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Your Silent Neighbors: Frank E. Wilder, Collins Co. Chief Electrician

October 15, 2017 Community, History No Comments

 

By David K. Leff 
Town Historian 

Frank E. Wilder (1896-1948), chief electrician for the Collins Company, was killed in an explosion at age 52 while at work.  Wilder was standing in front of a newly installed boiler. He died instantly of head trauma when the heavy front plates blew off and struck him. Wilder was attempting to relight the oil burner after it had been turned off for about five minutes. “It is believed that oil fumes collected during the lapse in operation and were ignited when Mr. Wilder applied a torch to the lighting vent,” according to The Hartford Times. State Department of Labor investigators were called to the scene.  The factory sustained minimal damage although windows were shattered up to thirty feet away.  The explosion could be heard for some distance, perhaps by his family living on lower South Street.

… Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Fred R. Widen, Musician & Museum Curator

October 1, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff 
Town Historian 

Fred R. Widen (1884-1952), a pattern maker for the Collins Company, had an interest in history and began collecting objects related to the factory and Canton. His collection grew rapidly. In the 1930s, he was given space to display his artifacts in the Company recreation hall that had once been a shed for assembling and painting plows. At the time, the building still contained a bowling alley on the second floor and a shooting gallery in the basement. Eventually, the collection filled three rooms in the south end of the first floor. Today the building is home to the Canton Historical Museum.

Widen’s museum contained a variety of Collins tools including axes, machetes, shovels, and hammers. He also displayed a blacksmith’s forge and tools, old fire trucks, a Victorian barber shop, and nineteenth century costumes. He collected and cataloged relevant articles about the Collins Company and the town.  In Widen’s time, the museum was rarely open to the public, and only on request. News reports indicate the collection received rave reviews and that people came from some distance to see it. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Arthur Olson, Selectman

September 1, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian 

Arthur Olson (1894-1958) was one of Canton’s most respected citizens when he died at age 64 at Hartford Hospital after a brief illness. Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, he served as a private in the army during World War I and was honorably discharged in June 1919, having spent his military career stateside. He lived in Canton for 45 years and served as second selectman and foreman of the highway department for 19 years.  Olson was also an ex-officio member of the Canton Planning Commission in his role as town engineer.

Olson “was the kind of man who made you proud to be a member of the human race,” wrote L. K. Porritt in a letter to the newspaper. “Few towns have ever been so fortunate to have had so tireless and conscientious a servant as he was.” This sentiment was echoed by John B. Wright who noted in the same paper that “with gay banter and cheerful industry he pursued his rounds. His Yankee good sense got things done and done right without fuss and feathers.” For Olson, Wright observed, “fellowship with all men of good will was as natural as breathing.” … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Clair M. Elston, Last Collins Company President

August 15, 2017 Community, History No Comments

 

By David K. Leff 
Town Historian 

Clair M. Elston (1894-1978) was appointed president of the Collins Company in July 1956, and was the last to wear the mantle of Samuel Collins. He was a lifelong resident of Collinsville and his great-grandfather and father worked for the company.  Elston graduated from Yale in 1916 and joined Collins as a chemist in 1919. He was named assistant superintendent in 1921 and assistant general manager in 1927 before becoming vice president for manufacturing in 1941.

As vice president, Elston’s job was to run the production side of the business.  “To maintain Collins’ reputation for high quality and do it economically is the lifework . . . of fifty-one-year-old Clair Elston,” wrote Fortune magazine in 1946. “To keep the company’s costs down, Mr. Elston must practice all sorts of special economies.”  Although union president George Soucy complained to the Fortune journalist of low wages and long hours, he spoke “with particular warmth of Mr. Elston as a man who goes out of his way to help workers in difficult situations.”

Ever civic minded, Elston served as chairman of the Canton Board of Finance and was a Board of Education member.  He was a trustee and president of the Collinsville Savings Society and president of the Canton Library and Ratlum Mountain Fish and Game Club. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: A. Arthur Vincent, Firefighter and WWII Veteran  

July 15, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian 

Arthur “Art” Vincent (1922-1987) served our country as the highest ranking enlisted man on a B-17 Flying Fortress in World War II, was a machinist with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft for 42 years, and a charter member of he Collinsville Volunteer Fire Department. He was killed in the line of duty at a fire department drill when struck by a vehicle driven by an 18-year-old who had been drinking.

