Laura Neva Collins was born in Greenfield, Illinois, on October 20, 1878, the daughter of Lorenzo and Emma Collins. At twelve years of age she committed her life to Christ. Collins attended Moody Bible Institute for a year and then joined Africa Inland Mission. In 1907, she sailed for Mombasa in the then British colony of Kenya. She was part of a large party of new missionaries escorted by Mr. and Mrs. Lee Downing. The party arrived on December 4th. On her first term, she spent about a year in Kijabe, Kenya, and then went to the newly opened mission station at Kinyona, where she remained until late 1913 or early 1914, when she returned to the United States on furlough. While at Kinyona she taught and engaged in evangelistic work among the Kikuyu people, a tribe that she continued to work with throughout all of her service in Kenya. For most of her time at Kinyona, her AIM co-workers were Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Raynor. She returned to the United States with many glass negatives which she or someone had taken of AIM's work, mainly but not exclusively at Kinyona.
She returned to Kenya in 1915. According to her obituary in the AIM's journal, Inland Africa,
"She was a teacher for a time at Rift Valley Academy and has worked at the Githumu Station,
but the greater part of her time was spent at Naivasha [station] where she labored among the
plantation people." These were Kikuyu tribes people who had been brought to the area around
Naivasha by the European settlers to work on their tea and coffee plantations. She worked as a
Bible teacher and personal evangelist. Her last furlough to the United states was apparently in
1928. Laura Collins died in Africa on June 21, 1952.
Scope and Content
This collection originally consisted of ninety-seven black and white glass negatives of missionary activities in Africa before 1914. There are two series of glass negatives. The first series may have taken by Laura Collins and are of AIM work in and around Kinyona, Kijabe, and a few other areas. There is one picture from Uganda and one from the then Belgian Congo (now Zaire). She might have used these negatives to prepare magic lantern slides which she used during her first furlough to illustrate talks she gave to church congregations that supported AIM's work with prayer and money.
The second set of glass negatives are of Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. (PCUSA) mission work in the Cameroon, then a German colony. It is unknown by the Archives staff whether these negatives belonged to Collins and were used by her to prepare additional slides as part of her presentation or if the two sets of glass negatives were boxed together at some point after Collins death. None of the negatives appear to be original negatives, but rather copy negatives taken from other photographs or negatives. Most of the images in series I were pinned to some kind of board and sometimes (for negatives 5, 11, 19, 28, 30) there are a few handwritten notes on one side which were also photographed. Almost all the images in series II were shot against the same background, but a different background than that used in series 1.
The negatives in the first series were almost certainly taken between 1907 and 1914 ( a few have more definite dates) and depict the Kikuyu people and aspects of Kenya's society, customs, economics, geography, and tribal groups, as well as its growing Christian church, the missionary community, church architecture, Theodore Roosevelt's visit to Kijabe in 1906, and Collins herself. The negatives in the second series show similar scenes of the PCUSA mission work among the Bulu or Bulu-speaking people in Cameroon. These negatives date between ca. 1899 (negatives 39-42 are of chief Moondo (or Mvondo) Ntimbau, who died in that year) and 1903 (negative 35 is of Charles Warren McCleary, who died in 1903).
According to a list of ninety-seven negatives which came with the two sets, seven of the original glass negatives were missing from the sets received by the Archives. Of the remaining ninety glass negatives, six (two of which were apparently purchased commercial shots not directly related to missions) were in such broken condition that they could not be copied and were discarded. The eighty-four remaining negatives, some of which had been received broken but which could be duplicated, were copied and the copy negatives and photographs are also a part of this collection. The negatives and photographs were numbered and captioned in two series, perhaps by Collins. As mentioned above, series I is of AIM's work in Kenya, with one negative from Uganda and one from the Belgian Congo. Series II is of the PCUSA work in Cameroon. See the Location Record for Slides (Lantern) for a list of the captions.
Folder 21 in box 19 of Collection 81 (Africa Inland Mission) contains Collins' personnel file,
with more information on her life and ministry, although nothing directly about her first term and
these negatives. More information about the Presbyterian work in Cameroon about the time of the photographs in series II can be found in the pamphlet, The Beloved: An Iowa Boy in the
Field of Africa/ Charles Warren McCleary: His Life, Letters and Work, edited by John Frederick
Hinkhouse and privately printed in 1909.
The glass negatives in this collection were purchased from James Jennings in July, 1979. Production of the negatives and photographs were made possible through a grant from the Ericksen/TeBeest Memorial Fund in 1989.
