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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.


Your Silent Neighbors: Horace ‘Doc’ Brown

September 1, 2016 Community, History No Comments

DSC_0573By David Leff 
Town Historian  

Horace “Doc” Brown (1822-1908) was born into a Massachusetts farming and blacksmithing family.  He came to work for The Collins Company in 1847.  He continued reporting to work for the next 60 years, first as a skilled machinist, then as the company’s chief mechanic, and in his later years doing light repair work on the second floor of the stone building which still stands beside the rail trail bridge over the Farmington River.  When he died on a July morning, he’d worked longer for a single business than anyone in Connecticut.

Brown was companionable and loquacious and delighted in telling stories.  He remembered attending the fiery speech given by John Brown (no relation) when the abolitionist came to Collinsville in 1857.  Doc Brown assisted in making the pikes John Brown planned to use in his raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  He was “a splendid type of the self-reliant mechanic whose energy and ability has made possible such a concern as The Collins Company,” the Farmington Valley Herald wrote about Doc Brown on his death. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Jeremiah Hallock

August 15, 2016 Community, History No Comments

DSC_0583By David Leff 
Town Historian 

Jeremiah Hallock (1756-1826) was ordained as minister of the Parish of West Simsbury (now Canton Center) on October 26, 1785 and served until his death in 1826.  His forty-one years as pastor of what is now the Canton Center Congregational Church has never been exceeded.  The eldest of nine children, he was born in Brookhaven, Long Island and moved with his family to Goshen, Massachusetts at age eight.  While still a teenager, he served in the Revolution in 1776 and 1777.  His formal education was minimal, though he studied with several ministers and was licensed to preach the gospel in 1784.  In 1787, Yale awarded him an honorary Master of Arts.

Called the “godly pastor” by his biographer, Hallock was exceedingly devout and adopted the motto “What can I do for God?”  He lived according to twenty-four strict moral resolutions he recorded in his journal, and devoted one day each month to fasting.  A man of uncommon energy, in 1801 Hallock made “a four-month missionary tour of northeast, Vermont, then a sparsely settled wilderness,” according to Canton historian Lawrence Carlton.  “He traveled on foot and horseback over a thousand miles, preached ninety-six sermons and helped establish two new churches.”  In 1815, he gave the sermon dedicating the current Canton Center church building. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: William Edgar Simonds

August 1, 2016 Community, History No Comments


By David Leff 
Town Historian 

William Edgar Simonds (1842-1903) is the only man from Canton to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, to be speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives (1885), or to be elected to Congress (1888).  He also served as U.S. Commissioner of Patents (1891-1893).

Simonds was born and raised in Collinsville and started working for the Collins Company at age 17.  He attended the Connecticut Normal School at New Britain, now Central Connecticut State University.  He’d begun work as a schoolteacher when at age 19 he enlisted to serve in the Civil War.  At the battle of Irish Bend Louisiana he risked his life when he crawled through a cane field while under heavy fire to rescue men from his unit who had become isolated in a no-man’s land between opposing forces.

After discharge from the military in 1863, Simonds attended Yale Law School.  Two years later he opened a practice in Hartford and became an expert in patent and trademark law.  In 1871 and again in 1874 he published influential books on patent law https://archive.org/stream/practicalsuggest00simoiala#page/n3/mode/2up .  After service as patent commissioner, he returned to private law practice in Hartford in 1893.  Simonds is buried in the Village Cemetery, Collinsville. … Continue Reading

Your Silent Neighbors: Rose Terry Cooke

July 15, 2016 Community, History No Comments

roseterryBy David Leff
Canton Town Historian  

Rose Terry Cooke (1827-1892) was a poet and short story writer.  Her work appeared in popular and well read magazines of the second half of the nineteenth century, among them Scribner’s MonthlyHarper’s New Monthly Magazine, and The Atlantic Monthly (including the premier issue in November 1857).  “In her 50 years of writing, one may trace the development of the short story in America, from unlocalized, leisurely, sentimental tales to simple histories of commonplace people set in real locales,” according to the Oxford Companion to American Literature.

Ms. Cooke was the sister-in-law of Howard S. Collins, Samuel Collins’ son, and was a frequent visitor to Collinsville.  While staying with the Collins’ at their home on Torrington Avenue (long ago demolished) she was inspired by the view of Collinsville and its hillside cemetery to compose a poem, “The Two Villages,”contrasting the bustling mill village with the silent village of the dead. A tablet now marks the spot.  Rose Terry Cooke is buried in the Village Cemetery in Collinsville

For more about Rose Terry Cooke go to https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rose-Terry-Cooke or http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/cooke.htm

“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: Dr. Solomon Everest

July 1, 2016 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian 

DSC_0217Dr. Solomon Everest (1760-1822) is known as the “father of Canton” because he was first to sign the petition to the legislature to make Canton a separate town.

He served as a surgeon in the Revolution.  A well respected physician in Canton for many years, he also represented the town in the General Assembly and at the state constitutional convention of 1818.

He lived in a Georgian colonial home at the corner of Lawton Road and Albany Turnpike, now the site of the UConn Health facility.  UConn Health recently dedicated a plaque in Dr. Everest’s honor.  Dr. Everest is buried in the Baptist 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 … Continue Reading


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