YOUR SILENT NEIGHBORS
Emma Humphrey Neal, Educator
by David K. Leff
Town Poet Laureate and Deputy Town Historian
Born in Collinsville, Emma Humphrey Neal (1860-1901) was an 1879 graduate of Collinsville High School. She received a degree from Mount Holyoke Seminary in Massachusetts in 1883. The following year she accepted a job as principal of Monson Academy in Monson Massachusetts (in 1847, the first American school to enroll a Chinese student). That same year she married M. Stanley Neal, foreman of the Collins Company forging department.
Neal was the first woman to run for the Canton school board. A newspaper report noted that “she had the courage of her convictions and was not afraid to join the minority and run counter to conventionalism and narrow traditions by voting upon school questions.” She was a member of the Collinsville Congregational Church, Daughters of the American Revolution of Hartford, and of the Ruby Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.
Her obituary described her as “of tender, sweet and gentle nature, yet a soul strong and resolute.” Having a wide circle of friends and an ability to mingle with many different types of people, the “sense of loss seems universal in the community” out of “respect for her intellectual ability and love for her character.”
Held on a Saturday afternoon, her funeral attracted the largest attendance in fifteen years. There were many floral tributes, including a broken column of roses surmounted by a dove given by the eighty men of the Collins Company forging shop.
Neal died at age 41 on July 4. She was survived by her husband and two sons.
Emma Humphrey Neal 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.