Biography of William E. Corbett

William E. Corbett. One of the forceful characters of the middle period of Shawnee County history was the late William E. Corbett. During his thirty-eight years in this section his many sterling traits of character made him honored, respected and esteemed.

William E. Corbett was born in Maine and lost both parents by death before he was ten years old. For some eight years he made his home with his paternal grandfather and during this time was fortunate in one way, being sent to school and thus securing a practical education, which was helpful through his subsequent life. When nineteen years old, being robust as well as adventurous, he decided to start out for himself, the great western country particularly attracting him. He found employment in the harvest fields before reaching Minnesota, in which state he worked in logging camps for a few years, and as he received fair wages and was prudent enough to save them, he was able to accumulate some capital. He then returned to Maine, but was not satisfied with conditions there after his wider vision of the world, and in 1869 again came west and located in Kansas, buying 340 acres of Santa Fe Railroad land in Mission Township, Shawnee County, paying as much cash as he could spare at that time, going in debt for the balance. In his journey from Maine to Kansas he traveled by railroad as far as Quincy, Illinois. There he bought a span of mules and covered the rest of the distance riding one and using the other as a pack animal, and later they were very valuable adjuncts on the farm. While farming was his principal occupation, a large source of income was his livestock business, raising horses, cattle and hogs in great numbers, and in the course of time he accumulated a comfortable store of worldly goods. Like many others, however, Mr. Corbett worked too hard and doubtless thereby shortened his life. His death occurred April 14, 1907. Notable among his characteristics were his love of work, his upright, wholesome, sturdy manhood, his honesty and his generosity. Owing to the latter trait, coupled with a tender heart, he was often imposed upon by the unscrupulous.

After coming to Shawnee County Mr. Corbett was married to Leah Hampe, who died March 17, 1901. Four children were born to this union: Zella (Mrs. George Pratt), Hannah, William and Margaret (Mrs. Clarence Read).

William Corbett, the only son, was born on the old home place, October 22, 1886, and has lived here all his life. His fine farm of 184 acres is a part of his father’s homestead, and under his intelligent and careful management it is yearly increased in value, its yields conclusively demonstrating that Shawnee County is not far behind the richest sections of this or other states. Many of the early settlers seem to have had remarkable foresight when they chose their land.

William Corbett was united in marriage with Miss Blanche Read, who is a daughter of Rev. A. C. Read, one of the old-time preachers in Kansas. They have had three children: William E., Edna and Gertrude, the last named dying when nineteen months old.

Mr. Corbett belongs to the progressive younger element of Shawnee County, advocating road improvement, educational advantages, cultural opportunities, and he is hearty in his support of these and other measures for the public good.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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