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Your Silent Neighbors: Lewis S. Mills, Educator and Historian

June 15, 2018 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff 
Canton Town Historian 

Son of a parsimonious and severe Canton Center farmer, Lewis S. Mills (1874-1965) grew up on Barbourtown Road.  At age three he sustained an injury that caused him to wear a steel leg brace for the remainder of his life, but that did not stop his father from putting Lewis to work doing farm chores.  He attended the one-room Canton Center schoolhouse, Collinsville High School and the Willimantic Normal School.

Mills’ first job was teaching in a one room school in Woodstock, Connecticut from 1897 to 1900 where he had 40 students ranging in age from three to eighteen.  He was principal of the Plainfield Grammar School from 1902 to 1906.  Mills later became a rural schools supervisor in Burlington between 1916 and 1928, and in Harwinton from 1927 until his retirement in 1939.

A self taught and avid photographer, Mills used his talent with a camera to help put himself through Columbia University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1908 and a master’s degree in school administration in 1912.  He would pursue photography for the rest of his life, and was especially talented at capturing rural scenes and historic structures.  He is best known for his 500 images of one-room schoolhouses.  In 2011, the Canton Public Library featured an exhibit of his work. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Margaret Dyer, Candy Maker

June 1, 2018 History No Comments

By David K. Leff 
Canton Town Historian 

Born in Canton, Margaret Dyer (1893-1963) lived her entire life on the Dyer Farm in a rambling center chimney colonial house built in 1789.  For most of her adult life she operated a small roadside candy shop beside her home along what was then Albany Turnpike (now Dyer Cemetery Road).  She was famous for her fudge, salted nuts and handkerchiefs.  Customers delighted in her confections and the shop was a magnet for travelers and a regular stop for people from nearby towns.

A member of the Canton Center Congregational Church, Dyer never married and died at age 69.  Her funeral was held at Vincent Funeral Home on Albany Turnpike with Reverend Evans Sealand of her church officiating.

Margaret Dyer is buried in Dyer 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

Your Silent Neighbors: Burton O. Higley, Schoolteacher, Farmer

May 15, 2018 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian  

Born just over the town line in Simsbury, Burton O. Higley (1842-1919) started his career as a schoolteacher in Simsbury and West Avon before becoming a farmer and getting into the milk business.  He was educated in one-room district schools and attended Wilbraham College.

Higley married Emma Josephine Woodford of Avon.  No children were born from their marriage, but they brought up two daughters and a son.  Eight weeks before Higley’s death one of his daughters died of pneumonia. Overcome with grief, it began “the undermining of his general health and was in part the cause of his sickness and death,” according to a newspaper report.

Higley was an active Democrat and was a member of the Village Lodge of Masons where he was a past master. He was the oldest member and senior deacon of the Canton Baptist Church. He became ill at a Ladies Aid Supper, leaving the church hall with a severe chill which developed into pneumonia and other complications causing his death six days afterward.

The funeral was held at the Canton Baptist Church.  Pastor C. K. Flanders sang “The Land of the Unsetting Sun” and a quartet of Higley’s fellow Masons gave renditions “Lead Kindly Light” and “Now God Be With Us.”

Burton O. Higley is buried in the Canton Springs Cemetery on Canton Springs Road.

“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: Christa E. (Bristol) Humphrey, Schoolteacher

By David K. Leff 
Town Historian 

Christa Humphrey (1885-1919) was born on Christmas Day and died on Easter morning after a few days with pneumonia following a bout of influenza.  She was born and schooled in Canton Center, one of twelve children (seven of whom survived).  Humphrey was a graduate of Collinsville High School, class of 1903.  Afterward she attended the Northfield Seminary.  She taught school for a few years in Canton Center and Nepaug.

In 1911 she married Harold Humphrey and settled in a house on the River Road in Collinsville.  About six months before her death she moved to South Street in Bristol after her husband left the Collins Company to take a job with the Wallace Barnes Company. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Frederick A. Bidwell, Farmer and Public Official

April 15, 2018 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian  

A lifelong resident of Canton, Frederick A. Bidwell (1850-1907) was a farmer and very active in the Cawassa Grange.  He served as master of that organization for four years. A public spirited man, he served the town in a variety of capacities including fifteen years on the board of selectmen.  “In that office he was painstaking and careful, and the town has lost a good guardian of the taxpayer [and] a considerate official” according to a newspaper account.  Bidwell was elected state representative from Canton in 1889. He was a member of the Village Lodge of Masons.

