|Death: ||Jun. 22, 1863|
The story of Tabitha Elizabeth West, her first husband Morris Johnson, her second husband Seaborn Wilder Collins Sr. and their children reflects the tragedies of early death and war, whose effects disrupt and separate families, on each side of the conflict,and bring havoc and chaos to the home front. Tabitha died never knowing the fate of her beloved husband Seaborn, and in the process married Mr. McCaslin, an act which seems to have harmed her relationship with her father Gadi West. Theodocia and her siblings had to fend for themselves, and Dosie died early in childbirth. Then her children went back to Banks County, Georgia, the home of her husband James Franklin Massey, himself a fugitive during the Reconstruction. Had it not been for the family Bible guarded carefully by Latranquil "Tranquilla" Massey, the photographs and stories of the family might have been lost, and this tragic tale untold.
Tabitha West Johnson Collins died on June 22, 1863 based on information in the Gadi West will, the same day her daughter Susan Sealy Collins was born in Harrisburg, Texas according to the Jack V. Collins history. If Tabitha died in childbirth that day, then that is where she died. Two Harrisburgs are present in Texas, one in Jasper County near the point of origin for the Collins, and another in Harris County, Texas not far from where Gadi F. West and wife Mary Polly Bivens owned a large tract of land known as Westfield in the Spring/Humble, Texas area. Gadi changed his will the day she died, and the day Celia was born, suggesting that he was close to the site of the birth. Tabitha may have been buried in the family cemetery at Westfield.
Tabitha apparently remarried a McCaslin when her husband Capt. Seaborn Wilder Collins went missing in the Civil War in Morganza, Louisiana around 1862, and is listed as Tabitha McCaslin in her father Gadi West's will:
[Will of Gadi West from the Harris County Probate records; thanks to Ken West]
In the name of God amen, -- I Gadi West, of the County of Harris, State of Texas, Confederate States of America, being of sound disposing mind and memory, do make, publish and declare, this instrument of writing, to be my last will and testament, in manner following to wit.
1st It is my will, and I do hereby order my Executor, herein after named, to liquidate and fully pay, as soon after my demise as is practicable, all honest, lawful claims against my estate.
2nd It is my will, and I do hereby bequeathe to my wife Mary West, for her benefit and use during her natural life, all my estate, both real, personal and mixed, not herein after disposed of.
3rd It is my will, and I do hereby bequeathe to my daughter Martha Ann West, my negro girl Tracy, which negro I have this day deeded to my said daughter, deliverable at the period of my death: -- and further, I do hereby, in like manner, bequeathe and deed to my daughter Susannah West, my negro girl Harriet, delivery to take effect immediately after my demise.
4th It is my will, and I do hereby bequeathe to my son Seth West, all that portion of my estate which I may be possessed of at my death, formerly belonging to my deceased son Henry West.
5th It is my will, and I do hereby bequeathe to the heirs of my deceased daughter Tabitha McCaslin, the sum of Ten dollars, which sum is to constitute their full share of my property -- and I will here state by way of explanation, that my aforesaid deceased daughter Tabitha, has heretofore received her full pro-rata of my estate.
6th It is my will, and I do hereby order, after my decease, that my stock of horses and cattle, after my wife has reserved such as she may deem necessary for her own use, be equally divided between my bodily heirs, excepting the heirs of my deceased daughter Tabitha McCaslin, share and share alike.
7th It is my will, and I do hereby order, that the residual of my estate, after the decease of my wife Mary West, be equally divided among my bodily heirs, excepting the heirs of my deceased daughter Tabitha McCaslin, share and share alike.
8th It is my will, and greatest desire of all, that there be no bickering, or contention or lawing in regard to the final division and settlement of my estate therefore, in case the heirs cannot agree among themselves in relation to the valuation and distribution of the property -- the Judge of Probate will appoint two honest disinterested men to act in conjunction with the Executor herein after named whose acts in all matters pertaining to division and settlement shall be final.
9th It is my will, and I do hereby nominate and appoint my Son Richard West, Executor of this my last will and testament, and I hereby order that the court of Probate have nothing to do with my estate further than the probating of this will -- appointing commissioners to act Executor as above provided for -- and inasmuch as I have full confidence in the honesty and fidelity of my aforementioned Executor, he shall not be required to give bond and security for the performance of his duty.
