Law Runs in the Family

There were a number of ties between the Robbins and Anderson families.  Both families lived in Shelby and Henry counties, Kentucky, and both seem to have come to Decatur County, Indiana, at the same time.  There were at least four Robbins-Anderson marriages.  Among the children of William and Bethiah Robbins, their son William married Eleanor Anderson, son John married Ruth Anderson, and daughter Charlotte married Abram Anderson.  Another marriage, an Absalom Robbins to Elizabeth Anderson, likely was a second marriage for Absalom the brother of William, after Absalom’s first wife died.  Other Anderson children married members of the Vest, Pruitt, Parsley, Bowler, and White families, some of whom are buried in the historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery south of Greensburg.

This post will discuss the family of Abram and Charlotte (“Lottie”) (Robbins) Anderson.  The couple were married in 1827 in Decatur County, Indiana, one of the earliest marriages of the Robbins family in that county since the family moved there in the early 1820s.

The couple had four children, possibly more, but only four names have come down to us.  The oldest child, Sarah Elizabeth Anderson, was only three years when she died and was buried in the Mount Pleasant cemetery.  The next child, Susannah Anderson, may have died young or may have lived to marry someone named “Songer” – the family record hint at a marriage, but no documentation exists.  A son, William James Anderson, was born in 1833, married twice, and died possibly around 1859 or 60, at less than 30 years of age.  With his second wife Maria Catherine Myers he had a son John Abram Lastly Anderson who we lose track of after the 1880 census in which the 21-year old is listed as a farm laborer in the household of his mother and step-father.

The youngest child of Abram and Charlotte was Nancy Bethiah Anderson born in 1838.  Her middle name comes from her grandmother Bethiah (Vickrey) Robbins, who was living with the family in 1850.  Nancy Bethiah Anderson’s family is where we find descendants today of Abram and Charlotte.

Charlotte Anderson died in 1874 and two years later, at the age of 71, Abram married Olivia Morgan.  When Abram died in 1891 at the age of 87 he was the very last of his generation of children and children-in-laws of William and Bethiah Robbins.  For years the Andersons had farmed in Decatur County, living south of Greensburg, and both found their final rest in the Mount Pleasant cemetery near so many of their family members, both Andersons and Robbins.

Nancy Bethiah (Anderson) Shane

The youngest daughter, Nancy Bethiah Anderson, was married to Christopher Shane in 1860.  When I first started working on this family’s genealogy, I had about as much information on the couple as I did on the possible marriage of sister Susannah and at first thought this would be one of those families that just sort of fade out of the records. but between Ancestry.com, the Washington State Digital Archives, and a descendants’ wonderful website (the photos here are courtesy of Michael Shackleford) it really didn’t take long to discover much more concrete information about the couple and their descendants.  It helped that Chris Shane was prominent: he served as mayor of Greensburg, Indiana.

Chris Shane

Chris Shane, though a native Hoosier, worked for four years as a clerk in the pension bureau in Washington, D.C.  According to a county history he began practicing law in Decatur County in 1865 with William Moore, however in the 1860 census he is already listed as an attorney.  In 1867 Shane was elected mayor of Greensburg, which position he held for six years.  He later served as both city and county attorney.

Before she died at the early age of 39, Nancy (Anderson) Shane had five children: Elizabeth, Charlotte, Charles, Warren, and Martha.  They suddenly disappeared from Decatur County records but with a little searching I discovered that in the early 1890s Chris Shane and his children moved across the country to Tacoma, Washington.  There Chris apparently engaged in the insurance business for a brief period but he died in 1896, only a few years after arriving in the Pacific Northwest.

Of the children, Elizabeth Shane never married but worked as a teacher her whole life.  Charlotte was married to John Shackleford, while her sister Martha was married to John’s brother Lewis Shackleford.  Both Shackleford men were attorneys and later served as judges and assistant U.S. Attorneys and other high offices in Washington State.

Charles Shane worked as a clerk in the Shackleford’s law office and was later listed in the census as an attorney himself, though he seems to have ended up on the opposite side of the law.  According to several newspaper articles Charles embezzled money from the city of Tacoma (he was then municipal court clerk).  What the resolution of his legal troubles was is not known and he disappears from census and other records. Perhaps he’s still on the run? It’s doubtful that his upstanding brothers-in-law, as well as the rest of his family, approved of his behavior.  Finally, brother Warren Shane married, but had no children, and died as a widower in Chicago in 1942.

The Shacklefords, both couples, had children, but only Martha and Lewis’ son John married and has descendants today.  Charlotte and John Shackleford had three daughters, none of whom married, but each of whom had notable careers.  Charlotte was a teacher and Martha earned three degrees, including a Ph.D., and was a professor of biology and chair of the science department at Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts.

Middle daughter Elizabeth Shackleford, however, followed a family tradition and went into the law.  She was the only woman admitted to the Washington State Bar in 1922, worked as an attorney in Tacoma for many years, and was appointed a Pierce County Justice Court judge in 1954, the title changing to District Court Judge, and serving until 1967.  She then continued to practice law until she retired at the age of 85 in 1981!

Judge Elizabeth Shackleford, great-granddaughter of Charlotte (Robbins) Anderson

At the time of her death the Tacoma Morning News Tribune wrote:

In those days [1927], there were only five female lawyers in the area, and clients were scarce.  So she took a job with the federal tax collection agency, which later became the Internal Revenue Service, while struggling to build her practice.  During the 1950s and 1960s, Shackleford was the only female attorney practicing in the area and one of the few to take on black clients.  She is credited with helping an association of black women and a group of black businessmen to establish clubhouses in Tacoma and providing free legal assistance to blacks.  She was active with the local League of Women Voters.  For her efforts, she was honored by black, Indian, and religious groups in a special ceremony in 1981.

[Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Charlotte (Robbins) Anderson and descendants]

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