of the family so I didn’t really stand a chance.
Then in 1972 when my youngest daughter was born the doctors told me of a problem they found with my kidneys. They said I had been born with the disease called “Polycystic Kidney Disease” and that there was no known cure. It is a slow progressing disease that would zap my strength , and attack other organs in my body. When they discovered it I only had a slight loss of function and stayed that way for several years. Over the years I have learned that stress is my worst enemy and as things stress me out my blood pressure went up and my kidney function went down. In one year I went from 75% down to 50% and the next year down to 35%. Today my function is down to about 28 % and at 20% I will need to make plans to go on a dialysis machine. A few years ago my two daughters were tested and they don’t carry this gene. They would gladly give me a kidney that is good, however, a few years ago the disease left me with a side effect of an aneurysm on the right side of the brain. I make a very poor risk.
My family history/genealogy has been a God sent hobby that has filled my life and kept my mind active. I would hate to think how empty life would have been without it. I have meet so many wonderful people, found several relatives I didn’t know existed, and when my beloved husband died last year it kept me from loosing it. When I wake each morning I give thanks to God for each new day that I am able to do for myself. Life isn’t what it use to be. I can’t climb over fences in a cemetery or climb the stairs in a dusty archive/library. I spend my time searching the internet from my wheelchair and enjoying my grandchildren.
Collins Story, Collins Timeline, Taylor Timeline
My Mother’s Side, The Man I Call Daddy, I Remember Grandma, Mayflower Connection, In Memory Of
Collins, Spencer, Taylor, Bennette, Williams 1, Williams 2, Roark, Lambert, Cline, Mullins, Trent, Bean, Perry, Bennett, Lyons, Marks, Cottrill, Goff, Stansbury, Weatherholt, Allman, Shoulers, Prince, Godfrey, Gibson, Bennett 2
Good Reading Material
The material on these pages are an ongoing research. I have tried where at all possible to verify and state sources, but I am human, and human s make mistakes. The material is placed here and may be copied and used for your own personal use HOWEVER, it is NOT to be copied and used on other websites nor published in a book without the permission of the author. Since a lot of my material has been shared with me, by permission of others, perhaps it would be best to LINK to my information.
4 Branches of the Melungeon Tree
Life & Adventures of Wilbur Waters
History of Orange Co. Virginia
Ragland’s History of Logan Co. W.V.
Excerpts from William Perrin’s History of Bourbon, Scott, Harrison, and Nicholas Counties
History of WV, Part 1
My Favorite Links
William Martin’s W.V. History
Frankie Blackburn’s Appalachian Heritage
Linda Carter’s In Search of Saponitown
US GENWEB (Information for each State)
Genealogy.com (100’s of Surnames )
Google ( My #1 Search Engine )
Sharing Hall of Fame
I have been doing genealogy/family history for over 30 years. Over these 30 years I have met many people and even found a few new cousins I didn’t know I had. I would like to take this time to mention many of those people that have helped me over the years. Please forgive if I have forgotten anybody. Thanks for caring and sharing.
Zelma Bennett Shoulders……my mother, she got me interested in family research while searching for her natural parents. She was adopted.
Pearl Collins Spencer…..my aunt who shared stories about my father’s side of the family.
Archetta Spencer Bailey….. my first cousin who shared much on the Collins /Spencer lines
Clarence Collins……my great uncle who had a real talent of telling stories.
Eula Collins Conley…….a true historian of the Collins line.
Betty Scott……. also from the Meredith Collins line.
Virginia Dale Hutsell …….from the Spencer line. Virginia has shared pictures, documents and always been there not only to share information but just be a friend.
Jean Ring and her brother Dale Bennett
Fidella Nash Shoulders
William Martin………..cousin through the Williams line. Wm and I first met in the genealogy chat rooms on AOL. He encouraged me to start a website and always had time to work with me. Without his help this website would not be.
Frankie Blackburn……another Collins descendant. We both feel that our lines connect but have never found the link. Wm (above) Frankie, and I put up the first Appalachian Mountain Families website and started the yahoo groups list ( appalachianfamily) which today has over 800 members.
Linda Carter……has shared her knowledge of Native Americans and helped me in my journey to find the truth of my heritage.
Jack Goins……. author, researcher of the Melungeon People. Jack has shared much with me over the years and I am honored to call him my friend.
Mary Ann Merritt
Carole Plymale…….It took 28 years , almost 12 years after my mother passed away, to find Carole. Carole is from my mother’s natural line. Mother searched for years and found very little. Carole filled in so much of Mother’s Perry, Lyons, Fisher, and Marks lines and I found a cousin.
Rodney Veitschegger, Bowling Green, KY
United We Stand