Among the well known and highly respected citizens of northern Idaho who have borne an important part in the development of the state is Chester P. Coburn, of Lewiston, whose name is enrolled among the pioneers who came to this section of the country in 1862. He aided in the organization not only of the state but of the territory, and has ever been a prominent factor in the progress and advancement which have wrought a marvelous transformation here. It is a well attested maxim that the greatness of a state lies not in its machinery of government, nor even in its institutions, but in the sterling qualities of its individual citizens, in their capacity for high and unselfish effort and their devotion to the public good. Regarded as a citizen, Mr, Coburn belongs to that public-spirited, useful and helpful type of men whose ambitions and desires are centered and directed in those channels through which flow the greatest and most permanent good to the greatest number, and it is therefore consistent with the purpose and plan of this work that his record be given among those of the representative men of the state.
A native of Vermont, Chester P. Coburn was born in Rochester, that state, May 3, 1832. His ancestors were early settlers of New Hampshire and the Green Mountain state, and his grand-fathers, Abraham Coburn and Benjamin Stone, fought for the freedom and independence of the colonies in the Revolutionary war. His father, Thomas Coburn, was a native of New Hampshire, and in early life learned the tanner’s trade, but in later years became a farmer. He married Miss Amelia Stone, and they removed from Vermont to Potsdam, New York, where the father departed this life at the advanced age of eighty-six years, while the mother was called to her final rest in her eighty-fourth year. They were lifelong members of the Congregational church, and in his political views Mr. Coburn was first a Whig and afterward a Republican. Both he and his wife enjoyed the high regard of many friends and their lives were exemplary in all respects. They had a family of nine children, three sons and six daughters, but four of the daughters are now deceased.
Chester P. Coburn, the eighth in order of birth, was reared and educated in Vermont and New York. He left his home in August 1849, at the age of seventeen years, and went to New York, where he remained until 1852, when he sailed for California, going by way of the Nicaragua route. He was for some years engaged in mining and merchandising in Placer and Yolo counties, where members of his party took out nuggets worth seventy-five and eighty dollars. The largest one he ever secured, however, was worth ten dollars. He also engaged in stock raising in California, and had been in the latter business four years when, attracted by the Florence gold discoveries, he came to Lewiston, Idaho. During the first summer he engaged in mining, and then established a livery business, for there was a large demand for pack and saddle horses. He carried on operations along that line until 1864, when he sold his barn and went to Oregon, where he purchased one hundred and seventy-five head of cattle, which he brought to Lewiston. He then engaged in stock raising and the dairy business, and subsequently carried on the butchering business in Lewiston for fourteen years. In 1890 he went to the Salmon River country, took up government land and continued in the stock business, meeting with gratifying success. He is a man of great industry, and his sagacity in business affairs and his untiring energy resulted in securing a handsome competence. In 1898 he sold his ranch and stock, and just as he was concluding the transaction he was robbed of three thousand dollars worth of stock. He never found the thief or cattle, although he traveled in every direction, searching for months, but without avail. He is now retired from active business life and resides in his home in Lewiston, which he has owned for thirty years.
In 1866 Mr. Coburn was united in marriage to Miss Martha Chauncy, a native of Illinois. “who crossed the plains in an early day. Their union has been blessed with seven children, four sons and three daughters, all yet living, namely: Albert C: Howard S. and Herbert E., twin’s; Ransom M.; Alice M.; Flora G., wife of Frank Sears; and Cora E.
Mr. Coburn cast his first presidential vote for Winfield Scott, and was one of the organizers of the Republican Party in California. He remained as one of its most stalwart supporters for many years, but is not in harmony with it on the financial question, and is therefore independent at the present time, placing the country’s good before party advancement. He has attended various conventions of his party in Boise, when the fare by stage was one hundred and five dollars each way, and several weeks were required for the transaction of business and the accomplishment of the journey. Few, if any, of the pioneers have manifested greater devotion to the best interests of the state or performed more effective labor in behalf of the general progress and advancement of Idaho. He has left the impress of his individuality upon the social, moral, business and political life of the state, and is regarded as one of Idaho’s most valued citizens. He is very prominent in Masonic circles and has, attained distinction in connection with the official labors of the organization. He was made a Master Mason in Nez Perces Lodge, No. 10, F. & A. was a charter member of Lewiston Chapter, No. 4, R. A. AI., and was chosen its first high priest, serving in that capacity for seven years. He is also past master of the lodge and past grand master of the order in the state. His life exemplifies the ennobling principles of the fraternity, which through countless ages has inculcated charity and kindliness among men.