William Penn Corson

WILLIAM PENN CORSON was born February 27, 1873, in Camden, the son of Elias Lake Corson, a sea captain who had commanded a vessel during the Civil War. At the time of the 1880 census, the Corson family lived at 442 Hartman Street. In 1882 Hartman Street was renamed Clinton Street. Two doors away, at 401 Broadway, lived contractor Joseph E. Roberts, who built many homes in Camden during the later part of the 1800s. His son Joseph E. Roberts Jr. had a long and distinguished medical career in Camden. During the late 1880s the Corson family lived at 610 North 5th, moving in late 1889 or early 1890 to 525 North 2nd Street.

Known locally in his time as W. Penn Corson, he attended Camden’s public schools. In 1898 he began working for Frank B. Sweeten, who was a general contractor, where he learned enough about the construction business to set up his own firm, in 1904. After establishing himself paving streets and building sewers in Camden, he completed many large projects in the new suburban towns, including the sewage systems in Westmont and Haddonfield. Perhaps his most notable project was the paving of the White Horse Pike Pike from Haddon Heights to Camden, a distance of four miles.

At the time of the 1910 Census W. Penn Corson, his wife and family lived at 540 Newton Avenue, in Camden’s Ninth ward.

W. Penn Corson was also involved in Camden with professional basketball. He was co-owner, with veterinarian and one-time Camden City purchasing agent Dr. Charles B. Helm of the Camden franchise of the Eastern Basket Ball League from 1913 through 1925. The team, coached by William “Billy” Morgenweck was known as the Camden Alphas prior to World War I. The Alphas were the league champions in 1914-1915.

1917 was a year of turmoil in the world as the United States entered World War I. On December 3 the league disbanded abruptly as two teams withdrew from the league without warning. An unsuccessful attempt was made to reorganize with a four team league and the league remained inactive until the 1919-1920 season. One of Camden’s players during this abridged season was future Olympic rowing star, Jack Kelly. He later would become the father of Grace Kelly, movie star and Princess of Monaco.

The team was renamed the Camden Crusaders after World War I. The Camden five were champions again in 1919-1920, winning both halves of the split-season with a combined 30 and 9 record. The team was renamed once again as the Camden Skeeters for the 1921-1922 season. They were were one of the league’s better teams, until it disbanded in 1923. A team was fielded in the a new Eastern Basketball League in 1925 (note the new spelling of “Basketball”), but did not do well, and that marked the end of the professional game in Camden for several years.

The Camden team was generally a winner in the league. Besides bringing players to Camden from out of town, Corson and Helm’s team employed and/or developed many fine players from Camden, including Eddie Ferat, Sam Lennox, Roy Steele, Joe Hyde, Neil Deighan, and his brother Rich Deighan.

W. Penn Corson served as Camden County Sheriff from 1917 to 1920. By 1914 he had moved to 506 Haddon Avenue in Camden. He later moved to 119 White Horse Pike in Haddon Heights, passing away on November 29, 1927. He was survived by his wife Katherine and three children, W. Wallace Corson, C. Hobart Corson, and E. Mahlon Corson. Katherine Corson and her sons returned to the Haddon avenue address, where she resided in the fall of 1936. C. Hobart Corson was still residing there as late as 1947.


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