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”Here is a transcript of the Collier Letter (number 5) of which I (Brenda Schwall) spoke.  I have tried to leave the spelling and punctuation as it was in the transcription we read.  Since I retyped it, I hope I haven't made any mistakes of my own.  The words in parentheses are explanations, hopefully."
 


"To Mr. James Collier: Paxton, Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania

Favored by Benjamin Heans (sent by Benjamin Means?)

                                  Randolph Co., N.C. Apl, 7 1782

Loving Father (James) and Brother (Capt. James) and Sister:

     Having the opportunity of the Bearer, I thought it my duty to let yo know that I and my family are well at present: blessed by God for his mercies to us!  I received yours which gave an account of Mother's Death. It was the will of god: and we ought not to fret or repine at the hand of Providence.  "The Lord giveth and taketh away: blessed be the name of the Lord"!  We had a son born the 17th day of Feb (1782).  He lived about 48 hours.  It was God's will to call him out of this troublous world, which would be a happy exchange for every person prepared for the world of spirits.  As the affairs of the state of N.C. I am not able to give you a true account of the melancholy condition as it now exists.  I will give a short narrative of my own situation.  The Tories embodied, the 9th and 10th of March last about thirty in number: marched forty or fifty miles through our country: came to my house about dark.  I had sentries posted about forty yards from my house.  The sentry hailed them.  They answered-, "Friends to the United States of America" and fired on the sentry: and the sentry fired on them.  I immediately found by the Tories's fire that we were too weak to stand our ground.  We made our escape to the woods and with great difficulty, I saved myslef from their merciless hands.  They kept constant firing on my house for two or three minutes, filling my doors with bullet holes.  My wife (Margaret) called out to cease their firing and she would open the door and let them in, for there was no person there but women and childdren.  They rushed into the house,  Set fire to it, and burned it to ashes with article that was in it but some few articles that my oldest daughter (Martha) threw out at the door.  This was the fourth time that the Tories had robbed and plundered me and my small family: but we have great reason to be thankful and bless God that our lives are preserved from a cruel and most merciless enemy.  They left my house and killed one of my captains (John Bryan) one mile from my house, they went to Aunt Mary Doughan's: burned the house and barn.  They killed the Lieut. Col. (Andrew Balfour) of our county the same day they burned my house, But I am not able to tell.  Every day they are murdering, burning and plundering the good citizens of the state.  I believe that nine-tenths of our county are enemies to the United States of America.  We are daily in pursuit of them but the situation of the country and the many harbors, makes it difficult to come up with them.  If they would have got me they would not have burned my house, but they would have instantly put me to death for this reason:  that I have put several of their leaders to death for this year past.  My situation this year is very disagreeable.  I have not slept in my house this five months without a guard.  I have my family in a little guard-house that I build last year.  I am afraid that I will be under the disagreeable necessity to move from this part of N.C. with my family to some place where there are no Tories, for sure I am-, that I and they cannot live together, for I am in danger of my life every moment, without I be in public serv ice.  I have been in the army for the most part, ever since Gate's defeat (Aug 13, 1780)  I am getting old (49), and the features of the Army in our state are most disagreeable, especially after the Tories (...(illegible)... for our country, and will do my utmost endeavor to have a bill enacted to drive them, man woman and child, within the British lines and find out some ways and means to have our country settled with people of some principle:  for these people are no more than a nuisance to civil society.  Were such a law to be enacted we would have an outlet for five or six hundred families within 30 or 40 miles of my home: and it would enable our settlement to live in peace and plenty, with God's bleessing's to crown our endeavors.  I refer you to the bearer for particulars.  Remember me to the Rev. John Elder and family and take my excuse and I had to send and borrow this sheet to write these few imperfect lines on.  Remember me to all inquiring friends without exception, which is all from your loving son and daughter:


          John and Margaret Collier.


Bro' James: You would oblige me much to send, the first opportunity, a good hat: as I am in necessity for one."



"Note:  In the History of Randolph County are excerpts from Col. David Fanning's own narrative.  Page 36 of this volume describes his treatment of Col. Collier, Captain John Bryan and Major Dugin's house.

Major Thomas Dougan was first cousin to Col. John Collier since the mother of Col. John was Susannah Dougan, sister to Thomas Dougan Sr. (wife Mary Kerr).  The Dougans came to this area in 1763 and were followed by Col. John Collier in 1772.  Col. Collier stuck it out until 1792 when he "removed to Greene County, TN, in December with two wagons.  It only took him 2 weeks to travel from Randolph County.

The Colliers were members of the Paxton Presbyterian Church in present day Harrisburg, PA.  The parents, James and Susannah Dougan Collier are buried in the adjoining cemetery.  The sanctuary used today was built in 1740.  The pastor at the time was the Rev. John Elder, the fighting parson who was the leader of the Paxtang Boys."

Please note:  Brenda Schwall, the contributor of this letter, is a descendant of Colonel John Collier.

 

Caruthers reference                 Fanning reference

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