An Ancestral Mother for Mother’s Day

The earliest Robbins “mother” for which I have a photograph is my great-great-great-grandmother Nancy Robbins.  Like a lot of photography subjects at the time she doesn’t look particularly happy, but then she had a hard life, yet a long one.  She suffered numerous tragedies but persevered and is the ancestor of hundreds of people.

Nancy Robbins (1793-1880)

Nancy Robbins was born in 1793 to Absalom and Mary (Ogle) Robbins.  She was raised in Virginia and Kentucky and married her first cousin Nathaniel Robbins in 1813, thereby keeping her maiden surname.

Nancy’s parents, Absalom and Mary Robbins, give permission for her to marry; brothers George and Micajah are witnesses.

The first tragedy Nancy suffered was the loss of the couple’s first child, Harriet, in 1815.  After the birth of their second child, Nancy and Nathaniel left Kentucky for Bond Co., Illinois, where they lived briefly.  While there, their third child, Absalom, died in 1819 from the effects of a burn.  Moving back east to Decatur County, Indiana, the couple had ten more children, all of whom lived to adulthood.

With Oregon fever at a height, Nathaniel and Nancy made the difficult choice to cross the continent to Oregon.  Did Nancy have a voice in the decision? or did Nathaniel just announce they were leaving?  The family set out in the fall of 1851 to winter over in Missouri, before setting out on the Oregon Trail in the spring of 1852.

They left Missouri in mid-April, and they hadn’t traveled far, in what is today southern Nebraska, when the emigrants were struck with cholera.  A fast-moving disease, those stricken could be gone before they knew it.  That’s what happened with three of Nancy’s children.  Two daughters, Amanda Minerva and Bethiah Emmeline, died on May 31st, having been stricken early in the day, daughter Mahala followed the next day.   Two days after that, son-in-law Absalom Barnes, who had left his own family back in Indiana, and was married to Bethiah Emmeline, followed his wife into the grave.  Nancy and Nathaniel would now raise their orphaned Barnes grandsons.  The travelers had to keep moving and the three daughters were buried in one grave, Absalom was buried further along the trail, and the Robbins family moved on.

Family stories recount that many of the emigrants were ill, including Nathaniel, for whom the wagon train would stop until he felt better, but there is never any mention of Nancy Robbins being ill.  You can imagine her cooking, cleaning, nursing, and mourning, out in the elements month after month, along a hot and dusty or wet and muddy road.

When the wagon train arrived in eastern Oregon, Nancy lost her granddaughter Sarah Jane Robbins, aged about five or six.  And after the family arrived in Oregon City, their destination, grandson Gilman Robbins, not yet eleven years old, died and was buried in a location now unknown.

The family settled in the western part of Clackamas County and filed their donation land claims.  The couple and their children began building their lives in their new home and Nancy was the matriarch of an expanding family.  We don’t know a lot about Nancy’s personal life beyond her role as a mother.  We do know from the census that she could not read or write, not uncommon for an upbringing on the Kentucky frontier.  We also know that she made wine!  She won second prize for her current wine at the 1863 Oregon State Fair in Salem.

Tragedy continued to stalk the family however.  Oldest son William Franklin Robbins was out bear hunting in 1856, when he reached down for his rifle and it went off, killing him instantly.  Youngest daughter Angeline, who was said to be in poor health, died in 1862, at age twenty.  Then, in December of 1863, Nathaniel Robbins, Nancy’s husband of half a century, drowned in the rain-swollen Tualatin River.  Nancy endured those events, and there was more to come.

In 1872, the youngest surviving daughter, Nancy, named for her mother, died shortly after her last child was delivered.  The following year, bachelor son John Dow Robbins, was found murdered on his land claim.  His murderer was never found.  In 1877, son-in-law William Sharp died after falling from his barn’s roof.

Nancy, the tough old pioneer that she was, finally succumbed at the age of 87, to what the 1880 Mortality Schedule seems to describe as “acute pleurisy.”  By my count, she was survived by four children (five children-in-law) and 41 grandchildren.  I did not try to count her great-grandchildren.  One of her last surviving grandchildren was Nancy Lucinda Barstow, named for her mother and grandmother, who was 12-years-old when her grandmother died and who, herself, lived until 1961.  These two Nancy’s lives covered 168 years of American history, from the presidencies of George Washington to John F. Kennedy.  What would Nancy senior have thought of that?

