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Charles Collins: First Reno County Sheriff
September 1, 2022
I’m sending you two photo files. Both are of Charles Collins who was the first sheriff of Reno County, KS. One is a scan from the original photo. The second is a restored image due to some photo damage.
This photo of Collins took me 40 years to locate. Jody Johnson Buck, Kit Carson, Colorado, shared some family photos with me. Like her great-great grandfather Charles Collins, she and her family are still raising cattle on the open plains.
Charles was born in Montgomery County, Alabama, in 1844 and died in Hutchinson in 1906. He and his wife, Loretta McMillian Collins (1848-1905), born in Leavenworth County, are buried in Eastside Cemetery.
Collins enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War in 1861, at age 16, when his family lived in Leavenworth, Kansas, but because he was underage and his parents had not approved, his father located him and brought him home. The third time, the young Collins enlisted under an assumed name. He served his three-year enlistment, mustering out in 1864.
Charles and Loretta McMillian married in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1866. Collins was a deputy city marshal of Topeka (around 1867-1869) and appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal about 1869. His Deputy U.S. Marshal commission was renewed for several years, including during the time he was Reno County sheriff.
Charles and Loretta, and their three young children, arrived in unorganized Reno County in 1871. As one of the earliest homesteaders, Collins took up a claim in the sand hills four miles north of Hutchinson. (Today, the location of his homestead property can be described as on the southeast corner of Plum Street and 56th Ave.)
Collins was appointed sheriff by the governor the same year and served until the county became officially organized in 1872. In the county’s first election on March 12, 1872, he was elected to office two days after his 28th birthday. He still holds the honor of being the youngest elected Reno County sheriff.
Clinton Carter Hutchinson is known as the founder of Hutchinson, Kansas, but there is a Collins family story that C.C. and Charles Collins flipped a coin to determine the name of the newly organized town. Hutchinson won the flip.
Submitted by Jim Potter, Reno County deputy 1981-2014
Note: The Collins photo was taken at a Topeka, Kansas, photo gallery. How old do you think he looks? The date is unknown, but the gallery opened in 1870. There’s a possibility it was taken about 1870-1871. If so, this would have been shortly before Collins became Reno County Sheriff.