Friday, August 30, 2013

The Frustrations of Specificity...Looking for Details

One of the wonderful relatives I've met on is my third cousin once removed. My great great grandmother and her great grand aunt is Clementine Wells. The Wells family has been tough to track down. We can find out a lot of information about people all around the family, but very little specifically about the Wells. One of my recent book acquisitions provides a great example.

The Troy, Illinois History and Families, published in 2003 by the Troy Historical Society has this to say about the William Collins family:

"William and Mary (Lang) Collins were born and married in Devonshire, England, and came to the United States with their year old son, William in 1850. After settling in Troy, they had three more sons -- James, John and Franklin. James moved to St Louis; John, to St Jacob; and Franklin spent most of his adult life working for local Troy banker, W W Jarvis, and his family as groundskeeper and handyman.

The eldest son, William Collins, worked in the Troy coal mines and married a local girl, Ida McMakin. To this union were born two sons, John Henry and Julius Franklin. Ida died at 29, leaving a 5-year-old and an infant. Needing mother's milk, the baby was sent to nurse with Mrs William Gebauer, who's son Teddy, was the same age. This was a common practice in those days and was called wet nursing.

William later married a widow, Caroline Riggin, who had four adult sons -- Lawrence, John, Bert and Henry. (Note: William's second wife was named Clementine, not Caroline, and Clementine had six children, not four.) In 1917 Mr. Collins was killed in an accident at Donk Brothers mine in Troy."

Here what we know to be true:

Clementine's first husband was John Wesley Riggin. He and Clementine had six children. John died in 1881. Several years later Clementine married William Collins, a widower with two sons. Tragically, William was killed in a 1917 mining accident at Donk Brothers Coal and Coke Company when a slab of slate fell on him, killing him instantly.

Underground hospital at the Donk Brothers mine

Clementine died in 1932; both are buried in the Troy City Cemetery.

Headstone for William and Clementine (Wells) Riggin/Collins

William's son Julius moved to St Louis where he met and married Audrey Wolf. He was killed in action during World War I in Argonne, France. William's other son, John, enlisted in the Navy and served in China, Hawaii, South and Central America. He suffered a slight leg wound in Nicaragua when his unit was putting down an uprising. In 1913 he married Ethel Morriss.

Veteran marker for Julius Franklin Collins

The Collins family biography for the book published by the Troy Historical Society was written by one of John's descendants. My new-found relative and genealogy collaborator and I learned a lot about the Collins family, but nothing about the Wells. So frustrating! But always interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, My name is Erica Lee Collins, John Henry Collins was my Great Grandfather. I would love to talk to youto get more information about my/our family history. My email is