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Tensions Were High in the Valley During the Revolutionary War

by Robert Novak, Jr. | Derby Historical Society | Oct 21, 2009 12:56 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia, Derby, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton, Speaking Of History . . .

Imagine it is the late 1770s in the Valley. . .

The Revolutionary War is in full swing. All one has to do is to climb a tall hill to see the British.

The Royal Navy controls the Long Island Sound, and Long Island is under British control. Royal Marines periodically raid the Connecticut coastline, and one day – they just might come up the Housatonic.

Many Derby residents (there is no Ansonia or Seymour, and Oxford is a Parish within Derby) support the rebellion. Rev. Daniel Humphreys’ house on Elm Street is a center of Patriot activity. But not all support the Revolutionary cause.

Many Derby residents are quite well off, and have no need for a Revolution to disrupt their lives. Furthermore, many Episcopalians, followers of Rev. Richard Mansfield, support the British for religious reasons. They call themselves Loyalists, the Patriots call them ‘Tories’ or worse.

Reverend Mansfield’s church, across the street from the Humphreys House, was a center of Loyalist activity until was shuttered in July of 1776.

Mansfield himself fled to Long Island for awhile, until he was enticed to return by his son-in-law – Elijah Humphreys, and his daughter Anna. For the Humphreys and Mansfield families, the Revolution is a family affair – and they are on opposing sides.

Recently widowed, the restless Reverend Mansfield has been forbidden to preach for the duration of the War. His son-in-law, Elijah and brother David Humphreys, are fighting one losing battle after another against the British.

Elijah’s wife, Anna Mansfield-Humphreys, awaits her husband’s return in the Humphreys house, caught between two worlds.

Her in-laws, the Rev. and Lady Humphreys, frequently host seditious activities against the Crown in their own house, while nervously keeping an eye on the Loyalist church and cemetery across the street.

One visit by the British Army can change everything in Derby.

Suddenly, one anxious evening, there is a knock on the Humphreys House door. Nervous eyes from both the house and cemetery across the street glance at lanterns illuminating the darkness – (wait a minute, there’s eyes in the cemetery?!)

The heavy door swings open, and there stands – YOU.

How does the story end? Join us for “Legends By Lantern“ on Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24 (rain date October 25) and find out!

Tour times are planned for every half hour, starting at 6:30 PM and ending at 8:30 PM. Group sizes are limited, so please call 735-1908 for advanced reservations.

Cost is $10.00 per adult, $8.00 for children (8-16). Check our website at www.derbyhistorical.org for additional tour information and inclement weather updates.

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