Levi Robbins, the second eldest child of Jacob and Sarah (Spilman) Robbins, was the only one of his siblings not to spend time in eastern Oregon and he was only one to stay clean-shaven! Levi never grew a beard like his father and brothers.
He was born in 1835 in Decatur County, Indiana, joining his older brother Harvey in the small but growing family of Jacob Robbins. Jacob had come to Decatur County, Indiana, as a boy, working first for his cousin Nathaniel and then becoming a successful farmer in his own right and a prominent hog raiser, so much so that he was sometimes called “Hog Jake.” He and Sarah would go on to have ten children, the last child being born in Oregon.
The family crossed the plains to Oregon in 1852 when Levi was seventeen years old. A couple of stories have come down to us about Levi’s experiences on the Oregon Trail. He was involved in the famous stampede of the Robbins wagon train on June 6th, 1852. His brother Harvey later recounted the story:
Some of the young folks were riding and driving some of the loose stock, some of which had bells on. When they got way behind the train and thinking to catch up, they began cracking their whips and whooping and hurrying their horses. The cattle got the spirit of the race and away they sped, right into the train of 17 wagons. Levi drove the family wagon all of the way and he, being the first to catch the warning, yelled, ‘Whoa Buck and Brandy!’ and they, being prompt to obey, set themselves so suddenly that the wheels ran into them with such force that Levi, the most trusted and careful of Pappy’s drivers, had to go over the top. Mr. John Hamilton, thinking he would help Levi, reached back over his wagon and cracked his whip in their faces, at the same time losing control of his own team and away they all went in every direction, 17 covered wagons, all heavily laden with four and five yoke of steers to each. One partnership wagon full of provisions and Mr. Hamilton’s wagon wheels struck together with such force that all of the spokes were broken out of one wheel and they had to make a cart out of the wagon. One little girl said, as their wagon came to halt, ‘Mama! Didn’t we have a nice ride!’
Levi also went buffalo hunting with hired cattle driver and diarist John Lewis and they were able to shoot one only to return to the camp and find that two others were shot closer.
The family arrived in the Willamette Valley in very poor condition. They were met by their cousin William Jackson Herren, son of Dosha (Robbins) Herren, who brought the hungry emigrants down to Salem. There the family lived for several years before their move back north to Molalla.
While still near Salem, Harvey and Levi bought a farm together, raising apples and grain for the markets. When Harvey enlisted in the Oregon militia to take part in the Indian wars, his brother Levi was left to look after their cattle. Levi was also required to ride to their second farm in Linn County to feed the stock.
In 1857 Levi and Harvey had purchased 480 acres and then in 1860 divided it between them. Levi traded his share for 475 acres on the Upper Molalla near his father’s land claim at Molalla and moved his wife Ediff, whom he married in 1859, and their first child there in the fall of 1861. Levi and Ediff remained there for the rest of their lives. After Oliver Willard, they had seven more children after settling at Molalla: Lyda Nettie, Ipha (noted as a family historian), Sarah Martha, Mary Linnie, Della, Levi Wayne, and Everman.
The 1880 U.S. census gives a glimpse of the farm of Levi and Ediff Robbins. They are listed as owning 100 improved acres and 472 acres in pasture or orchards. They owned 4 horses, 7 milk cows, 20 other cattle, 9 swine, 62 sheep, and 28 barnyard poultry. Their farm produced 10 tons of hay, 600 pounds of butter, 1050 bushels of oats, 650 bushels of wheat, 125 bushels of Irish potatoes, and 100 bushels of apples. The estimated cash value of the farm that year was $10,000.
In 1890, Levi and his son Willard bought the general store (Robbins & Son) with the stock of $6,000 worth of goods at Four Corners. In 1905 Levi turned the store over to his sons to run.
Levi died in 1921 at the age of eighty-six while getting some wood from his yard. Just shortly before his death he had been repairing the fences on his farm that were damaged from flood water. Ediff died in November of 1933 at the age of ninety-one.
(Jacob Robbins-Jacob Robbins II-Jacob Robbins III-Levi Robbins)