Home » History » Recent Articles:

Your Silent Neighbors: John D. Andrews

January 1, 2017 Community, History No Comments

dsc_1394By David K. Leff
Town Historian 

Despite his birth in the first half of the nineteenth century, John D. Andrews (1833-1910) had a very twenty-first century career change when he went from factory foreman to banker. Born in Ashford, Massachusetts, he came to work for The Collins Company in 1858.  In 1869 he was put in charge of the machete department and held that position until he resigned in June of 1891.  Having served on the board of trustees of the Collinsville Savings Society for a number of years, he was appointed secretary and treasurer of the bank on his retirement from Collins. He held the banking position for seventeen years.

Andrews was a Mason and a member of the Collinsville Congregational Church.  Never physically robust, he enjoyed outdoor sports and carefully watched his health.  An image out of his later years shows a man with a penetrating gaze, neatly combed gray hair, and a bushy Van Dyke beard.  He was widely read and politically active.  The Hartford Courant described him as “a man of liberal mind and . . . eminently just in his opinion of men and affairs.” … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Charles Blair

December 15, 2016 Community, History No Comments


By David K. Leff

On a blustery March day in 1857, Charles Blair, then head of the Collins Company forge shop, stepped into a local store on Main Street in Collinsville and was suddenly and unexpectedly caught up in the most divisive moment of American history—the Civil War.  In George Polk’s drug store Blair met militant abolitionist John Brown who had spoken in town the night before.  The encounter would lead to the Collins Company making pikes for Brown that, to everyone’s surprise, he would later use in a raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry,Virginia, an attempt to start a slave revolt.  In 1859, Brown would hang for his efforts.  Blair would be subpoenaed by Congress not long afterward.  Suspicious senators harshly questioned his relationship with Brown and his intentions in producing arms to aid in an insurrection against the government of the United States.

Amherst, Massachusetts born in 1812, Charles Blair came to work at the Collins Company in 1832 as a “helper.”  He retired from Collins in 1876, having long been superintendent of the works.  An ardent supporter of Lincoln, he worked hard to produce material for the Union war effort, including swords and bayonets.   A civic-minded individual, he held various offices, including state representative.  The Hartford Courant called him “a man thoroughly trusted by all who know him” and “a public spirited man and useful citizen.”  Nevertheless, despite long service with the Collins Company and many good works, Charles Blair went to his grave knowing he would be best remembered for his dealings with John Brown, a chapter in his life he thought best forgotten. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Anne Jean (Silver) Seger

December 1, 2016 Community, History No Comments

dsc_0288By David K. Leff 

Anne Jean (Silver) Seger (1921-2008) was the Canton Center postmistress for 33 years until her retirement in 1995.  Growing up on a farm in Avon as the middle of eleven children, she attended a one room schoolhouse.  The stone silo on West Avon Road in Avon is all that remains of the family’s Mountain View Farm, which once produced hay and vegetables and was home to cows and chickens.

Popular at Farmington High School (then attended by Avon children), Seger graduated in 1939.  In 1947 she married Clifford Seger after a few years of courtship and moved to his family’s farm on Barbourtown Road inCanton.   Although the Segers were childless, Anne took care of the Canton Center postmaster’s children and eventually became his office assistant.  Upon her boss’s retirement, Seger was given charge of the post office.

Seger was gregarious, warm and well liked.  She was the go-to person for the latest news in the community and she knew everyone.  “She never learned to drive, and walked one and a half miles to work in the dark in the morning, even in her 70s,” the late Sam Humphrey, Canton’s first selectman in the 1980s, told the Hartford Courant.   Working long hours, she had a strong work ethic.  Her career ended after she broke her hip in 1995. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Edward Hale Sears

November 19, 2016 Community, History No Comments


By David K. Leff 

Like a character in a Horatio Alger story, Edward Hale Sears (1846-1907) rose through the ranks of the Collins Company from fifteen year-old temporary employee to President.  Even when elevated to the head of the company, he was visible in the shops and became not only the most powerful man in the village but, perhaps, the best loved as well.

Sears moved to Collinsville with his family in 1859 at age 13 when his father took a job as head of the company steel department.  By the time he entered Collinsville High school, he was an earnest student, excellent in mathematics and with an artistic and mechanical bent.  His chief recreation was designing and making toys for himself and his younger brothers.  By twelve he had built a miniature locomotive of wood that ran on the steam supplied by his mother’s teakettle. … Continue Reading

Gallery of Trees Kicks off With Nov. 19 Gala

November 17, 2016 Community, History No Comments

By John Fitts 

The Canton Historical Society’s Annual Gallery of Trees and Unique Boutique kicks off with an opening gala the evening of Nov. 19.

At the event people will be treated to a festive atmosphere will approximately 100 trees decorated by local businesses and residents. Visitors can participate in a teacup auction for a chance to bring one home, while enjoying food, drinks and live music.

The Gallery of Trees is a major fundraiser for the Canton Historical Museum’s building fund. In the past several years the museum has undergone major renovations, code work and upgrades to help protect the collections.

