Francis Corbin (d. 1767)

Written By Dr. Troy L. Kickler

When the English Civil War ended, King Charles II was restored to the throne. Recognizing the assistance of political allies, the crown rewarded his political allies with vast tracts of land in British America. It eventually became known as Carolina (modern-day North and South Carolina), and the eight loyal friends were known as Lords Proprietors.


In 1729, seven of the eight sold their lands back to the British Crown. The holdout was the Earl of Granville. His tract contained, more or less, what is now the upper half of North Carolina, and Francis Corbin of Chowan County was the Earl of Granville’s land agent. Corbin was appointed to the position in 1744 and served in that capacity until 1759.


Prospective buyers traveled to Edenton to talk to Corbin, who built and used the Cupola House as his office. Such persons included Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg, who talked with Corbin regarding purchasing a Piedmont tract for Moravians. The settlement later became known as Wachovia.


Corbin was influential in the Edenton community. He served in several positions, including judge of vice-admiralty and colonel in the Chowan County militia. He was involved with St. Paul’s Church, as well, and there, he no doubt interacted with many other influential persons. 


During Royal Governor Arthur Dobb’s administration, Corbin and his subordinate agents were the subjects of political corruption accusations and targets of political protests. They were accused of pocketing numerous fees and not turning over the necessary amount to Lord Granville. In other words, they were allegedly making a profit from assessing fees, and many disgruntled grantees complained to the General Assembly. No action was taken, so a couple dozen protestors—men of considerable property—traveled to Edenton and abducted Corbin and co-agent Bodley. They were taken to Enfield for four days, and under duress, the two agreed to be transparent and open the book of deeds and other land transaction documents. (For more on what is known as the Enfield Riot, please click here.)


The General Assembly never charged Corbin, but his political relationship with the Royal Governor Dobbs soured.  Dobbs removed him from his duties as assistant judge and militia colonel, and in 1760, Lord Granville removed Corbin from his post as land agent.


Corbin seemed to never run out of favor with Chowan countians—maybe because he had held influential posts for a long time and complaints originated in counties closer to the Piedmont. That year he was elected to represent his neighbors in the General Assembly, and he proved to be a political thorn in the side of Arthur Dobbs.


Corbin is most known nowadays for building the Cupola House in Edenton. According to the Cupola House Association, the structure “has been called the finest Jacobean house south of Connecticut . . .”