Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PHELPS, William, colonist, born in Tewkesbury, England, 19 August, 1599; died in Windsor, Connecticut, 14 July, 1672. He emigrated to this country in 1630, and founded the town of Windsor in 1635. He was a respected and important member of the colony, a justice of the first court that was held in Connecticut, foreman of the first grand jury, and a magistrate for many years. He was also a devout and rigid Puritan, and active in the affairs of the church. Dr. Henry R. Stiles says of him : "He helped to lay broad and deep the foundations of the Republic."--His descendant of the sixth generation, Noah, patriot, born in Simsbury, Connecticut, 22 January, 1740; died there, 4 March, 1809, was a landholder, and captain of militia previous to the Revolution. He early engaged in the patriot cause, and with General Samuel H. Parsons (q. v.) projected, and subsequently participated in, the secret expedition to capture Fort Ticonderoga in April, 1775. When the volunteers composing the expedition had reached Lake Champlain, Captain Phelps crossed it in a boat, and entered the fort as a spy. He ascertained the construction and strength of the defences and number of the garrison, and left the next day in an open boat, under full fire of the guns, but without awakening suspicion. By this service the Americans were enabled to make the attack. He was commissioned captain in 1777 and colonel in 1779. The next year he was employed in the important service of transferring cannon from Salisbury, Connecticut, to Boston, Massachusetts, for the use of the ship " Defiance." After the war he acted for many years in the legislature, and was brigadier-general of Connecticut militia.--His son, Elisha, congressman, born in Simsbury, Connecticut, 7 November, 1779; died there, 18 April, 1847, was graduated at Yale in 1800, studied at Litchfield law-school, and was admitted to the bar of Hartford county in 1803. He served in both branches of the legislature, and was speaker of the lower house in 1821 and again in 1829. He was elected to congress as a Democrat in 1818, served one term, and was again a member of that body in 1825-'9. He was state comptroller in 1830-'4, and a commissioner to revise and codify the state laws in 1835.--Elisha's son, John Smith, statesman, born in Simsbury, Connecticut, 22 December, 1814 ; died in St. Louis, Missouri, 20 November, 1886, was graduated at Trinity in 1832, studied law under his father, practised a short time in his native state, and in 1837 emigrated to Missouri, near Springfield, Greene county, he served in the legislature in 1840, the next year was appointed brigade inspector of militia, and in 1844 was elected to congress as a Democrat, serving continuously till 1863. He was chairman of the committee of ways and means for seven terms, and was a member of the select committee of thirty-three on the rebellious states. During his congressional career he achieved a national reputation for ability in debate, sagacity, and prudence, and exercised a pacific influence on contending factions. He was appointed colonel of United States volunteers in 1861, and brigadier-general of volunteers in July, 1862, the same year serving as military governor of Arkansas. He was a delegate to the National union convention in 1866, and the next year a commissioner to settle the claims of Indiana. He was governor of Missouri in 1876-'82, declined to serve on the tariff commission, and did not again accept any public office.-Noah's grandson, Noah Amherst, lawyer, born in Simsbury, Connecticut, 16 October, 1788; died there, 26 August, 1872, was graduated at Yale in 1808, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1811. He was a member of both houses of the legislature for several terms, and secretary of the state of Connecticut in 1843-'4. He published "History of Simsbury, Granby, and Canton, Connecticut, from 1642 to 1645" (Hartford, 1845) ; and" History of the Copper Mines and Newgate Prison at Granby" (1845).--Another son of the first Noah, Guy Rowland, capitalist, born in Simsbury, Connecticut, in April, 1802; died in Hartford, Connecticut, 18 March, 1869, was graduated at the medical department of Yale in 1825, and began practice in New York city, but retired on account of the failure of his health. In 1846 he founded the Connecticut mutual life-insurance company, and he was its president until his death. He originated the return-dividend system, in contradistinction to the reversionary plan, and was the author of that plan which permits the policy-holder to anticipate the presumed surplus by an increased insurance from the beginning.--Another son of the first Noah, George Dwight, philanthropist, born in Simsbury, Connecticut, in 1803 ; died in New York city, 31 August, 1872, accumulated a large fortune in business in New York city, and was active in benevolent enterprises, contributing large sums annually to religious and charitable institutions. He was the first president of the New York young men's society, which was founded in 1831, and was the precursor of the Young men's Christian association. PHELPS, William Franklin, educator, born in Auburn, New York, 15 February, 1822. He was graduated at Union college in 1852, elected principal of the state normal school in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1855, the next year was placed in charge of the Farnum preparatory school in Beverly, New Jersey, and held both offices until 1864, when he became president of the first state normal school in Winona, Minnesota He held this office till 1876, was then president of the Wisconsin normal school for two years, returned to Minnesota in 1879, and was superintendent of public schools there in 1879-'81 and 1883-'5. He was president of the American normal school association from 1856 till 1860, of the National educational convention, and vice-president of the first international conference of educators in 1876. In 1878 he received a silver medal from the Paris exposition as an educational collaborator and author. He edited the " Chicago Educational Weekly" in 1867-'8, and has published "The Teachers' Hand-Book" (New York, 1875); five brochures for the Chautauqua circle, entitled "What is Education ? .... Socrates," " Horace Mann," "Pestalozzi and Froebel," and " John Sturm"; and reports of the New Jersey and Minnesota normal schools.
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