This 4,057-foot mountain was named for arguably the most important figure in Adirondack High Peak history. Verplanck Colvin, driven by his love for topography and the outdoors, led the Adirondack Survey in 1865. Colvin also served as the first secretary of the State Park Commission in 1872. He spent much of his life exploring and mapping the Adirondacks, remaining the superintendent of the survey until 1900. Colvin was also instrumental to the creation of the Adirondack Park. In his 1873 First Annual Report of the Commissioners of State Parks of the State of New York, he argued for the creation of the Forest Preserve as a state park to protect the wilderness. He advocated for the beauty of the park, the conservation of its watershed, the health and pleasure it encourages in visitors, and the preservation of its timber.
Colvin’s work upgraded much of the limited and faulty geographic knowledge of the region. He played a huge role in defining many of the obscure and debated boundaries in the Adirondacks. Colvin never officially completed the map, however, and took most of the survey records with him after leaving office, claiming them as personal property since he had started his 1865 survey privately at his own expense. Colvin was harshly criticized for this move, which prevented his successors from completing his map. Carson argued, though, that Colvin was never fairly compensated for his hard work, as the New York State Legislature often withheld money from him, made him to use his own money to pay bills without compensation, and never paid his full salary (Carson 174-175).
While Old Mountain Phelps referred to the peak as “Sabele” after the Native American who discovered ore at McIntyre, Reverend Theodore L. Cuyler gave it a new name in 1873. During a hike by Cuyler, Colvin, and Mills Blake, up Hurricane Mountain, Colvin asked guide Elijah Simmonds about the name of one of the peaks he was measuring. When Simmonds replied that the peak was nameless, Cuyler declared that they should call it Mount Colvin. The first ascent of the peak occurred later that year by Colvin himself, along with Blake, Charles H. Peck, and three guides (including Old Mountain Phelps). Phelps didn’t object to the renaming of the peak, though a quarrel between Colvin and R.M. Shurtleff made Shurtleff determined to eliminate the name. He placed a number of signs along the trail with the name “Mount Sebille,” sparking a fair bit of confusion. Eventually, Shurtleff dropped his opposition, and Mount Colvin became the uncontested name of the peak.
Colvin, Verplanck. “Ascent of Mount Seward and Its Barometrical Measurement.” Adirondack Explorations: Nature Writings of Verplanck Colvin, edited by Paul Schaefer, Syracuse University Press, 1997, pp. 87–117.