(Jacob Robbins-Absalom Robbins-Nancy (Robbins) Robbins)

John V. Travis: (Briefly) A Civil War Soldier

I don’t order Civil War pension records very often, as they are rather expensive.  Once in a while though I splurge on a case file in hope that the record will provide new information, if not in specific genealogical data such as names and dates, but in social and economic history of the family involved.  The most recent pension record I’ve received is that of John V. Travis.  His mother, Docia (Robbins) Travis, applied for a pension after his brief service in the Union army.  This pension file doesn’t include any new genealogical bombshells but does have some interesting facts not otherwise passed down in a family’s records.  Here is a summary of the information contained, with some additions from other sources.

John V. Travis was the son of Absalom Travis and Docia F. Robbins, and Docia was a daughter of Marmaduke and Elizabeth (Parsley) Robbins.  Docia was born in 1821 and married Absalom Travis in 1839 in Decatur County, Indiana.  John Travis was the couple’s third child, born about 1845 though unfortunately the pension file did not provide an exact birthdate.  Absalom Travis died 12 October 1853, leaving Docia a widow caring for six children ranging in age from 1 to 13.

According to the pension file, John enrolled as a private in company D of the 123rd Regiment of Indiana Infantry Volunteers, on Sunday, December 20th, 1863, to serve for three years or the duration of the war.  It was probably not a happy day for his mother and it would only get worse quickly.  John became ill and died on 23 January 1864, after only one month of military service.  He was approximately 19 years of age.

There is an affidavit by his doctors E. B. Swain and M. G. Falconbury, in which they,

“…say that they attended on John V Travis late a Private in Co. “D” of the 123rd Regt Ind Vols in or during his last illness and that Said John V Travis died on the 23rd day of January 1864 near Greensburgh Indiana by reason of a disease called Cerebro Spinal Meningitis and that said disease was contracted or originated three days prior to the date of his death.”

John’s commanding officer, Capt. Angus McCoy also reported that John

“…was attended in his last illness by Civil Surgeons and Physicians And that there was no Regimental Surgeon yet appointed or on duty with Said Regiment at the time of the last illness and death of John V. Travis.”

On August 8, 1865, Docia filed a “Declaration for Mother’s Army Pension.”  In that document she appoints Edwin White as her attorney, presents two witnesses to her signing the declaration with her mark “x”, Green B. Roszell and Calvin H. Paramore (the latter being married to her cousin Mary Ellen Robbins).  They also state “…that said Docia F. Travis is poor, and has no income save what is contributed by friends, or earned by her own labor; and they believe her unable to earn her subsistence, by reason of her age and also having a child (daughter) to support.”  The daughter is not named but was likely Nancy Ann Travis, then in her late teens.  This statement also seems to support the idea that her youngest child, William Travis, who appeared in the 1860 census as a 7-year-old, was deceased.

Another affidavit was filed by her nephews George Harvey and William Riley Robbins, sons of her brother Jacob.  They provided a little more information about her situation:

…that Said John V Travis did in his lifetime for a period of three or four years contributed money and other necessary articles Such as provisions to the regular support of his mother Docia F. Travis, and that Said John V Travis did not give her money and other articles as presents but that he worked for the Said G H Robbins at different times and that he the Said G H Robbins paid a part of his wages by the request of Said John V Travis to Said Docia F Travis, the same being for her regular support and that Said Docia Travis was wholly dependant upon her Said Son (John V Travis) for Support.  And that Absalom Travis the husband of Docia Travis died about the year 1855.  That he the Said Absalom Travis left to his Said widow Docia F Travis property, Real & Personal, worth the Sum of two hundred & fifty Dollars, all of which she has used to support herself and family and that she has no property of any value at this time with the exception of a cow and a little household furniture all not worth more than one hundred Dollars…

Docia Travis was approved for a pension, to receive $8 per month, commencing on 23 January 1864, the date of John’s death.  Presumably she received retroactive payments from the date of death to the approval of the pension.

By about the same time she was being approved for the pension, Docia moved to Clay County, Illinois.  She continued to collect her eight dollars each month until in 1872 she remarried, to William Nichelson.  William seems to have died sometime in the late 1880’s and Docia re-applied for a pension based on John’s service, as she was once again without support.  Her “Declaration for Dependent Mother’s Pension” was filed on 8 August 1890 with the support of her new attorney Thomas W. Kepley.  As support several of her friends filed an affidavit stating “…that she has no property other than common necessary wearing apparel and bedding.  That all the means of support she has is from her own labor which consists of doing a little light house work for others and nursing the sick which occupations she is not now able to perform only to a limited extent on account of Old age and failing health. That her annual income from all sources is not more than about Ten Dollars.”

