The bride wore a pale green and rosy orange summer dress. The groom tucked his long, dark braid behind a silky yarmulke.
His utility kilt looked perfectly at ease as the free-spirited couple exchanged eclectic vows beneath a chuppa composed of twisted branches and crimson gourds gathered from the grounds of their rural homestead in southeastern Travis County.
On March 23, Alia Severine and Wesley Schumacher were joined in matrimony before several dozen friends and family members, including Ender, her 11-year-old son from a previous alliance.
Also in the crowd, partially shaded by a fat mulberry tree, was one guest for whom the ceremony held multiple meanings.
You see, exactly 100 years previous, Lisa Nicole Collins’ grandparents were married shortly before settling as a couple on almost exactly the same spot. The newlyweds — he works on water development, she’s a goat-wrangling stay-at-home mom — are the cherished tenants of the Collins family, among the most distinguished in Austin history.
They haven’t lived on this fertile land, however, for ages.
The wedding guest’s mother is Thelma Jean Collins, born in 1933 in a now-demolished house uphill of the handsome stone structure that today faces the volcanic mound of Pilot Knob across Cottonmouth Creek.
Her only surviving aunt is Ada Collins Anderson, one of Austin’s most accomplished African-American civic leaders, born in 1921. (Also the original tipster for this story.)
Her great-great-grandfather was pioneering former slave Newton Isaac Collins, who founded a school and a church. He also traded his land where Mueller Development now rises for this spread, thick with yellow-green brush on a clear, windy day.
Her great-grandfather was Dee Gabriel Collins, after whom the road between McKinney Falls Parkway and U.S. 183 is named. (That winding way has seen more traffic recently as a back route to the Circuit of the Americas, located not far to the east.)
Her grandparents — the coupled married in 1913 — were Walter Gabriel Collins and Cecilia Rucker Collins. These days, Lisa Collins and her relatives, devoted to the land not far from the Collins family plot on Cottonmouth Creek, are tickled with their current tenants.
“They’ve done wonders,” says the ardent collector of prime Beatles memorabilia. “They’ve brought life and health back, along with happiness, fun and spirit.”
Not your everyday wedding
“If any of you have something that will change their minds,” announces wedding official Jean Krejca, who shares with the romantic pair a passion for caving, “they don’t want to hear it.”
The discovery of the 100-year wedding anniversary came by accident when Severine and Schumacher asked the Collins family to join them for their whimsical yet deeply touching ceremony.
As larks whistled and chickens chattered in the background, the couple combined rituals under the improvised chuppa that looked somewhat like a bower bird nest.
They tied a Celtic knot with many-colored ribbons. They jumped a broom in the African-American tradition. Guests shouted “Casa de Piatra” in the Romanian manner, wishing them a stable marriage built from a “House of Stone.”
Readings tumbled out from the prose of Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy and Axl Rose.
Three years earlier, the newlyweds had stumbled onto the Collins property off Dee Gabriel Collins Road online. The former farm fit exactly their aim to test a thoroughly sustainable lifestyle.
“With this volcanic soil,” Schumacher points out. “You didn’t need much to get the garden to grow.”
Michael Barnes writes about Austin people, places, culture and history
CORRECTION: A caption in this story has been updated to note that Alia Severine and Wesley Schumacher were not married at the same spot as the Collins couple.