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Not often you get a lake named for you! Elwood Mead’s “Mather’s children” letter to Stephen T. Mather

Among the letters archived at the Bancroft Library, is a four-page hand-written note from Elwood Mead, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, a division of the Department of the Interior.   In it, Mead, aware of Stephen’s ill health, reflects movingly on his lasting con-tributions to the United States and its citizens…


“…It is rare that anyone can so impress his personality on his

 work that it’s recognized as his after he has surrendered

control …the National Parks and the processions who visit

them are Mather’s children both in the minds of the  discriminating and the affections of the flivver drivers…”



If you happen to drive through Patriot Indiana, you may see a highway

marker dedicated to Elwood Mead.   More likely, if you visit Hoover Dam,

you’ll find a lake, which just weeks after the dam was completed in 1936,

was named for Elwood Mead…yes, Lake Mead!  



Elwood Mead (1858-1936) “Engineer Who Made the Desert Bloom.”

 As territorial and state engineer of Wyoming, Mead devised the state's first water laws during 1888 to 1899. In 1907, Mead accepted the position of Chairman of State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in Victoria, Australia. Eight years later, he returned to the United States as professor of Rural Institutions, University of California, and chairman of the California Land Settlement Board, 1915-1924. Appointed Commissioner of Reclamation in 1924, Mead directed the development of many monumental Reclamation undertakings, notably Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee, and Owyhee. 



Lake Mead

It is the largest reservoir in the US in terms of water capacity, providing water to the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada as well as some of Mexico. Lake Mead was established as the Boulder Dam Recreation Area in 1936, administered by the National Park Service. The name was changed to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in 1947.

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