George Thomas Robbins was born in Decatur County, Indiana, to Jonathan and Margaret (Spilman) Robbins (my previous post featured his brother Theodore Irvin Robbins). He grew up among numerous Robbins and Spilman cousins in Decatur County. In fact, his aunt Sarah Spilman, was married to Jacob Robbins, and his first cousins in that family crossed the plains to Oregon in 1852. His younger sister Nancy Jane (Robbins) Meredith, would tell her children the story of the Robbinses leaving Indiana in 1852. As later recorded by her son James:
Mother [Nancy] had a cousin, the daughter of Jacob and Sarah Robbins, a few years older than my mother [Nancy Jane (Robbins) Gilliam]. They would play together very often, and for some years they kept up a correspondence between Indiana and Oregon. Mother told that she could remember the folks loading the great wagons. They baked a lot of bread and packed it away in boxes. They killed hogs and salted away the meat, they loaded a great variety of dried foods as well as household goods in the wagons. She said she and her cousin would help take bundles to the wagons for the others to pack away.
George himself would leave Decatur County and strike out west, but a couple decades later and he would only go as far as Iowa and Kansas, but in the latter state he would become a prominent community member.
In October 1864, late in the war and at the age of 22, George Robbins would enlist as a private into Company G of the 35th Indiana Infantry as a “substitute.” That is, he was paid to substitute for a draftee who could afford to supply a replacement. The 35th Indiana regiment was serving that autumn in the Nashville campaign – an ill-fated attempt by Confederate General John Hood to try to draw William Tecumseh Sherman and his army away from Georgia to come rescue Nashville. Sherman didn’t bite and Hood was defeated outside the city in December of 1864 and his army retreated and disintegrated. George’s service in the Indiana regiment would have seen some serious, but successful, fighting in Tennessee and Alabama. Later after the war ended the regiment was ordered to New Orleans and Texas, before returning to Indiana for discharge in September of 1865.
According to his obituary, George attended Hartsville College, a United Brethren school in Indiana. The college was established in 1847 by the citizens of Hartsville, which is located just to the west of Decatur County in Bartholomew County, but in 1850 turned the college over to the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. His connection to that denomination must have lasted his lifetime as his funeral was conducted at his local Brethren church in Kansas.
Compared to many people of the time, George married late. He was 33-years-old when he would marry the young widow Mary Elizabeth (Vanderbur) Huddleston. The Vanderburs were a large and prominent family in Decatur County and she was not the only member of the Vanderbur family to marry a Robbins: her cousin William Thomas Vanderbur was married to George’s cousin Jennie Robbins.
At the time of their marriage, the couple were living in Lucas County, Iowa George was there as his oldest brother James H. Robbins had moved there with his family as early as 1867. Whether he moved with James or came to visit is not known but there he encountered another Decatur County acquaintance, Mary Vanderbur. Mary had been married to a younger man, John Huddleston, in the same county in 1873 but John died in Kansas in 1874 (he and Mary had no children), and Mary was back in Lucas County marrying George Robbins in 1875. George and Mary would be the parents of seven children.
In 1877 George, wife Mary, and their first child, Charles Leonidas Robbins, moved to the town of Russell situated almost in the center of Kansas in Russell County. Over the following years more children came along including Ethel Laverne (Bratt), Earl, Floyd Joseph, Olive (Treiber), Meredith, and Roy Stone Robbins.
In Russell county George Robbins worked as a teacher, a carpenter and a bookkeeper. He was a member of the local school board and he served as postmaster of Russell from about 1893 to 1897, during the administration of Grover Cleveland.
George Thomas Robbins died in Russell in 1913. Most of his children seemed to have moved away from Kansas with the exception of youngest son Roy. His widow Mary died in 1942 in Canton, Ohio, where daughter Olive Treiber was then living. Both George and Mary are buried in Russell, Kansas.
Obituaries of the time were typically effusive in their praise of prominent citizens, but even allowing for hyperbole, it is clear that George was a well-liked individual.
He was a man of first class habits, whose conduct and walk in life was not only a good example to his children but to the community as well. He built up a fine reputation for honesty and integrity and was most highly respected in the community. He leaves to the world a legacy in the way of a splendid family of sons and daughters which would well be a credit to any man. His cheery disposition and agreeable nature made a pleasant association and valued friend.
[Jacob Robbins-Absalom Robbins-George Robbins-Jonathan Robbins-George Thomas Robbins]