Holt Collier Private;
Company I, 9th Texas Cavalry
(Click on the small pictures for a larger and better view)
On a cool, sunny Saturday afternoon February 28, 2004, the Old South met the New South at Live Oak Cemetery on South Main Street in Greenville, Mississippi. Men in Confederate Uniform and ladies in hoop skirts and hats met with their modern counterparts, Black and White, to pay tribute to one of Mississippi’s famous sons, Holt Collier.
After years of diligent research by author Minor Buchanan, events were put in motion to place a Confederate Headstone at the gravesite of Holt Collier. Spearheaded by the B/G Benjamin G. Humphreys Camp # 1625 of Indianola and supported by the Ella Palmer Chapter # 9, Order of the Confederate Rose of Indianola; the Pvt. Taylor Rucks Chapter # 2204, United Daughters of the Confederacy of Greenville; Live Oak Cemetery Association of Greenville; Jefferson Davis Camp # 635 of Jackson; Holt Collier Camp # 2018 of West Point and Gen. Charles Clark Chapter # 235 of Indianola, a Confederate Headstone was acquired from the Veterans Administration and preparations were made for the dedication of the headstone.
Holt Collier was born into slavery in 1846 and was the slave of Howell Hinds. Hinds County is named after Howell’s father, Gen. Thomas Hinds. At a very early age, Holt demonstrated his marksmanship with the rifle. At the age of 10, he killed his first Black Bear which would be one of over 3000 killed by Holt. At the outbreak of the War for Southern Independence, Holt’s master and son left for the War after giving him his freedom papers and being told he was too young to fight and to remain on the plantation. Holt disobeyed his master by running away from the plantation, stowing away on a riverboat and joining Howell and his son in Memphis, TN. Holt, by choice, joined the 9th Texas Brigade serving in Company I throughout the War. During Reconstruction, Holt was accused and acquitted for the alleged murder of Captain James King by a military tribunal in Vicksburg. Holt left the state on advice given by William A. Percy of Greenville going to Texas working as a cowboy on the ranch of his former commander, Sullivan Ross, future Governor of Texas. Upon the murder of his former master, Holt returned to Greenville for his funeral and remained in Greenville for the rest of his life. Holt became nationally known in 1903 as the guide for the Teddy Roosevelt Bear Hunt of that year. This hunt gave rise to the “Teddy Bear” when Teddy refused to shoot a bear captured by Holt and tied to a tree. Holt lived to the age of about 90, passing from this life on August 1, 1936. Holt was buried on August 3 in Live Oak Cemetery which is located on the old Plumridge Plantation where Holt grew-up and hunted black bear.
With the national flags of the Confederacy flying, Benj. G. Humphreys Camp Commander Earl McCown opened the ceremony with the introduction of Dr. John Brooks of Greenville, who read an original poem about Holt Collier entitled “Holt Collier’s Ghost”. After the reading, the Colors were presented by members of Company D, CS Marines commanded by 1st Sgt Larry McCluney of Greenwood. The Honor Guard, comprised of members from at least 8 re-enactment groups from three states was marched in under the command of Lt. Col. Alan Palmer, Jeff Davis Indpt Battalion. Holy Scripture reading and Prayer were offered by the Rev. Joseph Wright of New White Stone M. B. Church and Rev. Richard William of Zion M. B. Church, respectfully. The Pledge of Allegiance and salutes to the Mississippi State Flag and Flag of the Confederacy was led by Camp Color Sergeant Thomas Haik, Jr.
We were fortunate to have family members of Holt Collier present for the Dedication. The family members present were Mrs. Ann Marie Parker, Great Niece; her son John Parker and Grandson Brandon John Parker. Two other Great Nieces arriving late were, Mrs. Nola Leggett and Mrs. Corine Wilson. Greenville Mayor Heather McTeer- Hudson represented the City of Greenville and Juliet Thomas represented U. S. Representative Bennie Thompson. The MS Division was represented by Ron Stowers, Chief of Staff; Ed Sheely, 4th Brigade Commander and Larry McCluney, 1st Brigade Commander. The MS Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy was represented by President Gloria Adcock, Past President Mabel Clark, 2nd Vice-President Lou Paris, and Historian Nancy Powell. Special recognition was given to Richard and Beverly Cross from Baxter, Iowa. Mrs. Cross is a distant relative of President Teddy Roosevelt and Capt. James King. She is also the President of the Jasper County Museum in Iowa.
Minor Buchanan, author of the book “Holt Collier, His Life, His Roosevelt Hunts, and The Origin of the Teddy Bear” was the keynote speaker. Minor made note that this was a unique occasion where Black and White citizens came together to recognize Mississippi’s only official Confederate Soldier of African descent under the auspices of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place a Confederate Marker on his grave site that had gone unmarked for almost 68 years. Minor added, “This is recognition of the life and legacy of Holt Collier.” Following Minor’s talk, the Rev. Albert Calvin, former minister of Mt. Horeb M. B. Church officially blessed and dedicated the marker for Holt Collier and added, “May he continue to rest in peace.” Soloist Nancy Bryson sang “Amazing Grace” while CS Marines Thomas Haik and Andrew McCaskill folded the “Stainless Banner” that covered the marker for presentation to the family. The Flag was reverently passed to 1st Sgt McCluney, then to Lt. Col Alan Palmer who presented the Flag to Mrs. Parker who graciously accepted it and cradled it in her lap as the final lines of the hymn were sung. Following the presentation of the Flag, the Honor Guard fired three volleys in honor of Holt. In the distance, lone trumpeter Brent Hiter played taps. The closing prayer was offered up by Camp Chaplain Lofton Davidson. A reception was held at the Mississippi Welcome Center on Highway 82W just south of Greenville.
Of the occasion, Mrs. Parker was quoted by David Lush, “I think this is a great honor to dedicate and place this marker to him. I certainly appreciate this, and especially this (as she held the Flag close to her heart). I know he would be proud of this day and to be remembered and honored like this. He was a remarkable man.”
This is a fitting statement for a remarkable day and the ending of Black History Month.
Dan A. McCaskill, Adj.
Click on the pictures for a larger and better view.
Special Thanks to Wilson Farnham, Dan McCaskill and Christopher Cummins for sending pictures and information about this event.