Colles family

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James Colles (1788-1883) was a prominent merchant of New York City, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Morristown, New Jersey. He was the son of John Colles and Gertrude Seloover. As a young man, he was a clerk in several mercantile firms and represented a New York importer in Canada during the War of 1812. In 1817, in partnership with David I. Rogers, Colles opened his own trading company in New Orleans and traveled frequently between New York and Louisiana. In 1823 he was appointed president and director of the New Orleans branch of the Bank of the United States, a post he retained until 1835. In 1840 he sold his business and settled permanently in New York.

Colles married Harriet Wetmore (1795-1868) in Baltimore on August 4th, 1821. James and Harriet had seven children, five of whom survived to adulthood: Harriet Augusta (1822-1863), Frances (1826-1888), James, Jr. (1828-1898), John Henry (1831-1871), and George Wetmore (1836-1911). The family spent the years 1841-1844 on a tour of Europe, and upon his return James Colles divided his time between New York City and his summer home, a mansion known as "The Evergreens," in Morristown, New Jersey.

His elder daughter, Harriet Augusta, married Dr. John T. Metcalfe in 1845. His younger daughter, Frances, married railroad executive and art collector John Taylor Johnston, the future founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 1850.


James Colles, Jr. (1828-1898) became a merchant like his father. He attended Columbia College (class of 1851) and married Mary Josephine Blachly (1830-1904) of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1855. They lived in New York and had five children, Elizabeth Blachly (1856-), Christopher J. (1858-1936), Harriet Wetmore (1863-1936), Mary Adele (1869-1937) and Henrietta J. (1871-1901).


George Wetmore Colles (1836-1911) was an attorney in New York City and Morristown, New Jersey. He graduated from Yale University 1857 and went on to study at Harvard University and New York University, obtaining his law degree in 1860. In 1862 he enlisted as a private in the 22nd Regiment, New York National Guard, and served at Harper's Ferry for three months. He married Julia Keese Nelson, daughter of John P. Nelson, a business associate of his father, in 1867. The George Colles' lived in Morristown and had three children, Gertrude Colles (1869-1957), George Wetmore Colles, Jr. (1871-1951) and Julia Nelson Colles (1876-1903). George and Julia Colles separated in 1886 and he moved his residence to New York City. He continued his practice of law until 1889.

JULIA KEESE COLLES Julia Keese Colles (1840-1913) was born in New Orleans, the daughter of John Peter Nelson, a wealthy plantation owner and business associate of James Colles. She graduated from Abbott's Collegiate Institute in New York in 1857. After her separation from George Colles, she retained custody of her children and continued to live in Morristown. A well-known lecturer and local author, Julia wrote the book, Authors and Writers Associated with Morristown, helped found the Women's Branch of the New Jersey Historical Society, and served as the chair of Social Science at Rutgers Female College in New York City.

GERTRUDE COLLES Gertrude Colles (1869-1957), daughter of George and Julia Colles was a miniature portrait painter. She studied at the Art Student's League and Cooper Union in New York City as well as at the Julian, Delecluse and Colarossi Schools in Paris. She was a pupil of George de Forest Brush and Jean Paul Laurens in Paris as well. Gertrude's poems were published in The Public and Chicago Weekly. She supported the Single Tax movement in the early 1890s and belonged to the National Progressive Woman Suffrage Union. She also maintained an interest in Christian Science and Swedenborgianism.

Gertrude managed and lived in the Van Dyck art studio in New York City from 1894-1921, later returned to the family homestead in Morristown., New Jersey. She was the last remaining member of the Colles family before her death in 1957.

GEORGE W. COLLES, JR. Gertrude's brother, George W. Colles, Jr. (1871-1951), studied mechanical and electrical engineer. He graduated from Yale in 1892 and received advanced degrees from the Stevens Institute of Technology (1894) and Columbia University (1900). From 1903 to 1914, George worked as a consulting engineering and patent expert in Milwaukee. In 1914 he settled permanently in Texas, purchasing first the Oak Tree Ranch and, later, the Rose of Sharon Ranch. In 1940 he revived the Rosharon Waterworks and operated it until his death in 1951.

JULIA NELSON COLLES Julia Nelson Colles (1876-1903), an aspiring professor of physics, was born in 1876 in Morristown, NJ, the youngest child of George and Julia Colles. She studied physics at Wellesley College and then obtained her master's degree at Smith College, where she also taught. At the time of her sudden death following surgery in 1903, she was a doctoral candidate at Columbia University and was teaching physics at Barnard College.

From the guide to the Colles family papers, 1801-1957, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Colles family papers, 1801-1957 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Colles, George W. (George Wetmore), 1836-1911 person
associatedWith Colles, George W. (George Wetmore), 1871-1951 person
associatedWith Colles, Gertrude, 1869-1957 person
associatedWith Colles, James, 1788-1883 person
associatedWith Colles, James, 1828-1898 person
associatedWith Colles, Julia Keese person
associatedWith Colles, Julia Nelson, 1876-1903 person
associatedWith Corson, Juliet, 1842-1897 person
associatedWith Cuyler, Theodore L. (Theodore Ledyard), 1822-1909 person
associatedWith Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894 person
associatedWith Hudson, Logan R person
associatedWith Rogers, David I person
associatedWith Smith, Samuel Francis, 1808-1895 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
New Orleans (La.)
Morristown (N.J.)
New York (N.Y.)
Christian Science


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SNAC ID: 48887517