Time was: Joellen Johnston, History columnist
The family of William and Ann Elston Collings came from Pennsylvania to the Froman?s Creek/Cox?s Creek area of Nelson County in about 1780. William and Ann were about fifty years of age and both died before 1788.
Among their children were Zebulon Collings, a well-known powder-maker, born in 1746, and his brother William Elston Collins who was about 12 years younger.
Zebulon is believed to have married Lydia Spencer in about 1768 and they lived, as his parents did, in the Nelson County area. Lydia died and in 1790 Zebulon married his second wife, Elizabeth Heady Truax. Among the six children of Zebulon Collings were three sons, Benjamin, William and Isaac. Zebulon?s brother, William Elston Collings, married Phoebe Hoagland and in about 1808 they moved with a number of their grown children and several other relatives to Pigeon Roost in Scott County, Ind. Pigeon Roost was a rugged, frontier area so named because it was a roosting place for thousands of passenger pigeons.
These birds provided the settlers with both a food supply and a source of income because they could be killed and sold in Jeffersonville. Although no Indians were living in the Pigeon Roost area when the Collings family arrived, small bands were often seen hunting in the vicinity.
With the outbreak of the War of 1812 a number of men from Pigeon Roost joined the Indiana Militia and fought with General William Henry Harrison. At that time the British were successfully holding several forts in the Northwest Territory and from these forts the Indians were launching raids on Indiana settlers.
On Sept. 3, 1812, a war party moved into present day Scott County and attacked the settlement of Pigeon Roost. Richard Collings, the son of William Elston Collings, was serving with Harrison?s Militia in Vincennes leaving his wife and children unprotected. They were killed that day in a skirmish that left a number of the Collings family dead and all houses but one burned to the ground. This did not deter the Collings or other settlers who eventually rebuilt their destroyed homes and lived out their lives in Pigeon Roost.
Back in Kentucky, Zebulon?s son Benjamin Collings and his wife Sarah McGrew were living in the stone house on Plum Creek described in last month?s column. Their youngest child, Samuel, was born here Dec. 7, 1812, just four months after a number of his cousins had died at Pigeon Roost.
The road near this property was the old Sheperdsville Shelbyville Road that Benjamin had helped survey in 1808, a survey made before the formation of Spencer County and the development of Taylorsville.
The children of Benjamin and Sarah Collings were: Joseph, born 1789; Rachel, born 1790; Elisha, born 1791; Cassender, born 1794; Isaac, born 1796; Archibald, born 1799; Reuben, born 1801; Sarah, born 1806; Felix Ben, born 1808; and Samuel. Felix Ben studied medicine in Cincinnati where he met and married Adelia Elizabeth LePage. They returned to Spencer County where Dr. F.B. practiced medicine in the Waterford community while continuing to farm the land his parents had settled. Felix Ben?s sister Sarah married Adelia?s brother George LePage.
Sarah and George lived first near Waterford where they were members of Plum Creek Baptist Church. Then in about 1840 they moved their membership to Taylorsville where George was ordained a minister. He apparently had personal financial resources and made most of his income as a moneylender and investor.
Eventually Dr. Felix Ben bought out the interests of most of his brothers and sisters in their parents? property but it appears that he may have shared the house and farm with his brothers, Isaac and Elisha. Isaac was married to Mary Ann ?Polly? Newman in 1819 and it may have been about this time that the Collings added a large frame wing to the eastside of their stone house, an addition that nearly doubled the size of the original structure.
When George McMichael bought the Collings? house in recent years only a portion of the frame addition was still standing. He managed to save a wonderful staircase complete with banisters and balusters but has to tear down the rest of the frame wing, which was badly deteriorated and could not be saved. No one living today remembers the stone house with its complete frame addition. However, the McMichaels were given a photograph taken in about 1900 in which the house appears with both kitchen wing and frame addition, the only known image of the building in its entirety.
Today the stone house has been standing for well over two hundred years.
It has survived innumerable storms and the New Madrid Earthquake. But when George McMichael purchased the old Collings property this house was in desperate need of repair. Restoration has taken time and great effort, with the result that today this magnificent structure is one of the most beautiful and historically significant houses not only in Spencer County but also in the entire state.
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