Austin Corbin II
July 11, 1827 – June 4, 1896
Corbin Park is named after its creator; Austin Corbin – A self-made millionaire, and known as the “Father of the Banking Industry”, Austin Corbin bought up dozens of farms in west central New Hampshire in the late 1800s to create one of the largest hunting preserves in America. Previously, he developed Coney Island, and Manhattan Beach. He also created a railroad that transported guests from New York City to his well-known hotel “The Oriental” in Coney Island.
Corbin Park, or the Blue Mountain Forest and Game Preserve (also known as the "Blue Mountain Forest Association" and "Corbin's Park"), is a private, enclosed shooting preserve with a very limited membership. The approximately 26,000 acre preserve was founded in 1890 by Austin Corbin II, a Newport native who grew to prominence in the late 1800s as a founder of modern American banking. Corbin used his fortune to buy up as much land as he could in the Croydon-Grantham area to establish a gigantic hunter’s playground.
The majority of the park is in Croydon, with over 10,000 acres. 1,151 acres lie within Grantham’s borders. Corbin’s intention was to bring together at his preserve, “all the animals of the world that can live there harmoniously.” Originally, it was stocked with bison, white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer, mule deer, European red deer, bighorn sheep, moose, antelope, caribou, Himalayan mountain goats, pheasants and wild boar from the German Black Forest. The bison, deer, elk and boar all flourished, but the pheasants flew over the fences and the rest of the species proved unable to survive. Corbin Park once had the largest bison herd in the country, and supplied bison and deer to refuges, parks and zoos all over the U.S.
HERE is an extensive article from Dan Billin at the Valley News about the history of Corbin's Park.
DECEMBER, 2004 - No one seems to really know how many acres are in "The Park", as we locals call it. One report says it's 24,000 acres and one says it's 19,000 acres. I've also heard "25,000 acres" and "26,000 acres". In the latter 20th Century, The Park has also bought up a lot of the land around the outside perimeter of the fence, presumably to serve as a buffer. The Park consists of parts of Cornish, Plainfield, Grantham, Newport, Claremont, and over half of Croydon. Click HERE for a map of the area and HERE for a detailed park map. You can use your browser's zoom function to zoom in for more detail.
There is a surprising amount of interest in this local private game preserve, from all over the country. This page gets many hits every day. It is the most popular page on my whole web site. It amazes me and my family that people have even heard of it enough to search for it..
What follows are a couple of the newspaper articles recently published about the Park, generated primarily as a result of media focus on The Park after Robert H. Proulx of Manchester was fatally shot there Jan 1, 2004. Incredibly, the shooter, Steven R. Laro of Concord, got off scott-free at his trial. Not only did he get away with it, he then had the audacity to sue to get his hunting license back. Click here and here to see the NH Fish & Game news releases regarding the shooting. More articles here. There used to be many news links on this story, but most have dried up over the years. Google "Steven Laro" + "Concord" to get more info on the shooter.
In particular, see HERE and HERE for info on the stellar character and credibility of Steven Laro, discredited former cop. I guess if I ever need a lawyer, I'll be sure to hire Laro's lawyer, Paul Maggiotto (former assistant New Hampshire attorney general who prosecuted all those involved in the Pamela Smart murder case). Laro is the second blatantly guilty person (and discredited former cop) that I know of in NH for whom Maggiotto was able to pull off an acquittal.
See HERE for a very detailed description of the shooting and Laro's attempts to regain his hunting license, including the Commission's comments on Laro's credibility.
Here are the original articles, mentioned above, that formed the basis of this web page. The info on this page has grown so much over the years that I had to move the original articles off to their own sub-pages.
HERE is a very brief article from the Manchester Union Leader about the Park.
HERE is a much more extensive article from Dan Billin at the Valley News.
HERE is a small and very general article from TIME
magazine that mentions Corbin Park. You can also read it
HERE if you can't access it on the TIME
This is an image from an early postcard, showing the bison in Corbin Park
courtesy Dr. Mary Comeau-Kronenwetter
undated early postcard showing the gate to Central Station in Corbin's Park
Quite surprisingly, this Corbin Park page gets many search engine hits every day, so I have added some more info to it. In fact, it has become my single most popular page.
