Canton has been blessed with many civic minded residents. But perhaps none has been more dedicated to this community than John C. Meconkey (1901- 1978). He came to Collinsville as a boy of ten from Weston, Connecticut a couple of years before the start of World War I, his father having gotten a job with the company as a laborer.
Meconkey was college trained in engineering and went to work for Collins, eventually rising to purchasing agent, responsible for buying everything from coal and steel, to paint and cutting oil, lathes and office paper.
Meconkey didn’t just bury himself in business. He threw himself into the life of the community. He served on the school board from 1949 to 1962. He was a member of the library board, including two terms as chairman. When the old Center Street library didn’t have a children’s section, he was instrumental in getting space cleared in the basement for the purpose. Eventually, an addition built to house the children’s collection was named for him. The children’s wing in the current library is also dedicated to Meconkey, and his picture hangs in the entryway. It depicts a bespectacled older man with a high domed forehead and kindly eyes.
Named as town auditor in 1928, Meconkey served until 1940, authoring the annual town report for years. From 1928 to until 1940 he was deputy Republican registrar. Afterward he served as registrar until 1964. He was on the planning commission, and a member of the Republican Town Committee for 43 years. A man of deep and abiding faith, Meconkey served as a deacon of the Collinsville Congregational Church for 20 years and afterward was named deacon emeritus. He served as a board member of the Visiting Nurses Association. He helped found the Canton Camera Club.
It is said that if you added up all his years of civic service, Meconkey gave 229 volunteer years to the town. For this, the courtly fellow was dubbed “Mr. Canton.”
Meconkey loved Collinsville and the Collins Company, so it is ironic that he was assigned the task of liquidating the corporation’s assets after closure. As early as 1960, he was selling company houses, but sale of the machinery and equipment and later the buildings themselves was exceedingly painful. The late Vern Eads, husband of former State Senator Del Eads, remembered Meconkey as an old fashion gentleman. A self styled “mortician to industry,” Eads brokered the sale of the factory contents. “John was one of the most earnest men I’d ever met,” Eads told me decades ago. “He was a good soldier and he did his duty, but there were tears in his eyes when we finalized the documents.”
With the buildings just about empty, Tom Perry asked Meconkey if he could buy the factory bell. “You can have it,” Meconkey joked, “if you buy the whole factory with it.” Both men had a good laugh. A few days later, having pulled together some investors, Perry got his bell, factory included.
Ever civic minded, Meconkey did not let the devastating Collins Company closure dim his commitment to Collinsville. It wasn’t long before he had an office in Town Hall as head of the Community Development Action Plan, a group of citizens joined together to explore potential means of revitalization.
John C. Meconkey 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.