In the section about Santa Anna in A History of Coleman County and Its People, there are numerous pictures in a subsection called “People and Pastimes.” Several of these are groups of young people—maybe in their twenties—some of young ladies, some of young men. There are some real treasures.
One of these treasures is a picture titled, “Young Men of Santa Anna.” They are all nattily dressed, in three-piece suits, ties, and each man sports his own favorite hat. This photo jumped out at me the first time I saw it. I have reproduced it here. I think perhaps one reason this picture captures me is the first character listed: Sam H. Collier.
Samuel Henry Collier was an American, born on the 4th of July, 1884, in Lee County, Texas, near Giddings or Old Dime Box, I’m not sure exactly where. Just a glimpse of the jaunty angle of his hat in the picture tells volumes about his personality. He was a mover and a shaker in Santa Anna.
I had presumed that Sam never left Santa Anna, except for his two stints in the Army. He served in the Cavalry from May 1917 to April 1919, during World War I, later returning to the service in December 1921. He entered the Infantry as a lieutenant and when he left active service in February 1922, he had been commissioned a captain. However, my presumption might be wrong. Mr. Sam’s grandson, Sam Allen, who was named for his grandfather, has found evidence that Mr. Sam was in San Francisco in 1910, working as a streetcar conductor. As Mr. Allen says, “ I never heard anything about that, but it would seem to fit.”
Just prior to returning to active military service in 1921, Sam married Elizabeth Martin in Coleman on November 4, 1919. They made their home in Santa Anna from the start and soon became fixtures in the social, religious, and cultural scene in early day Santa Anna.
In researching Sam Collier, I realized what a mistake I had made when I wrote about the city fathers like Loyd Burris, Fred Turner, and W. J. Hosch. I failed to include the very real and important lives of the women married to them. In fact, I found more information referring to Mrs. Sam Collier than to Sam himself. Like her husband, Elizabeth was a mover and a shaker. She was constantly involved in the life of the town– organizing fund drives, encouraging youth success, leading in church activities and in city social events. Elizabeth Collier must have been a live wire.
At the time of his marriage, Sam Collier owned a feed store, located in a building just about where the Santa Anna National Bank parking lot is today. Sam dealt in feed for livestock and seed for planting. He sold ear corn, maize heads, and alfalfa hay. He bought oat seed, wheat seed, and cottonseed for resale to farmers for planting.
Some time in the 1930s, Sam changed careers. He left the agriculture supply business and entered into the insurance and later, the real estate field. I’m not able to find the exact time line, but in 1935 he was partnered with someone named Bond in the Insurance business. I only find the one advertisement for Bond and Collier.
Sam was also a major figure in the Jack Laughlin American Legion Post 182 in Santa Anna, where he served as Post Commander in 1939 and again in 1942. There may have been other years as well. He was a member of the Santa Anna Lions Club, where he was a prominent figure pushing for the construction of the Texas Ex-Ranger Home at the east end of the mountain. Sam was a charter member of the Santa Anna Outdoor League in 1926. The purpose of this group was the conservation of Texas wildlife through legislative action. That is consistent with my memory of Sam Collier. He was an avid outdoorsman, interested in fishing and hunting. His grandson Sam has a picture of him with Ed Purdy, each holding up hands full of squirrels taken on an excursion.
Sam Collier served as city councilman at least two terms, elected the first time in 1923. He was an avid golfer and member of the Mountain View Golf Club here in Santa Anna. But with all these activities, Sam Collier is remembered by most old timers around here as the commanding officer of the Santa Anna National Guard Unit. As Sam was one of the charter members of the Santa Anna National Guard unit in December of 1920, it seems he took the second tour of active service in 1921 in order to return to Santa Anna as Company Commander, a post he held until 1939, when he retired as a brevet colonel. The Santa Anna News archive has an article almost yearly explaining that Captain Collier was taking the men in his company to annual training at Camp Mabry in Austin or Camp Hulen at Palacios, Texas.
Sam Collier’s insurance office was located on the main street in the 1950s. The building immediately west of Santa Anna City Hall today was Molly Nabors Grocery Store. Next-door west from there was the Post Office. Then, at 717 ½ Wallis Avenue, was a narrow little office housing Sam H. Collier Insurance Agency. Mr. Collier had a big, old roll-top desk that with his wooden rolling chair, just about covered the entire width of the little office. Of course, the old desk at least one big, deep drawer for holding files upright. As far as I know, Mr. Sam kept a bottle of Old Crow whiskey in that drawer all the time. One Saturday when my dad brought me to work at the Post Office with him, that’s where I recall getting my first taste of that wonderful liquid. Thank you, Mr. Sam.
Sam and Elizabeth Collier were a couple that made Santa Anna a better place. Leaders in the political, social, religious, and cultural life of the community, the Colliers helped fashion this place. Their daughter, Gale Allen-Brock, took over the Agency after Mr. Collier’s death and enlarged it by buying other agencies creating Countywide Insurance Agency. Mr. Sam’s grandson, Sam Allen, is a respected attorney in San Angelo specializing in business and financial law. He is a member of the Methodist Church in San Angelo involved in the music ministry. He is also a member of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce where he has served as the Chair of the Board of Directors. He presents special lectures at Angelo State University. He has two exceptionally bright children and his wife is a real gem. Sam and Elizabeth would be proud.