Ebenezer Annan Corbet was born on 8 March 1817 in Edinburgh, Scotland, to Thomas Corbet and Jane Annan; he was the eldest of eight children. Why, how, or when E. A. (as he was known) arrived in Evansville, Indiana, is uncertain, but on the morning of 6 April 1839 he stood before a judge and stated his intentions of becoming a citizen of the United States.

For the next five years, E. A. sold dry goods by newspaper advertisement and partnered from 1844 to 1845 with C. M. Griffith, the leading dry goods merchant in Evansville. During this time, E. A. was also a notary plus a land buyer and seller. He was a trustee for St. Paul’s Church and secretary and trustee for the Vanderburgh County Library.

In 1850, E. A. entered an agreement with Hayden & Wilson of New York to manage their interests in a saddlery business in St. Louis. It appears that E. A. traveled frequently between St. Louis and Evansville, where he courted and then in August 1852, married Kate Tilley, great-grandniece of General George Rogers Clark and his brother, William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame.

E. A. and Kate lived most of their married life in St. Louis and had nine children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. One son, George Ormsby Corbet, died trying to save passengers during a fire while onboard the steamboat, Kate Adams, near Memphis in 1881.

In 1859, E. A. formed a partnership with Gottlieb Kuhn and opened a saddlery shop at 70 North Main Street. An advertisement proclaimed them as “Manufacturers and Wholesale Dealers in Every Decription [sic] of Saddles, Harness, Bridles, Martingales, Collars, Whips and Trunks.” After Kuhn’s death in 1862, the firm continued as E. A. Corbet with the main location at 109 North Fourth Street.

With a membership in the Minute Men, and the naming of a son born in 1860 as John Breckenridge Corbet, there can be no doubt that E. A. was a Southern sympathizer, but there is no record of him ever owning a slave. His brother-in-law was arrested for selling medical supplies to the South.

On 6 February 1862, E. A. signed his Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. government, and in September of the same year, he became a captain in the Missouri Militia. During the Civil War, he actually became one of the leading suppliers of saddles, harnesses, and leather goods, such as cartridge cases, to the Union Army.

He was a trustee for St. George’s Episcopal Church, a member of the Naphtalia Masonic Lodge, and, as president of the Caledonian Society, he presented a bust of Robert Burns to the Mercantile Library.

After 1868, he was bankrupt. He tried to revive successive businesses in saddlery and leather goods without success. In 1875, at the age of fifty-seven, he died while a patient at the City Hospital and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery. His obituary stated that E. A. “was a man of noble impulses, and when he had to give, no worthy object of charity was turned away empty handed.”

Written by Kathleen Corbet
January 2021

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Last Modified: 29-Jun-2021 17:15