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Hartford Courant, May 26, 1923




Settles Dispute Over Designation

After Rejection of the Question by General Assembly of Connecticut.





The United States Geographic Board has rendered a decision naming as “Humphreys Lake,” the body of water caused by Stevenson Dam in the Housatonic River above Derby, according to notification received yesterday by J. Henry Roraback, vice-president of the Connecticut Light and Power Co., builder of the dam.




The decision of the board, which is the highest authority for deciding geographic names in dispute, is expected to have the effect of settling a controversy over the naming of the lake which was carried to the current session of the Legislature for a decision.


One group wanted to name it Humphreys' Lake and another wanted it be called Zoar Lake, but the legislature, upon recommendation of the judiciary committee, refused to name it, on the ground that the question was not within the province of the assembly.  Consequently, the lake has had no fixed name and has been called Stevenson Lake on account of its connection with the dam at Stevenson Station, as much as any of the other names.  The result was confusion.


The following is the text of the decision:


“Humphreys Lake, formed by the dam on Housatonic River, a few miles above Derby, Fairfield and New Haven Counties, Connecticut. (After Gen. David Humphreys, soldier, statesman, poet, aide and secretary to General Washington.”


The General David Humphreys Branch, No. 1, Connecticut Society, Sons of the American Revolution of New Haven, was the chief advocate of the name adopted by the geographic board.  The following is a statement submitted to the Geographic Board by the New Haven association.




“David Humphreys was born in Derby, Conn., July 10, 1752, and died at New Haven, February 21, 1818.  At the age of fifteen he entered Yale College and graduated in 1771.  After his graduation he taught school until the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, when he entered the army as a captain, was immediately promoted to major and soon became aide-de-camp to General Israel Putnam.  He served with distinction in various capacities and in 1780 was appointed aide and secretary to General Washington with the rank of lieutenant colonel.


“He enjoyed the full confidence of Washington and remained a member of his military family until the close of the war. At the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, October 19, 1781, Humphreys had the honor of receiving the English colors and bearing them to Congress.


“After the war he was in the diplomatic service and in 1781 was elected by Congress secretary of the Commission for Negotiating Commercial Treaties with Foreign Powers.  The members of the commission were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.  Humphreys spent two years with them in Europe, and on his return to this country in 1788 was elected to the Connecticut legislature where he took a prominent part, especially in advocating the promotion of agriculture and manufacturing.


“About this time the general government called for a small standing army on account of Indian troubles on the western frontier and discontent in the east that resulted in Shay’s Rebellion, and Humphreys was placed in command of Connecticut’s quota.  His commission as brigadier general came from the governor of Connecticut in 1813.




“Washington had great respect for the judgment and tact of Humphreys and kept up a correspondence with him as long as he lived. Soon after he became president he sent Humphreys to Europe on a secret mission to report on diplomatic matters, and while there in 1791 he was appointed Minister to Portugal and continued in that position until 1797, when he was transferred to Madrid as minister to Spain, where he remained until 1802.  His service at these two courts was of vast importance to the United States and great credit is due him for the part he bore in the suppression of the Algerian pirates.


“His diplomatic duties did not prevent his continued interest in the people of his native state, and the measures for the benefit of farmers that he had advocated while a member of the legislature sixteen years before.


“In order to improve their stock, he purchased and shipped to New York one hundred Merino sheep, which on their arrival were forwarded to Derby, and there sold to famers at less than cost. In order to improve the manufacture of wool, he bought land at Rimmon Falls in the northern part of Derby, built mills which he equipped with the best machinery then obtainable, brought over from England skilled workmen to supervise the manufacture, and succeeded in a short time in producing broadcloth of such fine quality that Thomas Jefferson, when elected President of the United States was proud to wear at his inauguration a suit made from it.


“Humphreys was not only a successful manufacturer, but had many ideas in advance of the age in which he lived, as shown by his thoroughness for the health, education and morals of the employees, for he put in practice many of the methods which are now called welfare work.




“In honor of its founder the settlement that grew up about the mills was named Huphreysville, and continued as such until 1850 when that part of Derby was set off as a separate town and called Seymour as a compliment to the governor.  Thus David Humphreys was robbed of the honor of having his name perpetuated in the region which was so greatly indebted to him, but the honor is now restored by giving his name to the lake which is furnishing light and power to a large territory that was formerly the field of his labors and thus perpetuating his spirit.”

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