Like most people around here, I have never been inside the park. The driveway to my house is right beside what unfortunately appears to be the second most popular gate, besides the main gate in Croydon. That gate didn't even exist on the older maps of Corbin's Park. Most of the gates shown on the old maps are now accessible by ways that are more like swamps than roads, and are therefore used little, if at all. When I was a kid in the 1960s, my Dad was a Plainfield Selectman. Back in those days, the park used to let Selectmen from the towns containing the park go hunting in there. Dad got to hunt in the park once, and bagged a deer. When my Mom was a kid here in Cornish in the 1930s & 1940s, the park was much more open then, both figuratively and literally, and we have old home movies of Mom feeding the deer through the fence. My parents also got to tour the park by car once, back in the 1990s, at the invitation of the Park Superintendent. Other than that, it's strictly off-limits for everyone except members. During their visit, my parents saw hundreds of wild pigs around Central Station over in Croydon. Apparently, they are rather tame there in the feeding area, but turn quite wild once they are out in the rest of the park.
I have flown over the park many times. Like the rest of NH, it's mostly wooded now. It contains 3 ponds; Governor's Pond, Sumner's Pond, and Red Leaf Pond. Chapin Pond is in the same area as Governor's Pond and Sumner's Pond, just outside the park fence. They have a nice network of roads. I'm sure that, back in the days when the bison were there, there were many more fields. Lawrence Bean, from whom my family bought some land bordering the Park, told me his family used to live at what is now a stone foundation and cellar hole at the intersection of Skyline Drive and Whitewater Brook Road, just outside one of the Park gates. He told me he could remember when he was young, the land to the south of the southern fence line was all fields, and he and his family used to hay those fields for food for the park's animals. It's all large trees now. The park now owns much of those lands outside the southern fence, presumably as a buffer against development too close to the park. The park also contains the bald granite of Croydon Mountain, easily visible from I89 northbound. Croydon Peak used to have trees, but there was a big forest fire there in the early 1950s. Once the trees are gone, so is the soil.
People who know where I live always ask me if I see wild boar in or around the park. I have never seen any animals inside the park. It's so heavily wooded, you really can't see anything that isn't right up near the fence, and I don't pay a lot of attention to things inside the fence. I've never seen any pigs outside the fence, either. I do hear elk bugling in the fall, which is very cool.
Some people say the park is a bad neighbor. It would be nice if we could visit there, just to look around, but they are keeping a lot of land from being developed. I'd sure hate to see it turned into houses. They do get a tax break for not developing the land, the same as anyone else in NH. Some people confuse the "current use" tax laws with "public access". "Current Use" tax rates are not about access; they are about the land being taxed at its "current use" (growing trees and crops), as opposed to the usual taxing method of "highest use" (growing houses). The "current use" tax rates have nothing to do with access. The people around here who complain about the park's taxes or, as in one of the articles cited above, claim it is "heavily subsidized by local taxpayers", simply don't understand the Current Use tax laws or their purpose.
The sole reason I bought my land where I did is so I could be sandwiched between the park and my parents' conserved land. So, I am surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of nothing but trees, with little or no chance of anyone developing any of it in my lifetime. I consider the park to be a good neighbor. They don't mess with me and I don't mess with them. Because the BMFA is so reticent, the media loves to periodically try to dig up all the info on it that they can.
A couple years ago, I went to a presentation by the Croydon Historical Society that gave a lot of details, history and maps of the park. A booklet from that presentation, written by Rita Gross, Croydon Historian, is scanned HERE as a PDF. It contains most, but not all, of the pages from Mrs. Gross' original. Because the copy I have is photocopied from the original, the pictures do not scan well, so I have skipped a few pages that were mostly photocopied pictures. Apparently, the farm houses and barns that were in the Park when Corbin bought the land were just left to rot and fall in over the years. There are a few pictures of the remains of some of the last houses standing in the first half of the 20th century. The last few pages are about Ernest Harold Baynes, a naturalist who worked for the Park, and who founded the Meriden Bird Club and Meriden Bird Sanctuary.
1906 postcard of Ernest Harold Baynes and his pet fox in Corbin's Park
See HERE for details on Newport and local area towns' historical info, including the obituary of Austin Corbin and newspaper articles of the day about Corbin Park.
See HERE for info on Croydon.
