From: The History and Antiquities of the Name and Family of Kilbourn, by Payne K. Kilbourne, 1856. Pgs. 297-302. Aaron Kilborn is my 3rd great-grandfather and he was married to Almira Richardson, my brick-wall ancestor. (Article is longer, but I condensed it.)
"AARON KILBOURN, born in Killingworth, Sept. 3, 1798; m. Almira Richardson, of Orange, Conn., April 9, 1820, and has had seven children, viz., Aaron Richardson, Mehitable Elizabeth, Almira Phinetta, Esther Farnham, Mary Louisa, George Franklin and Benjamin Hart.
His natural propensity for the mechanic arts manifested itself at a very early age, in an almost uncontrollable desire to frequent the blacksmith's shops and mills in the vicinity of his home. At the age of eight years, he began to make water-wheels and play with them in the brook; and while yet in his childhood, he built a small saw-mill with which he used to saw boards in imitation of the larger ones that he had seen. The annual visits of the tailor and shoemaker at his father's house, for the purpose of working up the year's supply of clothes and shoes, were hailed by him with delight, as it gave him an opportunity to indulge his taste and ingenuity in those branches of useful industry. All the tools about his father's house, (which were kept for repairing the implements of the farm,) were also early brought into requisition by the young mechanic, in the manufacture of a variety of indescribable articles. These trifling circumstances are mentioned here, simply as indicative of the early development of the "ruling passion" of our kinsman in a department of business in which he has since become so eminent.
Having prosecuted the usual studies pursued at the district school by lads of his age, when thirteen years old he was apprenticed to a silversmith in
East Haddam. He soon found his employment too trifling and monotonous to be pleasant, and felt greatly relieved when set to manufacturing brass clocks. At length his employer took him to Glastenbury to assist in making and putting in operation a set of cotton machinery, on Roaring Brook, under the superintendence of Amos Dean. Here his mind had full scope, and he often felt and said he had never before been so delightfully employed. Soon after completing this contract, his master was engaged to make the machinery for a woollen factory and clothier's works on the site of "Kilborn's Mills," on Salmon River, in the town of , which had been owned and occupied by the grandfather of the subject of this sketch fifty years before. The works had then recently been destroyed by fire. He continued actively engaged at this place until July, 1815, when, at his own solicitation, his father annulled his indentures on account of his having left the appropriate business of the trade to which he was apprenticed. After having been employed for a short time in the manufacture of pistols in Berlin, he was engaged by Eli Whitney, (the celebrated inventor of the cotton gin,) to take a leading part in his manufactory of fire-arms at Whitneyville, with whom he remained until 1825, (the year of that gentleman's death,) when he accepted a situation in the Rifle Factory at Middletown. He had been in the latter place but about a year, when he was induced to return to Whitneyville, by Messrs. P. and E. W. Blake, (the successors of Mr. Whitney,) and take the foremanship in one of the departments of their extensive establishment. He continued in their employ until the 30th of January, 1833, when he commenced business as a machinist, in his own name, in the city of East Haddam , where his family have since continued to reside — though he was himself for several years absent from the State. He made the first engine lathe ever manufactured in that county, (with many others) together with machines, boilers, steam-engines, models and patterns, of various sizes and kinds. For several years during his residence in New Haven New Haven, he was employed by Prof. Silliman, to make and keep in repair the scientific apparatus connected with the laboratory of . Yale College
In 1840, Mr. Kilborn contracted to make a lot of machinery for the Penitentiary of Georgia, which resulted in his going to Milledgeville in that State, to put it in operation. It consisted of a steam-engine of ten horsepower, with lathes, saws, tenon-machine, mortising-machine and iron-foundry. When he had completed this contract, and was about starting for the north, he was engaged to superintend the labor of the prisoners for a term of years. Accordingly, in the autumn of 1841, he made his second trip to
, accompanied by his eldest son, then about twenty-one years of age. On this occasion he resided at the seat of Government six months, during which time with the aid of the prisoners, he built and completed several passenger, freight and hand cars for the Western Atlantic Railroad — and with no other assistance in the mechanical branches except his son, who had charge of the iron-foundry. These cars he conveyed over a bad common road, a distance of more than ninety miles, to the railroad. During this year, he improved the method of using charcoal in the prison so as to result in a saving sufficient to pay his salary of $100 per month. Georgia
On the night after the inauguration of Gov. Crawford, (Nov. 7, 1842,) while Mr. Kilborn was in
, the work-shops and engine-house, including all the machinery connected with the Penitentiary, were destroyed by fire. Mr. Kilborn was immediately sent for, and soon arrived on the ground. The Georgians appear to have imagined that he could do anything; and it was accordingly proposed that he should re-build the edifice. A brief interview with the Governor and other officials convinced them of the correctness of their conjectures as to his ability to accomplish the work. The outline of a plan submitted by him was at once adopted; over a hundred prisoners were placed under his immediate supervision, whom he set at work breaking the ground for the foundations, while he at the same time proceeded in perfecting his designs. The main building was a seventy-two feet octagon, with five wings of the following, dimensions, viz., (1.) 114 by 25 feet. (2.) 156 by 25 feet. (3.) 146 by 30 feet. (4 and 5.) 25 by 25 feet each. All, except the chapel, was in one room, and so arranged as to be under the eye of the assistant keeper, whose stand occupied the centre of the octagon. The walls were of brick, which had been made by the prisoners during the preceding year. The timber, boards and shingles used by him, were all in the tree when he commenced operations. Besides completing this building and refitting the machinery, he erected a prison for the females, with cells, iron doors, locks, &c., a kitchen, hospital, tan-house and paint-house, dug and stoned a well, and enlarged the yard 250 by 100 feet, with walls two feet thick and twenty feet in height — all of which was accomplished in less than six months, by the labor of the prisoners alone, under the superintendence of Mr. Kilborn. Of one hundred and thirty prisoners employed by him, during the time thus occupied, not one was found who could read board measure on the carpenter's square, and only one was a mason by trade, and he was unable to work but part of the lime, and could do but little then. The prison locks and doors were all made of iron, and on his own plan, Mr. Kilborn continued to superintend the operations of the prison for five or six years — spending, however, the warm season of each year with his family at the north. Previous to the introduction of machinery into the Penitentiary, as shown by the annual reports of the Principal Keeper, its yearly expenses exceeded its income some $12,000. When Mr. Kilborn left it, it yielded a net revenue to the State of about $5000 per annum. New Haven
While at the south, he was also engaged in finishing the Insane Hospital and in repairing or re-modeling the State House, the Arsenal, several churches, hotels and private houses; and finally erected and put in operation a Cotton Factory — when, his health failing, he returned to his home. During this period, he had also contracted for and sent on to the south more than $50,000 worth of machinery, castings, &c., a large portion of which was the product of Connecticut industry and much of which was from his own works in New Haven.
About this time the first thousand of Colt's Pistols were ordered by our Government for the war with
, in the manufacture of which Mr. Kilborn assisted Mr. Whitney, at the manufactory of fire-arms in Whitneyville. They gave such good satisfaction that Col. Colt subsequently offered him the foremanship of his immense manufactory of Pistols at Mexico , which he declined." Hartford