Collingbourne Mills and Virginia Snow Studios Story

Book 1 and Book 2

Susan Wildemuth, Atkinson, IL


History of Albert B. Collingbourne

Albert B. Collingbourne – Albert Byron Collingbourne

Founder of Collingbourne Mills, Inc.

Thomas Pittman Collingbourne (Junior) was born about 1824-25 in England, the son of Thomas Pittman Collingbourne (Senior). He was a successful businessman who dealt in fancy painting, simulated wood graining on metal or glass, and a store handling art supplies and ordinary painting materials. (2)   Thomas (Junior) and his parents immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York from Liverpool in the 1840s. (3)  

The 1860 census lists 34 year old Thomas P. Collingbourne (Junior) as a master painter living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his 31 year old wife Eliza, his children, 68 year old father Thomas Collingbourne (Senior), a 24 year old servant named Phebe Canner, 45 year old Elizabeth Shepard, and her 15 year old son Joseph Shepard who worked as a painter’s apprentice for the Collingbournes. (4)   Thomas (Junior) and Eliza Collingbourne would be blessed with several children: Byron, Emma, Alice, artistically and musically inclined Albert (Albert B. Collingbourne’s favorite uncle), and Julia, all born in Wisconsin. (5)   Thomas and Eliza also had children who did not survive infancy.


Byron Thomas Collingbourne was born November 1851, the first- born son of Thomas and Eliza Collingbourne, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Byron married Sarah J. Lord, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Lord, on December 15, 1875.  Byron Collingbourne was an artistic soul, but his wife Sarah Lord Collingbourne was considered stern.  Family stories reveal her “strong personality” was partly due to the circumstances of her father’s death.  Thomas Lord was a ship captain on the Great Lakes.  Mr. Lord and his 15 year old son died in a maritime accident on Lake Huron, leaving Mary Lord, Sarah and two sisters alone in the world. (6)

The 1880 Federal census lists B.T. Collingbourne as a painter living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his 23 year old wife Sarah, 4 year old son Albert, and 2 year old daughter Gertrude. (7)  The 1889-90 Milwaukee Wisconsin Directory lists his occupation as a sign painter who worked at T.P. Collingbourne & Co. Painters and Decorators at 419 Broadway Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (8)  By 1900 Byron had moved his family to Chicago in Cook County, where he changed professions and went to work as an advertising agent.  Byron and Sarah’s son Albert had married and moved out on his own, but their 21 year old daughter Gertrude was still living with them at their 3628 Rhodes Avenue home until she married Chancey Cable Foster on September 24, 1900. (9)  “Gertie” and Chancey Foster would have one daughter Virginia from their union, but would later divorce.  Byron Collingbourne passed away sometime between 1900 and 1910 in Chicago, Illinois. (10)  Sarah Collingbourne moved in with her son Albert and his first wife Alice, but would later share a home with Gertrude until Sarah’s death on September 30, 1928. (11)

Albert Byron Collingbourne was born on November 18, 1876 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the first of two children of Byron Thomas Collingbourne and Sarah J. (Lord) Collingbourne. (12)  Albert spent his early years working at the Chicago Stockyards in various capacities until he found his way into the thread industry as a salesman. (13)  He married Alice Spooner, the daughter of Daniel and Jennie Spooner, on November 18, 1897 in Chicago, Illinois (Cook County). (14)  On January 1, 1901 the newly married Collingbourne signed a contract to work for Richardson Silk Company as a salesman in the State of Ohio “or elsewhere as the company may direct,” for a salary of $2,500.00 in 1901 and 1902 and $3,000.00 for 1903. (15)  His expense account was about $150.00 per month allocated for the same three year time period. (16)  

Around 1912, Albert Collingbourne went to work for Western Thread Company, starting off as a salesman and working his way through the ranks to become President of that company. (17)  He had interests in four Ohio department stories in Tiffin, Medina, Salem, and Warren. (18)   The family resided in Chicago for a time, but Albert eventually moved his family to Elgin, Illinois and the fourteen-room house on the hill at 320 Watch Street. (19)

