YOUR SILENT NEIGHBORS, Carl J. Kilburn, Collinsville Doctor
by David K. Leff
Town Poet Laureate and Deputy Town Historian
Ministering to the sick and injured in the Collinsville area for over fifty years, Carl J. Kilburn (1886-1975) was born in Manchester, Vermont and raised on a farm there. He served for decades as town health officer and medical examiner. When he retired, he was the longest-serving health officer in the state of Connecticut.
Dr. Kilburn attended Norwich University Military College and Middlebury College. He received his professional education at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, graduating in 1914. During his senior year, he was an intern at New York’s Lying-in-Hospital and then spent a year working at Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut. He came to Collinsville in 1915 at age 31 with his wife Anna. They bought the house at 17 South Street where Dr. Kilburn set up his practice. It had been the home of two previous Collinsville doctors.
Two years after his arrival, Dr. Kilburn found himself treating myriad patients who had fallen ill to the deadly flu pandemic of 1917. So many were stricken that a makeshift hospital was set up in the Collinsville Congregational Church. He was said to have worked around the clock though many died despite his efforts.
For years he set broken bones, administered vaccines, and delivered babies, but he was always ready for new challenges. During the 1955 flood, he worked tirelessly administering typhoid and tetanus shots, treating cuts and bruises and caring for other injuries and ailments. With the highway bridge washed out at the height of the flood, Dr. Kilburn crawled across the railroad bridge above the wildly swollen river to see if anyone on the other side needed help. After the flood had subsided, he visited all homes in the inundated areas and made recommendations to the families on what needed to be done before they returned.
Described as ‘a serious-minded” man, Dr. Kilburn enjoyed chess and took on opponents around the world by mail. He also liked to fish and was particularly fond of going to Lake Willoughby in Vermont. He also was known as a good golfer.
In a tribute held at Canton High School on October 18, 1964, Dr. Kilburn was described as a man whose “heart is in his work.” “His genial manner and cordial devotion to his work have won the hearts of the public, and skill as a practitioner has established him in their confidence.”
Carl J. Kilburn 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.