Genealogy of the Collins family in America

Sent to Alura Collins Hollister by Uncle James C. Collins, May 22, 1907.

You speak of informing you of the birthplace of your father. It is my opinion that whilst I am about it I will give you something of the genealogy of the Collins family to which he belonged.

Our ancestor Henry Collins came to this country from England in the year 1635, the year before Roger Williams came to this state. On the 30th day of June, Henry Collins, a young man 29 years of age, left London, England with his wife Ann, with three children, the oldest of the of whom was only five years of age. He settled in Lynn, MA. Soon after coming, another child was born. The three sons of Henry Collins married and raised large families. As the other child was a daughter, no account was made of her. He came to this country with his wife and five servants and settled in Essex Street, Massachusetts where he remained during his life in this country. February 20, 1687 he died at the age of 81. It looks as though he must have been wealthy as he had five servants. He was a starch manufacturer and those servants were his workmen.

The records of the city of Lynn give quite a lengthy account of him. In 1639 he was one of a committee of three to divide the land amongst the inhabitants, Henry Collins upland and meadow 80 acres and 10. The 10 was the village lot without doubt.

I do not think I can write much more about this Henry Collins. According to the records of the old church in East London he belonged to or attended the old English church. There is a record of some of his children being baptized in that old church which was built in 1471. I do not find any record of any church he belonged to.

The second son was named John, was born in England in 1632, from this branch of the family has descended. This John was married in Lynn and had born to him 18 children. More than fulfilling the president's (Theo. Roosevelt) desire for large families. The oldest son was named John for his father. The youngest son was named William. John the father and the eldest son John were lost in shipwreck in 1679. The mother then changed the name of William to John, the name of the lost ones.

Samuel, the second son, became a Quaker with his son Samuel Jr. and the youngest son John. As Massachusetts was not in those days a very pleasant place for the sect, they came to Rhode Island. Samuel stayed in Newport where one of his descendants became a politician, was elected to the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1783 and was governor 1786 to 1790, the time of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and gave land for the city library. John, who was formerly William came at or about this time and instead of stopping at Newport came to the town of Charleston. John must have come to Rhode Island about the year 1710. During that year he was one of six persons who purchased 3000 acres of land in Charlestown upon which he lived and died in 1755. He had 10 children. The oldest son was Heziakiah, born in 1707 who was my great-grandfather and was married in 1735 and had 12 children. The first son was Joseph, born in 1728. He was my grandfather and had nine children and was a staunch old Quaker. His youngest child was named Joshua who is your grandfather. He was a strong believer in the Quaker doctrine though not a member of the society, always attended their meetings. He married Mercy Cross of Charlestown, March 24, 1814. They had born to them seven children, four girls and three boys. The oldest son was named William Penn for the great founder of the colony of Pennsylvania. He was born in the town of Richmond, County of Washington, April 1, 1820.

He being the oldest of the three boys became our leader and got us into many harmless scrapes which called for gentle reprimands from the stern but otherwise rather kindhearted father.

When large enough he attended the district school which in summer was kept by some young woman living in the district at a dollar a week, furnishing her own board at her own home. After he became large enough to be useful upon the place he attended the winter school of three months which constituted the annual schooling for the larger ones.

This was the yearly schooling until father moved to Brooklyn, CT. In the public schools there which had been kept a little longer during the year the Rhode Island boys were found to be, according to the first teacher whose school we attended somewhat in advance of the Connecticut boys.

Your father very soon commenced attending the Academy School at short intervals where he prepared himself for teaching. He taught quite a number of years in connection with his studies for his profession which he afterwards followed. All of which you are acquainted with.

In regards to this Rhode Island branch of the family of Charlestown, a brother to my great-grandfather became a distinguished Quaker preacher, standing very high in the Society, being at the head of the New England meetings. All of these families were tillers of the soil at this time. As the ministry paid nothing, they had to dig like other working members of the family; all of them had homes and grounds of their own. Some of them soon became doctors. I remember in one family of three followed this profession. The number were so numerous I cannot have time to write. As this people believed in peace there was no place for any of the profession of lawyers. Not until there was a departure from this goodly people was there anyone who dared to take this profession. I was the lost one. I do not think there was any of the name who took this profession before myself. Thus you see I am to bear the burden of this fall from the pure grace of this quaint and pure doctrine of the society of friends.

