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COLLINS, Robert Lee

Author: The History of Florida:  Past & Present, The Lewis Publishing Co., 1923,  Vol. II pg.286

COLLINS, ROBERT LEE. The success of ROBERT LEE COLLINS, of Umatilla,
has not been won in a moment, nor has he arrived at his present prosperity
over any royal road to fortune. Before he was able to make any appreciable
advance he went through several disastrous experiences that might have
discouraged anyone less persistent, or one who did not cherish a firm faith in
the future of the citrus industry. It is through this industry that he has
achieved the most success, although, of course, his prominence in it has led
to his engaging in other enterprises. Through all, reverses and successes
alike, he has preserved his high sense of honor, and his determination to
discharge his civic duties while attending to his personal affairs. For this
reason he has been a constructive factor in Lake County, and is recognized as
one of the representative citizens of the region.
Mr. COLLINS was born near Johnson City, Tennessee, November 27, 1866,
a son of SAMUEL and MARY (CASH) COLLINS, both of whom were born near Johnson
City. The father, who died in the infancy of his son, was a farmer and a
veteran of the Confederate service. The youngest of the four children of his
parents, and left fatherless at so tender an age, ROBERT LEE COLLINS received
but limited educational advantages.
November 27, 1884, marks the date of Mr. COLLINS’ arrival in Florida,
on which day he and his benefactor landed at Umatilla. Young Collins had a
suit of clothes and five dollars in currency as his sole possessions. Today,
less than thirty years later he is the second largest tax payer in Lake
County. His initial work was that of a teamster, and he also was employed in
saw mills and at other tasks, and as soon as he could he acquired a small
tract of land, which he cleared and stocked. Expanding his teaming, he
engaged in hauling and freighting oranges, and had built up an excellent
connection when his business was wiped out by the disastrous freeze of 1895.
Leaving Umatilla for Daytona, he was there engaged in hauling and teaming, and
then went to Miami and was engaged in truck farming for two years, but as they
were very poor ones he made no money.
Mr. COLLINS had always had faith in the eventual success of the citrus
industry, and so, returning to Umatilla, invested the few hundreds of dollars
he had managed to save and began buying up and rehabilitating the groves which
had been frozen in 1895, but which were beginning to come back. From this
humble start he has steadily advanced until he has handled, bought and sold
and started more groves than any other man in Lake County. At present he has
several of the finest groves in this region, and is raising Pineapples and
Parson Brown oranges and tangerines.
However, Mr. COLLINS has not confined his efforts entirely to the
handling and conduct of orange groves, profitable as this has proven, but he
has invested in the Bank of Umatilla, of which he is now a director; he is a
director of the Lake County Citrus Growers Association and of the Lake County,
Florida Citrus Exchange. Some of the most desirable apartment property at
Chicago, Illinois, is owned by him. It was Mr. COLLINS who erected the first
buildings of consequence at Umatilla, and he has also purchased from other
owners some more valuable holdings in Umatilla. He started the citrus packing
house at Umatilla, which he subsequently sold to the Citrus Growers
Association. Another venture of his which is proving a successful one is the
Umatilla Orange & Grapefruit Land Company, which he is serving as president,
an organization which has for its object the development of citrus lands. Not
only has he accomplished so much in a material way, but he has assisted in
organizing the town, and has given an effective support to all of its public-
spirited movements. A consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, he
is one of the trustees of the local body, and was on the building committee
when the present handsome new church edifice was erected. His wonderful
success in Lake County has come, as may be readily seen from the above
statement of facts, through hard work and a clear vision. Hunting is Mr.
COLLINS’ only diversion.
After returning to Umatilla, Mr. COLLINS married in this town Miss
DRUCILLA TROWELL, a native, and a daughter of N. J. TROWELL, the pioneer
merchant and owner of the property on which the town is built. He was its
first postmaster, and for some years was agent for the Saint John & Lake
Eustis Railroad, then a narrow gauge road, but now a part of the Atlantic
Coast Line System. Mr. TROWELL is now deceased. Mrs. COLLINS is active in
behalf of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. and Mrs. COLLINS have six
children: HARRY L., who is a citrus grower of Umatilla, Lake County, Florida,
is married and has four children; BENA, who is the wife of J. S. ALLEN,
architect and engineer; and PAUL, ROBERT, EVELYN and WILLIAM DE VAULT, all of
whom are at home.

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