YOUR SILENT NEIGHBORS, Joseph Matava, Collins Company Grinder
Arriving in the United States from Bremen, Germany aboard the ship Havel in 1892, Joseph Matava (1875-1914) was born in Niznniruzbah, Austria-Hungary. By 1900 he was a grinder with the Collins Company. He must have been a strong man because at only five foot three inches tall and about 130 pounds it would have taken a good deal of force to lean into the giant grinding wheels to hone a machete or axe blade in a shower of sparks and dust.
He married Catherine Tomala (1880-1917) while in Collinsville, an immigrant from the same part of the world, and they had five daughters. The family lived on Dunne Avenue.
Matava died at 39 of consumption (TB), according to newspaper accounts. However, it is likely he developed silicosis, or grinder’s lung from breathing in stone dust and tiny metal particles at work. It was a common ailment of Collins grinders almost from the inception of edge tool production. The funeral was held at St. Patrick’s Church.
At his death, his eldest daughter was only 8 years old. His wife died a few years later and the children were separated and went to live with various relatives. The second oldest daughter, Agnes Matava Lowe, is now 112 years old, likely the longest-lived person ever to hail from Collinsville.
Joseph Matava is buried in the Calvary 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.