WILLIAM FRENCH COLBERT SR. was born around 1805 in Pennsylvania. He was active in civic and fraternal affairs in Camden. A volunteer firefighter, he was a member of Shiffler Hose Company No. 1. He was a member of Camden's City Council in 1858. He made an unsuccessful run for the office of Mayor of Camden in 1860, losing in a three-way contest to Democrat Thomas B. Atkinson, who received 608 votes to 578 for Paul C. Budd, American, and 547 for William F. Colbert, Republican.
William F. Colbert was quite prominent as a member of the Improved Order of Red Men. He was one of the charter members of Leni Lenape Tribe, No. 2 of Camden, & second sachem of that tribe. A charter member of the Great Council, the third Great Sachem of this State and at the time of his death, the oldest past great Sachem of the State Improved Order of Red Men of New Jersey.
In 1886, Prowell's HISTORY OF CAMDEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY wrote the following:
The Lenni Lenape Tribe, No. 2, is the oldest existing tribe of the order in the State, and in numbers and wealth the strongest and richest in the United States. It was instituted May 10, 1850, by Great Incohonee William B. Davis, assisted by Francis Fullerton, of Lenni Lenape Tribe, No. 8, of Pennsylvania, and Great Chief of Records of the United States. These were the charter members: Nathaniel Chew, William F. Colbert, John T. Davis, Timothy C. Moore, Sylvester Rainhard, Joseph Shipley, Daniel S. Garwood, William Beckett, George Wood, E.D. Brister, John Wood, Joseph Myers, Albert Robertson, John W. Hoey, James B. Richardson, Robert Maguire, Joseph B. Hawkins, James O. Stillwell and Anthony Joline. The officers were as follows: P., Timothy C. Moore; S., Nathaniel Chew; S.S., John Wood; J.S., William F. Colbert; C. of R., Joseph Myers; K. of W., Albert Robertson.
Lenni Lenape has had an eventful career, at times flourishing and at other times so short of funds that a few faithful members paid expenses and benefits out of their private purses, but persistence won at last and a flood tide of prosperity set in, which has continued until the Lenni Lenapes number seven hundred and thirty-two and the wampum belt contains $21,370.89.
Among its members are these Past Great Sachems: George W. Watson, John T. Davis, Charles H. Gordon, Thomas J. Francis and Daniel M. Stevens; and of its Past Sachems these are living: Timothy C. Moore, Henry A. Breyer, Lewis Zeigler, Samuel J. Fenner, Edward J. Steer, William F. Farr, Samuel D. Watson, George Horneff, George A. Cairole, Thomas J. Rowand, Samuel A. Owens, Benjamin M. Braker, Lambert Banes, George Pfeiffer, William Sheridan, Thomas F. Muckelson, Hope Sutton, James P. Moore, D.D. Worts, Leonard L. Roray, Benjamin J. Price, John A. Hall, B.S.M. Branning, Abraham Davis, Harry B. Garrison, Walter E. Garwood, George A. Rogers, William C. Davis, Frank P. Jackson, H. Frank Pettit, John A. Harbeson, John Quick, Angus B. Cameron, Lewis Z. Noble, George Leathwhite, Conrad F. Austermuhl, John K. Seagrove, Charles L. Vansciver, Harry Hoffman, Harry B. Tyler, James H. Reeve and George W. Davis. The officers are: P., G.W. Davis; S., Edward Francis; S.S., Samuel Baker; J.S., Joseph Watson; C. of R., L.Z. Noble; K. of W., C.F. Austermuhl; Trustees, T.J. Francis, T.F. Muckelson, J.K. Reeve, L.L. Roray and H.F. Pettit.
William F. Colbert was married to Sophia Stevens. The Colberts had at least six children, Elizabeth, William F. Jr., Daniel, John, Henry and Mary. Last a resident of 904 North 4th Street in North Camden, William F. Colbert passed away on October 3, 1869 at the age of 64.
WIlliam F. Colbert's grandson, Elmer Ellsworth Burkett, was a member of the Camden Fire Department for 26 years. William F. Colbert's great-granddaughter, Gertude Colbeck, married Sylvester Wesley "Wes" McGrath, who served briefly as a member of the Camden Fire Department and for many years as a policeman and detective with the Camden Police Department.
Philadelphia Inquirer - October 7, 1869
William F. Colbert in the 64th year of his age. The relatives and friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral; also the Improved Order of Red Men, Leni Lenape, No. 3; also the members of the Shiffler Hose Company No. 1 at his late residence 904 Fourth Street, Camden, New Jersey (Thursday) afternoon at 2 o'clock.
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