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.
Wilder was born in Canton Center and attended local schools, graduating from Collinsville High School in 1915. He served as a private in the army during World War I, but was not sent overseas. He was a member of the Albert Johnson American Legion Post and was secretary of the Canton Soldiers Memorial Association for a number of years. A civic minded individual, Wilder was chairman of the Canton School Committee during the time when Canton High School and Canton Elementary School were constructed. He was a Mason and member of the Village Lodge, and past noble grand of the Odd Fellows Eclectic Lodge, IOOF.
Wilder was a member of the Collinsville Congregational Church and had been its treasurer for several years. Services were held at the church and the pallbearers were prominent citizens, including Collins Vice President Clair Elston and Dr. Ralph B. Cox. Members of the fire department formed an honor guard as the body was carried from the church. Wilder was survived by his wife Ahlene, two daughters, and a grandson.
Frank E. Wilder is buried in Southwest 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.