She must have been relieved to once again be awarded a pension, this time receiving the increased amount of $12 per month, commencing in September of 1890.

As frequently happened with these pensions, the recipient was asked to provide additional or clarifying information, sometimes as the result of a routine audit.  In Docia’s case apparently there was some concern about the spelling of her second husband’s name, causing her to file an affidavit at the local courthouse that “…states as follows that she has no education whatsoever and cannot tell what is the Correct way of spelling her late husbands name.  She does not know whether it is spelled Nichelson or Nicholson, that the difference in spelling that name in her papers has been made by different officers who have done business for her. That she believes that the correct way is as it is spelled in her Original papers, Nichelson.”

We do not know when Docia died.  Family records suggest around 1903.  However a notation in the pension file indicates she was last paid in October of 1900 and had been “dropped because of failure to claim 3 yrs 3 mos.”  Was she deceased by this time? or too infirm to collect her pension?  The record is not clear.

There were no spectacular new finds in this pension file, but we did learn something about John Travis’ death, the physicians that attended him, the economic status of his widowed mother, and her education level.  That information is not usually available in any other genealogical record available to us from this time period.  I’ll write up summaries of other pension records and include the information in future posts.

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Marmaduke Robbins-Docia (Robbins) Travis-John V. Travis)

 

 

Businessman, Mayor, State Legislator – The Career of Jacob Harvey Robbins

It’s not often that you see a relative’s name on a bank note.  But in 1899 Jacob Harvey (J. H.) Robbins moved to the small mining town of Sumpter, in Oregon’s Blue Mountains, organized the First National Bank of Sumpter and issued National Bank Notes.  J. H. Robbins was the consummate businessman – involved in mining, banking, sales, produce distribution, and much more, and he pursued these activities in a wide variety of locations throughout the Pacific Northwest.

First National Bank of Sumpter

J. H. Robbins was born in 1859 near Salem, Oregon.  He lived with his parents in the Blue Mountains where his father Harvey was one of the first into the Granite district’s gold mining area in 1862.  He went to school in Pendleton or Baker City during the winter months, and then graduated from the Portland Business College in 1879.  What he learned at the college stood him in good stead for the rest of his varied career.  He and his wife Edith have descendants today.  A summary of J.H.’s career follows.

Jacob Harvey Robbins

He first worked in the mill and assay office at the Monumental mine in Baker County, one of the largest mines located in the steep mountain country east of Granite, which was reportedly first discovered by his father Harvey, along with Isaac Nail and Isaac Klopp.  A 2004 National Forest Service “site inspection” report on several mines in this area included a detailed map of the remains and ruins of the site.

Outline of Monumental Mine remains as drawn by National Forest Service site inspection

Then J.H. moved north to the ranching community of Pilot Rock where he managed Alexander & Lobenstein’s general store from 1880 to 1883.  In that latter year he began keeping the books for Heistad & Loveridge in Echo, Oregon, west of Pendleton, in the wide-open sage-brush country of northern Oregon.  Newton Loveridge was his uncle, having married Amanda Minerva Robbins.  For two years J. H. engaged in real estate brokerage in Pendleton and then he was elected Umatilla County Treasurer in 1888, which office he held until 1893.  In 1889 he was appointed assistant cashier of the Pendleton Savings Bank, which he retired from in 1893.  From then until 1899 he worked as a receiver at the La Grande Land Office and was vice-president and director of the Farmer & Trader National Bank.

J. H. Robbins in Oregon State Legislature

In 1899 Jacob Harvey Robbins moved to Sumpter, back in Baker County, but not far from the Granite mining community in which he had grown up, now completing a circle from Grant county, north to Umatilla county, then down to Union county (La Grande), and to Baker county back on the border with Grant.  In Sumpter he organized his bank and issued his bank notes.  In addition he served as mayor of Sumpter and then was elected to the State House of Representatives from Baker County in 1903.  Sumpter was a booming city in the early 1900s but was already in decline when a large fire swept through in 1917.  Today, Sumpter is the center of both outdoor and historic recreation, with the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area, an old railroad, and the remaining buildings from the town’s heyday, being a big draw for tourists.

