north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

Most of Francis Corbin’s life before his arrival in America remains a mystery. It is assumed that he was born in England, possibly London, in the early 1700s. That he was well educated is obvious in his correspondence and his career. Corbin was sent to North Carolina in November 1744 by John Carteret, Earl Granville, with the Earl’s copy of the new proprietary charter for the northern half of the colony and several other related documents. Corbin was not given official duties as a commissioner for Granville until September 1746. Granville named Corbin and Thomas Child proprietary agents in October 1749 and gave them powers of attorney. The two opened the land office in Edenton in 1750. With various partners after Child left, Corbin remained Granville’s principal agent until 1759.

In 1759 citizens became outraged about abuses in the Granville land office, and directed their ire at Corbin and his co-agent. Corbin was forcibly taken to Enfield where he was held prisoner. Arthur Dobbs, colonial governor, stripped Corbin of his Crown offices and Granville revoked his power of attorney and protection. Interestingly, Corbin was soon elected to the General Assembly from Chowan County and went on to hold the positions of judge in the court of admiralty, associate justice of the general and county courts, and colonel in the militia.

Francis Corbin married Jean Innes, a widow, in 1761. He died at the couple’s plantation in New Hanover County in 1767. Corbin’s home in Edenton was the splendid and oft controversial Cupola House. On lot one of the new plan for the town of Edenton, the house was for years confused with the residence on the property of lot one of the old town plan, thus causing most to believe that it was built around 1725. In 1991 the Cupola House’s age was scientifically determined through dendrochronology, or the dating of wood using tree rings. The period of construction was established as 1757 to 1759, explaining Francis Corbin’s initials and 1758 on a front finial. He was known to have owned the Cupola House, and now it is assumed that he built it.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 431-432—sketch by George Stevenson
Bruce Cheeseman, “Historical Research Report: The Cupola House of Edenton, Chowan County” (1980, manuscript copy in Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History, microfilm copy in North Carolina State Archives and North Carolina Collection, UNC Library)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources