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Your Silent Neighbors: Ralph Cox, Village Doctor

March 15, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David Leff
Town Historian 

Doctor Ralph Cox (1876-1961) began practice in Collinsville in 1902 and continued seeing patients until his death.  He was drawn to Collinsville from his native Nova Scotia because his father, originally a shipwright, had found employment as a blacksmith with The Collins Company.  The boyish-looking doctor with smooth skin and dark, neatly combed hair married a Collinsville girl in 1905 and purchased the house at 2 The Green where he both lived and saw patients.

Dr. Cox practiced in the days of house calls, and his first mode of transportation was a bicycle, then a horse, and finally an automobile, of which he had only the fourth one in the village, an Overland.

During his first year of practice he rode his bike one night from Collinsville to Plainville when a desperate mother couldn’t locate another doctor to tend to her son who had a deep cut on his leg.  When the youthful Cox arrived, the woman refused to have a “boy doctor” look at her son.  He managed to talk her into examining the laceration and before she knew it, he had patched the wound.  The family was still among his patients 50 years later.

Dr. Cox was a man of courage.  When called to the old Collins mansion in 1912 where a deranged Hartford firefighter had shot his wife, he did not just retreat when his life was threatened at gunpoint.  He went back across the river for reinforcements and then endured a hail of bullets until the gunman ran out of ammunition.  Though the house was engulfed in flames, Dr. Cox, with others, assisted the wounded woman to his car.  He treated the bullet wounds and allowed her to convalesce at his house.  A man of great warmth and humanity, he would become known for bringing accident victims and sufferers from mental disorders into his home.

When necessary, Dr. Cox would cleverly employ psychology.  A woman fell sick on the same day her cat was killed by a car.  When her condition failed to improve, the doctor suggested she get another cat to take her mind off her illness.  She refused.  Knowing that further medication would prove fruitless, Dr. Cox instructed his driver to catch a town alley cat.  The next day he brought the cat under his arm and set it down in the house.  Going to the bedroom to see his patient, the cat walked in a few moments later.  “What’s this?” the doctor asked.  “Do you have another cat?”  The patient grew wide eyed.  “Oh my goodness,” she exclaimed, “Providence has sent it to me!”  A rapid recovery ensued.

Dr. Cox not only treated Collins Company workers suffering silicosis, or grinders’ consumption, he was instrumental in obtaining compensation payments for them.  Perhaps Dr. Cox is most famous for having delivered nearly 3,000 babies at home, never losing a mother in childbirth.  In 1952, 1,500 people attended “Cox Baby Day” at the Canton Elementary School to celebrate his 50 years as a physician.

Dr. Ralph Cox is buried in the Village Cemetery, Collinsville.

“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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