COLLINS, JAMES JOSEPH. - The standing of any city with the traveling public is largely based upon the character of its hotels, and the quality of service rendered by them. Especially is this true in any capital city, for to it come men from all over the State, whose entertainment is in the hands of the hotel man. Springfield for years counted among its representative men of this class the elder and younger Collins, who, from 1870 to 1906, rendered yeoman service to the city in this respect. When the father retired the son took up the work until he, too, left the active arena of endeavor for a less strenuous career. James Joseph Collins, the son, was born in Springfield, February 2, 1866, being a son of Thomas and Ellen (Nugent) Collins. The former was born in County Meath, Ireland, in 1837, while his wife was born between Navan and Kells, County Meath.
When Thomas Collins was seven years old he was brought to America by his mother and two brothers, both of whom survive him. The family lived at Utica, N.Y., for some time, but later moved to Wilmington, Ill. Here young Thomas herded cattle, driving them to Chicago markets. Desiring to advance himself, he left the farm, coming to Springfield in 1863, and for some time worked for Dr. Fowler on South Second Street, following which he was in the employ of the savings bank. Still later he secured the contract for lighting the city lamps, and from 1865 to 1870 was in the saloon business. It was in the latter year that he opened the Washington Hotel, which he made so well known for fourteen years that it was one of the favorite hostelries of the city during that period. In 1881 Mr. Collins founded the hotel which bore his name, and for sixteen years as its genial host, the son James succeeding him upon his retirement. Mrs. Collins came to this country about 1848, making the trip on a sailing vessel which consumed three months on the voyage. She and her husband met in Springfield, where they were married, February 28, 1865, and in addition to their son, James Joseph, this couple had one daughter, Mrs. Alice O'Reiley, now deceased. The death of Mr. Collins occurred September 18, 1806, his wife having passed away in 1892. In politics Mr. Collins was a Democrat, but never sought public office, preferring to give his attention to his business affairs. His religious belief made him a Catholic and he belonged to the Immaculate Conception Church of Springfield.
James Joseph Collins attended St. Mary's parochial school and Prof. Bock's school, discontinuing his studies when eighteen years old, to give his attention to helping his father in the hotel. Growing up in the business, he learned its every detail, and when he assumed full control, was an ideal host in every respect. Not only did he do everything within his power to make his guests comfortable, but he won their friendship, and his retirement in 1906 was regarded as a calamity by those who had enjoyed his good cheer in years past, although he leased his business to a very reliable and trustworthy successor, W. H. Hawks. Like his father, Mr. Collins has never taken any part in public events, but has faithfully cast his vote for the candidates of the Democratic party. He, too, is a member of the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
The marriage of Mr. Collins was celebrated at Springfield, Ill., April 29, 1895, with Elizabeth V. Colgan, daughter of Edward Colgan. During his career as a hotel keeper and since, Mr. Collins has demonstrated the fact that he is one of the solid, reliable men of the community, and one who can always be depended upon to support any measure which in his judgment will work out to the betterment of the majority.