COLBURN, LEVI OTIS, who for seventy-five years has been identified with Sangamon County, has characterized his long life in this section by usefulness and good citizenship, and his many sterling qualities have endeared him to his fellow townspeople and acquired for him the affectionate title of "Uncle Ote." Born November 13, 1835, in Loami Township, Sangamon County, he is a son of William Colburn and a grandson of Paul and Mehitable (Ball) Colburn, natives of Hollis, Hillsboro County, N.H., where the former was born in 1761 and the latter in 1757. They were married in Massachusetts and there eleven children were born to them, but in 1809 the family removed to New Hampshire.
William Colburn was born June 3, 1793, in Sterling, Mass., and was married to Achea Phelps, who was born July 9, 1796, at Hebron, N.H., and after their marriage they went to Ohio, which was at that time considered the Far West, although they did not reach that State until after many hardships had been encountered and conquered. To them there were born the following children: Clarissa, born October 27, 1816, in Pittsburg, Pa., married William S. Walker; Abigail, born April 29, 1818, at Marietta, Ohio, married Lawrence Underwood; Fanny, born January 4, 1820, at Marietta, Ohio, married David Phelps (his second marriage); Mehitable, born December 5, 1821, in Illinois, married David Phelps; Samuel Paul, born in Sangamon County, Ill., September 15, 1823, married Melinda Colburn, a cousin; Margaret P., born April 7, 1825, married Lewis Cotterman; Isaac, born February 22, 1827, married Julia Ensley; Daniel W., born July 2, 1829, married Lucinda Huffmaster; William S., born February 20, 1831, in Sangamon County, Ill., was a member of the Twenty-eighth Illinois Volunteers, married Mary Ensley; Ebenezer, born April 9, 1833, married Nancy Huffmaster; Levi Otis; David P., married Turza Mengel; and John T., born November 23, 1840, married Martha Back, residing in Loami, Ill. William Colburn and his wife were honorable, God fearing people, useful pioneers of Sangamon County, and people whose memory is held green in the hearts of many of Sangamon's leading families. He died June 10, 1869, his widow surviving him until 1878. In the early days, Mr. Colburn had been a Whig, and on the organization of the Republican party he joined the new party. He was never an office seeker, but his strict integrity and reliability were known by his fellow townsmen and on one occasion he was elected to the office of Constable. On being given his first papers to serve, he found the party in such poor circumstances that he refused to make the eviction, paid the bill out of his own pocket and resigned his position, deciding that his was too tender a heart to conscientiously fill the duties of his office.
Until he was eighteen years of age Levi O. Colburn attended the subscription and district schools of his locality, and at that time he went to work at the carpenter's trade with his brother-in-law, Lewis Cotterman, receiving $8.00 per month, his board and washing. Later he secured a position at the same business which paid him $1.50 per day, with William Hammond, for one season, but subsequently became clerk in a store and continued thus for about eighteen months. Next he purchased a set of tools and did Journeyman's work and contracting from 1858 till about 1875. Then he worked for his brother Ebenezer, who owned a saw and grist mill which was one fo the best in this part of Sangamon County. On July 13, 1862, fired with patriotism, Mr. Colburn enlisted in Company F, Fifty-first Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, the regiment being formed at Chicago, Ill., and soon in the thickest of the fight, participating in some of the bloodiest and hardest fought battles of the war, which included Stone River, Chickamauga, Resaca and others. In the battle of Chickamauga Mr. Colburn was shot through the left shoulder and was sent to the hospital where he was offered a furlough, but this he refused. He left the hospital in Nashville, Tenn.,, December 15, 1863, and rejoined his regiment January 14, 1864, at Blain's Crossroads, after a trip of twenty-five days, and was with his comrades at Adairsville, Ga. The Fifty-first was one of the regiments which were always ready and eager for action, and it conducted itself with honor in such struggles as Peach Tree Creek, Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville, Tenn., and took care of Hood while Sherman marched to the sea. Mr. Colburn, with the exception of the time he spent in the hospital recovering from his wound, was with his regiment in every march, skirmish and battle, and had a war record of which any man might be proud, when he was discharged at Nashville, June 16, 1865, and mustered out at Chicago, June 24th following. After serving his country with bravery and honor, Mr. Colburn returned to his home and worked at his trade.
On July 7, 1867, Mr. Colburn was married to Christine Kinney, who was born in Madison County, N.Y., March 17, 1844, daughter of William Kinney, who came to Sangamon County in 1856. Mrs. Colburn has one brother and three sisters living: George W. Kinney, of Loami; Margaret A., widow of Marcus Lindsey, residing on a farm in Loami Township; and Martha J., wife of Cyrus B. Sweet, a farmer of Loami. After his marriage Mr. Colburn located in his home in Loami and engaged in working at his chosen trade, becoming successful in his undertakings and assisting in the growth and development of his community. He has seen many changes in this part of the county during his long life here, and although he has been retired from active pursuits for the past few years, he is still to be found in the front rank of all movements that promise to be of benefit to the citizens of his section. Mrs. Colburn has always been active in church and charitable work and is affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal denomination.
To Mr. and Mrs. Colburn have been born these children: Bertha O., born April 15, 1868, living at home; William Ernest, born August 28, 1869, connected with the commission firm of Coe and Company, Springfield, and a prominent member of and earnest worker int eh Young Men's Christian Association, married May 1, 1888, Mary L. Lowery; and George P., born January 2, 1874, a farmer in New Berlin Township, Sangamon County, married April 28, 1910, Annie Kerr.