Discovering the Grave of William Merrill Collier
In the summer of 2012, I, along with several family members from Texas, visited Cousin Virginia Collier Dennis in Barnesville, Georgia. During our conversation I told her I had noticed there were two unmarked graves in the Collier Lot in the Greenwood Cemetery. The graves are actually “marked” with a barren concrete slab but no formal marker. She said I needed to know about the graves, that one might be “one of your people.” She said she would write something down for me. Several months later, I received a card from her in which she said she had promised herself to write me about the unmarked graves once she had paid her taxes and finalized her will, but that she had not yet done either as she had not been well. Cousin Virginia passed away September 2013 and I never got the story of the unmarked graves.
A little background is needed. I am descended from Williamson, one of the 13 children of Vines and Sarah Elizabeth Williamson Collier (see several posts related to Vines Collier). The final resting places of several of the 13 are known, particularly in the counties of Upson, Lamar, and Monroe, Georgia. Williamson moved into Upson County at about the same time as his brother Robert and is known to lived there, but his grave site is unknown. I have long thought it might be one of the graves marked by a simple blank field stone in either the Robert Collier or Isaac Collier cemetery. CHF has placed monuments in both of those cemeteries.
Williamson was married three times. Little is known about his first marriage. His second marriage was to Jemena Powell. Jemena was the sister of Sallie Powell, wife of William Collier, one of Williamson’s brothers. Williamson and Jemena had a son named William Merrill Collier. Williamson later married Mary Ann Power. They had one son, Robert Terrell Collier, my ancestor who moved his family from Upson County to Texas in the 1880s.
The papers of Jena Cuthbert (J C) Collier, Cousin Virginia’s grandfather, contain his efforts to tie together the extensive Collier lines. His book, if it had ever been finished, would have had details of each of the 13 branches from Vines and Sarah Elizabeth. As I went through the papers of J C Collier, I was pleased to find a reference to William (Merrill) Collier, son of Williamson.
I never found that Williamson’s family was “connected up” with much detail. However, I was astonished to find that some 50 years after William Merrill had passed away, J C had his body dug up and re-buried in the Collier Lot in Barnesville. This statement was in a letter J C wrote soliciting genealogical information.1935_11_29_JCC typed Collier Genealogy 2 hilite
The Collier Lot is not large and, at the time (1925), there were very few graves there. I have not been able to discover why J C took this action. At the time William Merrill Collier died, J C was only about six years old and would have barely known William Merrill.
Since there was no marked grave of William Merrill Collier in the Collier Lot, he had to be in one of the two graves marked with only a concrete slab. But which one? And why was it never marked? I found the answer to the first question on a map attached to a letter. It identified two graves marked with a concrete slab and identified one of them as being the grave of Junius Augusta Cason, Jr., the son of Junius and Evelyn Collier Cason and grandson of J C Collier. This meant the other grave marked with only a concrete slab was the final resting place of William Merrill Collier, a man my great-grandfather would have called “Uncle William”!
Earlier this year, I asked Elaine Collier Neal to put together the genealogy of William Merrill Collier so that CHF could properly mark the grave. She worked diligently to document each of his four wives and any offspring. We included text that makes the Georgia – Texas connection for Williamson Collier’s line. On July 18, 2017, the following marker was placed on the grave of William Merrill Collier in the Collier Lot in Greenwood Cemetery, Barnesville, Georgia.
Glen A. Collier
Wow!! These names are dancing all around my heritage. My gg-grandparents were William and Frances (Couch) Williamson. They were living in Randolph Co., AL in 1850, and living two doors down was the Merrill Collier family. By then Merrill Collier was married to his 2nd wife, who is said to have been his 1st cousin from GA, and her name if I recall correctly, was Melinda Lokey. I feel certain that my Williamson
g-grandfather who was born while the Williamsons and Colliers were neighbors came by his middle name of Merrill from Merrill Collier. There was another Williamson family living in between my Williamson gg-grandparents and the Collier family, but I don’t know how they were related to my gg-grandfather. My grandfather always said his Williamson family immigrated to Isle of Wight, VA and then spread out over time. I’ve been told that Merrill Collier’s first wife was Lokie Williamson, and I wonder if she might have been a sister of my gg-grandfather. I’ve heard she died in childbirth and that is when the NC born Merrill married his GA cousin. There appears to be a family connection among the Collier/Williamson/Couch surnames in my lineage, but there are too many “bricks in the wall” keeping me from figuring out without a doubt who my Williamson and Couch gg-grandparents descended from. My Williamson line came to TX, but not all together, from not too long after the Civil War ended into the late 1870s. My g-grandfather, John Merrill Williamson and his younger brother Elisha Walton Williamson who both appear to have been born in Randolph Co., AL settled in central TX after having lived briefly in several east Texas counties. Hopefully there is someone out there who know more than I do about my family and their surname connections, and they will be willing to share.