History August 29, 2018 at 03:08 am

You probably did not know the Holt Collier Wildlife Refuge was named after an ex-slave

Nduta Waweru August 29, 2018 at 03:08 am

August 29, 2018 at 03:08 am | History

Photo: Public domain

During the American civil war, the Confederacy did not permit black people serving in uniform, but the skills of one black soldier had them making an exception. His name was Holt Collier.

Born as a slave circa 1848, Collier worked for the Hinds family. He was a third generation slave in the Plum Ridge Plantation, built by General Thomas Hinds, a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. At the age of 10, Collier killed his first bear and was then tasked with the duty of providing meat to the Hinds Family and the workers.

Since he was outdoors looking for game and traversing the plantation, Collier did not get an education.

When the civil war broke out, Howell Hinds and his son Tom had to leave for war. Collier wanted to join but he was too young to take part in the war. He however stowed away in the boat and joined his masters at war.  In Kentucky, he was made an orderly in hospital but after hearing the skirmishes, he took the haversack and gun of a patient and headed for the front line.

After the war, Collier goes back home but his return is not triumphant because he is accused of murdering of a white man.  He is however acquitted and on the advice of friends and family, he leaves Mississipi and heads to Texas, where he works as a cowboy.

Upon the death of Hinds, Collier goes back to Greenville and stays there until his death in 1936.

While in Greenville, Collier went back to hunting in order to provide for the increased labour force thanks to the construction of railroad and levees. The business made him quite famous and many from far and wide arrived in Greenville to hunt alongside him.

It was at this point that then-President Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Greenville in 1902 to hunt with Collier.  Collier, with his knowledge of the area and ability to know where a bear was, told the president to follow his instructions to the shock of president’s team. The hunting expedition took Collier to the front pages of the newspapers across America for five straight days.

Collier then becomes the first African American sportsperson to receive national fame. In 2003, a wildlife refuge that is part of the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex was named Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge in honour of Collier. It is the only refuge to be named in honour of an African American.

 

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