YOUR SILENT NEIGHBORS, Howard S. Collins, Businessman
by David K. Leff
Town Poet Laureate and Deputy Town Historian
Son of Collins Company founder Samuel W. Collins and Sarah Howard Collins, Howard S. Collins (1827-1914) was born in Hartford and died at his summer home at Watch Hill, Rhode Island. As an infant, he and his older brother Richard (who died at age 17) were brought to Collinsville to live. As a young man, he went to work in the Collins Company sales department and in its store at 212 Water Street in Manhattan. He later returned to Collinsville, and at the death of his father in 1871 became a director of the Collins Company. He served until his own demise, the oldest member of the board in age and length of service.
Collins lived on Torrington Avenue in a stucco house of heavy timber construction that once stood almost opposite the intersection with Dunne Avenue. It was demolished in the 1930s to straighten the road. Not a large or imposing structure, it had a superb view. Inspired by the prospect, Collins’ sister-in-law, acclaimed writer Rose Terry Cooke, wrote “The Two Villages,” a poem contrasting the mill village along the river with the cemetery on the hill, a village of the dead. Several years after his father’s death, Collins moved into Samuel Collins’ mansion at the end of Collins Road where he lived for about two decades. He and his wife frequently entertained at the house. Afterward, he moved to Hartford.
In 1872, Collins organized a private commercial bank that in 1899 became the Canton Trust Company. The bank failed in 1916. Earlier, Collins had served as treasurer of the Collinsville Savings Society. He also ran a farm in Canton on which he raised cattle. Later in life, he engaged in the shipping business. He was said to enjoy outdoor sports and be a lover of nature, especially flowers and birds.
A member of the Collinsville Congregational Church, Collins maintained his affiliation even after moving to Hartford where he attended the Center Congregational Church.
He married Alice Terry in 1856 and the couple had two children. After her death, he married Helen Raymond in 1878. Helen donated the funds to erect the first Canton Public Library building on Center Street in memory of her husband.
Collins became infirm in the last years of his life and was largely confined to his Hartford home or Watch Hill cottage. His funeral was held in Hartford and he was buried in Collinsville. Collins Company directors served as pallbearers.
He was described as a man of “true nobility and spiritual strength” by Reverend Rockwell Potter of the Hartford church. “His observations upon life were always wise and just, and the truth upon his lips was always spoken in love.”
Howard S. Collins is buried in the Village Cemetery, Collinsville.
“Your Silent Neighbors” introduces readers to people out of Canton’s past. Readers are encouraged to visit these gravesites and pay their respects to the people who have helped make our community what it is today.