Let’s review my story.
We have William Edward Collings who may or may not have come to America from Germany with five brothers named Crist in 1738.
If we take Nicolaus Crist’s journal as absolute truth, it would appear that William Edward was born and raised in Germany; however, the records we can find indicate that William Edward Collings was born in the colony known as Pennsylvania, the son of Zebulon Collings, also born in Pennsylvania.
By many accounts we have seen, Zebulon may have been the son of Anthony Andrew Collings of Cornwall, England. On the other hand, some reports of Anthony Andrew Collings do NOT show a son named Zebulon.
Am I English or German? My DNA says I am both, but the ratio is about 50% English/Wales/Northwestern Europe and only 16% Germanic Europe. Since I know I’m of German descent from my Nicholas ancestors, that would seem to indicate that it’s more likely the Collings were English.
Having doubts about the Crist version of how my family came to America, I tend to have better confidence in the remainder of the journal account of the friendship between the Crist family and the Collings family due to records of the intermarriage of the two.
I also know that court records and other official papers have the Collings and Crist families living as neighbors in more than one location. It’s also clear that they moved westward and through time together.
One official record in 1747 documents the registration of William Edward and his wife Anne (who was born Elizabeth Anne Elston), as members of the Scotch Plains Baptist Church. This church was founded in August of 1747 in the Province of East New Jersey “under the dominion of the King of Great Britain.”
Wherever he was born and however he came to be in America, William Edward’s son William Elston Collings may or may not have traveled to Kentucky as a part of the Low Dutch Settlement…which some accounts report wasn’t actually Dutch, but German and for the most part were early Quakers who branched off into the Shakers who founded Pleasant Hill, KY.
On the other hand, some accounts say the Low Dutch Settlement Company was most assuredly descendants of early immigrants from Holland. I’m still working on that side road.
William and his wife were members of an early Baptist church, but the community of Scotch Plains was a settlement founded in the late 1600s by a group of Scottish Quakers. Scotch Plains is approximately 15 miles northwest of the bay and town of Perth Amboy where many travelers to the New World landed in the 1600s
So are my Collings ancestors English or German, Baptist or Quaker?
I can find no further record of their lives in that area until they petitioned the Scotch Plains Baptist Church for a letter of Dismissal due to their move to Virginia.
Moving to Virginia would seem a simple matter, but that state had many boundary changes over the early years of its existence. Their move could have taken them into what we now know as Maryland or Virginia or Pennsylvania.
When settlers first came to America, they were just happy to leave the rocking ships and therefore settled on any dry land up and down the east coast of North America. Settlers in the area known as Virginia were hampered in any westward movement by the Appalachian Mountains which formed a formidable barrier to a class of people who merely wanted to claim some land, plant some crops and settle down near the ocean that could carry any commercial goods back and forth between European markets.
For over 100 years, the population of the country living along the Eastern seaboard grew and prospered. Settlements grew into towns, towns into cities.
In the mid to late 1700s, a decision to move to Virginia, meant moving farther inland, and “Virginia” could have been any location as far north as the southwest part of the state of present-day Pennsylvania or as far south as the border between the current states of Virginia and North Carolina.
I’ve found records of my family in a county called Yahogania, named for a river that branched off the Monongalia River and flowed south below present-day Pittsburgh. Claimed by Virginia, the county of Yahogania was located in an area long disputed between Virginia and Pennsylvania.
In the 1780s, when the boundary disputes were settled by extending a line that came to be known as the Mason-Dixion line, Yahohania County was dissolved into three other counties in the newly formed “official” states of Pennsylvania and Virginia which later became West Virginia.
It may have been the uncertainty over boundaries and allegiances to states that triggered my ancestors to act on the lure of the Kentucky territory. Or it may have been the possibility of land grants due to war service. Or it may have been the desire to see new lands and experience new situations. Or it may have been the memory of the fertile lands that the men of the family had seen during their time in the West with George Rogers Clark.
Whatever the reason, the Collings, the Crist, the Biggs, the Richey families along with several others made the fateful decision to pack up all their worldly goods and venture into the newly opened territory of Kentucky.
There were two paths taken into the Kentucky territory by those early pioneers, the Wilderness Road and the Ohio River.
The Wilderness Road was originally a narrow footpath, an Indian hunting trail that led through the mountains via the Cumberland Gap. As more and more travelers sought to travel this path, it was gradually widened to accommodate wagon travel, but the way west over this road was long, over 700 miles, and hard.
Those who did not relish this challenging route chose to build or buy flatboats and travel down the Ohio River. This route also had difficulties and dangers but was quicker and perhaps a little more comfortable.
I can’t be sure, but I believe my family came to Kentucky by way of the Ohio River. I have no proof of this, but I do know that William Elston Collings and two or more of his brothers had traveled to Kentucky with George Rogers Clark during the Revolutionary War. I imagine they knew and rejected the conditions and hazards of a 700-mile journey, on foot, on a path so narrow they could only walk single file.
I also know that while George Rogers Clark was dealing with the English, the Spanish and the Indians in the years of the Revolutionary War, he came to appreciate the rivers and the ability to move his men and supplies from place to place quickly and with less physical effort.
For these reasons and the lessons they had learned during their time in the territory, I feel that the men in my family decided on the river route to their family into this new territory.