But J. H. Robbins didn’t stay many years as in 1904 he moved north to Spokane, where his parents Harvey and Perlina Robbins were already living.  That year he organized Robbins, Pratt & Robbins Co., a furniture store, in Spokane with his brother Chester Robbins. All of his business activities after that are less well known.  In 1910 he was in Yakima, then he was back in Spokane and associated with the Northern Pacific Fruit Distributors, and later in Ashland where he worked for the Ashland Fruit & Produce Association.  In the 1940 census, at the age of 80, J. H. Robbins is listed as an inmate in the Oregon Masonic and Eastern Star Home for the Aged.  And yet, he continued to live until 1953, when he finally died after 94 years of a very long and eventful life.

He studied in the large city of Portland, he worked in the predominantly ranching and farming communities of Pendleton and Pilot Rock, he lived and worked in the small mining communities of Granite and Sumpter, conducted business in the city of Spokane, and later distributed fruit in the southern city of Ashland.  At one point he considered relocating to Boise.  He ended his life in McMinnville, a small city west of Portland.  Many of our ancestors lived their entire lives in one single town or county, but Jacob Harvey Robbins explored all the opportunities that the (inland) Pacific Northwest had to offer.

(Jacob Robbins-Jacob Robbins-Jacob Robbins-Harvey Robbins-Jacob Harvey Robbins)

National DNA Day

DNA Day, celebrated on April 25th each year, honors the discovery of the DNA double helix by James Watson and Frances H. C. Crick, and the beginning of DNA research as we know it.  But, more immediately for us, it’s an excuse for all the DNA testing companies to offer great price-saving deals.  If you were thinking of taking a DNA test, now is a great time to save some money.

The companies always reduce their fees during events such as this, as well as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, during the summer, and around the Christmas holiday.  Check out the websites for Ancestry, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage for deals this week or even special one-day-only deals tomorrow.

One of the companies. FamilyTreeDNA, promotes various projects, as their site describes: “Projects create opportunities for people to work with others to explore their common genetic heritage. Family Tree DNA encourages customers’ participation in projects. Membership is free and voluntary.”

One of the projects they promote is the Robbins/Robins DNA project.  Their website is:  https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/robins/about.  There are no restrictions on membership in this project and while the focus is on Y-DNA (passed from father to son), the results from mitochondrial (passed from mother to children) and autosomal (the DNA we receive from both of our parents) tests can also be included in the project’s results.  That’s good news for those of us who are not Robbins surnamed males – our Robbins descent comes down one of the many other lines of our family tree – who otherwise would not be able to use Y-DNA results to trace a direct male-Robbins ancestry.  I’m no expert in DNA and genealogy, despite attending lectures and seminars (such as the one last week my local genealogy society put on), and am always learning something new about it’s complex role in genealogy.

DNA projects and research are an important focus of today’s family history, but the science goes hand in hand with the paper trail that genealogists develop from their research.

 

A Robbins Family in Galt, California

I can never take a vacation where I don’t visit at least one family cemetery going or coming to my destination.  This year was no different.  During a trip to California I stopped by the Galt Cemetery in the town of Galt.

Robbins family plot in Galt Cemetery, Galt, California

Last June I wrote a blog post titled “Serious Trouble at Millhousen” about the death of Fount Robbins, shot in bar in Decatur County, Indiana.  For the longest time I had been unable to find much information about Fount and his wife Lovisa’s children, Daniel and Emma.  Family historian Mary Kate Horner had some information and Decatur County historian and cousin Dale Myers added more.  Emma, I learned, remained in Decatur County and was married to Everett Logan; they had two children and it is not known if there are descendants today.  There was also a family story that Dan Robbins only had one arm, but where did he end up?  Well, he was far away from Indiana.

I finally discovered him living in Galt, California, just south of Sacramento.  In fact, Daniel had been living there with his wife and children by the 1880s, long before his father’s death in 1893.  I now have an outline of the Robbins family of Galt, still not a lot of details, but more than I had before.

Daniel Henry Robbins was married to Louisa Armstrong in May of 1880 in Gaynorsville, Indiana – a small community in Decatur County – by Justice of the Peace Enoch Proctor.  The following month they were enumerated in the federal census living in the household of his parents, Fount and Lovisa Robbins.  Daniel was not listed as having an occupation, but there was a notation that he had “left hand off,” thereby collaborating the family story about a physical impairment.

According to Daniel’s obituary the couple moved to California the fall of 1880, while Louisa’s indicates it was in 1889, when the family first lived in Elk Grove before moving to Galt.  In fact, at least two of their children were born in Indiana.  What brought them west at that time and to that community?  They had four children: Charles Augustus (born in Indiana), Jessie H. (born in Indiana), Gracie (birth date and place unknown – she died in infancy), and Ella May (born in California).

