The last post provided a brief biography of James Robbins, one of the sons of Jacob and Mary Robbins. James was the ancestor of many of the Jennings County, Indiana, Robbins descendants.
One of his descendants was David Ransom (D. R.) Robbins, who recorded his memories of the Robbins family, in particular those told to him by his grandfather (James’s eldest son) Ransom Robbins. D.R. acknowledges that he cannot remember all of his ancestors’ names but he none the less provides a fine narrative of the family from the time of the American Revolution until the early 20th century. It is sometimes the only source for stories about these early family members. I received a typed copy of this manuscript very early in my Robbins research from Mary Kate Horner or Orpha Fessler, both of whom shared information about the Robbins family.
Some excerpts follow, with editorial explanations in brackets.
Of the family’s emigration from Virginia to Kentucky, he writes:
I don’t know how many there were of the Robbinses that moved from Virginia to Kentucky. I remember that Grandfather [Ransom Robbins] said this grandfather [Jacob Robbins Sr.] was one of them. Grandfather said that he had listened to his folks talking about what a time they had on the way over the mountains [Ransom would have been a small child, under 10 years of age, at the time of the move]. Scarcely any road to follow. One day it had rained all day and (when, on) towards night it turned cold. Where they camped for a night everything was so wet that they couldn’t find any dry punk [a fire starter found inside decayed logs]. They got the driest punk and kindlings they could find and tried to set it afire with their steel and flint which was the only way they had to start a fire. Which was done by holding a flint rock in one hand and striking it with a piece of hard steel with the other hand, holding it down close to the punk and kindlings. The sparks from the flint would go onto the punk and set it afire. There were no matches in those days.
They finally gave up making any fire that night. As it was getting colder very fast they concluded that the women and all the children would sleep in the covered wagons, using all the bed clothing, that the men folks used in sleeping under the wagons. There was quite a hill near camp. The men planned that they would run up an down the hill all night to keep warm. They kept it up till they began to get pretty tired. when one fellow says, “what’s that light down there in the kindlings?” They all ran to see and sure enough a spark had caught in the punk and finally started a fire. Then they made a rousing big campfire. It had grown to be so cold that they concluded that if the fire had not started, that they would have tired themselves out and laid down on the frozen ground and probably perished before morning.
The family lived initially in Shelby and Henry counties, Kentucky, before moving north across the Ohio River into Indiana. The Robbins names have no appeared in records of the Fourteen Mile or Pigeon Roost settlements, but more than one family account attests to their presence there.
Their relatives and others came over Kentucky and settled in the Fourteen Mile Creek settlement till there was quite a settlement. A man by the name of McCollum started a settlement in the spring of 1805, on year after the Robbinses came to Fourteen Mile Creek. McCollum named this settlement the Pigeon Roost, because there was a very large wild pigeon roost nearby.
Sometime after, when grandfather [Ransom Robbins] was older, his Grandfather Robbins [Jacob Robbins Sr.] was living with them. He got up real early one morning and went hunting on horseback. His grandfather had a good rifle that was not so heavy as his, so he took it. Their horses were used to a gun being shot from their backs. They often hunted that way, because they could get nearer game than they could on foot. He saw a nice deer standing looking at him. He stopped the horse and shot. The horse jumped and he fell to the ground, breaking the new block of his grandfather’s rifle, which he had just made out of curly maple and had taken a great deal of pains in making. Grandfather killed the deer, but he felt very bad about breaking the gun stock. When he got home he told his father [James Robbins] what had happened. His father told him to go and tell granddaddy all about it. He done so. All he said was, “Did you kill the deer?” He said he did. That was all. Then he told his father what his grandfather had said. “Well,” his father said, “if you had missed the deer he probably would have given you a switching.
During the War of 1812, the settlement of Pigeon Roost was the scene of a massacre by Indians. That story and the family’s move to Jennings County will be in next week’s post.
(Jacob Robbins-James Robbins-Ransom Robbins-Jacob Green Robbins-David Ransom Robbins)