The other day, as I was walking through the Granby Cemetery, a gravestone caught my eye, that had AVERY written on the top and COLTON beneath it, specifically, Fred M. Colton. Across the street, I could see the Town Hall Complex and the Public Library, where 100 years ago, it would have been farm fields. As I learned through my research of Fred M. Colton, we have him to thank for that transformation.
Fred Marshall Colton was born in Granby in 1867. His early education started in Granby and continued at the Wilbraham Academy. He attended Yale to study business for his bachelor’s degree and briefly worked as a commission agent in the fruit industry after school. When time and money permitted, he came back to Granby and bought land to farm, soon holding several acres for a dairy and tobacco farm.
Colton became one of the leading tobacco farmers in the Farmington Valley. The tobacco barn at the Salmon Brook Historical Society is one Colton built in 1914. The land behind the society and the Lost Acres Fire department were tobacco fields he farmed in the early 20th century. Colton employed many Granby residents, providing employment during the Great Depression. He was a good employer, described by his grandson, Peter Avery, who wrote, “Fairness and friendliness characterized his relationship with his employees.” When Colton died in 1939, the pallbearers at his funeral were his employees.
Colton was also heavily involved in public service: participating in Granby as a member of the finance board, president of the water utilities and a member of the South Congregational Church. At the state level, he represented Granby as a house member in 1909 and served as a state senator in 1913 and 1935.
He passed on his passion for service to his daughters, Mildred and Carolyn. It was his daughters who gave land to the town to create the Town Municipal Complex as well as the Memorial School, now known as Granby Memorial High School. The Salmon Brook Historical Society is grateful for the Colton sisters’ generosity for also donating the Abijah Rowe House and Tobacco Barn.
Want to learn more about Fred M. Colton and his daughters, Mildred and Carolyn? Join the Salmon Brook Historical Society as we celebrate our 75 Anniversary, at salmonbrookhistoricalsociety.com or call at 860-653-9713.