Your points are well taken Myrna.But they still remain assumptions without proof.What might support your thesis is knowing a little about T.J. McCollister.I will not try to relate too much here.Just a couple of remarks.
1860 his older brothers dies of consumption. 1860 his father dies from injuries suffered from a tornado 1860 he marries 1862 his wife dies. 1863 he enlisted in the union army 1865 he deserted
As you stated Cora was born 1862.If Thomas J. Mc was her father, he left her with somebody.He came from a large family and they were probably struggling to exist. The Shelliegs may have been better suited to raise her.
I am sure after he deserted, he did not return back home.It is my assumption that he was in Five Points in 1868 where he marries Martha Timmons nee Dennis.In 1869 my grandfather is born.They are listed in the 1870 census.Something happened and he left Martha probably in 1872/73. No divorce or death record but Martha remarries in 1876.I picked up his trail in the 1880s through newspaper articles.He spent many years in the County (Scioto) Infirmary.
I have not been able to check the infirmary records.It appears that they knew nothing of his family or for that matter that he had children.There should be probate records.I am not sure how religious Thomas was, but I believe his parents were.I have contacted the 1st Presbyterian church but it appears they have no records from that time.I wish I could get there myself and check both the record of the church and the infirmary.