The Francis Corbin Research Project


Having moved from England to Edenton, NC, when I married a native of that town - the first colonial capital of North Carolina - I had always been surprised that nobody there knew anything about Francis Corbin's life or family from before he became, in 1749, agent for Earl Granville, the English nobleman who then owned a swathe across the north of NC that was about one-eighth of the total area of the Carolinas.

While back in England for a heart operation, and with the impending celebrations in Edenton for the 250th anniversary of the Cupola House, built for Francis Corbin in 1758, I decided to research who he was and where he came from.

Initial clues were scarce.

1.   An 1895 article about Libraries and Literature in North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century mentioned a few titles that carried Francis Corbin's bookplate and were then in the library at Hayes, just outside Edenton. Some of these turned out to be still in the reconstruction of the Hayes Library at UNC - Chapel Hill. The bookplate bore the crest of the Corbyn family of Corbyn's Hall, Kingswinford, Staffordshire and (later) Hall End, Polesworth, Warwickshire (about 25 miles away from Corbyn's Hall). Henry Corbyn, a member of the Council of Virginia from 1663 to 1675, was third son of Thomas Corbyn of Hall End. Henry's descendants spelt their family name as Corbin.

2.   Francis Corbin's library included Mallet's Life of Francis Bacon (London, 1740), Shaw's Francis Bacon (3 volumes, London, 1733), and Salmon's Modern History, or the Present State of All Nations (3 volumes, London, 1744) - as well as several volumes in French. These, together with his working as Granville's agent and serving on the North Carolina colonial council for almost a decade, indicate that he must have been well educated - although there is no record of his having attended either Oxford or Cambridge University.

3.   William Tryon, Governor of NC, in recommending Francis Corbin's appointment to fill a vacancy on the colonial council, wrote to the Board of Trade in London on 1st February, 1766: "Mr Francis Corbyn was in the Council till suspended by the late Governor, he is a near relation of Mr Corbyn Morris's, one of the Commissioners of his Majesty's customs." Corbyn Morris's unusual first name was his mother Margarett's family name: she came from the Corbyn family that leased Eymore (near Upper Arley, Worcestershire) from the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral for over 200 years.

4.   Francis Corbin's heir was Edmund Corbin of New Hanover county, NC. Joseph Hewes, Edenton's future signatory of the Declaration of Independence, deposed under oath in April 1775 that "he heard the late Francis Corbin declare that the said Edmund Corbin was the nearest relation he had in the world."

There is considerable variation in whether the family name is spelt with an I or a Y, both versions on occasion occurring within a single paragraph of a document!

Research is still continuing, and any additional information or suggestions would be welcomed.

John Basset Collins
Email: Francis Corbin

John Collins portrays Francis Corbin in the dining room of the 1758 Cupola House in Edenton



⊗ signifies a link

The first Corbin to settle in America: Hugh Corbin & family, 1635.

The first Corbin recorded in Virginia: Dionisius (Dennis) Corbin, 1645.

The first Corbin in the Carolinas: Rev. William Corbin at Goose Creek, SC, 1700-1702.

The Corbin family of Devon, England.

The second Corbin in South Carolina: Rebekah Corbin married Hill Croft at Charleston, SC, 2 June 1726.

The first Corbin in North Carolina: Wiiliam Corbin appointed Justice of the Peace 23 March 1734/5.

The third Corbin in South Carolina: Francis Corbin at Charleston, SC, before 1738 - after 1745, father of Edmund Corbin.

Nautical connections of the Corbins/Corbyns.

The Corbyn family of Corbyn's Hall, Staffordshire, and Hall End, Warwickshire.

The Corbyn family of Eymore, Worcestershire.

Thomas Corbyn, England's preeminent manufacturer and exporter of medicines in the 18th century.

The Corbin family of inland Virginia: Henry Corbin, immigrated 1654.

The Corbin family of Tidewater Virginia.

The Corbin family of New England.

The Corbyn family of Maryland.

The Corbin family of Barbados.

Captain Samuel Corbin, west of the Catawba River from 1750.

The Corbin family of Middlesex, England.

Francis Corbin of Stepney Causeway, Stepney, Middlesex: christened at St Dunstan, Stepney, 24 September 1710.

Francis Corbin's first recorded trip to the Carolinas, December 1744.

Sir John Carteret, Earl Granville, 1690-1763, last active one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina.

The Granville District.

Edward Moseley, surveyor-general of North Carolina, first agent of Earl Granville, died 11 July 1749.

Connections between the Corbin and Moseley families.

Francis Corbin in London, 1748-49, allied with future Governor Arthur Dobbs in opposition to Governor Gabriel Johnston.

Francis Corbin in North Carolina as agent for Earl Granville, 1749-1760.

The puzzle of Strawberry Island; and Francis Corbin's other property transactions in NC.

The Cupola House in Edenton, NC, built 1758.

Francis Corbin's Library.

Francis Corbin's falling out with Governor Arthur Dobbs, and the "Enfield Riot" of 1759.

Francis Corbin as Representative for Chowan county, 1760-1765.

Francis Corbin's marriage to widow Jean Innes, 1761-1767.

Colonel James Innes of Point Pleasant, New Hanover county, died 1759.

Point Pleasant plantation on the Cape Fear.

John Rutherfurd, loyalist, executor of Jean Corbin following her death in March 1775, died 1782.

Edmund Corbin, patriot, heir and second administrator of Francis Corbin, died 1781 or 1782.

John Norman, step-father of Edmund Corbin, died 1756.

Dr. John Corbyn, surgeon, living in Wilmington, NC, 1755-1766, husband of Ann Moore, daughter of Maurice Moore.

"The Family" - the Moores of south-eastern NC, 3 sons of James Moore, Governor of SC, 1700-1703.

Edmund Corbyn, killed at the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805, whose parents married in Wilmington, NC, about 1775.

An 1802 legal case arising out of the 1761 marriage agreement between Francis Corbin & Jean Innes.

Corbin family in Halifax County, NC.

Links to Wills and other Documents.