A Christiansburg woman, Nancy Reynolds Collins, whose ancestors likely came through this area on the Wilderness Trail, has written and published a book about these pioneers who ultimately settled in Arkansas’s River Valley.
Collins lived in Arkansas until 2016, when she moved to Virginia’s New River Valley with her daughter. While volunteering as a docent at the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Art Center, Collins came across information about a Scots-Irish community in the mountains off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Familiar terms were exactly those used where she grew up. This got her to thinking about her home community of Scots-Irish farmers who also spoke of “toad frogs” and “church houses.”
With encouragement from younger relatives, Collins began writing what she thought would be an article. But as she began talking with other descendants of her community’s settlers, that article grew to become the book titled “Hopewell Heritage.”
The author was born in Arkansas at the end of an era. She grew up in a small rural community of a dozen or so Scots-Irish farmers. These pioneers began arriving in covered wagons in 1850 after the Native Americans were driven out and before the American Civil War. Many of those families had first settled in surrounding states. One set of ancestors left Georgia due to “Indian hostilities.”
Collins prefaces her book with her late father’s description of a day in the life of a small farmer. Her community had no electricity until she turned three. She recalled riding in a horse-drawn wagon to a cotton gin with her grandfather.
After the community got electricity, other changes occurred due to improved transportation and mechanization. Small cotton farmers could no longer compete with those owning larger acreages. Soon the community’s farmers had to pursue other occupations and use their land for raising cattle or chickens.
Collins writes about memories of her family’s chores: feeding chickens, slopping hogs and milking cows. She recalls childhood fun catching fireflies or blowing bubbles using an empty wooden spool with a wet bar of soap. And she relates tales shared by ancestors who experienced the terror inflicted by Bushwhackers who came through after the Civil War.
Collins says the book is being read and enjoyed by both young and older generations. Younger readers exclaim, “No, people didn’t do that!” while older readers say, “Wow, that brought back a lot of memories.” The book is available on Amazon. Collins says she has sold more than 70 copies already and is being encouraged to write other books. She laughingly said, “I don’t think I can. I put everything I knew into this one.”
Nancy R. Collins, Cell 501-258-9054, firstname.lastname@example.org