Given under my hand and scroll for seal this 22nd day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, in the presence of J. W. Phillips, R. D. Westcott and Annie R. Westcott.
Gadi West fought in the War of 1812 as a teenager, at the Battle of New Orleans, then moved to Jasper, Bevil District, Nacogdoches, Texas in 1829 around the time he married Mary Polly Bivens. He served under Sam Houston with distinction in the Texas War of Independence from Mexico in 1836. For this service he received large land grants around the state of Texas, including land in Harris County, Texas, the area around the Woodlands including the Intercontinental Airport and site of the NASA facility. He also received land in West Texas. Kenneth West, descendant of Gadi's brother Berry, has identified a land grant signed by Sam Houston or his representative.
Tabitha Elizabeth West married first Morris Johnson who died in Louisiana, then married Seaborn Wilder Collins Sr. who might have died in the Civil War while serving as a Captain in Waller's Texas Cavalry, before 1863. Tabitha remarried a J. McCaslin/ McCasland, and died in childbirth before June 22, 1863, the date Gadi West wrote his will. In the will, Tabitha is mentioned as Tabitha McCaslin, and the will leaves ten dollars to her heirs, apparently since part of her share had been given to some of the family during her life. A lawsuit ensued, found in the Southwest Reporter of legal cases:
Seaborn Wilder Collins Sr. died in 1868 according to the court case, however. A deed purporting to show a transfer from Weiss to Seaborn Sr.,and a conveyance back to Gadi West was alleged. Seaborn Jr. stated that the handwriting was his father's but his father died in 1868. As it turns out, Seaborn died in the Elmira Union POW camp in 1865, according to records there. An attempt by the heirs of Seaborn Jr. to introduce evidence of forgery was ruled non-reversible error, and the original judgment was upheld in the appellate court.
At this point, we have an apparent presumption of death for Seaborn, since Tabitha was married to McCaslin in 1863. Perhaps the apparent divorce accounts for the rancor between the heirs of Seaborn W. Collins Sr. and ex father in law Gadi West.
Research by James Carter Ayers based on interviews with Marcie Bray and Dorothy Latranquil Ayers Martin, with information from the Massey Colllins West Ragsdale Bible:
"Latranquil Massey Ayers was not originally from the northeast Georgia area where she died at the age of 30 with seven young children. The following represents what I have been able to put together thanks to information from Marcia Ayers Bray, (grand daughter of Latranquil) and Dorothy "Dot" Latranquil Ayers Martin, (also a grand daughter), and from census data and other published records.
"Abnery (Abner) Massey was Latranquil's paternal grandfather according to the Massey family Bible. Abner (born: abt. 1814, SC, died: after 1880) married Sarah Ragsdale (born: abt. 1813 GA, died: after 1880). Abner was believed to be the son of Seaborn Massey Jr. (born: abt. 1775, Wake County , NC ) and Prudence Unknown. Sarah was the daughter of Michael Ragsdale (born: 14 Apr 1782, VA, died: 25 Oct 1859, GA) and Emilia "Mealy" Bond (born: abt. 1786 SC, died: abt. 1867) who were living in Banks County , GA at the time of their death.
