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Weekly 150

The Harris-Collier Family (Part I)

Doctor Harris T. Collier Who?

Posted 10/22/19

Recently I wanted to do a little research on families in McKenzie, and yes I have a list about as long as my leg. As I flipped through a book of McKenzie families, I came across the name Harris which …

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Weekly 150

The Harris-Collier Family (Part I)

Doctor Harris T. Collier Who?

Posted

Recently I wanted to do a little research on families in McKenzie, and yes I have a list about as long as my leg. As I flipped through a book of McKenzie families, I came across the name Harris which to my knowledge isn’t too common in the area. Against my better judgment I decided to take a gander on what was before me, and it was pretty interesting. So as always, I’ve decided to share the information with the public.

In 1854, Albert Gallatin and Pernecia Gilbert Harris built a home in Carroll County to raise a family. One of the children, Ada, was educated in Paris and at Professor Randal’s Boarding School (McTyeire School) in Caledonia. At the age of 20, Ada married Zachary Taylor Collier of Cottage Grove, Tenn. Zachary worked as a salesman for a firm out of Louisville, Ky.

During the 1880’s they moved from Louisville and purchased Ada’s homeplace from her parents. The young couple had two children, a son, Harris Taylor, and a daughter, Mary Ada. The family was very close-knit even with the father on the road. The following is a letter from Zachary to his 11-year-old son:

Cincinnati, February 14, 1886

My Dear Son,

Your two letters were received last week. I am glad you captured the prize in writing. You will soon learn to write better than Papa if you will only take the pains to practice. I notice you make little I’s this way -- i. You should make capital ones and always spell correctly. After you write your letters, get Mama to look over them and correct your errors then copy and you will have it all right.

I am glad your colt rides nicely, but I am afraid you will let her hurt you. You must let them go to the pasture everyday and get all the grass they can. I thought about my horse yesterday when the streetcar men struck and all the cars stopped. They settled everything satisfactorily, however, and they were all running again last night. Tell sister that I shall expect a letter from her next week.

Affectionately,

Your Father,

Z.T. Collier

Tragedy entered into the family’s lives in 1895. While the family was living in Memphis, Mary died of pneumonia. She was only 18 years old and an accomplished pianist.

It was rumored Ada never fully recovered from the loss of her daughter. Then in 1906, only eleven years later, Zachary died. The year prior they had moved back to country home in McKenzie.

Mary along with Harris, who at that point was a physician, lived on the family farm until 1918. It was at that point the home and farm were sold to Hayes Holland, father of Kermit Holland. Ada then purchased her uncle Gardner Gilbert’s home at the corner of Magnolia and Stonewall.

In 1935, tragedy struck Ada again, this time it was the death of her son, Dr. Harris Collier. Four years later, Ada died at the age of 85.

Records note, Dr. Harris Collier was an outstanding athlete in his younger days. In an obituary story by Null Adams for the Memphis Press-Scimitar:

Altho Dr. Collier weighed 225 pounds, he was a 10-second tract man at Virginia. He was a great football player just as good at baseball.

He was playing with Virginia against Yat at New Haven one year and hit the longest baseball ever hit.

Boston tried to get him and so did the Giants. He played on that old Memphis Chickasaw team, one of the best Memphis ever saw. (Collier played for Memphis in 1900 as a pitcher).

Dr. Collier graduated from the University of Virginia and from Tulane. He served his internship at New Orleans. He practiced medicine in Memphis and Osceola, Ark. before moving to McKenzie in 1906 to establish practice there. He was a surgeon in McKenzie for the L & N and NC & St. Louis Railroads.

At the time of his death, found amongst his possessions were two trophies with the following inscriptions: “1897. H.T. Collier, Throwing Hammer 81 ft. 9 in. University of Virginia” and “1897. H.T. Collier, 100 Yard Dash 10 4/5 Seconds. University of Virginia.” He was offered several positions by professional baseball teams and there was a letter offering him the head football coaching position at the University of Ole Miss.

Doctor Collier along with wife, Mary Lewis Fields Collier, are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Their only child, Harris F., was a U.S. Army Air Corps captain. In 1943, he was killed when his bomber crashed and disintegrated two miles west of Donnelsville, Ohio.

After reading through all the content, I decided to use my favorite tool and “Googled” Harris Taylor Collier. Much to my surprise was even more content available about a man I have never heard of until today. He served as the head coach for Tulane in 1899 and Georgia Tech in 1900. His coaching recorded was nothing to brag about 0-10-1, but those are more college games than I’ve coached.

He began his college career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He played on the football team in 1895 as a guard. According to a fraternity newsletter at Virginia, he was considered “one of the best tackles Virginia has ever had,” holding the position of football team captain in 1898. The yearbook, Corks and Curls ranked him as the best “all-around athlete.”

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you don’t know who they are, and you don’t want to read about them, read it anyway. You might just learn something.

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com  P: 731.352.3323

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.

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