Biography of John C. Collins
Connecticut Biographies





JOHN C. COLLINS, NEW HAVEN: Secretary and Treasurer International Christian Workers' Association.

Mr. Collins was born in Albion, N. Y., September 19, 1850. He prepared for college at the State Normal school at Brockport, N. Y., graduated at Yale in the class of 1875, and from Yale Theological Seminary in 1878. He spent two years with his brother in the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, as a sort of " Boy of the regiment," in the neighborhood of Washington, D. C. This regiment was the one that captured John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln. Young Collins was present at the hanging of the four " Lincoln conspirators," as they were called, probably the only person under fifteen years of age who saw the conspirators hung, gaining access to the execution on account of his familiar acquaintance with the guard.

After graduating from college Mr. Collins considered several lines of Christian work before reaching a decision as to the particular branch to which he ought to devote his energies. He finally decided to undertake mission work in the city of New Haven, in which he at once engaged in the capacity of general superintendent of the Gospel Union, a mission society in New Haven, the members of which were prominent Christian people of different denominations, the Christian work of which consisted in holding gospel services in the center of the city, carrying on a Sunday school, working among prisoners in police courts, doing auxiliary work such as penny savings bank, temperance work, and the. like. In 1886, in connection with Col. Geo. R. Clarke of Chicago, Ill., he was privileged to take the initiatory steps which resulted in the holding for eight days (June, 1887), in Chicago, the first convention of Christian Workers in the United States and Canada. In this year also he was ordained by the Congregationalists to the work of the ministry as an evangelist - an unusual proceeding, as Congregationalists do not as a rule ordain ministers unless they become settled pastors or are going abroad as foreign missionaries. It was to some extent prophetic of anew order of things in which the church would recognize the need of ordained ministers among the masses. During the work in New Haven, in one way and another, he gathered in over two thousand children to Sunday school who had not been habitual attendants, and reduced the number of Protestant non Sunday school children from nearly three thousand to about three hundred. The penny savings bank which the society organized was a pioneer in juvenile savings, and the poor children of New Haven put into the bank about $2,000; and perhaps five thousand more in the larger savings banks, as a direct result of the influence of saving in the small bank. Mr. Collins was appointed secretary of the committee which was formed after the first Christian Workers' convention, called the committee for Christian Workers in the United States and Canada. Out of the work of this committee has grown the International Christian Workers' Association, which now numbers nearly eight hundred of the most prominent Christians at work from all the different evangelical denominations in the United States and Canada, and whose yearly conventions for the consideration_ of Christian work and methods are considered the most influential religious gatherings of the year. He was continued as secretary and executive of the association, which has been incorporated under the laws of the state of Connecticut. In 1887 the Christian Workers' Association authorized him to organize a work for street boys under their authority and subject to such rules as he might think advisable, and in three years the work has extended into four states, being chiefly confined however, to Massachusetts and Connecticut. It consists, in a word, of opening rooms in the different cities during the evenings of the colder months of the year, supplied with instructive books and interesting games, to which free access is given to the boys who are accustomed to spend their evenings in the streets. A Christian young man is placed in charge of the room as superintendent. During the day and summer months when the club is not open the superintendent visits the homes of the boys, goes to police court, and watches over those who get into the hands of the police, having their cases continued and doing what he can to help them. He secures employment for them, and in every way acts as a helpful friend. Every superintendent is in constant communication with the secretary, sending him a report every week of the visits made, the boys found in police court, what action has been taken, etc. Mr. Collins's long experience and the " facility " which he has acquired in this kind of work enables him to give important advice to his subordinates, and to aid in the disposition of individual cases thus brought to his attention by the superintendent. The total number of boys brought under the supervision of the work has reached perhaps about thirteen thousand during the less than four years it has been in operation. The Boys' Brigade in Scotland, which has the same object in view, namely, that of saving street boys, has been in operation since 1882, and they have gotten in about eighteen thousand boys of this class. So it would seem that this society's plan of work is reaching an even larger number than that of the Scottish philanthropists. The boys have penny savings banks, manual training classes, bathrooms, and light gymnastics in their club room, as a means of attracting and helping them: A work among the students in colleges has also grown out of the International Christian Workers' Association, which consists of the appointment of a secretary who obtains young men from the colleges and puts them into missions for two months during their summer vacations, in order that they may come into contact with the great needs of humanity and be better fitted to sympathize with the sufferings of men when they become ministers later on. Besides this the association has resulted in the starting of a number of very flourishing missions, and imparting new life to many church of different denominations.

Mr. Collins was married in 1878 to Miss Fannie M. Smith of Brockport, N. Y. They have seven children, five boys and. two girls. He is a member of the Church of the Redeemer, New Haven; in politics a prohibitionist. His chief ability is in the line of an executive, and he has thus been intrusted with most of the executive work connected with the International Christian Workers' Association, although having done a great deal of public speaking in mission work, and for a number of years made a thorough study of various forms and methods of aggressive Christian effort through Christian, evangelical, and mission agencies both in this country and abroad.

From:
Illustrated Popular Biography
Of Connecticut
Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding
Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.
Hartford, Conn. 1891


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