SAMUEL HARRIS CORBETT. A highly respected and esteemed resident of Deerfield, and a prominent member of the agricultural community, Samuel H. Corbett is widely and favorably known throughout this section of Kearny County as a man of sterling worth and a worthy representative of those courageous pioneers who settled in the county in its days of infancy. A native of Maryland, he was born February 7, 1859, in Baltimore, where his childhood days were spent.
His father, Jacob Corbett, was for many years successfully engaged in the dairy business in Baltimore, Maryland, where his death occurred in 1871, while yet in the prime of life. His wife, whose maiden name was Louise Honodle, was born in Germany, and as a child came with her parents to Franklin County, Pennsylvania, where she was brought up and educated. She died in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, in 1916, aged eighty-two years. She reared children as follows: John, president of a bank in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania; Samuel H., subject of this sketch; Maggie, wife of Will Morrison, also of Waynesboro; Martin, of Hagerstown, Maryland; Ned, of Kansas City, Missouri, and Mrs. Nannie Townsend, deceased.
Left fatherless at the age of twelve years, Samuel H. Corbett went to Boonsboro, Maryland, to live with an uncle, and remained in his home for one year, and later two years at Sharpsburg, receiving his board and clothes, and $30 a year, every cent of which he earned, as well as the scant schooling he got. Rising at 4 o'clock in the morning, he did almost a day's work as chore boy before going to school, and did like service at night.
In 1877, a youth in his teens, Mr. Corbett came to Kansas to seek his fortune. After living for a time in Lincoln County, he drifted into the Arkansas Valley with the "XY" Cattle Company, of which Fred Harvey, the noted eating-house man, was at the head, and began his career as a cow puncher. During the four years that he was thus employed he traversed the Harvey range from Garden City west to Hartland, and the spring round ups brought him in contact with almost every hill and vale within a radius of 250 miles. During those periods the boys had to be continually on the lookout for hostile Indians, the country being first visited by old Sitting Bull and his tribe, while later the Cheyennes spread terror among the few pioneer settlers.
Retiring from the cowboy life, Mr. Corbett intended to make a business of catching mustang ponies, for which there was great demand, working for some one else. His plans, however, were suddenly changed by the advent of a charming young lady, whom he wooed and won, and instead of chasing ponies he filed on the piece of land that he now owns and occupies. Establishing his home on the southwest quarter of section 16, township 24, range 35, he erected for the home of his bride a box house 14 by 20 feet, which was then considered a "mansion" in this section of the country. As his wealth increased, Mr. Corbett added to the house until now a one-story dwelling of seven rooms shelters and gives comfort to him and his family.
Mr. Corbett had a small bunch of cattle to start with when he assumed possession of his ranch, but the blizzard of January, 1886, cleared up every hoof, and he gave half of the hides for the skinning of the whole bunch, which actually froze to death. This calamity left Mr. Corbett with an indebtedness of $750. Going to Lakin, he asked Mr. O'Laughlin for a job, but he replied "Sam, you are married now, and I can't hire you; you'd better stay around home." Going then to another acquaintance, Mr. Corbett borrowed $150, and with that small capital began buying and selling condemned cow horses, building up a trade in that field that proved remunerative.
Mr. Corbett married, May 24, 1883, Dollie Caswell who was born in August, 1861, in Racine, Wisconsin, an only child and came to Kearny County with her widowed mother and her grandfather, Alva Cleveland, a pioneer settler. Mr. and Mrs. Corbett have six children, namely: Bert, a farmer, married Edna Dyke, and they have one child, Omro; Carl, of the firm of Corbett Brothers, merchants of Deerfield, married Ola Tuggle, and they have a son, Harris; Maude, wife of William Kell, of Caldwell, Kansas; Louise, wife of Lewis Smith, of Deerfield, has one son, Lewis Gordon; Ruth, wife of Ray Melton, also of Deerfield; and Jacob, of the firm of Corbett Brothers, married Martha Bruce.
In addition to his agricultural labors Mr. Corbett has been identified with other lines of industry, having several years ago embarked in mercantile pursuits, establishing the business that is now carried on by his sons under the firm name of Corbett Brothers. He also served for several years as postmaster of the Deerfield Village. He has never taken any active part in political affairs, invariably refusing all public offices, as in the earlier days it seemed almost impossible for a man to hold a county office and maintain his integrity. He was, though, a member of the first school board of the township, the school building having been located a mile northeast of Deerfield, and the teacher having been Mrs. Nichols. Mr. Corbett was reared under Catholic influence, but is now an active member of the Methodist Church, to which his wife and children belong, and is prominent in the Sunday school. He has been a wide reader of history, ancient and modern, and among his favorite classical works Homer and Plutarch's lives are to be found.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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