In 1890, 1892, 1894, 1896 and 1898 Daniel Robbins is found in the voter registration rolls of Sacramento County.  In the 1900 census the Robbins family is found in Dry Creek Township of Sacramento County, which includes the town of Galt and surrounding area, and Daniel is listed as a farm laborer.  The family seems to have attended the local Methodist church.

Of the children, Charles Augustus Robbins was married to Lura Oldham about 1902, possibly in San Francisco.  Daughter Jessie was married to James Humphrey and Ella was married to Lloyd Dooling.  Only Charles had children, one daughter Dorothy Robbins (1919-1998).

Daniel Robbins gravestone

Daniel Robbins died in 1909.  His obituary reported:  The sudden and unexpected death of Daniel Henry Robbins occurred here last Sunday morning, January 24th.  Death resulted from tumor on the brain.  The deceased had been ill for only about one month.”  He was fifty-four years old.

Louisa Robbins gravestone

All of the children of Daniel and Louisa, strangely enough, died before the death of their mother.  Charles died in 1938, Jessie in 1919, and Ella in 1927.  Louisa Robbins, however, lived until 1942.  All of the family are buried in the Galt Cemetery, and I found their graves this past week.  Each member of the family has a similar type of gravestone and they are enclosed in a low concrete outline with lawn inside.  The family plot was clearly marked but it took a couple of searches through the cemetery to locate it.

excerpt from Louisa Robbins obituary

It’s not often that you find the following included in an obituary, as this was in Louisa’s:  “Although her husband and all four children preceded her in death, she maintained a cheerful attitude and devoted her life to helping others.  She was one of the best friends this writer ever had, and will be sorely missed, not only by me, but scores of others.”

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Marmaduke Robbins-Fountain Robbins-Daniel Henry Robbins)

A Trip Around the World

The last couple of posts dealt with members of the John and Ruth (Anderson) Robbins family of Decatur County, Indiana.  This post does too, though the focus is more on a Robbins in-law.

John and Ruth Robbins had a small family for their time.  Instead of the large number of children farming families tended to have, this couple only had four children that we know of:  Mary Ellen, William Anderson, Sarah Ann, and Nathaniel.  The eldest, Mary Ellen, was married to Calvin Paramore and while they had seven children, all died in childhood, never married or had no living descendants.  The youngest, Nathaniel, died in infancy in 1824.  That leaves two children whose family lines continue today.  Last week’s post was about the Snooks and the Schumachers – they were descendants of Sarah Ann (Robbins) Snook.  The post before that one was about Jacob Gates Robbins, a son of William Anderson Robbins.  This post also deals with descendants of William Anderson Robbins.

John Robbins and family

William Anderson Robbins had several children besides Jacob Gates.  The two that had descendants were William Marion Robbins and Charles Francis Robbins.

Charles Francis Robbins, Sr., was the proverbial small-town boy made good.  Born in Decatur County he became an attorney in Indianapolis.  He was married to Venora (“Nora”) Hammond in 1883, they had one son Charles Francis Robbins Jr. (born 1886).  The law must have been very lucrative in Indiana’s capital city, because by the late 1890’s they were touring Europe and living in France.  They do not appear to have returned to Indiana.  Not found in the 1900 census as perhaps they were still in Europe, they are in the 1910 census living on West 85th Street in Manhattan, where Charles’ occupation was listed as “own income.”  Charles Sr. died in 1914.

A.G. Spalding & Bros.

Son Charles Francis Robbins Jr. was destined for the business world and specifically the international sporting goods company, A. G. Spalding.  By the time he registered for the World War I draft in 1917 he was a manager at Spalding and in the 1920 census he was listed as vice president at Spalding.  Between those two years Charles Jr. was married to Elizabeth Brown, a niece of the company’s founder, A. G. Spalding Sr.  By 1930 Charles Jr. was president of the Spalding Company and his family had moved to Llewellyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey.  He and Elizabeth have descendants through their three sons.

But – back to Nora (Hammond) Robbins, wife of Charles Francis Robbins Sr.  After her husband’s death Nora continued her international travel.  And it was a trip in 1923 which became the basis for her small book, Hitting the High Spots of My Trip Around the World, published in 1938.

