Collin McKinney was a early settler in North Texas. He was born in 1766 in New Jersey to a Scottish couple, Daniel and Mercy McKinney, making him 10 years old at the height of the American Revolution. Near the end of the war, the family first moved to Virginia and then again on to Kentucky around 1780.
McKinney married the former Annie (Amy) Moore in late 1793 and four children were born of this union, two of which survived to adulthood. Amy died in 1804 and in 1805, Collin married Elizabeth Leake (Betsy) Coleman with whom he had seven children, six of whom lived to adulthood. Most of their children were born in Kentucky. The family lived for a couple of years in Tennessee before relocating around 1820 near present day Texarkana.
Around 1826, he met Ben Milam who was then working to engage settlers to come to the north Texas area for a Red River Colony. Milam and McKinney would remain friends until Milam’s death in 1835. Milam was once engaged to McKinney’s daughter Anna, though after a long period of not hearing from Milam, Anna married another suitor, James Sloan. Ben Milam was never directly related to McKinney, but his nephew Jefferson Milam married another daughter of Collin and Betsy, Eliza McKinney. Consequently, there are a large number of Milam cousins in the McKinney family.
McKinney’s name began to be associated with the Texas Revolution when he was elected as a delegate to the General Convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1836. He and four others served on a committee that drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence in the early days generally coinciding with the Mexican Army’s siege of the Alamo. McKinney was a signer of the document and later helped draft the Texas Constitution. He would go on to serve in the 1st, 2nd and 4th congresses of the Republic of Texas.
By 1850, after a flood of the Red River, McKinney had resettled his large family to the present Collin County where he would remain until his death in 1861 at around the age of 95. In 1846, he would be acknowledged by having Collin County named for him, along with its county seat, McKinney, Texas in 1848.
During his lifetime, McKinney was active in politics and was also deeply religious. At times he served as a lay preacher and is credited with establishing a Disciples of Christ church in North Texas. Collin was associated with early Texas preachers, B. F. Hall and Joseph B. Wilmeth. As noted above, a grandson, Daniel Leak McKinney would go on to marry the daughter of Wilmeth. His friend Hall would be buried close to McKinney’s gravesite. McKinney had lived around the last 20 years of his life around McKinney, Texas and he is interred in an old cemetery near Van Alstyne, Texas. He is rightfully acknowledged as being one of the patriarchs of Texas.
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