See my LOCAL INFO page for more details & info on local towns. See my SHOOTING page for info on shooting.
See my HANGAR page for details on good and bad towns for local development.
APRIL, 2007 - Here's some interesting info I'd never heard of before. Apparently Austin Corbin's brother, Daniel Chase Corbin, was equally rich and influential via railroads and other industries, and became known as the richest man in Spokane, WA in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Like the Corbin Mansion in Newport, NH, Daniel Chase Corbin built a "Corbin Mansion" in Spokane. Spokane even has a "Corbin Park", although it is a public park and not a private game preserve, like the one in Newport, NH. Read all about Daniel Chase Corbin HERE, HERE and HERE.
I also noticed a discrepancy between the newspaper reports at the top of this page and the Daniel Chase Corbin biography. The newspaper reports refer to the Austin Corbin who built New Hampshire's Corbin Park as Austin Corbin II. The DC Corbin bio describes DC and Austin Corbin, Jr. as the sons of Austin Corbin, who were born in Newport. Then it describes Austin Corbin II as the son of DC Corbin, not the person who built what is today known as the BMFA.
Newsday had an article about Austin Corbin and his influence regarding the Long Island Railroad and the dubious methods of land acquisition they used (similar to how some of the land for Corbin's Park was acquired), but now they've restricted access to paying customers. Or see a locally saved copy HERE. And HERE is another locally saved Austin Corbin article from Newsday. Google "Austin Corbin" or "Daniel Chase Corbin" to get more details about these wealthy, influential men.
Also, I now see that a huge outdoor mall in Overland Park, Kansas is opening in 2008 and is calling itself "Corbin Park". They say they will soon have a web site corbinpark.com. Quite a contrast from the "real" Corbin Park. BEWARE the corbinpark.com site - I tried opening it, and it's a bogus site that's been saying "coming soon" for over a year, and now it has rogue HTML that will cause dozens of advertising windows to keep popping up from your browser until you kill the browser.
SEPTEMBER, 2007 - Dr. Mary Comeau-Kronenwetter wrote a good article, about elk in Corbin's Park, in the Soo Nipi (Indian origin, meaning "Wild Goose Waters", of current name of Sunapee) magazine. HERE is a copy of that article. The problem with elk outside the park, as with the wild boar, is that they are very destructive to agriculture. Because they're much bigger than deer, they can reach up higher, and they'll kill an orchard in no time. Our family has old movies from the 1940s with my Mom & Grandfather chasing a elk out of their barn & across a snow-covered field. In that video, the elk is eating the tops off apple trees.
OCTOBER, 2007 - a reader sent me a timeline of Corbin Park history that he'd compiled. See it HERE.
NOVEMBER, 2007 - I attended an excellent, thoroughly researched presentation by Dr. Mary Comeau-Kronenwetter, through The Fells, about the history of Corbin's Park.
MARCH, 2009 - See HERE for a local engineer's exercise in Google Earth, focused on Corbin Park.
APRIL, 2009 - I recently came across a great old (Oct 18, 1954) article in Sports Illustrated (back when shooting & hunting were still considered legitimate sports, before today's Politically Correct anti-gun environment) about the big ELK HUNT here in Sullivan County. The hunt was Dec 17, 1941, 10 days after the Jap attack on Pearl Harbor. Click HERE to see the article.
NOV 6, 2009 - After an article appeared in a couple New Hampshire newspapers about a woman hitting a wild boar on I-89 a couple days ago, hits to this page have gone through the roof; over 500 hits a day in the last 2 days, from all over the country. See the article saved locally HERE , as the newspaper deleted the article from their site, as these small local newspapers often seem to do. I guess there really are a few escaped wild boar around here - I've never seen one, or any sign of one, and had assumed that stories of such were just wild tales. Hits to this page always go up significantly in the fall (hunting season); apparently there is huge hunter interest in the wild pigs.
MARCH, 2010 - I received the following interesting info from Lynda Patenaude, whose ancestors worked in the park:
APRIL, 2011 - SOME MODERN-ERA PICTURES, FROM THE 1990s:
The fire watch tower on the top of Croydon Peak. I understand it is no longer staffed
The fire ranger cabin and the view from the fire tower, looking west into Vermont, with the distinctive shape of Mount Ascutney in right-center background
plaque near the peak, commemorating Ernest Harold Baynes
Westerly view of Croydon Peak from one of the low wet areas between Central Station and the peak.
