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Mary Hall Terry Collins letters to her son Charles Terry Collins, 1867

 File — Box: 9, Folder: 10

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

This collection depicts the family lives of three prominent New England families, the Butler, Collins, and Terry families from 1808 to 1920 consisting of 8.5 cubic feet, (17 document boxes). Their correspondence, genealogy, photographs, and journals compile a historical collection, vast in size and informative of American life in the nineteenth century.

It contains over three hundred letters written when family members were attending Yale or Princeton during the American Civil War. There are over four thousand letters which show the close relationships between the families and their strong religious faith. Descendants from Puritans, the families’ letters reveal a gentle kindness and firm guidance, particularly from parents to their children and a strong nostalgia for each other’s company. Letters about the loss of loved ones show grief and pain but also an accepting attitude towards death and a reassuring belief that the spirit reclaimed their loved ones. A few of the letters highlight rare events such as divorce and alcoholism. There are some letters describing westward expansion (to Illinois). The letters mention some of the major events of the nineteenth century as well as an opportunity to look through history and learn more about each one of the family members and their community.

Many of the members in these families made a name for themselves in the field of law. Benjamin Franklin Butler was the Attorney General of the United States and the law partner of Martin Van Buren under President Andrew Jackson and some of his papers are in this collection. He was also a founder of New York University. His son, William Allen Butler was also a well-respected attorney, President of the American Bar Association, and a prolific author and poet. His novel "Nothing to Wear" was known as a popular, classic satire. There is a bibliographic list of his books, and the publications can be found in our holdings. There is also a copy of the "New York Times Illustrated Weekly" where he is featured on the cover in 1897.

William Allen Butler, Jr. was also an attorney in New England, President of the Lawyer Club, and a graduate of Princeton University. Included in the collection are his lectures and rowing, fishing, and Princeton scrapbooks as well as his property books, and office and travel journals. He married Louise Terry Collins in 1884 bringing the Butler and Collins families together. There are letters from "Will and Louise" while he courted her for several years, but she wanted to maintain her independence a few years longer. She was also a poet and many of her lines of poetry are in the collection. Also included are their handwritten wedding vows and affectionate letters throughout their marriage. William Allen Butler, Jr. traveled to Europe often and sailed on the RMS Mauretania (the sister ship to the Lusitania that was sunk by a German torpedo). Louise Butler also traveled and there are letters written on stationery from the Hamburg-Amerika line. There are also letters from William Allen Butler, Jr. to and about his brother Howard Russell Butler (1856-1934) who was an American painter and founder of the American Fine Arts Society. There are also photographs in William Allen Butler, Jr.'s scrapbook, "The Victoria Luise" of men constructing the Panama Canal.

Louise Terry Collins Butler's parents, Charles and Mary Hall Terry Collins also wrote to each other often during their courtship, married life, which included the time of the American Civil War. They also wrote letters about the "Panic of 1857"; the Midwest and the South, and politics. The Collins family were strong abolitionists who tried to help free enslaved persons and fought for Illinois to become a free state. The letters do not mention any details about enslaved persons but are more related to family and politics in general. The letters also describe travel to Collinsville, Illinois, Jacksonville, and St. Louis, Missouri, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Charleston South Carolina where Charles Collins Sr. attended to business for his family dry goods store in New England. Their son, Charles Terry Collins, Jr. wrote to them about the Civil War while he was a student at Yale. He attended Andover Theological Seminary and became a reverend at Plymouth Church in Cleveland, Ohio. He exchanged letters with his parents and siblings every week usually on Sundays. Many of his letters have hand illustrated, intricate, and personal sketches that describe the contents of his letters. He expresses his honest feelings and self-doubts about schoolwork and preaching which he eventually masters. Their other son, Clarence Collins attended College Hill School in Poughkeepsie, New York and succeeded his father in his dry goods store, "Collins, Kellog & Kerbe" and "Collins, Atwater & Whitten" (Collins Brothers & Sons). He married (Marie) Louise Clark who divorced him, leaving the care of their little girl, Edith Collins, with his mother Mary Hall Terry Collins and his sisters, Lillie Collins Ketcham, and Louise Terry Collins Butler. Edith Collins later married (and divorced) a Turkish diplomat Rechid Bey (Count Czaykowsi) and became Countess Czaykowski who lived in Paris and there are letters from her in the collection.

There are scrapbooks, and journals documenting the lives of these intertwining members of these families. There are also extensive genealogy notes and family trees in the collection tracing their ancestors. There is an Oxford family bible (1851 Oxford University Press, England) with handwritten family names. Printed books on the families ’genealogies and novels written by William Allen Butler are in the printed part of our collections. There is information about the family being members of the Colonial Dames Society of the American Revolutionary War and the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolutionary War. There are also well identified photographs of the various members of these noted American families of Butler, Collins, and Terry. Some of their portraits are housed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.


  • Creation: 1867

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.


From the Collection: 8.5 Cubic Feet (17 document boxes, oversize folders and enclosures) : Family correspondence, genealogy, printed items, photographs and scrapbooks

Language of Materials

From the Series: English

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States