LEWIS ANGEL CORBIN

BIOGRAPHY

AS RECORDED IN:

COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF 
TOLLAND AND WINDHAM COUNTIES CONNECTICUT.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF PROMINENT AND REPRESENTATIVE  CITIZENS AND OF MANY OF THE EARLY SETTLED FAMILIES
PUBLISHER: J.H.BEERS & CO., CHICAGO; 1903      P.  212

Among the retired builders and manufacturers of Rockville, who in the last half century has probably done more than any other citizen toward the developing of the business interests of that city, is Lewis Angel Corbin.  From a most humble beginning, through the drudgery of toil, Mr. Corbin has gained the eminence he now enjoys, and his prosperity has been well earned.

The earliest known ancestor of Mr. Corbin, was Lement Corbin, who lived in Dudley, Mass., a descendant of English ancestors. Elisha Corbin, great-grandfather of Lewis Angel, was born June 13, 1713.  Joshua Corbin, son of Elisha, also of Dudley, was born July 16, 1757; he married a Miss Wood, and reared a large family:  Cynthia, Rhoda, Matilda, Otis, Royal, Lewis, George, Joshua, Carleton and Bradford. 

Lewis Corbin, son of Joshua, was born in 1794, in Dudley, Mass., where he lived and pursued the trade of stone worker.  His death occurred from lock-jaw in 1840.  His political principles were those of the Jacksonian Democrat.  His wife, Mary (Sayles) Corbin, was born at West Dudley, Mass., a daughter of Royal Sayles and his wife, who was a member of the Aldrich family.  Royal Sayles was a farmer, who also owned saw and grist mills, a cider press and a cooper shop, while on his farm he fed cattle which he drove to Brighton, Mass., and there sold them; he was a prominent man and gave his sons farms of their own.  After the death of her husband, Mrs. Corbin removed to Rockville, Conn., where she died, her burial being at Grove Hill cemetery.  To Lewis and Mary (Sayles) Corbin were born children who lived to maturity, as follows:  Lewis Angel;  Mary, who married Orville Button, and died in Suffield, Conn.;  John, who lives in Rockville;  Sarah Ann Maria, who is the widow of George W. Goodrich, and resides in Rockville.

Lewis Angel Corbin was born Sept. 18, 1822, in Dudley, where his ancestors have so long resided.  The educational advantages afforded at that time were considered sufficient, although they appear meager to the students of the twentieth century.  He was early required to engage in remunerative work of some kind, as he was the eldest in the family, and in 1840 was completely thrown upon his own resources on account of the death of his father.  Farm work was the labor most in demand, and for two years he ploughed and hoed, tilling the soil as carefully and thoroughly as in after years he managed great business interests, but he was ambitious, and kept on the outlook for wider opportunities.  In 1842 he went to the State of New York in pursuit of something which would prove of sufficient value to enable him to make of it a life work, applying in Albany, Troy, Watertown and Glen Falls, but disappointment met him at every turn, and his money, although carefully hoarded, was getting low.  Finally, tired but not discourage, for his hopeful nature has carried him over many a difficulty, he reached Warrensburg, where he found a Mr. Warren, who needed a young man who would consent to work from 4 A.M. to 9 P.M. for $9 a month, and with this generous owner of sawmills, timber lands, stock and store, he remained until the spring of 1843, when he became homesick and returned to Dudley.  Here he found employment with his uncle, Sylvanus Wakefield, at $11 per month to work at stone cutting.  Appearing very skillful at this trade, his uncle encouraged him to learn it, and here he remained for a year, and then hired out to Harvey Prince, receiving $1.25 per day.  For the following three years he industriously worked on the great mills then in course of construction, in Webster, Southbridge, Charlton, and in Oxford, Mass., also in Thompson, Conn.  When Ebenezer Rich took charge of the building of the wheels for the Rock Mill, at Rockville, Mr. Corbin went to that place, Sept. 19, 1846, but did not take his family until in the spring of 1847.  On April 1, 1847, he took charge of the stone work on the American Mills then building, and in the following year, on the Hockanum Mills, also doing much work in the neighboring towns.

