(b. December 25, 1797, near Bryant’s Station, Ky.; d. January 29, 1870, Lexington, Ky). Kentucky historian Lewis Collins was born in Fayette Co., Ky. He was the third son of Richard Collins of Virginia, who had served during the Revolutionary War. Lewis Collins had no formal education.

Orphaned at age 13, he became a printer’s apprentice for the Paris Citizenewspaper in Paris, Ky., at age 16. He helped found the Washington Union newspaper at Washington, KY, and became its associate publisher in 1818. In 1820 he was the editor and publisher of the Maysville Eagle. He held that post for more than 20 years.

In 1823 Collins married Mary Eleanor Peers, daughter of Maj. Valentine Peers, a Virginian who served during the Revolutionary War and was with George Washington at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. In 1847 Collins published the book that made him famous, Historical Sketches of Kentucky. Its contents ranged from early explorations in Kentucky and the surrounding regions to events of his own period. The book was a collective effort based largely on research begun by Collins’s brother-inlaw, Henry Peers, who died before it was published.

It was revised and substantially expanded in a second version published by Lewis’s son Richard Collins in 1874.

Lewis Collins became the first judge of the Mason Co. Court in 1851 and served until 1855. He was also a school commissioner for 20 years; served as president, secretary, and treasurer of several Kentucky turnpike companies; was a deacon in the Presbyterian Church, and owned a book business.

Politically, Collins was a Whig and a supporter of Henry Clay. In 1844 he served as secretary to a citizens’ committee seeking changes in laws that
discouraged abolitionists from inciting slaves to flee. Yet in 1845 he enounced Cassius Clay’s antislavery newspaper the True American as “reckless” and “incendiary.” In 1860 Collins served as vice president of a committee of Kentucky and Ohio citizens devoted to the Union and committed to standing by it regardless of developments. Collins died in January 1870 in Lexington and was buried in Maysville Cemetery. The Kentucky legislature passed a resolution noting his achievements and also contracted for copies of his book to be provided to public school libraries throughout the state. Richard Collins spoke before the General Assembly urging its members to adopt Historical Sketches of Kentucky as official state history and require every schoolchild to read it.

Collins, Richard H. “Memorial to the General Assembly of Kentucky of 1871–2,” 1871, Kentucky Gateway Museum, Maysville, Ky.
“It Was Century Ago That Lewis Collins Died,” Maysville Ledger Independent, June 16, 1970, 1.
Kleber, John E., ed. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1992.
“Lewis Collins Kentucky History Soon Available.” Maysville Daily Independent, February 12, 1960,3.
“Peers Compiled History of Kentucky, Credit Was Due His Brother-in-Law,” Murray (Ky.) Ledger and Times, March 30, 1976, 12.