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Your Silent Neighbors: M. Stanley Neal, Collins Company Foreman

November 1, 2017 Community, History No Comments

By David K. Leff 
Town Historian 

M. Stanley Neal (1856-1949) was employed by the Collins Company for 51 years beginning around 1879.  He was mostly with the forging department of which he became the longtime foreman.  Prior to coming to Collinsville he spent a year working for the Gilbert Clock Company in Winsted.  He retired in 1930 and ran an insurance business for 25 years.  Born in Paris, New York in Oneida County, he attended schools in that area.

Neal was active in community life.  He was chairman of the Canton Board of Education, an incorporator of the Collinsville Savings Society, and president of the Collinsville Cemetery Association.  Neal was a Mason and the senior member and senior past master of the Village Lodge, AF and FM as well as past master of the Hartford County Past Masters Association. … Continue Reading

David Edward Shaver, 79

October 19, 2017 Obituaries No Comments

David Edward Shaver, 79, of Destin Florida passed away October 17, 2017. He was born July I, 1938 in Hartford Connecticut to Donald and Dorothy Widen Shaver. David grew up in Canton Ct. and attended Canton schools, and Bucknell University Pa. David had a 36 year career with United Parcel Service as an Industrial Engineer, working in many regions in the United States.

He was preceded in death by his father when he was 8 years old.  His mother Dorothy married Robert W. Kennedy. David and his step-father had a very special relationship! He was preceded in death by his first wife Alice (Dolly) Chartier Shaver. David is survived by his wife Linda Shaver, daughter Susan Lynn Shaver, stepsons Michael Meaders (Kim) and Scott Meaders (Lori). Two sisters Penny Frank (Doug) and Linda Mahoney. Two brothers Donald Shaver (Bobbie) and Robert Kennedy (Meg). Sister in law Clare Chartier Wolf (Steve). Nine grandchildren and two great grandsons.

There will be a service October 30th 2017 at Vincent’s Funeral Home, 120 Albany Turnpike Canton, CT. 06019.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to American Cancer Society via www.cancer.org or American Heart Association at heart.org.

Online guest book can be found at rollerfuneralhomes.com/Chenal.

Interment at Calvary Cemetery after service.

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: Edwin J. Smith, Hardware Merchant

September 15, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian  

Edwin J. Smith (1877-1948) started work in his father’s hardware store as a young man and in 1903 began managing the business.  The store first opened in 1896 under his father’s name, P.F. Smith. It was located at 107 Main Street and later moved across the road to 122 Main Street.  In 1923, the E.J. Smith Hardware Company was incorporated with Smith as president. He ran the shop until his death at age 71, an exemplar of the kind of personal customer service for which Collinsville businesses have long been known. He died at Hartford Hospital following a six-week illness.  After Smith’s death, his nephew Everett P. Eaton, who had long been involved in the business, bought the store.  It went by the name Eaton Hardware until its closure in 2001.

Born in Collinsville, Smith attended grammar school here before finishing his education at Mt. Hermon School for Boys in Northfield, Massachusetts. Through his mother, Rose Hart Smith, he was a descendant of Stephen Hart, a founder of Hartford.

Among the organizations of which Smith was a member was the Collinsville Congregational Church, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Old Newgate Coon Club.  He was on the executive committee of the Collinsville Savings Society. … 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

Friends, family, community honor the late Gordon Keller

August 21, 2017 Community No Comments

Above: Race participants and supporters honoring the late Gordon T. Keller gather for a group photo. Below, left: Alyson Keller, with Riley and Lily.

Photos by John Fitts

By John Fitts

There was a sea of red at the annual Lobster Loop in Canton Sunday as dozens of community members donned red “Flash” shirts in honor of the late Gordon T. Keller.

A long-time resident of Canton and native of Burlington, Keller, 42, was killed while riding his bicycle on Route 44 in New Hartford June 20.

Several dozen people wore lightning bolts T-shirts Sunday, Aug. 20 at the 26th annual Lobster Loop, which supports the Canton Middle School Parent Teacher Organization.

The shirts, with the nod to The Flash character, and “I Tri for Gordon” inscribed on the back, alluded to Keller’s athletic ability but his wife Alyson said it meant so much more. He always did his best, she said, in everything, whether it was being a father to their children Riley and Lily, making weekend breakfasts, solving technical issues or coaching other athletes.

“That’s who he was,” Alyson Keller said. “He wasn’t just a triathlete. He tried so hard at everything he did, everything.”

See more in this week’s Valley Press as well as a tribute story in the September issue of Valley Life.

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: Albert C. Book, Collins Company Firefighter

August 1, 2017 Community, Health No Comments

By David K. Leff
Town Historian

Albert C. Book (1878-1906) was employed by the Collins Company as a “heater.” Also serving as a company firefighter, he was killed on Center Street when run over by a department hose cart just outside the firehouse at the corner of Main and Center Streets. On a Saturday evening in July, Book and fellow firefighters were practicing running with the hand cart in anticipation of a contest with the Unionville Hose Company the following week as part of Canton’s centennial celebration. Book was a bystander as the cart was hauled out of the firehouse, but at the insistence of his mates, he joined in the run.  Just after Book grabbed hold of the cart as it got up to speed, he stepped on the heel of the man in front of him and fell.  Before fellow members could stop the wagon, a wheel passed over Book’s abdomen.

He was able to get up and walk to the roadside where he collapsed on the grass. Dr. Paul Plummer was brought to the scene and “found the young man suffering intensely,” according to the Hartford Courant.  Two ribs were broken and the liver seriously damaged. He was carried into a house across the street where Dr. Plummer and others cared for him throughout the night. He rallied a little around 10 p.m., and it was thought he might pull through. But his condition worsened and he died at six o’clock the next morning.  “A shadow of gloom has been cast over the [centennial] celebration” by “the death of a promising young man,” a newspaper lamented. … 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


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