Accession #79-85December 11, 1990
MISSIONS--CAMEROON. Copy negatives made from glass negatives (see the Location Record for Slides (Lantern) elsewhere in this guide for a complete list of captions. There are negatives for the following numbers in series II: 2 through 23, 25 through 30, 32 through 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 55 through 61); 55 b&w, ca. 1903.
MISSIONS--KENYA. Copy negatives made from glass negatives (see the Location Record for Slides (Lantern) elsewhere in this guide for a complete list of captions. There are negatives for the following numbers in series I: 4 though 6, 9 through 13, 15 through 20, 22, 23, 25, 26, 28 through 36); 27 b&w, ca. 1907-1913.
MISSIONS--UGANDA. Copy negative made from glass negative number 3 in series I (see the Location Record for Slides (Lantern) elsewhere in this guide for a complete list of captions.); 1 b&w, ca. 1907-1913.
MISSIONS--ZAIRE. Copy negative made from glass negative number 8 in series I (see the
Location Record for Slides (Lantern) elsewhere in this guide for a complete list of captions.); 1
b&w, ca. 1907-1913.
Type of Material: Photographs
The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE; request by Folder Titles at the beginning of each entry below:
MISSIONS--CAMEROON. Shots of the society, customs, economics, geography of the Bulu or Bulu-speaking people of Cameroon, along with pictures of the Christian church, Bible translation, and PCUSA work (including pictures of missionaries Charles Warren McCleary and Melvin Fraser and the Corsico Presbytery of West Africa. Photographs are numbered and labeled with captions possibly provided by Laura Collins (see the Location Record for Slides (Lantern) elsewhere in this guide for a complete list of captions). 55 b&w, ca. 1903.
MISSIONS--KENYA. Shots of the society, customs, economics, geography of the Kikuyu people of Kenya, along with pictures of the Christian church, and Africa Inland Mission work. There is also one picture of former president Theodore Roosevelt at the laying of the cornerstone of Rift Valley Academy in 1909. Photographs are numbered and labeled with captions apparently provided by Laura Collins (see the Location Record for Slides (Lantern) elsewhere in this guide for a complete list of captions). 27 b&w, ca. 1907-1914.
MISSIONS--UGANDA. Train on the Uganda railway. 1 b&w, ca. 1907-1914.
MISSIONS--ZAIRE. European standing near a large tree near Ingende mission station. 1 b&w,
Type of Material: Glass Negatives
The following items are located in the LANTERN SLIDE FILE:
Glass negatives (not lantern slides) of scenes depicting the society, customs, economics, geography, tribal groups, the Christian church, and missionary work in Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda and the Belgian Congo (Zaire). The negatives are divided into two series, with numbers and captions possibly provided by Laura Collins as listed below. 84 b&w, ca. 1899-1914. Lantern Slide Box 6. Notes in brackets  are from the archivist.
Series I: Africa by Miss L. Collins
#1 Map of Africa [Broken & discarded.]
#2 [See Series II]
#3 Train on the Uganda Railway
#4 The ox cart
#5 The receiving home [There was some writing photographed with the negative which is very difficult to read.]
#6 Opening the Christmas box [Broken. The woman second from the left, standing directly behind the post, is probably Laura Collins.]
#8 Large tree near Ingenda [sic] Mission Station [Broken. Ingende is a town in what was then the Belgian Congo.]
#9 Our home at Kinyona [Broken. The man in the group of five on the left is probably Jesse Raynor; his wife is probably one of the other women in group. The Raynors served with Collins during most of her first term. The Kinyona station was started in 1907.]
#10 A native village
#11 A native hut [Near Kijabe. Kijabe was one of the earliest AIM stations in Kenya, founded in 1903. There was some writing that was photographed with the negative which is very difficult to read.]
#12 A native family
#13 The native's Christian home
#14 [Missing] Colonel Roosevelt and our Director Rev. C. Hurlburt
#15 Laying the corner stone [The cornerstone is for the Rift Valley Academy, Kijabe, Kenya. The man in the front row wearing a pith helmet and holding his right arm parallel to his waist is former United States President Theodore Roosevelt. Charles Hurlburt is the tall man directly in back of Roosevelt's right shoulder. 1909.]
#16 Rift Valley Academy School for white children [In Kijabe, Kenya.]
