Derby History Quiz

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Shad was once a source of income all the way to New Milford!

In 1866, there were many men with ambition and vision in Derby. As they surveyed their beautiful town and the surrounding area, they realized that they had a resource with the potential to transform the economy of the entire area - The Housatonic River. The glory days of ship building and world maritime trade were fading from memory. In 1866 those men formed the Ousatonic Water Company with the ambitious goal of fooling mother nature by building a dam clear across the river from the Derby side to Huntington (Shelton didn't exist yet!).

On October 10, 1870, their vision was realized when the dam was opened amid much pageantry and hoopla. Dr. Ambrose Beardsley gave a rousing speech praising the men of vision who persevered to completion. He predicted (rightly!) that:'

"Factories, mansions and temples of worship, neat little cottages, beautiful parks, verdant lawns and spacious avenues, teeming with a a population of life and activity, will rise up here and in the glow if prosperity, and through the dignity of all the varied occupations of industry make this place take her stand among the first manufacturing cities of New England." He said that the dam was a monument of Yankee enterprise and then reviewed Derby's already proud history leading to the construction of the dam.

If Beardsley was the orator of the day, it was Edward N. Shelton who was the star of the day. Shelton was the head of the Ousatoinc Water Company and the driving force behind the construction of the dam. He deserved every honor that eventually came to him including the naming of the City of Shelton.

However, Shelton and the others did err in one area. As Shelton had pointed out, agitation to build a dam had begun as early as 1838. Even before that, there had been an unsuccessful effort to construct a canal all the way to New Milford. However the fishermen upstream in Milford were not thrilled with the possibility of seeing the river blocked cutting off the migration of the Shad up river and their lucrative fishing trade.

By 1864, the locals believe that they had come up with a solution. They visited Maine where they saw a primitive system of fish weirs that they believed would allow the shad to bypass the dam and get upstream. Shelton said, "...we trust we shall be equally successful in demonstrating to our New Milford friends the coming spring that shad will go over the dams on properly constructed weirs." History was not to prove so kind!

We had a lot of responses to this quiz, and just about every type of fish on earth was mentioned at least once. Some argued that the shad is known by other names, and we don't dispute that. However, for this quiz, we're going with the terminology of the time - Shad it is!

Correct answers were received from: Robert Loftus, Edward Baclawski, Ann Searles, Nick from Terryville, Cyndi Poppa, Frank from St Pete Beach, Flken dupke, rick schreiner, Don Sanderson, Fred Grant, Marc J. Garofalo, Ray Allen, John Whalen, Millie from Ansonia, Kimberley Shelton, Pat Oates, Eileen Krugel, Jerry Kosturko, John Asp, Paul Comkowycz, Dave DeRosa, frank lazowski, Howard Bradshaw, Markanthony Izzo, dave petz, Randy Ritter, Joe Dedo, Doris Dupke, Matt from Arlington VA.