"According to the 1867 Banks County voter registration, Abner had lived in Georgia for 45 years, and in Banks County for 9 years (since its formation), which places his settling into Georgia from SC at 1822. Abner first shows up in the 1840 Franklin County, GA census as head of household with a wife and a similar aged male, most likely a brother. According to Banks County Deed Books, Abner bought a lot of land along the Middle Fork Broad River and an additional 600 acres from the Ragsdale estate in 1867. Abner was a member of the Confederate Army, Co. A 24th Regiment.from 1861 until his discharge after the war. Abner and Sarah's children, based on the 1860 and 1880 Banks County GA census (Middle Fork Broad River district) and LDS data, are listed as follows:
Mary E. Massey (born: abt. 1841, GA)
Frances A. Massey (born: abt. 1843)
Francis Marion Massey (born 18 Nov 1845, GA)
James F. Massey (born: 28 June 1849, GA, died: unkown) [Latranquil's father]
Mildred A. Massey (born: abt. 1851, GA)
Ellen E. Massey (born: abt. 1853, GA)
Payton C. Massey (born: abt. 1857, GA)
Judy F. Massey (born: abt. 1863, GA)
"Seaborn Wilder Collins was Latranquil's maternal grandfather according to the Massey family bible. Seaborn (born: abt. 1830, AL ) was the son of Andrew Collins (born: 1801 in Wake Co. NC) and Rutha Unknown (born: 1801 in GA). He married Tabitha West Johnson (born: abt. 1827, MS) on 30 Jan 1853. Tabitha's father was Gadi West (born: abt. 1798, MS) her mother was Mary Bivins (born: abt. 1802, MS). Gadi and Mary were married c. 1821 according to family tree information published by numerous sources. Seaborn and Tabitha Collins appear in the 1855 tax records and 1860 census records for Newton County TX (on the Louisiana border). Seaborn is listed as the captain of the State Troupers in the 2nd Brigade CSA by General W. M. Neyland. Seaborn and Tabitha's family included five children from Tabitha's first marriage to Morris Johnson:
Amanda E. Johnson (born: abt. 1845, LA)
Mary Ann Johnson (born: abt. 1846, LA)
Calvin V. Johnson (born: abt. 1848, LA)
Sophronia A. Johnson (born: abt. 1849, LA)
Richard Johnson (born: abt. 1850, LA)
Theodosia Collins (born: 8 Mar. 1853, TX, died: 27 Apr 1883) [Latranquil's mother; birthdate 1856 in Family Bible]
Andrew Jeptha Collins (born: 15 May 1855, TX, died: 22 Jan 1924, Stephens Co, TX, buried: Necessity Cemetery )
Seaborn Wilder Collins Jr. (born: 29 Feb 1856, TX, died: 6 Jul 1951, Newton Co. TX, buried: Quicksand Cemetery )
R. Matilda Collins (born: abt. 1859, TX, died: before 1924)
John Austin Collins (born: 20 Apr 1861, TX, died: 4 Oct 1939, Newton Co. TX, buried: Quicksand Cemetery )
Cealy Susan Collins (born: 22 Jun 1863, TX, died: 31 Oct 1926, Stephens Co, TX, buried: Necessity Cemetery)
"No record can be found for either Seaborn or Tabitha Collins in 1870. [Tabitha died in childbirth with Susan Sealy Collins on June 22, 1863 based on the will of her father Gadi West. Seaborn died in the Elmira Union POW Camp in New York in 1865, based on service records despite what is said by Seaborn Jr. in the court case Collins vs. Estate of Gadi West.] Their children are found orphaned into other households so it had been assumed that they died prior to 1870. Theodosia, Seaborn Jr., and Matilda are found living in the household their half-sister and her husband, Mary Ann Johnson and R. Miller in the 1870 Leon County TX census. Andrew Jeptha was located in the household of James and Melissa Mears in 1880 in Milam County, TX . He was living in precinct 5 same as Theodosia and James Massey were in 1880. Andrew became a very successful Texas businessman. In his last will and testament, probated in March of 1924, he bequeathed one fourth of his estate to the children and grand children of his deceased sister Dosie."
Gadi F. West (1796 - 1871)
Mary Polly Bivins West (1805 - 1868)
Seaborn Wilder Collins (1830 - 1865)
Theodocia Collins Massey (1856 - 1883)*
Susan Celia Collins Miller (1863 - 1926)*
Elizabeth West Roach (1819 - 1919)*
Tabitha Elizabeth West McCaslin (1824 - 1863)
James Riley West (1836 - 1878)*
Created by: Andrew Ayers Martin, M.D...
Record added: Mar 08, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 66657476
GGG grandmother Tabitha, born in Louisiana, went to Bevil District, Texas in 1829 with her parents: a woman of honor and a Christian, who overcame adversity and had many remarkable descendants. A woman of honor and a Christian, your legacy lives on.|
Andrew Ayers Martin, M.D., J.D.
Added: Dec. 10, 2011