Venora Robbins passport application

In this book, dedicated to her son Charles Jr. and her three grandsons, Nora Robbins describes her trip around the world.  She crossed the continent to San Francisco, where she boarded the ship SS President Cleveland and sailed for Honolulu.  After a visit to the Hawaiian Islands, Nora continued on to Japan, then China, Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Macao, Southeast Asia (the future Vietnam and Cambodia), Indonesia and Singapore, then on to Ceylon, across the Indian ocean to the African coast, then up the Red Sea to visit the highlights of Egypt, and then on to Europe, stopping in Venice, Paris, and from London returned to her “little old New York.”  She had been gone from the United States for almost 13 months but later Nora returned to France where she had a villa on the Riviera, living there into the 1930s.

Title page of Venora (Hammond) Robbins book

What’s fascinating about Nora’s book is that she was travelling soon after the end of World War I but before some of the worst events preceding World War II.  For example, she describes visiting the “very interesting” city of Nanking, later the scene of the notorious “rape of Nanking” by Japanese soldiers a decade later.  She reported:  “The tombs of the rulers of the Ming dynasty are here.  Long rows of stone animals are on either side of the road leading up to their temple.  It was a beautiful October day and the trip out through the country in rickshaws was delightful.”

In visiting Beijing (then spelled Peking) Nora espouses her philosophy of travel:

The whole wonderful city was most impressive.  Peking! – that I had so long dreamed of – and I was there!  It is a very happy thing to have a first experience.  You have thrills of pleasure that never come with the second one.  I am sorry for anyone who has “seen everything:”  No chance to see for the first time – which is the best of all.

Towards the end of her travels, when she was in France, she describes the former battlefields of the first world war.  “We were in dugouts; saw trenches and barbed wire entanglements; the great cemeteries of the French, Italians, and Germans; the cemetery of the Americans at Belleau Woods.  Where the English are buried there are the blooming roses.  Always flowers!”

At the beginning of the book she writes:

It is so commonplace a trip today, to circle the globe, that it is almost presumptuous to essay an entertainment of others with one’s own experiences.  There-fore I venture forth on even a brief recital of my own with much hesitation, as most of you have probably seen more and know more about what you have seen that I do.

I’m not so sure of that.  Overall, Nora’s book is a delightful account of travel in a bygone era.

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-John Robbins-William Anderson Robbins-Charles Francis Robbins, married to Venora (“Nora”) Hammond-Charles Francis Robbins Jr.)

 

Snooks, Schumachers and a Librarian Too!

Enola Snook was a great-granddaughter of John and Ruth (Anderson) Robbins of Decatur County, Indiana.  Her parents William Snook and Emma Elliott were married in Jennings County in 1868, but spent most of their lives Altamont, Illinois, where they were joined by William’s brother John Snook.  Their one sister, Mary Alice Snook, was married to William H. Rybolt and remained in Decatur County.

Enola’s uncle John Snook, a Civil War veteran like his brother, founded a commission business with William, which they engaged in until 1900, when John was named postmaster of Altamont, and later served as alderman and mayor of that town.  John and his wife had no biological children but did “foster” one son, Benson Snook.

Enola Snook was an only child and must have been joyfully welcomed fourteen years into her parent’s marriage.  Before that event her father William had been very busy supporting his wife.  They initially farmed in Jennings County, then moved to Altamont where William engaged in the furniture and hardware business.  By 1874 he was engaged in the grain and stock business, becoming a partner of H. A. Carter in the firm Carter & Snook.  He and Emma appear in the 1880 census in Kansas, where he is listed as a cattle buyer, but they were shortly back in Altamont when Enola came in 1882.  Around that time William Snook joined in partnership with Charles Schumacher and the men dealt in grain and livestock.

Excerpt of William Snook biography in a history of Effingham County, Illinois (1883)

Frank Schumacher, Charles’s son, married Enola Snook in 1908.  Charles continued in the grain dealing business started by his father and father-in-law, engaged in other businesses as well, and the Schumacher couple were quite prominent in the small farming community of Altamont.  In addition to his businesses, Frank served on the city commission, served as a director of the Altamont Building and Loan Association, and served on the board of the Chamber of Commerce.

A 1925 article in the local newspaper recounted how Frank was injured while working on his new creamery.  “The scaffolding on which Mr. Schumacher was standing gave way and he fell to the ground, breaking one rib from the back bone, and splintering another rib.  As a result he will be confined to his home for a week or two.  Mr. Schumacher is owner of the new creamery, which he hopes to have in operation some time in December.”

Enola was also involved in community activities.  She was vice-president of the Altamont Women’s Club, treasurer of St. Elmo Rebekah’s Lodge, was a director, like her husband previously, of the Altamont Building & Loan Association, and attended the First Methodist Church.

