Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dr. Roy A. Miles Collins

In June or July of this year, I went to an antique store in Galena, Illinois.  There I found an 1894 copy of In Maiden Meditation, with the following inscription:

"Susanna M. Nuckolls.  Presented by - Roy A. Miles Collins.  March 1900."

First of all, I'm not sure about the last name of the woman.  That's how the handwriting looks, but it could be something else...

Out of curiosity, I looked up the names via Google, and stumbled on to what appears to be a very sad portrait of Dr. Collins's life.

He was born about December of 1874, which means he was roughly 24-years-old when he gave that book to Susanna.  Was she his intended?  A friend?  A relative?

In the 1900 census on 12 June 1900, Roy A. Collins was at the Industrial School for Boys in Eldora City, Hardin County, Iowa.  The head of that "household" was none other than his stepfather, B. J. Miles.  Roy was born in Iowa or Nebraska on 14 December 1874.   He is buried in Kearney Cemetery in Buffalo County, Nebraska.

A look at the 1880 census shows Roy with his stepfather, Branston J. Miles, and mother, Belle C. (Cooke) Miles, in Eldora, Hardin County, Iowa. Apparently his father, Milton M. Collins, was killed by bandits when Roy was quite young.

Whatever Roy's story is, the ending is not a happy one.

On July 24, 1909, his third wife, Kate Van Winkle Collins, murdered him.  Of course it is very interesting to know I have a book that was gifted from a murdered man to who I am assuming was a young lady - perhaps a love interest.  So that leads to the question who were his first two wives?  Was one of them Susanna? 

Well, in a relatively short time (1900-1909), young Roy A. Collins had only 3 wives.  Let's see if we can learn more about them:

1. 1900-1902:  What happened during this time?  I simply don't know, but I wonder if he married the Susanna to whom he gave the book I now own.

I found Susanna Nuckolls, born about December 1877, in the 1900 census with her parents in Eldora, Iowa. She is also listed in the 1895 Iowa State census.

There is a Susanna Nuckolls who married a Frank C. Hammond and had a daughter, Elizabeth, in Eldora on 4 January 1909.  It seems likely that this is the same Susanna.  However, was she Roy's first wife? 

2.  1902-1908: According to newspaper articles, his first wife eloped with a Danish nobleman, leaving Roy with a 3-year-old daughter to care for.  She became the Countess Viggo Holstein Rathlou.  She was formerly Elinora (Nora) aka Goldie Lang.  At the time of the marriage, 19 July 1902 in Cedar County, Nebraska (Lang, Golda to Collins, Roy A.), she was 17-years-old and a singer.   They filed for divorce in 1908, but it was not finalized by October of that year, when she remarried to the Count Viggo Holstein Rathlou.

3.  1908-1909: Kate Van Winkle is, of course, the one who shot and murdered him on July 24, 1909.  They married sometime after October 20, 1908.  She was much older than Roy (49 to his 34), and "of a suspicious and jealous disposition".  They were married less than year and in the process of separating when she shot him.

And that is the tale of the unfortunate Mr. Collins.

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan

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