Although he met with business difficulties and “severe blows due to sickness and death in his family, he always maintained a cheerful disposition and gained the respect and admiration of all who knew him.”  Bidwell died in Hartford Hospital after a week’s stay. He was operated on for a severe strangulated hernia and was on the road to recovery when complications arose requiring another surgery.  Weakened by the second operation, he failed to rally.

… Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Mary Pratt Lewis, Probate Judge, Town Clerk

April 1, 2018 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian 

Mary Pratt Lewis (1874-1959) had one of the most distinguished public service careers in Canton history.  She was born in Collinsville in 1874, daughter of the renowned local physician Dr. George F. Lewis.  She attended local schools and in 1895 graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.  During the next ten years she taught school in Hartford and Cornwall.  Returning to Collinsville in 1905, she taught German and mathematics in local schools until an appointment as probate clerk in 1917.  In 1918 she became assistant town clerk and town clerk in 1922. She served as town clerk for 33 years until announcing in 1954 that she would not seek reelection. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Stephen Marusiewksi, Collins Company Worker

March 15, 2018 Community, History No Comments

 

By David K. Leff 
Town Historian 

A native of Poland who lived in this country for 28 years, Stephen Marusiewski (1894-1950) worked most of that time in the maintenance department of the Collins Company.  He fell twenty-five feet to his death from a scaffold onto a concrete floor while painting a ceiling in a building.  The plank he was standing on broke and caused his fall.  Medical examiner Dr. Carl Kilburn determined that Marusiewski died of a fractured skull.  A fellow worker, Everett Gustafson, also fell.  He was lucky enough to land on another platform and escaped injury.

Marusiewksi left a wife, a daughter, and three grandchildren.  Funeral Services were held at the C.H. Vincent Funeral Home on Maple Avenue and at St. Patrick’s Church.

Stephen Marusiewksi is buried in Calvary 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

Your Silent Neighbors: George F. Lewis, Collinsville Doctor

March 1, 2018 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian  

Born in Pine Meadow and schooled there, Dr. George F. Lewis (1840-1919) was a beloved physician in Collinsville who also served patients in surrounding communities.  He attended the Claverack Institute, a preparatory school in Hudson, New York and graduated from Yale in 1865.  After finishing his education he came to Collinsville to practice medicine until his health declined during the last four years of his life.

Dr. Lewis was known to take long drives to see his patients in North Canton, Hartford, Burlington, Avon, Granby, and elsewhere.  In some cases he doctored four generations of the same family.  He was Canton’s health officer for twenty-three years and medical examiner for about thirty years.  Devoted to his patients, it was said that during an epidemic he would go days when the only sleep he got was while being driven from one house to another.

Dr. Lewis was one of the founders of Trinity Church in Collinsville and served as a vestryman.  He served on the Canton Board of Selectmen and was president of the Hartford County Medical Society.  Dr. Lewis was also a thirty-second degree Mason.

He was married to Mary Pratt of Pine Meadow for over fifty-one years.  They had two children,

Funeral services were held at Trinity Church where a quartet sang “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” and De Profundis.” … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Carleton B. Jones, Probate Judge

February 22, 2018 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian  

A victim of the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918, Carleton B. Jones (1884-1918) died at his home on Maple Avenue one day shy of his thirty-fourth birthday. He was sick for about a week with a flu that later developed into pneumonia.

Jones attended Collinsville schools and graduated from Collinsville High School in 1902. He was also a graduate of Williston Academy in Easthampton, Massachusetts (1904) and the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University (1907).  After college, he returned to Collinsville where he was employed as a chemist by the Collins Company.  After several terms as Canton’s assessor, he was elected judge of probate in 1916. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Ralph Lincoln Cowles

February 1, 2018 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff 
Canton Town Historian  

Described in a newspaper account as “one of our best known young men,” Ralph Lincoln Cowles (1883-1925) was born in Canton Center.  He eventually developed a “thriving little business” in automobile, bicycle and radio accessories, as well as gasoline and oil.  He was a member of the Cawasa Grange and the Red Men, a fraternal organization, both in Collinsville.

A newspaper report described him as “a person of few words and one who stood strong for right and duty.  Although his years here were much shorter than the average few proved more faithful to the tasks of life than he.”

Cowles died at the Granby Hospital.  He had been in poor health for over a year, “suffering from a nervous muscular trouble with other complications, although in no pain, he lost the control of the different muscles in first one location and then another.” … Continue Reading

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