James D. Corbet

JAMES D. CORBET. A resident of Kansas more than half a century, since early boyhood, James D. Corbet is one of the substantial farmers and stock raisers of Shawnee County. His life and career is one worthy in every respect of emulation. He has been enterprising and progressive and having acquired success as a business man has devoted a goodly tithe of his means and his energies to the public welfare. He has been especially interested in the advancement of public schools.

His is an ancestral history of unusual interest. The family is of French origin, and at the time of the invasion of England by William the Conqueror or somewhat later the ancestors of the time were granted estates at Inverness, Scotland, and a coat of arms. These grants were made as a reward for the gallant part they had played in the conquest of England. For many generations the family has held the old ancestral seat, consisting of a castle and a large estate at Beauly. Mr. Corbet of Shawnee County is now one of the accepted five heirs to this property.

Owing to a feud between the clansmen composing this family, one branch changed the spelling of the name to Corbett, but the branch of which James D. Corbet is a descendant retained the original manner of spelling.

The father of Mr. Corbet was George McCullough Corbet, who was born at the family seat in Scotland. Being gifted with an unusual degree of intelligence he was allowed a superior classical education and was ordained to the ministry. When but sixteen years of age he qualified as a school teacher. This gifted man came to America in the late '40s. For a time he was employed as tutor for some of the wealthy families of Cleveland, Ohio. On March 13, 1848, he married Martha Kerr. There were two children of the union, James D. being the only survivor. George M. Corbet lost his life during the cholera epidemic of 1854. His widow subsequently married Murdoch McLeod, and in 1861 they removed to Kansas, locating at Grasshopper Falls, now Valley Falls, in Jefferson County. Previously James Kerr, brother of Mrs. McLeod, and a native of Scotland, had located in this section of Kansas. He participated in the stirring events of those early years, but eventually returned to Scotland where he died.

In 1854 on March 28th, at Cleveland, Ohio, James D. Corbet was born. His father died the same year. He was seven years of age when his widowed mother and her second husband came to Kansas Though very young at the time his recollection of pioneer events in and around Valley Falls is exceedingly vivid. He recalls the fact that he earned his first wages in Kansas about that time by herding sheep at fifteen cents a day. Naturally enough his opportunities for a school education were very limited. For a few winters he attended the schools taught in the neighboring district, but his education was largely of a practical nature, becoming skilled at a very early date in contending with the environment in which he was placed.

At the age of twenty-one he left home and since then has given his active attention to farming and stock raising. In that he has been unusually successful. At Winchester, Kansas, April 14, 1881, Mr. Corbet married Miss Georgie A. Rankin. Her father Charles Mercer Rankin, though a native of Virginia, was a Union soldier and lost his life in the battle of Antietam. Her mother, Sophia J. (Hoff) Rankin moved with her children to Ohio in 1864, and from there came to Jefferson County, Kansas, in 1873 Mrs. Corbet is a woman of bright intelligence and a splendid home maker. As a young girl she taught school in Kansas, and was also a gifted writer. She contributed many descriptive articles and some poetry to the local press under the pen name "Bittersweet." Since 1902 Mr. Corbet and family have resided in Shawnee County. He owns three separate tracts of land aggregating 690 acres, and these farms help to swell the aggregate of Kansas crops. Not only have Mr. and Mrs. Corbet prospered in the accumulation of a store of material wealth, but they have been happily blessed with five children: Iris Ethel, Mrs. Harry T. Forbes; James C., who is a successful farmer in Dover Township; Martha Edna; Margaret Opal, Mrs. Howell Jones; and George Kenneth.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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