Vincent was born in Central Falls Rhode Island, but lived in Collinsville most of his life and was a graduate of Canton High School. During the war, he was stationed in England as a member of 305th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force. He held the rank of sergeant. When the Collinsville Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1966, after the Collins Company Fire Department was disbanded with the company’s closure, Vincent was among the first to join. He served the department as administrative captain and as lieutenant of the fire police. He had retired from Pratt & Whitney in 1983, and was 64 years old when he was killed.

In his role as a fire policeman, Vincent was directing traffic on July 12 along Albany Turnpike (Route 44) where the town’s then three fire departments were engaged in a training exercise, burning a building slated for demolition. It was a long drill and Vincent had been there most of the day, leaving only briefly to take his wife to church. Around 4:30 p.m., as firefighters were readying to leave the scene, he stepped into the westbound passing lane to stop traffic for a fire truck entering the road.  He was hit by the oncoming car while the truck was across both westbound lanes. Vincent was rushed to St. Francis Hospital by ambulance where he died in the emergency room from multiple trauma around 6 p.m. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Zera Hinman, Mail Carrier

July 1, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Canton Town Historian

Zera Hinman (1859-1923) was the first rural mail carrier out of Collinsville.  He died in the performance of his duties less than a month before he was to turn 64.

Hinman was born on March 3, 1859 in his family home.  He attended school in Canton, and was married in 1884 to Jennie Hinman of Ohio.  He worked the ancestral farm until 1906 when he sold it and joined the postal service, moving to Collinsville on the west side of the river.  “He was one of the most useful citizens of Collinsville and was better known to more people than any man living in the village,” according to one newspaper.

Hinman had not been his usual self for a week, but that did not deter him from his route.  On February 19, 1923, he stopped at the home of Irwin Mills in Canton Center, took out a bundle of mail and remarked to Mills that he was not feeling very well.  On reaching for a second bundle, he collapsed.  The coroner found apoplexy (stroke) as the cause of death.

Hinman was survived by his wife and two sons.  He was a Mason and a member of the Cawasa Grange.  His friend, Mrs. Ida L. A. Pattison, wrote that “his was a sunny jovial nature and always had a cordial greeting for one whenever he met them, and his character and spirit ever endeared him to his family, relatives and other friends. . . . His place on the R. F. D. Route after 17 years of service will be hard to fill and it is there that he will be sadly missed as well as in his home.” … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Chauncey Griswold, Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

June 15, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Canton Town Historian

Chauncey Griswold (1792-1864) was a schoolteacher who serendipitously became a maker of medicines beginning in 1841. He was born in what is now Canton or Bloomfield (the record is unclear), one of thirteen children. At age 24, he married Ruth Mills whose father had suggested the name “Canton” when the town was created in 1806. He is said to have taught school in Ithaca, New York, Hartford and Wethersfield.

One Independence Day, a son of Griswold was badly burned by gunpowder that ignited in his pocket, according to Dr. Larry Carlton’s story in the book Canton Remembers. Having heard of a man two or three miles distant who had a salve good for burns, he obtained some. The results were so good that Griswold supposedly purchased the formula for $5. Originally made in small quantities in a skillet, after trial and error Griswold succeeded in producing about two dozen rolls of salve at a time.  Nevertheless, “his wife often told him that if he expected to get their living from making that stuff, she guessed they would go hungry more than once,” Dr. Carlton wrote. … Continue Reading

Canton Historical Museum Participating in Open House Day

June 6, 2017 Community, History No Comments

Submitted Release 

The Canton Historical Museum at 11 Front St. in Collinsville is participating in the Connecticut Open House Day from 1 to 4 p.m.  June 10. Admission will be free.

Visitors can view Collins Axe Company tools and history; Civil and Victorian Era items; recreations of a barbershop, general store and bridal parlor as well as an antique fire engine and train diorama. Several Farmington Valley Railway Society members will be present to answer questions about the latter. 

