“Nobody has lived here but us and the Indians”
In 1854, John and Charlotte Collins received the land grant on this section from the State of Texas signed by Governor James Pease. Thus, their fate to live in Texas was sealed. John Collins returned to Missouri to clear up some unfinished business there. He left his young family under the watchful eye of kind neighbors, the Adams, Mahards, and Parvins. His sons Alexander, Richard, and Morton helped their mother with farm chores and daughter Mildred was charged with assisting in the house and with the baby Emily, born since the family arrived in Texas. It was to be a separation of several months. Just at the time Charlotte began to expect her husband’s return, a stranger turned off the Preston Trail to bring her a message that her husband was “bad sick” at Preston Bend on the Red River. He needed her! The boys saddled her horse, and the baby, Emily, still nursing, was strapped at her back, and they rode the ninety miles to his side. But it was too late to save him. He died before he reached his Texas home. His grave is one of the first in the old pioneer Wear Cemetery, about two miles away from his house.
Neighbors inTexas, and her family in Missouri, urged the new widow to return to her home– arguing that Texas was too wild and unsettled for a lone woman and young children. But Charlotte clung to John Collins’ dream and stayed in Texas. With her strength, will, and perseverance and the help of her sons and daughters and charitable neighbors, they prevailed.
The early days of Collinsbrook, as the place became known, was lonely but occasionally the monotony was broken when great herds of cattle begun on the Chisholm Trail passed by the farm on the Preston Trail. The Collins’ place became known for its spring and as a hospitable place for a watering stop. After the herd of cattle would move in and was bedded down for the night, the drovers fed by the cook-shack, the Collins family would gather around their camp fire to hear tales of the trail and news from across the state. In exchange for their hospitality, the Collins were sometimes given a tired little dogie, too weak for the long trail. Mrs. Collins used her \”CC\” initials for her brand to identify her calves. This brand was carried on Collinsbrook calves until registered cattle were bought in 1919.
In 1867, when the boys reached maturity, Charlotte Collins partitioned the childrens inherited land into equal parts. Gradually, the boys were lured from the place to other vocations. Mildred married a prominent farmer and moved away. Then Emily, who stayed with her mother until 1888, married GLEN JASPER BARLOW and moved to his farm.
Two years later Emily and Glen had their first son, HENRY COLLINS BARLOW, who was to be the heir to carry on development of Collinsbrook. The same year Charlotte Collins died. Glen Barlow moved his wife back to her old home. Two years later, PERRY BARLOW, the second son was born.
Gradually, the Barlow’s bought the Collins land and developed a large cotton enterprise. Glen Barlow was one of fourteen children of HENRY ZAIR BARLOW of Hazelhurst, Mississippi, who was a large cotton planter.
Glen came to Texas after the Civil War and acquired land near the Collins place. As Glen developed his cotton operation, he built the necessary barns for the teams of mules and the horses, used in cultivation, and for storage of foodstuffs and cottonseed. He erected fences, a blacksmith shop, and encouraged a number of tenants from his Mississippi connection to help in planting, hoeing, picking and ginning of the cash crop. In addition, he provided land for churches, schools, and roads in the Rock Hill Community. And he was active in the Republican party.
Emily Barlow was a strong influence on her boys to receive the best education possible. She had Glen build a town house in McKinney so they could go to the best schools available then. Both graduated from high school there. Henry was sent to Texas A&M; but Perry, with an artistic talent went to the Art Institute in Chicago. Both endeavors were well rewarded Perry had a sixty year career as a cartoonist and illustrator in New York City with a collection of his works requested by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
When Henry returned to the farm with his father, Glen gave him a free rein to institute what he learned about scientific farming at Texas A & M. He diversified crops, adding new strains, and practiced crop rotation. He built terraces on rolling hills and dug ditches for proper water management.
Henry brought the first Hampshire sheep to Texas. By importing a ram from the Prince of Wales ranch in Canada, Henry produced seed stock that influenced the quality of sheep all over the state. He was a director and president of the Hampshire Sheep Association and was on its board of registry. He also replaced the cattle on the farm with a herd of registered Scotch Shorthorns. He was a beef and sheep judge at state shows. He served as secretary of Texas Shorthorn Breeders Association.
Henry married a young art teacher, MARY ABOTT, of McKinney, in 1918 and they moved into the old homestead. A city-reared woman, Mary Barlow enthusiastically embraced the country life, supporting her husband’s enterprises.
In addition to farming, Henry was active in the Republican party serving from precinct worker to standard bearer for U.S. Congress in a race against the late Honorable Sam Rayburn. He was delegate to two national conventions. He was director of the Collin County Bank and a founder of the Frisco State Bank, president of Prosper School Board, and vestryman and senior warden of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in McKinney.
He and his wife had three children. During the Depression years, his house and large storage barn burned. These he replaced with more modern replicas. He saw farm operations change from horse-power to machine driven. During World War II, all the young men left Collinsbrook for the service of their country, and Henry struggled to keep the operation of 1000 acres that twenty families used to handle with four or five men. Mechanizations proved that more production was possible with less manpower.
Throughout his career, Henry Barlow had the support of Harrison Linson, who came to help Henry when he was twenty-one from Barlow, Mississippi. He stayed fifty-four years. He was a leader among his peers and a respected man in the community. He reared three daughters who were high school graduates. They married local men who moved to better opportunities for their families in Dallas and Pampas, Texas.
Henry Barlow died at Collinsport in 1955. Mary, his widow, was expected by her friends and family to move to town and live out her life in comfort. But, like the first matriarch of Collinsbrook, she refused to go. She continued with her husbands work at the farm with crop production handled by Roy Skelton, livestock oper- ations by Linson nd supported by neighbor W. D. Terrell and the support of son and sons-in-laws until her death in 1962.
The younger daughter of Henry and Mary Barlow, MARY ANN BARLOW, and her husband, BEN VOWAN, operated Collinsbrook until Ben’s death in 2005. Ben Vowan was reared in the fertile Delta Valley in Arkansas where he respected the value of land. He entered the petroleum business in Texas when he came in 1948 and pursued a career as a land man.
Their credo started “Land is the basis for all wealth.” In 1956, he and his wife bought out Perry Barlow’s share of the Collins homesteaded. When the joint-interest was divided by the three Barlow heirs, Mary Ann received the home place. They maintained the purebred livestock until the mid-70’s when Harrison Linson, foreman, retired. They improved pasture by planting coastal bermuda, fertilization and building waterways. They built two dams for lakes to conserve water and for recreation purposes.
When the Vowans lived on the place, their three daughters showed calves, sheep, and horses in local and state shows, when Mary Ann was a 4-H leader. The couple supplied prize winning calves from the Shorthorn herd to Future Farmers organizations.
Mary Ann and her three daughters are proud to carry on the Collins tradition and are proud to be one of the few farms in recognized by Texas to have been in continuous family operation for over 150 years.