Greenberry and Sarah Robbins: A Reconstructed Life

Some of our family lived in a time and a place for which records are scarce.  This post discusses a couple who died young, left descendants but few records.  What can we learn about Greenberry and Sarah Robbins?

Greenberry S. Robbins, sometimes called just “Berry,” (and the only Greenberry I’ve ever found in the Robbins family) was born about 1824 in Decatur County, Indiana, the son of George and Nancy (Pruitt) Robbins.  (In some family records he’s listed incorrectly as the son of George’s father Absalom Robbins, but he seems much too young for that family group).  He was married to Sarah Burgin in Decatur County in 1844 by James Blankenship, a Baptist minister.

Greenberry Robbins’ land in Decatur County, Indiana

In 1848 Greenberry was awarded a federal land patent for 40 acres purchased as a cash sale in Decatur County, located just east of the Pinhook neighborhood, on the current W. County Road 800 S.  But land patents were usually issued long after families had begun living on the property and by that date the family was already in Missouri.

We know that the family was in Schuyler County, Missouri, by 1846, because their daughter Louisa was born there that year.  And in the 1850 Federal census Greenberry, Sarah, and their three children Nancy Catherine, Louisa, and George Henry Robbins, appear in that county.  One of Greenberry’s brothers, Levi Robbins, lived in Illinois at this time, but all the rest of his siblings, along with his parents, were back in Indiana.  Why the move to Missouri?  It does appear that Sarah’s family were in Schuyler County, as a Burgins appear in the census and a probate record as mentioned later.  There were also Robbins cousins over the border in Davis County, Iowa, to the north. It could have been a combination of Sarah’s family being there and close relatives nearby in Iowa.

Greenberry did not enjoy a long life.  He died about September of 1852 at the age of 28 in Schuyler County.  Life could be short then, with the most minor medical problems leading to death.  We know that Greenberry at that time because in October of 1852 John Burgin (possibly Sarah’s brother) was appointed administrator of the estate, with securities being John Kerr, Samuel Bradley, George Bradley, James Burgin, and Isaac Burgin.

In 1857 a land patent was issued to Greenberry Robbins for 40 acres of land, another cash sale, in Schuyler County.  Remember that it took some years for the person to improve the land and make the payment(s), so it’s not unusual that the land patent was issued in Greenberry’s name even though he was now five years dead.  Greenberry had also purchased 40 acres from neighbor John Kerr in the spring of 1852.  The fact that the land was purchased just months before his death would seem to indicate that Greenberry became ill quickly or suffered an accident that caused his death.  The appointment of an administrator for his estate came with the statement that Greenberry “died intestate as it is said having at the time of his death property in this State which may be lost or destroyed or diminished in value if speedy care be not taken of the same…”

Greenberry Robbins probate excerpt

Sadly, Sarah doesn’t seem to have had a long life either.  She appears with her children in the 1860 census.  After the 1850 census but before Greenberry’s death, one last child, John Milton Robbins, was born.  The obituaries for the two sons, George and John, both recount that their father died when they were very young and their mother died only a few years later.  The dates they provided indicated she was dead by 1860 but that’s disputed by her appearance in the census.

Another interesting record is available.  In 1856 Sarah Robbins was married to Noah Pilcher in Schuyler County.  It must be our Sarah, but what happened to the marriage?  By 1860 she’s back to being listed as Sarah Robbins in the census.

The agricultural schedule of the 1860 census provides a little bit of information about the Robbins farm in Missouri.  Sarah was listed as head of household, with 20 acres of improved land, 60 unimproved; the cash value of the farm was $300.  They had two horses, two “milch” cows, eight sheep, eight swine, and their livestock was valued at $150.  The farm had produced 200 bushels of Indian corn, 23 pounds of wool, 80 pounds of butter, and 13 gallons of molasses.

Where were Greenberry and Sarah buried?  It is not known.  Most of the family were later buried in the Bethel or Queen City cemeteries.  Since the couple died so young, its possible they were buried, unmarked, in what was called the Burgin-Vittetoe cemetery, a rural county cemetery with Sarah’s relatives, but that’s just one possibility.

Finally, we do not know who raised the children of Greenberry and Sarah Robbins.  However, I think Greenberry and Sarah would be pleased to know that Nancy, Louisa, George, and John, grew up, married, and have many descendants to this day.

(Jacob Robbins-Absalom Robbins-George Robbins-Greenberry Robbins)

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