Assemblyman Barnabas Collins of Butte County hasn’t been this interesting in at least a century.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of him. Although he had a unique name (he seems to have been the only ‘nonfiction’ person with that name), Collins died almost immediately after being sworn into office and became our shortest-serving legislator since the Civil War.
So why the sudden spotlight on Collins? On Friday, the Warner Bros. horror-comedy movie “Dark Shadows” opened in theaters. The comedy is about a vampire named Barnabas Collins who, freed after being locked in a coffin for two hundred years, moves in with his descendants who now live in his old mansion. The movie stars Johnny Depp (as Collins), Michelle Pfeiffer, and Eva Green.
When the 1901 legislative session began, Collins was appointed as a member of the Counties and County Boundaries Committee and the Roads and Highways Committee, and as Chairman of the Committee on Fish and Game. He introduced five bills, most of which were what are today called “district bills”; AB 104 paid for expenses at the State Forestry Station at Chico, and AB 207 funded the construction of additional buildings at the State Normal School at Chico (now Chico State).
And then, a week after being sworn into office, he died suddenly of pneumonia.
In a eulogy delivered on the Assembly Floor, Grove Johnson noted “For twenty-one years I had known Mr. Collins, and in every relation the man proved his worth as a father, as a husband, as a friend, as a citizen. Here in this Assembly we have not had time to understand his worth. We have not been able to appreciate the dignity of his character and his indomitable perseverance.”
Today, Collins remains the the only “Barnabas” ever elected to partisan office in California. His grave is located eleven blocks from the State Capitol in a section of Sacramento City Cemetery near those of Hardin Bigelow, John C. Bell, and Governor William Irwin.
He is not a vampire.