Mary Collins Collection
Mary Collins was born in Upper Alton, IL on April 18, 1846. Her family later moved to Keokuk, IA; there Mary became a member of Keokuk’s 1st Congregational Church. She received a Masters Degree from Ripon College and taught school in Keokuk for three years. In 1875, Mary began her mission work in Dakota Territory with Reverend and Mrs. Thomas L. Riggs at the Oahe Mission near Ft. Sully. She was both teacher and social worker and quickly learned the Lakota dialect of the Sioux language.
In December 1885, Mary began her own mission work at Little Eagle on the Standing Rock Reservation. Mary was quickly admired by the population of Little Eagle, earning the Sioux name “Winona” which means princess. Her gifts as preacher, teacher, and doctor were invaluable on the reservation. Mary was known as a friend of the Indians. She later became acquainted with Sitting Bull, who adopted her into his tribe. Mary was ordained as a minister of the Congregational Church in October of 1899, allowing her to conduct religious ceremonies such as marriages, baptisms, and funerals. Mary returned to Keokuk, IA in 1910 to live with her sister. She lived in Iowa until her death on May 25, 1920.
Mary’s personal papers contain genealogical material, Collins’ autobiography in her own hand, ordination papers, her will, and a certificate appointing her postmaster. The correspondence is most extensive for the 1880s and 1900s. Most of it is family and mission-related. Prominent correspondents are with the American Missionary Association, the Department of the Interior (Indian Service), and the Indian Rights Association.
Several writings by Collins, in both English and Dakota, can be found under "Mission Work and Indians." Also includes an account book for the Elk Butte Women’s Society, pamphlets, photographs, an American Missionary Association Indian Missions record book and a list of Indian names with their English translations. Other correspondence included is that of Ethel Collins Jacobsen, a niece to Mary. The material on Elias and Ethel Jacobsen consists of Ethel’s correspondence with her family, 1887-1898, 1933, 1937, some writings, and a sporadic diary; and Elias’s diaries for 1875-1885.
The Mary Collins collection offers a vast array of primary source materials. Individuals interested in early Native American, Women Missionary, and Dakota Territory history will find Mary’s correspondence very useful for their researching needs.
(Accession Numbers: H80-014/ H94-014)