#17 The native school at Kinyona
#18 Temporary chapel at Kinyona
#19 Brick chapel at Kijabe [Possibly a mistaken attribution. This could be the brick chapel at Kinyona. From left to right: Siengo, Naruiki Laura Collins, Ndere, Cilra (?) The names of the four Africans are written on the side of the negative.]
#20 First out-school built from Kinyona Station [Man on the far right is probably Jesse Raynor.]
#21 Sewing pictures at Inatana [ara?] [Broken & discarded.]
#22 A wedding group
#23 The whitened bodies
#24 A gala day [Broken and discarded.]
#25 A native market
#26 The wood carriers
#28 Young man and woman of the Gikuya tribe [There was some writing photographed with the negative which is very difficult to read. Gikuya is another name for Kikuyu.]
#29 Hymn "Shall We Gather at the Table"
#30 An old couple [There was some writing photographed with the negative which is very difficult to read]
#31 Wairimu and her babe, Wangare
#32 Four young men
#33 Tagi and his father's pony [Possibly the same Tagi who was converted about 1911 and almost immediately began evangelizing among the Masai people near the AIM's Rumurtui station]
#35 Conference group of June, 1913 [The woman sixth from the right in the third row from the front is Laura Collins. The man eighth from the right in the second row is Charles Hurlburt.]
#36 Dark continent
Series II: Africa
#1 Map of Africa, 1905 [Broken & discarded.]
#2 Bulu boys
#2 [sic] Laura Collins [Commercial slide of Mombasa.] [Broken and discarded.]
#3 Trumpet, ivory arm ornament and medicine case
#4 Bulu people with guns and spears
#5 Large war knife and two small knives
#6 Evina Minks [?] meat; Esa Koi chief had 80 wives
#7 Evina Minks on a visiting tour with wives
#8 Village street
#9 At the right is Bitye Citolo, Great Chief, at the left his half-brother
#10 Wrestling match
#11 Coming from garden with vegetables
#12 Coming from bush with fire wood
#13 Necklace of seeds
#14 Necklace of dog teeth
#15 Leopard teeth
#16 Antelope feet
#17 Street concert
#18 Musical instrument
#19 Native boys
#20 Street game
#21 Boys of 4 tribes, all Bulu
#22 Factory of German traders
#23 German trader, native helpers and tusks
#25 View over Elat St[ation] from north side [Elat was one of the Presbyterian mission stations in Cameroon, founded in 1895.]
#26 View toward south from Elat Station
#27 Residence at Elat
#28 Bulu boys
#29 Caller at the Station
#30 Public house with church and school in sun. Cost of church $30
#31 School at Elat [Broken & discarded.]
#32 School boys taking sun bath
#33 Hospital Elat Station. Cost $18 [Broken and repaired.]
#34 Bright student neither tardy nor absent for 1 year at school
#35 Rev. C. W. McCleary
#36 Mr. McCleary's personal boy with his pet monkey
#37 Mr. Fraser and boy
#38 Mr. Fraser's personal boy
#39 Moondo Ntimbau and family, Great Bulu Chief [He died August 6, 1899. Negatives 43, 44, 45, and perhaps 46 show scenes relating to his death and funeral.]
#40 Moondo Ntimbau, one wife and sons
#41 Moondo Ntimbau and one of his 70 wives
#42 Moondo Ntimbau, first time he wore European clothes
#43 Deceased Moondo's personal effects; pipe, medicine bottle and food waiting for him to come and get them
#44 One of 8 weeks [ofl meetings to discuss
#45 Meeting discussing killing persons after death of Moondo Ntimbau
#46 Witch doctor sprinkling town with medicine
#47 Great chief Nloze pleading for many (12 or 15) to be slain [That is, he was pleading that several who were to be shot be spared. This occurred during a conflict between the Bulu and the German colonial forces in 1899 in the village of Ebolewo'e. Shortly afterwards, chief Nloze and several others were also shot and the village plundered.]
#49 Images venerated by society (also numbered 6) [Negative has "49 43-41" written on side, with another number that is unclear.]
#50 Placing hands on goat to be killed
#52 Bolts of plantain on which the women sat and pots of water at intervals
#53 Women waiting, missionaries watching
#55 Women waiting for bleeding goats to be drawn over their heads
#56 Sabbath congregation
#57 Charter members of Efulan church [Efulan was one of the mission stations of the PCUSA, founded in 1893.1
#58 Our cook
#59 School boys who assisted in translating Gospels and Acts into Bulu
#60 Christian man and wife
#61 Corisco Presbytery of West Africa Missions