CORBIN, DAVID, king’s master carpenter; b. c. 1684 in Canada, son of David Corbin, a butcher, and Marie Parent; m. first on 28 Feb. 1707 at Quebec to Marie-Jeanne Faveron, by whom he had seven children, and secondly on 12 Feb. 1719 at Quebec to Geneviève Gariépy; buried 2 Oct. 1755.
David Corbin and two of his sons, Étienne (1706?–68) and Joseph-Marie (1711–57), are best known for their role in the royal shipbuilding program of the 1730s and 1740s. Corbin had likely been trained as a carpenter by his stepfather, Joseph Rancour, and introduced to shipbuilding by Fabien Badeau, his brother-in-law.
Before his marriage in 1707, David Corbin had travelled in 1705 to the Detroit area for the Compagnie de la Colonie. He was still a young man when he came to the attention of the administration – a dispatch of 1744 refers to his “forty years” as “foreman carpenter in his majesty’s service.” He was made the king’s master carpenter in January 1722 by Intendant Bégon, “to work on the construction and refitting of the king’s canoes and boats, to oversee the conduct of the said works . . . , to select and cut the necessary trees” for their construction, and to inspect the planks, masts, and other wood being sent in consignments by contractors to Rochefort, France. Corbin was paid 50 livres a month by the crown but had time to work also for himself.
In the official correspondence it is Corbin’s work outside Quebec that is mentioned most often. In 1724 he went with an official party to Baie Saint-Paul to test the suitability of its pine for masts. After 1730, with the crown actively promoting public and private shipbuilding in New France, these assignments increased. In 1733, 1735, and yearly from 1739 to 1745 he sought out stands of oak and pine around Montreal Island, Lake Champlain, and elsewhere. He had to select and mark trees, and in 1740, 1744, and 1746 to supervise the woodcutters and carpenters who prepared the timber for the shipyards. Specifications might be provided by the principal royal shipwright at Quebec, René-Nicolas Levasseur*, but it was the private contractors who were largely responsible for execution. Thus in 1740, for example, Corbin’s instructions were to oversee the private contractor Pierre Lupien, dit Baron, who recruited, equipped, and fed his own woodcutters; Corbin was to have his recorder list the timber they produced and the supplies given by Baron, and to make weekly reports to the financial commissary at Montreal.
The Corbins’ sensitivities were aroused in 1744 when a French carpenter, Chiquet, received a royal commission as a shipyard foreman in Canada. Étienne Corbin had been a foreman at the Quebec shipyard since 1740 and had greater seniority. The intendant, Gilles Hocquart*, appeased his jealousy by recommending for this “very good subject” a similar favour. David Corbin was recommended for a third “king’s warrant”: it would cost the king nothing and Corbin “would be greatly humiliated if he were denied it.” The warrants were granted in 1745. The fidelity of this family was, according to Jacques Mathieu, rare among Canadians, and “only the Corbins, established in the shipyard from the beginning, became foremen.”
Joseph-Marie gradually replaced his father as supervisor of woodcutting for the royal shipyard after 1742. Until 1750 he performed the same duties as his father in the forests, usually in autumn and winter. David, after his 62nd birthday, naturally enough remained in Quebec. Joseph-Marie was appointed king’s master carpenter, probably after the death of his father in 1755, but died himself two years later.
In his history of industry in New France, Joseph-Noël Fauteux concluded that “the advances made in shipbuilding in Canada were owed to the tireless devotion of [René-Nicolas] Levasseur and his faithful master carpenters, the Corbins.”
AN, Col., B, 81, p.149; C11A, 46, pp.210–18; 60, pp.188–91; 73, pp.65–68; 74, pp.206–11; 75, pp.353–55; 81, pp.399, 401; 105, pp.288–89 (PAC transcripts). ANQ, Greffe de Gilbert Boucault de Godefus, 30 janv. 1751; Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 28 avril 1705, 24 févr. 1707, 26 févr.–11 mars 1709; NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 734 1/4, 3037; NF, Ord. int. ANQ-M, Greffe de Cyr de Monmerqué, 14 févr. 1757. Jug. et délib., III, V. “Recensement du Canada, 1681” (Sulte). Recensement de Québec, 1716 (Beaudet). “Recensement de Québec, 1744” (APQ Rapport). P.-V. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec: le nécrologe de la crypte,” BRH, XX (1914), 237. P.-G. Roy, Inv. ins. Prév. Québec, I, 166; II, 173; Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760, I, 190–91, 275, 295; Inv. ord. int., I, II, III. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. J.-N. Fauteux, Essai sur l’industrie, I, 201, 251, 253, 259, 263, 266–67. Mathieu, La construction navale, 57–58. P.-G. Roy, “L’hon. René-Ovide Hertel de Rouville,” BRH, XII (1906), 129–31.