Profile: Henry Corbin Watts Jr (1852-1917)


Pictured: Henry Corbin Watts Jr’s grocery store, Harbour Grace, ca. 1900. Photo courtesy Jane Lynch.

The following history was given to us by Linda White, archivist at Memorial University’s Archives & Special Collections:

Henry Corbin Watts (1852-1917), merchant and farmer, was born at Harbour Grace in 1852 to Claudius (1811-1908) and Mary (French) Watts (1816-1854). He was the youngest of six children. He had two sisters, Mary (1840-1917) and Zela (1842-1868), and three brothers, Fredrick (1846-1859), Horatio John (1848-1924), and Theodore (1850-1899). He died at Harbour Grace on 12 March 1917.

Corbin was educated at the Grammar School under John Irving Roddick. As an adult, he became a successful farmer, raised cattle, and participated in multiple Harbour Grace Agriculture Exhibitions. He also had a grocery business (pictured).

In 1881, Corbin, his brother-in-law James Henry Parsons, and William Glindon (clerk at Parsons’s firm) were charged with conspiracy, as they reportedly planned to cast away a vessel for the purpose of defrauding underwriters. Their plan: Corbin pretended to order a supply of goods for a trading voyage at Labrador from Parsons’ firm, J&R Parsons. That vessel embarked on the pretend voyage with a small amount of valueless cargo and, after insurance was placed on the cargo (£600), the vessel would be lost (purposely sunk) and the insurance would be recovered.

After the death of his brother, Theodore, in 1899, his sister-in-law, Jane Watts and her four children lived with Henry Corbin in Harbour Grace.

Linda White and the MUN ASC team are currently digitizing the letters of Corbin’s father, Claudius Watts.

Do you have any information on Watts’s grocery store in Harbour Grace? Contact us!

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