The Artist & the Shoemakers

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections
June 6, 2023

The land that would become Collinsville, 1868 Beers Atlas of Morris County

When noted local artist Edward Kranich moved to Morristown, he was likely following in the footsteps of his brother-in-law twice over, Sidney Collins. Sidney had married Edward’s sister, Amelia, in 1851, and Edward had in turn married Sidney’s sister, Vashti Collins, around 1857. Unbeknownst to them, this would set a precedent for Collins family marriages that would endure for at least three generations. Sidney and his brother, William, would go on to found a section of Morristown dubbed “Collinsville” where they, their children, and several of their children’s future spouses lived in the mid-to-late 19th century.

Like their father before them, Sidney and William Collins were shoemakers by trade. In fact, it is speculated that Kranich’s painting Bridge and Water Streets, Morristown (top photo), was painted to commemorate Sidney opening a business at that corner around 1855. William joined them in Morristown in the 1860s, and by 1868, the Collins brothers had bought the land next to Evergreen Cemetery that would become Collinsville (today on Martin Luther King Blvd.). Several of their sons followed in their footsteps, becoming shoemakers themselves. They also frequently married very close to home:

  • Sidney’s son married William’s daughter in 1878. Their family lived in Collinsville and he worked as, yes, a shoemaker.
  • William’s son then married their neighbor, Mary Jane Bowen of Collinsville.
  • Sidney’s son married Mary Jane’s sister, Sarah Bowen.
  • Two of Sidney’s other sons married a pair of sisters.
  • Lastly, Sidney’s youngest daughter, Lockie, married William’s son’s business partner, yet another shoemaker, in 1895.
Collinsville in 1910. Lockie and her husband William E. Dobbins stilled lived in the neighborhood that bore her family’s name (far right house)
The Bowen sisters in the Morristown Sewing School’s dressmaking class, 1881

Today, the name “Collinsville” has largely been erased from the landscape, save a playground (which is at its former location) and a fire department (which is not). However, the tale of the tight-knit Collinses revealed itself once again in research of the 487 students of the Morristown Sewing School. Lockie Collins, her two nieces (who ultimately married two brothers), Sarah Bowen, Mary Jane Bowen, a future wife of William Collins’s youngest son, and 18 other young residents of Collinsville all attended the school in the 1880s. So, while it no longer appears on maps of Morristown, it, and its founding clan of shoemakers have made numerous appearances in the burgeoning historical record of the school.