Alice and Albert had one natural child together, Roy Spooner Collingbourne, who died at the age of 4 months and 21 days on July 18, 1900. (20)  They adopted four children: Raymond H. Collingbourne (1905), Daniel S. Collingbourne (1909), John “Jack” Collingbourne (1912), and L. Frances Collingbourne (1914). (21) The children remained with their father in Elgin, Illinois after Albert and Alice Collingbourne divorced in 1918. (22)   Alice eventually remarried William L. McMillan, an electrical works inspector. (23)

Born in Sheridan, Illinois, Agnes M. Bang, the daughter of Peter and Alvina Bang, came to work at the Collingbourne home at 320 Watch Street in Elgin as a nanny to the Collingbourne children. Albert and Agnes fell in love and on December 15, 1920 were married at the Collingbourne residence on Watch Street in Elgin, Illinois. (24) 100 guests attended the private ceremony, including friend and business contemporary W. L. M. Clark of   W. L. M. Clark, Inc. St. Louis, Missouri. (25) 

The marriage between Albert and Agnes proved to be a strong one and the couple added to their family with children Mary (1921), Petrecia (1923), Margaret (1924), Carole (1925), Naomi (1927), Nancy (1927), Albert B. Jr. (1928), Richard (1930), Thomas (1930), and Frank (1935). (26)


Albert Collingbourne could be tough. He worked hard and he expected others to do the same. A relative of Mr. Collingbourne shared, “Over time I have come into contact with the local people who worked at the mill; several told me that the hardest work was in the dye house and that anyone who did not perform their duties in a satisfactory fashion would be dispatched to the dye house until they mended their ways.” (27)  

Collingbourne’s strong personality and patriarchal demeanor; “of spare the rod, spoil the child” at home and in the workplace was typical of the time and tempered by quiet acts of kindness.  He did champion the cause of women in the work force, giving them opportunities at his mill and needlework factory. He hired a female manager for his Elgin art needlework factory Virginia Snow Studios, a groundbreaking decision at that time.  He supported many community projects, built housing for some employees at his factory, and a bag of groceries or sack of clothes would magically appear on a doorstep of one of his employees when they needed it the most, with no note from the benefactor. But if the gift had been traced, the investigator would have found it came from the generosity of Albert and Agnes Collingbourne.

He belonged to the Elgin Lodge 737 BPO Elks, Elgin Country Club, and the South Shore Country Club of Chicago and resided at his home at 320 Watch Street for close to 50 years.  He passed away from a sudden heart attack on March 3, 1959 in Elgin, Illinois and was buried at the Bluff City Cemetery in the same city. (28) 

He was survived by his wife Agnes (Bang) Collingbourne and his remaining children:

Mrs. Douglas Morton (Mary) – Elgin, Illinois                   

Miss Petrecia Ann Collingbourne – Elgin, Illinois      

Mrs. Franklin Algonzin  (Margaret) – Peoria, Illinois        

Mrs. Donald Moore (Carole) – Elgin, Illinois                     

Mrs. Herman Stroup (Naomi) – Elgin, Illinois (Twin)    

Nancy Collingbourne – Elgin, Illinois (Twin)                         

(Mrs. Everett McLean, Jr. – Divorced)

Albert Byron Collingbourne, Jr.                         

(Nancy Marsh Collingbourne)

Richard Strongman Collingbourne (Twin)      

(Judy Burnidge Collingbourne)

Thomas Peter Collingbourne (Twin)  (Tom Passed in 2009)                 

Unmarried and living with Petrecia

Frank Dexter Collingbourne                                

1st wife Arlyn Weiss Collingbourne  (deceased)

2nd wife Judy Hines Collingbourne (29)

The Collingbourne Family home on Watch Street remained an Elgin, Illinois staple until it was demolished in May 1968. Agnes (Bang) Collingbourne quietly passed away in August 1986. (30)