KILBORN, CHARLES, farmer, mill owner, jp, office holder, and militia officer; b. 3 March 1758 in Litchfield, Conn.; m. February 1784 Margaret Young, and they had ten children; d. 20 June 1834 in Stanstead, Lower Canada, and was buried two days later.
Charles Kilborn’s ancestor Thomas Kilborn left London on 15 April 1635 to go to Connecticut, where he settled at Weathersfield and founded a family. Nothing is known of Charles’s childhood, but during the American revolution he was conscripted against his will into the American army. After participating in one campaign he joined the British forces, in which he reached the rank of captain. Taken prisoner in an engagement, he escaped and made his way on foot through the woods to the province of Quebec.
Like a number of his compatriots Kilborn settled in the Lake Champlain region near the border, at Caldwell’s Manor, where he was married. In 1783 he had joined several groups organized to obtain lands, first in Hemmingford and then in what became the Eastern Townships. For that purpose he took the oath of allegiance on 5 May 1795 at Missisquoi Bay. Eventually, on 27 Sept. 1800, he obtained 1,200 acres in Stanstead Township as an associate of Isaac Ogden. Kilborn sold several pieces of land but kept some good lots on which he settled with his brother-in-law Andrew Young in 1803. They carried out a number of large-scale projects, building a dam near the falls on the Rivière Tomifobia and digging a canal to supply power for a flour- and a lumber mill, the first to be built in that part of the township. The land that was consequently surrounded by water acquired the name Rock Island. In 1804 Kilborn’s family joined him there. He then added a carding- and fulling-mill and a plant to produce linseed oil. The site soon became known as Kilborn’s Mills. At Jesse Pennoyer’s suggestion Kilborn took up growing hemp, from which he made rope, but in 1811 the experiment ended for want of a market.
In 1803 Kilborn had been a charter member of Lively Stone Lodge No.22, a masonic lodge that brought together leading figures from both sides of the frontier. A meeting room was even built on the border, with an entrance on each side. About the same time Kilborn succeeded in capturing a notorious counterfeiter.
In response to popular demand in the Eastern Townships a militia corps was raised in 1805. When it was divided into six battalions in 1808, Kilborn was posted as major to the 3rd Townships Militia Battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Cull. But the War of 1812 would call for more onerous service. On 10 Jan. 1813, by order of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Johnson, the Frontier Light Infantry was created with 120 men recruited from the Eastern Townships militia and was assigned to the defence of the border. Kilborn shortly asked for a commission as captain in the new unit, and on 19 April he set off with a contingent for the military camp in La Prairie. On 13 August the Frontier Light Infantry was attached to the Voltigeurs Canadiens under the command of Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry, constituting its 9th and 10th companies at the end of the war. Kilborn served in various places, and after the battles of Lacolle and Odelltown he conducted the inquiries into the resulting damages. His active military career came to an end when the Voltigeurs Canadiens were demobilized on 24 March 1815, but he had to take steps to collect five months’ pay and various expenses. In 1830 he was promoted lieutenant-colonel of the Stanstead militia battalion.
Kilborn had long been interested in education. Around 1800 there were already some schools in Stanstead Township, and in June 1809 Kilborn was appointed commissioner to build another school there. In 1817 the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning made him visitor of royal schools in the township. On 13 March 1821, as trustee, he accepted the gift of some land for educational purposes and made it over to the Royal Institution. For several years he continued to attend diligently to educational matters, at the same time running his mills and a big farming operation.
On 1 Aug. 1806 Kilborn had been made a justice of the peace for the district of Montreal, and this appointment was renewed in 1810, 1821, 1826, and 1828. He received a similar commission for the district of Trois-Rivières in 1805 and 1811, and for that of Saint-François in 1821. In September of that year he had been appointed commissioner for the summary trial of small causes.
Kilborn, who had left Rock Island, of which he is acknowledged to be the founder, passed away in 1834, after a full life, at Stanstead, in the large house he shared with one son and his family. In serving his chosen country he had devoted his energies to meeting the most pressing needs of a new community: land clearance, industry, education, and defence of the territory.
ANQ-E, CE1-41, 22 juin 1834; CN2-26, 1803–19. PAC, MG 24, I11; RG 1, L3L: 32273, 59537; RG 4, A1; RG 9, I, A6; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. Stanstead County Hist. Soc. Arch. (Beebe, Que.), Kilborn papers. Docs. relating to constitutional hist., 1791–1818 (Doughty and McArthur). Bouchette, Topographical description of L.C. C.P. de Volpi and P.H. Scowen, The Eastern Townships, a pictorial record; historical prints and illustrations of the Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec, Canada (Montreal, 1962). Illustrated atlas of Eastern Townships. Langelier, Liste des terrains concédés. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). R. J. Ashton, The life of Henry Ruiter, 1742–1819 ([Chicago], 1974). Boulianne, “Royal Inst. for the Advancement of Learning.” Day, Hist. of Eastern Townships. Graham, Hist. of freemasonry. B. F. Hubbard, Forests and clearings; the history of Stanstead County, province of Quebec, with sketches of more than five hundred families, ed. John Lawrence (Montreal, 1874; repr. 1963). T. C. Lampee, “The Missisquoi loyalists,” Vt. Hist. Soc., Proc. (Montpelier), 6 (1938–39): 81–139. Sherbrooke Daily Record (Sherbrooke, Que.), 10 April–16 July 1910. W. H. Siebert, “The American loyalists in the eastern seigniories and townships of the province of Quebec,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., 7 (1913),
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Cite This Article
Marie-Paule R. LaBrèque, “KILBORN, CHARLES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 31, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/kilborn_charles_6E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Marie-Paule R. LaBrèque|
|Title of Article:||KILBORN, CHARLES|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1987|
|Year of revision:||1987|
|Access Date:||March 31, 2023|