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Your Silent Neighbors: Ada Johnson, Explosion Victim

February 15, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David Leff 
Town Historian  

Ada Elizabeth Johnson (1888-1933) died in what the Farmington Valley Herald called “the most tragic accident to occur here in many years.”  She was a 1906 graduate of Collinsville High School and afterward completed studies at Hutsinger Business College in Hartford.  She was employed in a couple different offices for over a dozen years and spent her last decade as clerk of the Canton probate court.  She also did work in the Canton town clerk’s office, according to one news report.

Johnson never married and lived with her parents on Johnson Place in Collinsville.  On February 14, 1933, Johnson was at home in a closed room off the kitchen cleaning some clothes in gasoline.  While putting them through an electric wringer there was an explosion that blew out every window of the house and was heard a quarter-mile away.  The house then caught fire, practically destroying the rear of the structure and two upper stories.

Johnson was pulled from the conflagration by a neighbor and immediately treated by Doctor Ralph Cox, who lived on The Green.  She was so seriously burned that she could not be transported to a hospital and died at a neighbor’s home that evening.  She was conscious long enough to tell the doctor how the accident happened.

“She was by nature a quiet, unassuming person,” reported The Farmington Valley Herald, “devoted to her work and to her friends.”  At the probate court “she was thorough and careful being aware of the importance of accuracy in the keeping of the record of estates.”  Johnson was “an ardent lover of flowers” according to neighbor Irene Clark, and Johnson Place “was always a place of beauty from early spring until late fall.”

Johnson’s father, Arthur, was Canton’s state representative and the House adopted “by rising vote” a resolution of sympathy for the family.  The funeral was held at Trinity Church.  Ada Johnson is buried in Southwest Cemetery, Canton.

“Your Silent Neighbors” introduces readers to people out of Canton’s past.  It will 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 onktaadn@comcast.net

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