Catherine Dunne Collins, the Early Years

Catherine Dunne was born on 28 May 1905, in the townland of Ballaghduff, Galway, the youngest of nine. Her mother Catherine Martin Dunne was 38; her father Michael Dunne was 41.

Birth registration for Catherine Dunne, 1905

In 1910, at the age of five, she was enrolled in Curraghmore National School, with her eight-year-old sister Maggie.

Curraghmore National School registration, girls 1910

Katie was about 18 years old when her sister Maggie decided not to use her tickets to America and gave them to her kid sister. It was 1923. She was greeted in St. Louis by her two sisters: Helen, with her husband Ernest Price and their 11-year-old “Sonny”; and Bridget, with her husband Walter Price and their toddlers Jack and Walter. When Bridget had her third son Bill in January, 1925, Katie was his godmother.

Katie Dunne and Bridget Dunne Price in St. Louis, about 1923 [from Bridget Dunne Price archive]

It is unknown where Katie was employed when she got to St. Louis, but soon she was hired by Mrs. Minnie Johnson nee Wooten (1858-1956) of 25 Portland Place. The Johnsons were both from Mississippi. Minnie’s husband Jackson Johnson built International Shoe Company, in its day the largest manufacturer of shoes in the world. He was one of the richest men in St. Louis. The Johnsons wintered in Florida and about 1928 purchased a home on the river in Daytona Beach. Katie traveled with them at some point (as the photos show) and might have been present when Jackson Johnson died there of heart trouble in January of 1929. Some photos survive of her time in Florida:

Katie Dunne in Florida, 1920s [Bridget Dunne Price archive]
Katie Dunne in St. Augustine, Florida, 1920s [from Maureen Collins]
Katie Dunne in Florida, 1920s — playing golf? [From Maureen Collins]

By the time of the 1930 U.S. Census, sister Maggie had joined her. Being part of high society, the residence was often used for charitable functions (Mrs. Johnson was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy) and debutant balls (her granddaughter was a Veiled Prophet queen–St. Louis’s major annual debutante event).

Although Mrs. Johnson gave her age as 60 on the U.S. Census form in 1930, she was more like 72, according to the dates on her tombstone.

U.S. Census, 1930
Portland Place home of Minnie Johnson (taken in 1964) [from Theresa Collins archive]

Domestic service for young Irish women was a stepping stone, not a career. While Katie was handling fine china and traveling to Florida, she was still a servant, cleaning up other people’s messes. Like her sisters before her, she wanted her own household, her own family. Like her sisters Helen and Bridget, she befriended a man outside of the close-knit Irish community, a German-American. They made plans to get married.

Katie Dunne, about 1930 [from Maureen Collins]

But something made her decide that she wanted a visit home before she settled down in St. Louis. She traveled back to Ireland in June of 1930. Not long after she arrived home, her sister Lizzie’s life fell apart, leaving her bedridden, abandoned by her husband, and raising two small children. (Lizzie’s story) It is possible that Lizzie’s crisis in their tiny community helped Katie decide to stay on with her family in Ballaghduff.

In November 1931, she married the elder son of their widowed neighbor Bridget Collins–Peter, age 37. (His 70-year-old mother died within four months after they wed.) Katie was 26.

The Collins couple had seven children: Bridget Theresa, Norah, Patrick, Maureen, Michael, Elizabeth, and James Bernard.


Back row: Martin Stephens, Kitty Kilmartin, Michael Dunne, Katie and Peter Collins. Front row: Lil Collins, Mick Dunne, Paddy Collins, Paddy Kilmartin. In Ireland about 1952 [from Paddy and Josephine Collins].


James Collins, Maureen Collins (Sr. Peter), Katie Dunne Collins, Peter Collins [from Bridget Price archive]


Walter “Curly” Price with his Aunt Katie, 1977 [photo from Kathleen Price]

On 9 January 1979, at the age of 84, Peter Collins passed away.

On 29 August 1993, at the age of 88, Katie passed away.

Catherine Dunne Collins descendants [from 2017 info, Susan Price]

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