The Robbins family followed a east-to-west migration pattern in the late 1700s and early 1800s, always seeming to move further west, looking for better land or other opportunities. There was one exception to this and that was a two-year period spent by several of the Robbins families in Bond County, Illinois, before they turned around and traveled directly east to settle in southeastern Indiana. This emigration has always intrigued me.
Bond County was formed in 1817 as part of the Illinois Territory. At its start it was oddly shaped, only twenty-six miles wide and stretched all the way from southern Illinois to Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. In 1818 Thomas Kirkpatrick was one of the representatives from Bond County to serve on the state’s constitutional convention, which earned statehood in December of that year. Bond County’s boundaries began to be cut back until it was one of the smallest counties in Illinois.
In 1818 the Robbins family had been living in Henry and Shelby counties, Kentucky, for about 18 years. There was already some interest in moving north to Indiana, with a couple of the family arriving around 1812 though official records are sketchy.
So it’s a question as to why several children of William and Bethiah Robbins decided to break away from the family group and travel almost 400 miles west to Bond County, Illinois. Two sons, Marmaduke (age 32) and Nathaniel (age 25), made the trek by wagon on primitive roads and arrived in Bond County sometime in 1818 or 1819. Their sister Polly (Polly being the nickname for Mary), according to family sources, went to Illinois to visit her brothers.
Only one land record has been found for either of the two brothers, and that was for 49.12 acres that Marmaduke Robbins purchased for $98.28 on 3 March 1820. I’ve been unable to find when he sold the land. I’ve found no land record for Nathaniel.
While in Bond County, Nathaniel and his wife Nancy celebrated the birth of their son John Dow Robbins (on 12 August 1819) but lost one of their other children, Absalom W. Robbins just a month later (September 1819). Their previous children had been born in Kentucky and subsequent children would be born in Indiana.
Marmaduke and his wife Elizabeth, meanwhile, had two daughters while living in Bond County. Permelia was born about 1820 and Docia was born in March of 1821. This Docia is not to be confused with Marmaduke, Nathaniel and Polly’s youngest sister Dosha (Robbins) Herren.
Meanwhile, Polly Robbins (age 27) arrived in Bond County to visit her brothers and while there met and married John Hope Kirkpatrick in November of 1820. There were a number of Kirkpatricks in the county (as evidenced by their representation at the constitutional convention as mentioned above). It is probable that in the 1820 census John was listed in the household of his father, another John Kirkpatrick, as there is no other enumeration for a John of the right age, and senior had several males above the age of 21 in the household. Both Marmaduke and Nathaniel also appear in the 1820 census for Bond County.
Soon after the birth of Docia in the spring of 1821, the two brothers, their families, as well as their newly married sister and her husband, moved east to join family in Decatur County, Indiana. What led them to go east? Their parents, William and Bethiah, their uncles Absalom and Jacob, their other siblings and cousins, all seemed to moved north from Kentucky to Indiana, without making the detour to Illinois on the way. Was it the pull of family? and the desire to live nearby? What led John Kirkpatrick to leave his family behind in Illinois to follow his wife’s family? We’ll probably never have answers to these questions.
By the fall of 1821 or spring of 1822 these three families had settled in Indiana, where Marmaduke Robbins and Polly Kirkpatrick would remain for the rest of their lives, while Nathaniel would stay until 1851 when he began the trek to Oregon, this time going much further west and never returning to the east.
(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Marmaduke Robbins, Polly (Robbins) Kirkpatrick, Nathaniel Robbins)