Red Leaf Pond in the Park
Some of the many wild pigs hanging around Central Station
NOVEMBER 30, 2011 - hits to this page have been going through the
roof lately, over 700 a day for the last few days, mainly due to an AP article that says NH Fish & Game now
there are wild pigs outside the park. See the AP article saved locally
Boston.com and numerous newspapers carried the story, including the
Valley News, Eagle Times, Concord Monitor,
New Hampshire News, and the
Washington (DC) Examiner.
However, other than Fish & Game apparently now
acknowledging the wild pigs
exist, this is really little more than a rehash of the same story from two
years ago, where a woman hit a pig with her Prius.
That then prompted the Manchester Union Leader to do its own story about it: read it HERE or saved locally on my site HERE
HERE is the NH Fish & Game page on feral pigs in NH.
HERE is an online article about boar hunting in NH, and there's a long thread HERE about it..
HERE is a NH blog entry that appeared as a result of this. NH NPR was talking of doing a followup story on it. Personally, I think it's a lot of hoopla about nothing new, and I have never seen any pigs, or signs of pigs, anywhere around the park (not that I've gone out looking for them, either).
HERE is a link to a book about game preserves, including Corbin Park. It includes a photo of the bison in Corbin Park.
JANUARY, 2013 - I found, in my Grand-Aunt Evelyn Lear's effects, several old documents related to Austin Corbin and Austin Corbin Jr. Click on each to view:
Austin Corbin portrait
Austin Corbin portrait reverse side notes
Austin Corbin Jr obituary 1937
Austin Corbin Jr article 1937
Austin Corbin and Austin Corbin Jr note & genealogy info, written by Evelyn Lear in early-mid 20th century
FEBRUARY, 2013 - People from all over are very interested in the wild pigs (frequently called wild boar, but "boar" just means male pig). While there is much talk and speculation about hunting escaped pigs from Corbin Park, and I guess it does happen rarely, there really isn't much of it. From what I hear, a few people occasionally take a pig, maybe over in the other corner of the Park around Grantham and Croydon, I think, but it's quite rare and those who do it are very close-mouthed about where to find pigs here. The best source of info I've found discussing hunting the local wild pigs is in this thread:
The thread goes back to 2006, and provides a lot of info (and speculation) about hunting wild pigs in this area.
If you're interested in hunting wild pigs, HERE is a site that is about all wild pig hunting information for every state.
Back in the 1950s, the Park didn’t monitor its fences like it does now (especially with the advent of ATVs to make it far easier), and some pigs used to escape fairly regularly back in those days. In fact, my uncle was a plaintiff in a case against the Park in the '50s for damages to farmers' crops caused by escaped pigs. Here is a pic of two of my uncles and some of their buddies with some pigs they got using coon dogs in 1955:
SEPT 2013 - HERE is a most unfavorable article written in June about Austin Corbin the robber baron
MARCH 2014 - apparently the Corbin Mansion, just outside the eastern border of the park, owned & restored by the RUGER family, is up for sale. For a mere $3.75 Million, a 21st Century robber baron's obscene wealth can enable him/her to live in a 19th Century robber baron's breathtaking 500-acre New Hampshire estate.
Read more: http://www.christiesrealestate.com/eng/article/57105-northvi...
For those who don't know the Ruger connection, Bill Ruger (Senior) was a member of the BMFA. On one of his visits to Corbin's Park, back in about the 1950s or so, he decided he liked the area so much, he bought the Corbin property and set up one of his factories in Newport, NH. The Ruger factory in Newport continues to this day to be one of the area's leading employers.
AUGUST 2014 - HERE is a link to an in-depth look at Austin Corbin's activities during his lifetime, especially focusing on his New York developments and railroads. Lots of great info and pictures. OCTOBER, 2014 - this is why I save all these outside articles locally - they keep disappearing. The info I had found has already disappeared. If I find it again, I will save a local copy. NOVEMBER, 2014 HERE it is.
HERE is a very brief article in Wikipedia about Corbin
HERE is an article in the Eastman (local development tract in Grantham, NH) Living magazine about the Park, written by Mary T. Kronenwetter
this page last revised November 6, 2014
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