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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

Your Silent Neighbors: Walter S. Case, Longtime Postmaster

Walter S. Case is buried in the Baptist Cemetery on Canton Springs Road, Canton.

By David Leff 
Town Historian 

Walter S. Case (1859-1941) took over the Canton Center General Store from George Lamphier in 1893 and became postmaster in 1898, a position he was to hold until 1940.  He was born in Barkhamsted and married Susie Church in 1890.  They were the parents of three sons and a daughter.  He was an avid Republican in politics and a Mason.  In his later years, he was a distinguished old fashioned-looking gentleman who wore glasses with round lenses and smoked a pipe.  He died a couple days before he and his wife were to celebrate their fifty-first anniversary.  After he retired, sons Gordon and Byron took over the store with the former as postmaster.  Case’s funeral was held at his Canton Center home with the pastor of the Canton Center Congregational Church officiating.

Walter S. Case is buried in the Baptist Cemetery on Canton Springs Road, 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

Your Silent Neighbors: Ida Gridley Case, M.D.

April 15, 2017 Community, History No Comments

Dr. Ida Gridley Case is buried in Dyer Cemetery, Canton.

By David K. Leff
Town Historian 

Female doctors were rare in the late nineteenth century so it’s remarkable that Ida Gridley Case (1862-1904) not only practiced medicine in small village like Collinsville, but that she was a native of Canton.  Case became a member of the Canton Center Congregational Church in 1876, graduated from Collinsville High School in 1880, and then from Wesleyan University in Middletown in 1884.  She taught at a private school in Canton Center for a while and then began studying medicine with a couple of Collinsville doctors.

Case attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Boston and later did post graduate work at the Collegeof Physicians in New York.  She specialized in diseases of the eye and ear and “was considered by the profession one of the best experts in the state,” according to The Hartford Times.  She delivered papers on her specialty at meetings in New York, Philadelphia and Hartford. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Charles A. Anderson, Steel Maker

April 1, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David Leff
Town Historian  

Charles A. Anderson (1864-1937) was a steel maker for the Collins Company for 31 years, retiring in 1932.  He was born in Ostergotdland, Sweden.  Married to his wife Matilda for over 50 years, they had two children.  He was a member of the Swedish Pilgrim Church on Center Street.  He died at home after a short illness.  The funeral was held at the Anderson house on River Road with the pastor of his church officiating.  Though there is nothing particularly remarkable about his life, Anderson was one of many hardworking, family oriented immigrants who made Collinsville a vibrant community during the first half of the twentieth century.

Charles A. Anderson was carried by seven pallbearers and 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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