On Jan. 1, 1851, attracted by the golden tales from California, in the companionship of George Talcott, of Rockville, and Mr. Vaughn, of Tolland, he went by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and for two years engaged in mining in the West, returning by the Nicaragua route.  After his return home in 1853, he built the home where he now resides on High street, opposite Market street, and in 1854, built Ellington Mills, for the manufacture of woolen goods.  This property was partially destroyed by fire, and our subject rebuilt it for the owners.

In 1854 Mr. Corbin thought he saw a future in the envelope manufacturing business, and for $100.00 bought the one-third interest of Milton G. Puffer in the envelope machinery, the other partners being J.N. Stickney and Cyrus White.  Later J.N. Stickney's interest was purchased by Cyrus White, and L.A. Corbin and the firm of White & Corbin was established for the manufacture of envelopes, this firm being the pioneers in the business.  The water power was bought of Albert Dart, and in 1856 the mill now owned by the J.J. Regan Manufacturing Company was built for the enlarged business.  Previous to this it had been conducted on Main street in the old foundry building, as it had been regarded as a poor business.  Sales were few, and the limited capital of the owners required the most careful moves.  Their stock of paper was bought on time, and the business was a drag on account of want of means.  As our subject had his excellent trade to fall back upon, he took contracts again in stone work, one of these being for the Congregational Church at Great Barrington, Mass., and by dint of great care and economy, he realized a handsome profit, which went into the struggling envelope business.  As an example of the energy and perseverance of Mr. Corbin, as to details, it may be mentioned that before work, at this critical time, he himself, sharpened his tools in the morning and in evening, although performing his full duty during the day.  At the new mill beside envelope making a large flour and rain business was carried on.  This firm purchased the New England Mill at auction on the failure of that concern; and in 1881, the Florence Mill, which was the largest brick building in Rockville, was bought by the firm, this being enlarged and made the largest manufacturing plant of the kind in the country.  In 1898 Mr. Corbin retired from the firm when it was absorbed by the U.S. Envelope Company, but his natural abundance of energy and vigor would not permit him to be quiet, and he is still active in attending to his extensive private interest, which include not only heavy real estate holdings in Rockville, but through the South and West.

While for years the practical head of the great firm of White & Corbin, in addition to the duties incident to that position, Mr. Corbin was a director in the Rockville Railroad, and in other business enterprises and there has probably not been a movement dependent upon the support of the citizens of the town, but he has been solicited for aid, and it just as surely received liberal support if its merits proved to be of advantage to Rockville.

Mr. Corbin cast his first presidential vote in 1844, for Henry Clay, and in 1856 joined the Republican party, but has never posed as a politician.  In 1867 he served as selectman of Vernon, and has held local offices, but the demands of an enormous business required his attention too closely for him to accept office to any extent. 

On Sept. 18, 1845, Mr. Corbin was married in North Grosvenor Dale, in the town of Thompson, Conn., to Miss Mary Upham, a native of Thompson, who was born Dec. 10, 1822, a daughter of Asa and Olive (Jordan) Upham; she died in Rockville, July 21, 1900.  Their children were:  (1) Louisa, born in Dudley in 1847, married in 1867, in Rockville, Sydney A. Grant, of Springfield, Mass.  They have two children, Helen; and Lewis Corbin, who married Hattie Somes, deceased, and has one child, Sydney Somes.  (2) Imogene, born in Rockville in 1851, married in 1871, Edwin Woodford, and their only daughter, Grace, was married in 1897 to Thurston Wilcox, by whom she has two children, Marjorie Edmond and Thurston Woodford.  Mrs. Imogene Woodford died June 21, 1901.  (3) Mary A., born in Rockville in 1856, married in 1877, Walter E. Payne, and has two sons, Leslie and Clarence.  On June 12, 1902 Mr. Lewis A. Corbin was married to Mrs. Laura (Lord) Ellinwood, daughter of Abel Lord, a successful lumber dealer at Athol, Mass.  The Lords were one of the oldest and most highly respected families in northern Massachusetts.

Since 1866 Mr. Corbin has been the efficient president of the board of trustees of the Methodist Church of Rockville, and he has made the interests of the church second to no other.  His substantial gifts have aided the charitable and benevolent objects of this religious body, while the example he has set has given encouragement to both pastors and people.  Many thousands of dollars have been given by him in money, but it is his lofty character which has made him one of the most esteemed of the citizens of Rockville.

Reproduced by:

Linda D. Pingel

 

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