John Collins


John Collins may be considered Albany's first professional attorney. The most engaging undocumented source tells us that he was born in England about 1670 and had received legal training in Europe.

By the early 1700s, he was in New York and serving in the British garrison companies. Within a few years, he was a lieutenant in the Albany-based company commanded by Captain Henry Holland.

The first record of his Albany life is from notes in his own legal dictionary providing the date of his marriage to the widow Margarita Schuyler Verplanck on November 2. 1701. Settling in Albany in the "Southside" soldier enclave, their Albany home grew with the birth of three Collins children between 1704 and 1714. These children were baptized in the Albany Dutch Church and he frequently sponsored baptisms there with his wife - a lifelong member. Of British origin, he also was a prominent subscriber for the founding of St. Peters Anglican Church in 1714. In 1709, his first ward property was accorded a substantial assessment.

His marriage to Margarita Schuyler represented an often-repeated way for aspiring New Netherland families to connect with the English-then British royal establishment. At the same time, marriage to an Albany native qualified Collins to engage in trade. However, he became more widely known as an attorney - as his name was most frequently found representing local people and important outsiders at Albany courts and beyond. Although his military career would continue for the remainder of his life, John Collins became a successful Albany businessman by combining a legal practice with supplying the fort and other military initiatives, some importing, and surveying.

Often on duty at Schenectady, Collins was able to form business and legal relationships that extended out into the Mohawk Valley. Although he held no local offices, he was named to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs. As a royal insider, he also obtained shares in frontier land patents - owning land north of the Mohawk two miles above Fort Hunter.

John Collins died at Schenectady in April 1728. His widow died in 1748. He was succeeded in his enterprises by his son Edward.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of John Collins is CAP biography number 7677. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. The Schuyler family history provides the most and most interesting information on this individual. We seek information on his European background.

The first Collins child to be born to the now thirty-two-year-old mother Margarita Schuyler Verplanck Collins was Edward (1704); followed by Samuel (1712-14), and Margaret (1715) - who married Hitchen Holland.

first posted: 7/6/00; recast and revised 7/20/10