Last year 73 trees were donated to the effort, which generated nearly $10,000.

“With some many more trees hopefully it will be even bigger (this year),” said museum volunteer Sharon Brainard. … Continue Reading

First Selectman’s Corner: A Special Piece of Canton History

Leslee Hill

Leslee B. Hill

Dear Residents,

As we look forward to Veterans’ Day on November 11th, I wanted to share with you some news regarding a special piece of Canton history.   Many Canton residents may remember the former Collins Memorial Library building on Center Street.  This building was paid for by Mrs. Howard Collins (Helen), widow of Samuel Collins’ son, on land donated to the Canton Soldiers Memorial Association by Jasper Bidwell.  Mr. Bidwell was Canton’s first Civil War volunteer, and the library was built in memory of Canton’s soldiers and sailors, and was dedicated on Veterans’ Day, 1920.  Two bronze plaques were installed on the library; one was in memory of Howard Collins, and the other was dedicated to Canton veterans.  When the new library opened in 2000, the plaques were removed and put into storage in the Margaret “Peg” Perry History Room.

Recently, David Leff, our Town Historian, brought to my attention the existence of these plaques and their historical significance.  He suggested the Veterans’ Memorial plaque be installed in a prominent location in town, and rededicated.   We chose a site at the base of the flag pole at the edge of the Town Hall parking lot, in front of the Board of Education offices.  … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Plesant Valentine

November 1, 2016 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff

dsc_07510001Plesant Valentine (1848-1915) was born in Richmond, Virginia and is believed to have been African American, which would have made him a slave at birth.  An unusually large and strong boy, at the outbreak of the Civil War at age 14 he is said to have run away from home and joined a Confederate regiment.  After a year-and-a-half and several battles, he escaped to the Union lines where he served as a cook for the 20th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers.

He worked as a hired hand for farms in Bloomfield and Burlington.  In 1874 he married Agathe Arnold, a professional seamstress who had emigrated form Germany and was living in New Hartford.  They lived frugally and eventually owned several farms consisting of hundreds of acres in Burlington, Canton, and New Hartford.  In addition to farming, the Valentines were involved in lumbering, charcoal making, farm rentals, and real estate. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Seth P. Norton

October 15, 2016 Community, History No Comments

dsc_0266By David K. Leff 

Seth P. Norton (1823-1867) “began life with the Collins Company as a book-keeper, and grew up with the business of that enterprising concern,” according to the Hartford Courant.  He came to Collinsville in spring 1847 and eventually became one of the most trusted people in the village.

When the Collinsville Savings Society was formed in 1853, Norton was an incorporator and made first treasurer.  That same year the town meeting appointed him to a committee studying establishment of a town poor farm.  In 1855 the town meeting made him pound keeper and in 1862 he served on a committee distributing bonuses to enlisting soldiers.  At the Collinsville Cemetery Association’s first meeting in 1850, Norton was made president.  By the late 1850s he was the postmaster.  In 1858 Samuel Collins appointed Norton company agent, giving him power to sign and endorse checks.  The year afterward he became judge of probate.  In 1865 he was elected state representative, and two years later when the Farmington River Power Company was created to oversee the Collins Company’s newly built reservoir in Otis, Massachusetts, Norton was elected its first president.  Clearly Norton was trusted in business, government and finance.  “Noble hearted and obliging to all,” was how the Courant described him. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Leonard B. Hough

October 1, 2016 Community, History No Comments

dsc_0579By David Leff, Town Historian  

Called a “fast operator” by a Fortune Magazine writer in the 1940s, Leonard B. Hough (1898-1988) was a dynamic businessman who served the Collins Company as vice president in charge of sales for many years.  He was born in Collinsville, grandson of the village pharmacist and son of the Collins Company superintendent.  Lanky and athletic, he was captain of the high school baseball team.  He attended Amherst College, interrupting his studies to drive an ambulance in France during World War I.  On his return, he received a business degree from the famed Wharton School in Philadelphia. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Harriet Blair Flint

September 15, 2016 Community, History No Comments

dsc_0269 By David Leff, Town Historian 

Harriet Blair Flint (1851-1930) served as organist of the Collinsville Congregational Church for fifty-two years, having begun her tenure on the first Sunday of January 1875.  For twenty years she also directed the church choir.  Flint was the daughter of Eunice B. Blair and Charles Blair, a high level Collins Company executive who met with John Brown and arranged for the fabrication of pikes for the abolitionist.  She lived in Collinsville her entire life at 6 The Green, the home in which she was born.

For many years, Flint gave private music lessons and was known for her charitable work among the poor.  She belonged to the Home Missionary Society, the Ladies’ Aid of the church, and the D.A.R.’s Phoebe Humphrey Chapter.  In 1925, Flint was given a surprise reception at the church in honor of fifty years of service.  About ninety people attended the event, including former and then serving members of the choir.  Harriet Flint 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.



3 on 3