I will give a little fuller account of my father. He being the youngest of nine children stayed with his father until 21; he then left and started a country store about three miles from the place of his birth (where your father was born) which was then called Perry's Iron Works which lay across the river in the town of Hopkington. Here he sold such goods as the stores kept at that time, such a sugar, tea, rum, tobacco etc. and very small quantities of dry goods. He sold these for cash and in exchange for eggs, butter and skins of most kinds of animals from the ox, cow and calf, muskrat and mink.

From this shop he put out weaving which was done on the old-fashioned handloom by farmers' wives and daughters in the farmhouse.

When these goods came back to the store, one-half of the price for converting the yarn into cloth was paid for in cash and the other half in goods for the store. At this time the yarn was spun by power looms propelled by water power. At these early times a very little if any but handpower was used in weaving cloth. He then bought his goods in New York, being only about a dozen miles from the port which sailed ships to that city. Providence then being a small place 30 miles from his store to reach which you had to pass in a two wheel wagon over very poor roads. It was not long after commencing this trade he purchased the Iron Works just across the river consisting of the forge where the iron was made, a blacksmith shop and a small sawmill to get lumber on a small scale.

On the Richmond side were the store was located, there was a grist mill and a carding machine owned by his father. At the death of his father he became possessed by his father's where all of one-half of this property and his sister the other half. I must give you some description of this property.

The old forge was an ancient building looking the worse for age in which were large bellows which blew the blast which The fire burning. In this buyer was the aye Aaron being melted into what was then called a loop which was pulled out by works and leveled off somewhat by hand pounding with sledgehammers and then placed under the power hammer which was propelled by water and reduce somewhat. After this it was again heated for the next hammering until it was brought to the proper size. This iron was used principally by blacksmith's for which wagon Tigers, bolts, nails and everything which are used in the ordinary blacksmith shop.

In those times ploughs were made of this iron by hand in the shop, a part of which was wood and the other part iron which has hammered in the forge was called plough shares. This industry did not flourish very much. They soon began to roll the iron rather than to hammer it, which they could do much faster and cheaper than the old way.

I suppose you would like to know what a carding machine is. This consisted of a machine of one card on a cylinder over which the wool was put in the raw state and brought out in rolls for the women at home to spin into yarn for mittens and stockings. Some of this was woven into cloth of the natural color called sheep's grey.

The woolen industry improved so much that this industry (carding and spinning, I suppose) suspended and the little old building went to decay. Adjoining these premises was quite a quantity of rather poor land upon which some farming was done.

My father sold all this property in the year 1839 and went to Connecticut (where he bought the Old Israel Putnam Homestead). The property on the Hopkington side of the river was soon sold to parties who wished to put up a woolen mill which wiped out all of the ancient property on that side of the river. A small mill was built with houses for the help. I do so which I could have a picture of these old works. Quite soon after a small mill was put up on the Richmond side and nothing was left there but the old grist mill which ran for many years. The last time I saw it, this too was abandoned and the factory next to it was vacant and a very little doing in the other mill. Thus it stands today.

I have spoken of my father selling rum with his other business. Do not be astonished, all stores at that time did the same, but when the temperance cause started, he stopped selling this article and expounded the cause of temperance. Nothing of the kind was sold there since I can remember. He became the first president of what one of the first temperance societies formed a that community and frequently spoke in public upon the subject. I cannot remember the time when my father was not a temperance advocate and an abolitionist.

My grandfather Cross and my grandfather Collins were both owners are grist mills. I speak with some pride of my ancestors being mill owners, but I do not say cotton or wool in this great manufacturing community.

I have written much more than I intended when I commenced. All of this I have written for your amusement. The town of the birth of your father was all you asked for. I think I gave it. Give my love to all. Tell Clark I will try to write to him soon.

Affectionately yours, James C. Collins

Addition by Alura Collins Hollister

When brother William Penn Collins visited here, in September 1933 on his way to the Century of Progress Fair in Chicago, he read this genealogy of the Collins family and he wished to add this item: that our father Dr. William Penn Collins, when a lad in his teens, used to help in the store kept by his father, where the liquor was sold in those early days, before the saloon, and one day his father found him draining a glass which had been left by a customer. Grandfather sold his property and bought the farm in Connecticut and the became, as Uncle James says., and advocate of temperance... As also did our father, who helped earnestly in all the work done for temperance, preceding the adoption of strenuous efforts to prevent the injustice of the liquor traffic toward the rights of women and children. The money interests of the world have little sympathy for property, but of them all, the monied power obtained by the liquor interests is the most intolerant to the rights of women and children.

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Go back to Collins page.

© Copyright 2006.

All rights reserved.

Information may be linked to but not copied.

Permission to SELL or copy for sale any email addresses or links is hereby denied.

This website was created by Bobbie