Tales They Tell of Teddy Collins
Old Time Tales of Warren County


Tales They Tell of Teddy Collins

There can be no question that more stories have been told of Teddy Collins, than of any man who lumbered in all Western Pennsylvania. There is little doubt that T. D. Collins enjoyed these stories fully as much as those who told them. Whether Collins acted a little now and then, or was simply natural, it would be impossible to say. However that may be, the millionaire lumberman left behind him, as seasoning for his many good deeds, innumerable anecdotes, which are still told throughout the region in which he was such a familiar figure, as he jogged along the roads behind his bay horse, McGinty.

His abstemiousness outdoes many of the "Scotch stories" so popular today, he was famous for his frugality. With only a couple of apples in his pocket, and perhaps some wheat which he loved to chew, he would tramp through the forest all day. On one of these trips he encountered, at a long distance from his mill, a group of his own workmen. None of the men knew Collins, or guessed for a moment that this man was his employer.

It was not yet noon by fifteen minutes, but the loggers, thinking themselves well out of sight of a boss, had knocked off work and were eating the midday meal from their dinner pails. Collins, in ragged trousers and slouch hat, approached the group and asked for a bite of lunch. The men willingly offered to share, but the stranger accepted only two cookies.

Collins stayed with the men through the noon hour, drew them on to talk about their employer. As the far-off sawmill whistle sounded one o'clock, the visitor jumped up and was leaving.

"Don't hurry," said one of the men, "we're working for Teddy Collins; he don't know what we're doin'."

"I'm working for him too," said Teddy, "but he always knows what I'm doing;-that's just the trouble." And he disappeared in the brush.

Next payday Collins paid off his men in person. When the gang he'd lunched with, in the woods, appeared for their money, a more sheepish looking crew of men you could not have found. But Collins smiled good-naturedly. When the men who had given him the two cookies stepped up, the millionaire reached in his pocket and produced two cookies of exactly the same size as those he'd accepted. As he handed each man his pay, he gave him a cookie. And each cookie was wrapped in a one dollar bill.

Collins Flags a Train

J. C. Harrington, for years station agent for the Pennsylvania Railroad at Irvine, tells this one.

One summer afternoon, at a time when no passenger trains were due, a traveling salesman appeared at the depot and inquired anxiously if there was any chance of getting to Warren, any possibility of flagging a freight.

The agent assured him there was no chance. No autos in those days, nothing to do but wait till the evening train.

About that time a tramp appeared, walking up the track from the direction of Tidioute. He wore battered boots, a slouch hat, no coat. A section of bare knee was visible through a rent in his trousers. Very evidently he had just come out of the woods.

The tattered one approached the agent, he also was extremely anxious to get to Warren. There was no chance of getting to Warren.

Just then a train whistled, it was a special flying white flags. The traveling man, who had sauntered down the track a short distance in the direction of the approaching train, wildly waved his arms in hope of getting the engineer to stop. The train didn't stop.

But as the special was about to pass the depot, the tattered tramp rushed out, waved his slouch hat. The engineer paid no attention to him. But on the rear platform of that train was a group of officials. As the rear end pulled by the depot the tramp waved again. A gray haired man on that rear platform saw him: immediately pulled the air. The train stopped, backed up. An obsequious colored gentleman hurried down the steps, placed a step for the tramp to board the private car. The well dressed officials greeted the man most cordially. Why shouldn't they;-Teddy Collins owned a railroad of his own.

The salesman then rushed up, expecting also to board the accommodating train. He was politely informed that this was a private car.

"What the heck kind of a railroad is this," exclaimed the traveling man,-"pick up a bum and leave a decent salesman!"

A Hotel Story

Probably the best known tale that is told of the lumberman-philanthropist, who dressed as he pleased, no matter where he went, or how prominent his company, is the story of Collins' visit to a Pittsburgh hotel at the height of his activities as lumberman.

Teddy had gone into the hostelry for his dinner, was entering the dining room in his blue, woodsman's shirt, without a coat.

The manager, not knowing Collins, stopped him abruptly. "Yon can't go into that dining room without a coat."

The lumberman's ire was aroused by the manager's manner.

"I can't, can't I," retorted Collins. `By gum, I'll buy the place." And the story goes that he did, returning within half an hour to eat, in his own dining room, dressed as he pleased.

The Bishops' Checks

T. D. Collins, as may easily be imagined, was highly popular among the officials of the Methodist church. He was invited to meetings and conferences and attended many of them. At a conference in Pittsburgh, Collins was asked to address the assemblage, it was at the close of the meeting.

The millionaire from the Forest County woods may have spoken a trifle long, he may not have been as oratorical as some of the bishops who had preceded him. At any rate, several of the clerical gentlemen "ducked," left the room before Collins finished. At the close of his talk Teddy Collins reached in a long, flat wallet and produced a small sheaf of fat checks. Each Bishop who had remained to listen to his talk got one of those checks for his pet project, a new church building, the expansion of a mission. But those unfortunate bishops who left when Collins was speaking received not a cent.

When Teddy Collins Bought a Cow

Here is a little story of Teddy Collins they tell around Tionesta. When wealth came to the famous lumberman it made no change in his habits of living. Being exceedingly wise, he knew that in order to maintain a high degree of health, a rich man has to live like a poor man. And then, Teddy Collins undoubtedly liked the greatest simplicity. He kept a cow and chickens, took his eggs in a market basket and traded them for groceries, at the store.

On this occasion, Collins' cow had died. He drove down to a river farm near Tionesta to buy a new cow. During the time he spent looking over the animal the accruing interest on his money would have bought a couple of cows. Late in the afternoon he had about decided to purchase the animal. But a last consideration made him hesitate. He took the farmer's wife aside and said, earnestly, "Tell me now, do you think this cow will make enough butter to pay for our groceries?"

The woman thought probably it would. So Teddy Collins drove home, with his faithful horse McGinty pulling the two wheeled cart, the cow being led behind. When he arrived home two dignitaries of the church, from an eastern city awaited him. Collins allowed them to wait while he carefully stabled his new cow.

Then he went into the house, met the gentlemen of the cloth, sat down at his red cherry desk, which overlooked his mill at Nebraska, and wrote out a check for twenty thousand dollars. Just a little gift, to build a new mission somewhere.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 349-354: Old Time Tales of Warren County; Meadville, Pa.: Press of Tribune Pub. Co., 1932


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