Gravestone of Enola (Snook) Schumacher (photo taken Sept. 14, 2011 by author)

One remarkable thing about Enola (Snook) Schumacher was that she served 30-years as city librarian.  The Altamont City Library opened in 1908 and then closed in 1920 when the materials were given to the public schools.  The library was re-opened in 1937 in a room above the fire station and two years later Enola Schumacher was named city librarian.  In 1948 the library was moved to a new location and Enola remained as city librarian until her retirement in 1969 at the age of 86!  She passed away only four years later and is buried in Altamont’s Union Cemetery with the Snook family.  Of Frank, we do not know what happened to him, when he died, or where he was buried (if in Union Cemetery his grave is unmarked).  The couple had no children and this Schumacher-Snook line ends with Frank and Enola.

[Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-John Robbins-Sarah Ann (Robbins) Snook-William L. Snook-Enola (Snook) Schumacher)

 

Jacob Gates Robbins (1845-1883)

William Anderson Robbins and his wife Rebecca Gates had five children, several with very interesting biographies.  The oldest son, Jacob Gates Robbins, never married and passed away at a young age but his passing was noted in Decatur County, Indiana, where he had lived his entire life.

Born in 1845, Gates Robbins, as he was known, engaged in farming with his father.  The family specialized in raising Poland China hogs and were said to have made the family firm “an enviable reputation and decided success.”  Poland China hogs were developed in the United Sates about 1816, being derived from several other breeds.  They are known for their extremely large (as in record-breaking large) size.

China Poland hogs

The raising of these hogs must have been very lucrative because William A. Robbins is listed in the 1860 census as having a substantial $8000 value of real estate (up from $1500 in 1850) and $2300 in personal estate.  And by 1870 the real estate value had increased to $15,000.  In each of these census years Gates Robbins was always listed as being a member of the household; he never left home.

At the time of his death, it was reported “Mr. Robbins was a single man in the prime of life.  He was full of energy and business and had acquired a considerable little fortune by his own exertions.  Whether it was business, politics or enjoyment he was engaged in, he engaged in it with all his might.”

The story of Gates’ death was reported in the November 17, 1883, Greensburg, Indiana, Saturday Review, in two stories: a notice of his death and an obituary, both appearing on the same page.  The newspaper reported:

“During the day [Wednesday, November 14] he had been working on the farm and was in apparent good health.  He ate a hearty supper and was sitting by the fire talking to his father.  Suddenly he drew a long breath or two and expired in his father’s arms.”

The Review continued:  “The shock comes to his aged parents and to his brothers and friends as a clap of thunder from a clear sky.  He will be missed and mourned.  He was a good man.  Truly does death love a shining mark.  The funeral services too place yesterday [November 16] and the body was followed to its last resting place by a large concourse of friends.”

J. Gates Robbins gravestone

It was also reported:  “His sudden taking off can only be accounted for on the usual theory of heart disease or apoplexy.  The Review unites with his other friends in their sorrow and regrets, for he has been its strong friend.”

[Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-John Robbins-William Anderson Robbins-Jacob Gates Robbins]

 

Dating Old Robbins Photos

It’s not always easy to determine the date when an old family photograph was taken.  We look at the type of photograph it was (daguerreotype, tintype, carte de visite, cabinet cards, etc.), the dress of the subjects, and other clues to provide a date.  Sometimes the only information we have to go on is an individual’s lifespan.  One such photo is that of Nathaniel and Nancy Robbins, Oregon emigrants of 1852.  While Nancy lived until 1880, we know that Nathaniel Robbins died in December of 1863 so the only photograph we have of them is before that date.

Nathaniel and Nancy Robbins (by or before 1863)

Most of the Robbins family did not avoid photographers’ studios and the new technology that allowed a person’s likeness to be captured for posterity was thankfully taken advantage of by our ancestors.  Unless we know otherwise (and occasionally we will hear of a family member who refused to have their photo taken) I firmly believe that the majority of our family that lived after about 1860 had their photograph taken, whether we still have those photos today or whether we recognize those photos that lay unidentified in our photograph collections.

