The Early Years
Collins was born in England on May 11, 1868. Her father was a
prosperous hotel owner and landlord. Toddy's mother, however,
died when she was ten. Toddy had two sisters and one brother.
While attending a girl's school
in England, Toddy, because of her superior scholarship, was chosen
to greet Queen Victoria. The Queen tested Toddy's spelling ability,
then patted her on the head and said, "Knowledge and understanding
go hand in hand, and I know you will have a life of great usefulness."
Coming to America
In 1880, Toddy, her father,
two sisters, one brother and the housekeeper, moved to North
Carolina. Toddy's father, a noted amateur horticulturist, was
eager for more land on which to grow vegetables for experiments
and profit. Toddy grew up in North Carolina enjoying the life
of a well-to-do planter's daughter.
Toddy attended a private Episcopal
school in Richmond, Virginia and, while there, she became interested
in mission work. She was interested in working in Africa, but
because she was so frail, she knew no foreign mission board would
consider her. Toddy worked for several years among the poor in
Richmond. She later enrolled in a specialized course in mission
work at Christian and Missionary Alliance at Nyack on the Hudson
in New York. It was there she learned, through another student,
how the families of miners in the Southern coal fields needed
help. This area appealed to her at once. Upon completing her
studies in New York, Toddy was sent to Andover, Virginia.
to the Mountains
Toddy arrived in Andover on
May 26, 1906. She later came to Roda on October 17. With a great
desire in her heart to minister and only thirty-three cents in
her pocket, her arrival was less than enthusiastic. At first,
the miners did not welcome her and even threatened to run her
out of town. They felt that book learning was a form of devilment
and that no "outlander" could teach them better ways
of living. Toddy, however, was a woman of deep faith and compassion
and was not easily discouraged.
Within the first week of her
arriving in Roda and Happy Hollow, she organized a sewing class
and held the first church service in her living room. Throughout
the years, she helped "birth" miner's children, helped
the doctors by visiting the sick, became a friend and counselor,
was guardian to three homeless children and provided leadership
in establishing a church and a school. Toddy's ability to command
in emergencies was demonstrated during several epidemics that
spread through the mountains. During these times, she singlehandedly
directed the distribution of food supplies, administered medicines
under overworked doctor's orders, set up central soup kitchens
to feed the sick in five mining camps and coordinated volunteer
relief efforts to those who were not victims of the epidemics.
Toddy later said of her arrival
to the mountains that, "It would take more than a moonshiner
with a gun to have kept me out of those hills." Due to Toddy's
loving and unselfish ways, she became known as "The Angel
of Happy Hollow."