The museum also has some new exhibits featuring cameras, men’s and ladies’ hats, and additional bridal gowns ranging from 1850 to 1940. 

Your Silent Neighbors: Albert E. Johnson, WWI Hero

June 1, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff 
Canton Town Historian 

Albert E. Johnson (1892-1918) was wounded in action on April 20, 1918, climbing out of a trench and “going over the top,” as one newspaper put it, at the battle of Seicheprey, a small village in northeastern France. He died in a Red Cross hospital on May 8 at age 25.  It was a brutal battle involving inexperienced American troops surprised by seasoned Germans.  It is said that by the time the fighting was over the next day, not a single building or tree in Seicheprey was left intact.  Although the Americans had held their ground, it was at great cost.

Johnson was born in Collinsville on August 7, 1892 and graduated with honors from Collinsville High School in 1911 where he was salutatorian of his class. He got a degree from Yale in 1914.  After college, he worked as an engineer for the Connecticut Company, the principal trolley operator in the state. He began his military service in 1916 with the New Haven Grays, a guard unit, and was assigned for a time to the Mexican border. He was discharged from the guard and joined the federal service to accept a commission as a first lieutenant on August 5, 1917. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: John C. Meconkey, Mr. Canton

May 15, 2017 Community, History No Comments

John C. Meconkey is buried in the Village Cemetery, Collinsville.

By David K. Leff 
Town Historian 

 Canton has been blessed with many civic minded residents.  But perhaps none has been more dedicated to this community than John C. Meconkey (1901- 1978).  He came to Collinsville as a boy of ten from Weston, Connecticut a couple of years before the start of World War I, his father having gotten a job with the company as a laborer.

Meconkey was college trained in engineering and went to work for Collins, eventually rising to purchasing agent, responsible for buying everything from coal and steel, to paint and cutting oil, lathes and office paper.

Meconkey didn’t just bury himself in business.  He threw himself into the life of the community.  He served on the school board from 1949 to 1962.  He was a member of the library board, including two terms as chairman.  When the old Center Street library didn’t have a children’s section, he was instrumental in getting space cleared in the basement for the purpose.  Eventually, an addition built to house the children’s collection was named for him.  The children’s wing in the current library is also dedicated to Meconkey, and his picture hangs in the entryway.  It depicts a bespectacled older man with a high domed forehead and kindly eyes.

Named as town auditor in 1928, Meconkey served until 1940, authoring the annual town report for years.  From 1928 to until 1940 he was deputy Republican registrar.  Afterward he served as registrar until 1964.  He was on the planning commission, and a member of the Republican Town Committee for 43 years.  A man of deep and abiding faith, Meconkey served as a deacon of the Collinsville Congregational Church for 20 years and afterward was named deacon emeritus.  He served as a board member of the Visiting Nurses Association.  He helped found the Canton Camera Club.

… Continue Reading

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Upcoming Events

Oct
19
Thu
9:00 am Wii Bowling @ Canton Senior Center
Wii Bowling @ Canton Senior Center
Oct 19 @ 9:00 am
Have you ever wished you could continue to bowl without putting on bowling shoes or lugging a heavy ball?  You’re in LUCK!!  Join the Canton Senior Center Wii Bowling Team, The Canton Rollers.  Show off your bowling skills or learn new ones at the Senior Center.  Mondays at 1:30pm, Wednesdays ...
Oct
20
Fri
7:30 am Rotary Club of Avon-Canton @ Avon Old Farms Hotel
Rotary Club of Avon-Canton @ Avon Old Farms Hotel
Oct 20 @ 7:30 am
The Rotary Club Meets Fridays at 7:30 AM Avon Old Farms Hotel 279 Avon Mountain Rd. Avon, CT  06001 United States – See more at: http://portal.clubrunner.ca/5482#sthash.qE3T9Hoe.dpuf
6:00 pm Open Mic @ LaSalle Market
Open Mic @ LaSalle Market
Oct 20 @ 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Open Mic every week. Limited sign-ups available by calling at 1:30 p.m. the day of event (860) 693-8010