Digest>Archives> December 2002

David E. Corbin’s Gravestone

By William H. Olson


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The first keeper of the Pottawatomie Light, David E. Corbin, was laid to rest in the little cemetery just a couple hundred feet down the southeast path from the lighthouse located at Rock Island State Park in Wisconsin. The twelve people buried in this small graveyard have no markers to identify them, only a white board fence surrounding the graveyard and fieldstones at each grave. We know the names of some of the twelve. Along with Keeper Corbin are four members of the Newman Curtis family. The seven unnamed others were apparently shipwreck victims whose bodies were found on the beach.

The exact date of Corbin’s birth is not known. He became a sergeant in the Army during the War of 1812. He was a bachelor while serving as Pottawatomie keeper and the Lighthouse Inspector is reported to have given him 20 days leave to find a wife. He returned still a single man. He died at the lighthouse in December of 1852.

It seemed a shame that this Rock Island pioneer was not remembered with an appropriate marker. He lies buried near his beloved lighthouse where he faithfully kept the lanterns burning from its inception as the first government lighthouse in Wisconsin’s waters in 1836 until his death sixteen years later.

The DNR gave permission to the Friends of Rock Island to erect a fitting stone marker. The gravestone, which includes an artist’s conception of the original lighthouse, was erected by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources personnel this summer, almost 150 years after Corbin’s demise.

Better late than never.

This story appeared in the December 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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