Charles Collins - Crafting History

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In my book “Zane Grey’s Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead,” I talk about Charles Collins, the Globe saddle maker who bought much of the Boles Homestead from Zane Grey around 1930.

Finally, after some more digging I managed to get a picture of Charles Collins from his granddaughter Mary Merz. Here’s another look at one of the most skilled saddle makers of his era, Charles Collins.

Collins was born in Madison County Texas in 1876 to John Henry and Margaret Collins. His father was a cowpuncher and carpenter. Collins spent much of his formative years growing up in San Angelo, Texas. He is said to have done some apprentice work under R.C. Dawson in Sonora, Texas and for T.S. Langford at Ballinger, Texas.

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Photo courtesy of Mary Merz

Charles Collins

He walked to Globe from Texas and Lee M. Rice’s book “They Saddled the West” says that he did it “behind a Mormon freight wagon, with 50 cents in his pocket.”

Collins worked for a time in the mines and according to “They Saddled the West,” spent a little bit of time around 1900 working for saddle maker Dave Walker in Visalia, Calif. and other areas along the coast before returning to Globe.

Collins clearly had a sense of adventure and a sense of the past. He amassed a great gun collection. According to Ross Santee in “Lost Pony Tracks,” “Charlie owns more six-shooters, rifles, and carbines than Francisco Madero, Charlie Sweeny, and their little crowd had available when they rode across the Rio Grande and started the Revolution. And they are not just guns to Charlie; he knows the history back of each gun. If you happen to be interested and a particular friend Charlie will close the shop. ‘Now,’ says Charlie, ‘we can talk without any interruptions.’”

Around 1930 Collins had the chance to purchase Zane Grey’s place under Myrtle Point; it was 120 acres of the old Sampson Elam Boles homestead. According to the family, he may have discovered the opportunity in a magazine. (Note: The sale wasn’t officially recorded until 1933, but interviews indicate that he bought it in 1930, and a UP article that appeared in the April 14, 1931 Wisconsin State Journal indicates that he had bought it then.)

Collins would own the property the rest of his life and according to his late son Bill, he would often summer there. Did Collins ever meet Sampson Elam Boles?

My guess is yes because Elam lived in the Miami, Ariz. area in the 1930s and Collins was an avid history buff. But we’ll likely never know for sure.

During the heart of the Great Depression (1935) Collins was forced to move his shop to Prescott, but by the end of World War II he was back in Globe, as faithful as ever to the place he called home.

Collins died in 1963, at which time his wife Ophelia inherited the property under the Rim. The family sold the land in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at which time Collins Ranch and Zane Grey Meadows were developed. The sale was not without controversy and more details about it and Charles Collins can be found in my book “Zane Grey’s Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead.”

I am grateful to Mary Merz and her family for sharing information and photos of Charles Collins.

Her father Bill Collins married Opal Jane Conway and I was fortunate enough to be able to meet Mary and her family at Greenback Valley in Tonto Basin, the longtime domain of the Conways. They are terrific folks and Greenback is a wonderful place in its own right. Every historian comes across people that they become partial to — naturally Charles Collins is one of those for me since I live in a place named for him — Collins Ranch. But there are plenty of other good reasons too. He has been left out of Globe’s history books, a very unfortunate occurrence. Clearly his leatherwork was amongst the best in the area.

The very fact that Ross Santee would devote a couple pages of his autobiography to Collins speaks volumes as well. Santee was a terrific western writer whose writings and sketches are wonderful. Collins was a noteworthy person who is worth remembering. The fact that he owned a gorgeous piece of land under the Rim linked to Zane Grey is just a bonus.

Always Looking

Remember, I’m always looking for history information. If you have any questions, comments or information to share, please contact me at timothy @zanegrey.net or catch me on Facebook. There is still so much out there to be gathered. I am grateful for the many items that I see being shared on social media on a regular basis.

Comments

Pat Randall 2 years, 7 months ago

Tim, Do you know that the bar and dance hall part of the Oxbow is a tin building built about the same time as the Payson Hotel and was a Ford Dealer ship, car repair and gas station? It was later joined to the Payson Hotel in the late 40's and became a bar? I have never seen this written in any of the history of Payson and it's historic Main St.

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