By David K. Leff
Like a character in a Horatio Alger story, Edward Hale Sears (1846-1907) rose through the ranks of the Collins Company from fifteen year-old temporary employee to President. Even when elevated to the head of the company, he was visible in the shops and became not only the most powerful man in the village but, perhaps, the best loved as well.
Sears moved to Collinsville with his family in 1859 at age 13 when his father took a job as head of the company steel department. By the time he entered Collinsville High school, he was an earnest student, excellent in mathematics and with an artistic and mechanical bent. His chief recreation was designing and making toys for himself and his younger brothers. By twelve he had built a miniature locomotive of wood that ran on the steam supplied by his mother’s teakettle.
At age 15, he took a short term job in the department where bayonets were made for the Union war effort. In 1862, at age 16, Sears had his trunk packed for Yale when he filled in for an ill bookkeeper. His work for the Collins Company was a temporary assignment that would last for the rest of his life. Within a year he became a draftsman, surveyor and shipping clerk. In 1886, at age 39, Sears was elected President of the company, a position he would hold until his death in 1907. Even with the cares of the company on his shoulders, Sears kept a good sense of humor and often praised his workmen. He was Canton’s representative to the 1902 state constitutional convention.
Sears died of bronchial pneumonia just short of his 61st birthday. “One cannot adequately describe the depression and gloom that have been cast over this prosperous manufacturing village,” lamented the Hartford Courant. Edward Hale Sears is buried in the Village Cemetery in Collinsville.
For more about Sears go to: http://www.cantonmuseum.org/sears.html or visit the Canton Historical Museum or the Canton Public Library’s Margaret “Peg” Perry History Room to read a booklet produced by Sears’ wife Elizabeth at the time of his death.
“Your Silent Neighbors” introduces readers to people out of Canton’s past. It will generally appear on the first and fifteenth of each month. Readers are encouraged to visit these gravesites and pay their respects to the people who have helped make our community what it is today. Any suggestions, questions, or corrections should be addressed to Town Historian David Leff at firstname.lastname@example.org