Stephen Kilburn was born in Massachusetts. Kilburn was originally from the Dorchester or Templeton, Massachusetts area. He was at Adams near Watertown, Jefferson Co., New York in 1825 when his son, Levi, was born.
All sources seem to claim that Stephen Kilburn and family arrived in New London Village, then known as "Kings Corners" in 1840 and Kilburn is recorded in the 1840 Huron County, Ohio census. The first record of land purchase shows a 40 square rod tract on the northwest side of New London Township on May 14th, 1844. In 1852 he purchased Inlot 202, the site of the chair factory, from Henry King, the proprietor of King's Corners.
He purchased a second parcel in 1855. King evidently rented the lot prior to 1852 as Rev.
Horace Robinson, a Methodist Minister, held religious services in the chair factory several years prior to his death in 1846. Since Henry King was the financier of the frame Methodist structure built on the present church site during Robinson's tenure, the connection seems obvious.
Inlot 202 is L-shaped and faces both South Main Street and Prospect Street. It is understood that Prospect Street was not there at the time of the chair factory . He operated this Chair Factory with a horse serving as the power to turn the equipment used. The factory was apparently on the western portion of Inlot 202 perhaps close to the current Prospect Street. It is doubtful that it was located behind the Henry Chapman home (present Roeder home) on the corner of Prosect Street, as has been claimed as Kilburn never owned the land.
By 1850 Kilburn's sons were now assisting in the "family" business. Abner D. Kilburn or Davis was a painter, age 35, Levi Kilburn, age 24, was a chairmaker. The father, Stephen Kilburn, 62, was a chairmaker with an $800 estate living with his wife, Sally, 62, and sons, George 17, and Leonard L., 14.
By 1860 Stephen and Sally Kilburn are mysteriously not present in the village census, but son-in-law Benjamin Watros, 32, Abner D. Kilburn 44, grandson Herbert Kilburn, grandson Henry Kilburn, 16, neighbor Henry Chapman 27, Caleb Green 41 and Reuben Otis, 50, were all living nearby and involved in the chair factory.
Henry Chapman was New London's first professional embalmer and owned the first hearse. Stephen Kilburn and his wife evidently returned to New London as records show that he died at New London, Ohio on Oct. 6th, 1867, his wife, Sally, on Aug. 4th, 1863.
The business later owned by Chapman burned sometime between 1870 and 1873 and this was the end of the chair factory.
The chairs themselves are of various types. They have been made of apple, whitewood, pine, poplar, ash or oak according to records. Most are referred to as Windsor rabbit ear side chairs or by locals as kitchen chairs. They have four spindles between the uprights in the back with pronounced bamboo style turnings. The large saddle seat has an incised line around the edge. The cross piece at the top is attached with wood pegs. The legs taper at the bottom. The rockers are similar but have flat slats for the back rounded as usual at the bottom. All are marked "S.Kilburn" in block letters impressed on the underside of the seat.
Approximately 30 or so of these chairs still exist in the New London area. Several members of the New London Area Historical Society own at least one of them. Others are known to have them. Anyone who has one does own a very old piece of New London history!
Thomas S. Neel