YOUR SILENT NEIGHBORS, Charles A. Farnham, Collins Foreman, Banker
by David K. Leff
Town Poet Laureate and Deputy Town Historian
Charles A. Farnham (1851-1939) must have been a man of restless energy. Working at the Collins Company for 43 years, he served as a foreman, retiring in 1916. He became superintendent and treasurer of the Collinsville Water Company shortly after its organization, and was also president of the Collinsville Savings Society from 1917 to little more than a year before his death. A deacon of the Collinsville Congregational Church, Farnham was also active in fraternal organizations, including serving as a Past Master of Collinsville’s Village Lodge of Masons.
Farnham was born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts and his early years were spent in Blandford and Granville. He came to Collinsville in 1872. A year later he married Sarah Beckwith of Granville. She died in 1930.
Late in life, infirm and slightly deaf, Farnham was known for defying three armed men who robbed the bank on May 23, 1935. The robbers scooped up cash from a drawer while holding the elderly bank president at gunpoint. Frustrated that Farnham could not open the vault, which he claimed was on a timer, they shouted for him to get down on the floor with the other employees and the customers who had been caught in the robbery. Fearing his weak heart would prevent him from getting up again, Farnham gravely shook his head “no.” Instead he sat in a chair. “Regardless of what you fellows do,” he announced, “I’m going to sit here and take one of those pills.” Pulling a small box from his pocket, Farnham opened it and swallowed the medication.
Of course, the holdup was the talk of the village. But it wasn’t the loss of about $1,200 that had tongues wagging the most. Rather, it was the dignified bravery of the aged banker in facing down the brazen gunmen that had everyone talking.
Farnham died at his home on Maple Avenue on Friday, June 30. The funeral was held there on Sunday afternoon.
Charles A. Farnham 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.