Remembering Little Arthur Collins and his Family

135 years ago this month, three-year old Arthur Collins died.  He is not related, but the words in Mary (Haines) Stevens’s diary, my gg-grandfather’s sister, touched me:

Feb 3 1881: This is dear little Arthur’s birthday; a dear child I once took care of. He is three years old today;

Mar 15 1881: Received a letter from Mr. Collins which hastens me to the death bed of little Arthur;

Mar 19 1881: A telegram came this evening telling me of his death;

Mar 21 1881: I followed the remains of little Arthur to its last resting place and gazed on his dear little face for the last time. As I saw him lay in his little casket, I felt as if I could not have it so. He was covered with flowers. I took a lovely basket of white roses and smilacks.

Mar 21 1882: One year ago today dear little Arthur was buried.

Mar 22 1882: I had Mrs. Collins, dear little Arthur’s mama, to see me.

Massachusetts Vital Records report that Arthur died in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts of Meningitis.

arthur death

Arthur’s parents were Edward Augustus Collins and Sarah Elizabeth Powers, both born in Salem. The couple married 27 August 1868.  Edward, a Civil War veteran, was the son of James Collins and Hannah Bickford Larrabee.  Sarah the daughter of Joel Powars (Powers) and Eliza Francis.


Arthur was the couple’s fourth loss.  Other children:

  • Frank A. Collins died 1 December 1871; 13 days old, of nervous prostration (extreme mental and physical fatigue caused by excessive emotional stress; neurasthenia)
  • Frank P. Collins died 5 October 1873;  1 year, 10 months, 19 days, of dysentery
  • A stillborn brother, unnamed, died 13 Oct 1876.

Little Arthur’s life was recorded in only one census – in 1880, he was two.

arthur 1880

Edward who was 5’8″ with a light complexion, brown hair and blue eyes, collected a small Civil War pension (initially $4/month, later $10) for serving in Company A, 23rd Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers from 4 Sept 1861 to 11 May 1863 when he was honorably discharged (he also served another 90 days of service between May and August 1864). He claimed this service caused near deafness after the battle of New Bern (14 Mar 1862, North Carolina). He does clarify that: “at home he can hear what his wife says by having learned the notion of her likes”.  He further complains of hemorrhoids and internal bleeding.

collins civil war

In a handwritten letter he describes his service and disability:

page 1 page 22

During his life, he worked as a seaman/mariner, ran a small grocery, worked as a barber and ship chandler. He died suddenly,in 1895, of heart disease, at Salem Harbor while rowing a boat.  He was 57.


death collins

In 1900, his widow, Sarah, age 62, was living in Salem with her brother Charles Powars, he petitioned on her behalf for a widow’s pension.

She owned two homes – 38 Essex Street, Salem valued at $3,100 with a $1,000 mortgage (a portion rented at $11/month) and 46 English Street, Salem, valued at $1,500 (rented at $10/month).  Her annual rental income was $252 annually; $70 was needed to cover costs of city taxes, water, etc., leaving her just $182 for repairs and to support herself.  She is unable to work due to physical disability.


tax Salem

Her claim was denied, the determination that she was not in need of additional income.

She never remarried. She died of Chronic Bright’s disease, 5 May 1905, age 63.

Remember little Arthur; remember his parents who buried their four children….how many lives this family, now forgotten, must have touched….

8 responses to this post.

  1. Great article! It reminds me of an extremely similar experience of losing an unrelated, but closely loved, child in my own life. This is a keen reminder that our ancestors did not live in a bubble. They were part of a community and interacted and lived with others, and that should be part of our research and consideration.



  2. A sad story, and one that is all too common in our ancestors’ lives. Thanks for sharing little Arthur’s story – he is remembered in this way.



  3. Wonderful post! Hopefully family members of little Arthur will find your post and read it. Thank you for writing about Arthur and his family.



  4. Hi,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!



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