I received the photograph below from the late Patrick Masterson of Port Orford, Oregon.  Patrick was a descendant of Jacob and Sarah Robbins, emigrants of 1852, and a local historian with long-time connections to his small Oregon coast community.  Patrick claimed that this photograph was of Jacob Robbins’ father, another Jacob Robbins.  This Jacob would have been the brother of William Robbins, the Revolutionary War veteran, Absalom Robbins, who died at an advanced age in 1859, James Robbins of Jennings County, Indiana, and other siblings.  Jacob (of the photo) was born in 1767 but we do not know when he died.  He appeared as an 83-year-old in the 1850 Decatur County, Indiana, census.  Due to the advanced age of the subject, it could very well be that this photo truly is of Jacob Robbins in his old age.  Or is it of someone else in the family?

said to be Jacob Robbins (1767-after 1850)

Nathaniel and Nancy Robbins’ daughter Nancy, was married to Joseph Barstow in 1856 and this appears to be their wedding photograph.  As their wedding was only one month after Nancy’s eldest brother William Franklin Robbins was tragically killed while out bear hunting, the descendant of Nancy who gave me this photograph believed the sad look on Nancy’s face, during an otherwise happy event, was due to grief at her brother’s recent death.  If so, the photograph dates from 1856.

Joseph and Nancy (Robbins) Barstow (1856)

Another photograph in the Jacob Robbins line is that of Harvey and Levi Robbins, teenage brothers who crossed the plains in 1852, sons of Jacob and Sarah Robbins.  I believe this photo shows the brothers prior to their marriages.  If so, the photograph was taken by or before 1858, when Harvey married his wife Perlina (Levi married the following year).

Levi and Harvey Robbins (c1858)

In some cases, like that of Nathaniel, we know the latest date by which a photograph was taken, while in others we try to calculate, whether from age or dress or other criteria, when the image was created.  It’s not always perfect, but usually we can arrive at a general date for the photo.  These aren’t the only old photographs I have in my collection, just a few examples.  Who do you have in yours?

“Respected by All Who Knew Him:” Nathaniel Spencer Robbins

Nathaniel Spencer Robbins, called “Uncle Nat” in my family (he was my great-grandmothers oldest brother), was born in Decatur County in 1837 and was fifteen-years-old when his family crossed the plains on the Oregon Trail.  His father William Franklin Robbins took a Donation Land Claim approximately where today’s Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 intersect, southeast of Tualatin, and not many miles west of Oregon City.  According to his obituary he lived there his entire life.  My mother remembered as a child and teenager hearing about “Uncle Nat” as though he just lived down the road.  However, by that point he’d been dead for 40-plus years.

Soon after arriving in Oregon in the late, rainy autumn of 1852, most of the family was ill.  Nat’s family was living on the west side of the Willamette River in Linn City.  When his little brother Gilman became sick and died, teenage Nat, one of the few healthy family members, was sent off to Oregon City to find his uncles Dow and Norval to come dig a grave.  Soon, however, Nat was ill along with his uncle Dow and grandfather Nathaniel and his father reported that “Nat was the lowest I ever seen anyone to recover.”  Later his sister Nancy Adeline wrote “…for two weeks he couldn’t speak above a whisper.  Just laid on a bed on the floor.  But at last he got well.”

Nathaniel Spencer Robbins

Some information about Nat’s three wives, such as all of their birth and death dates is not known.  He was first married to Sarah Evans about 1873.  She died in 1880 at approximately thirty years of age.  Together they had three children:  Clara, Hampton (“Hamp”), and Stella.  After Sarah’s death he married Martha Jane Rodgers in 1882.  No additional information is available about her except that she was the mother of Nat’s youngest son William Berry Robbins.  Thirdly, Nat married Anna Marie (Mary) Kunst, who survived him.

The 1870 agricultural schedule of the U.S. census provides a little detail of Nat’s farm in Washington County.  In the year leading up to the census enumeration he had 14 improved acres, 306 acres of woodland, two horses, three milk cows and four other cattle, and eight swine.  He produced 63 bushels of spring wheat, 108 bushels of oats, 83 bushels of barley, 50 pounds of tobacco (not the most common crop in Oregon!), 40 bushels of Irish potatoes, 7 tons of hay, and 200 lbs of butter.  That is a lot of produce for 14 improved acres of land.

N. S. Robbins signature (1892)

According to his obituary Nat Robbins, who passed away in 1895, died of “la grippe” followed by typhoid fever, just short of his 58th birthday.  What is “la grippe?”  That’s another term for influenza.  Medical experts of the 1890s sometimes reported that it was hard to differentiate between the two diseases, and whether one really followed the other. Whatever the real diagnosis, his death saddened his family and the community.  The Portland Oregonian reported Nat “was an upright man and respected by all who knew him.”

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Nathaniel Robbins-William Franklin Robbins-Nathaniel Spencer Robbins)