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Osborn History and Characteristics

Osborn History and Characteristics

To go back to the first traces of the Osborn family tradition tells us they were of Norse origin (the Norse form of the name being OZBUN-see "Osborn Name" for more information). Some of the family went to Normandy in France in 1028. Two of the sons were guardians of William the Conqueror, who in 1066 conquered England. Three men appear in the records as Seneschel and Herfast Osborn and it is thought that these words may have been titles rather than names.

A William Fitzosborn (which means William Son of Osborn) is credited with winning the Battle of Hastings for William the Conqueror in 1066, thus giving the Osborns a foothold in England. There is well-founded tradition that William the Conqueror offered William Fitzosborn his daughter and the Isle of Wight if he would win the battle. After some difficulty he was awarded the girl and the Isle and the latter remained in possession of the Osborns from that time on. It became the country home of Queen Victoria, the residence which she occupied there being known as Osborn House.

Osborns were among the earliest American families. At the close of the Revolutionary War there were about 2,000 Osbornes throughout the country. The United States census. for 1790 reported Osbornes in the following states:

Maine 1, New Hampshire 10, Vermont 8, Massachusetts 62, Rhode Island 4, Connecticut 112, New York 75, Pennsylvania 23, Maryland 37, Virginia 41, North Carolina 45 and South Carolina 14.

American Osborns trace to widely scattered and different ancestors who landed upon these shores at different times, both prior to and during the early years of the Republic.

Most of the Osborns known to us here in the Midwest, especially those who are the subject of this sketch, have been closely associated with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) which has historically stood as an advocate of peace. However, it is proper to point out that not all branches of the family have been of that religious body. North Carolina records show a little over 50 Osbornes who actively participated in the struggle for liberty and freedom in the days of 1771-1781. Many of them were listed as Militiamen, Captains, Colonels, etc. The same was true over the then United States and it is mentioned here only to give a true picture of the family in relation to the history of the Union.

A few Osborns (Osbornes) (Ozbuns) in early American history were:

Richard Osborne, born in London in 1612; came over on the ship Hopewell on February 17, 1634. He settled in Hingham, Massachusetts, and later moved to Windsor, Connecticut; was a Captain in the Pequot War; was prominent in Southeastern Connecticut and adjacent New York. He died in Westchester, New York, in 1686 and his will is on file in White Plains, New York. His son John was also prominent in that area. One of his descendants was a Baptist minister at Portland, Michigan, and his picture hangs in the church there. Richard was the founder of a large branch of the Osborne family.

John Osborne, born 1604, died in 1686, came from England in 1644 and settled in East Windsor, Connecticut. He heads another large branch of the family.

George Osborne was an early comer to America and heads a long line of descendants among which is Governor Chase Osborne of Michigan.

Alexander Osborne went from New Jersey to North Carolina in 1755 and founded the branch of the family represented by Adlai Osborne of Iredell County, North Carolina; Edwin J. Osborne of Rowan County, North Carolina; James Walker Osborne of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

Norris C. Osborne, referred to as Colonel Osborne, of New Haven, Connecticut, was a prominent editor, writer, lecturer and traveler for over 50 years. He was editor of the New Haven Register (from 1884) and the New Haven Courier Journal (from 1907). He was a graduate of Yale University and at one time was chosen to give the Bromley Lecture there. He owned an Osborne scrapbook containing some very interesting information and references to:

David Osborne of Capt. Samuel Peck's Company answering the first call in 1775, camping around Boston and serving st Roxbury. Also of his son Eli; Allen Osborne, Lieut., Battery C, First Connecticut Reg. who lost his life in the Spanish American War; Jerimiah Osborne who was a gunner during the Revolution.

There was a John Osborne at Jamestown in early days; also a William Osborne in Kent County, Delaware, in 1681; a Joseph Osborne in Kent County in 1694, and a Charles Osborne in 1721.

Jacob Osborn of Essex County, Massachusetts, was at one time a leading center of the pottery industry. Around 1775 as many as 75 potteries were operating in this area. Jacob Osborn left Danvers, Massachusetts, about 1750 and went to Loudon, near Pittsfield, New Hampshire, where he and his descendants carried on the pottery trade for well over 100 years until about 1885 when the machine-made ware made competition too severe to continue, The business passed from Jacob to his son Elisha, Sr. to Elisha, Jr. and his two sons James L. and John H. then to William A. during this period. All were prominent Quaker families and leaders in the pottery industry of the time and the area.

John Wilson Osborn was an early Osborn in Indiana, one of a group of Canadians who came to Indiana to claim bounty lands appropriated for them by the United States Government in return for service in the United States Army. He was the son of Capt. Samuel Osborn, British Naval Officer. A printer by trade when he left the military he went to Vincennes in 1817 and became the editor of the Western Sun, which soon folded because of his violent opposition to slavery and gambling. In 1822 he began editing the Farmers and Merchants Journal in Vincennes, again very much anti-slavery and very unpopular. In 1823 he went to Terre Haute and began publication of the Western Register and Terre Haute Advertiser. This he sold in 1832 to become a candidate for sheriff but was defeated. In 1833-34 he was publisher of The Plowboy in Greencastle, Indiana.


Careful search into the records and information gathered from very old members of the family has shown Osborns to have certain characteristics which have carried through from generation to generation.

1. They have always had a love for home life and rarely has there been a divorce.

2. None have ever been known to be convicted of a crime.

3. Nearly all have been of a mechanical turn of mind and made good carpenters and mathematicians.

4. Many became surgeons, teachers and ministers.

5. A large percent of them have been tillers of the soil.

6. They are generally characterized by slow and distinct speech.

7. Nearly all were tow-headed youngsters and have blue or gray eyes.

8. A peace loving people relatively few have ever engaged in war.

9. Many of the early Osborns were Quakers.

10. Osborns generally have been long-lived, many reaching 80 years of age or more.

11. Large families have been the fashion and the family has sent out many branches most of which, unfortunately, have lost connections with one another.

12. True Osborns, above all, have made truth and honesty their leading virtue. They have always taken the side they believed to be right even though it were not the popular side, which to some people seems like contrariness, but which they prefer to call "firmness" or "courage of convictions."

Adapted from "Mathew Osborn and His Family" by Frederic Verne Osborn