What do we know about Jacob Robbins?

Jacob Robbins, and his wife Mary, are important to our family history as they are the progenitors of all of the Robbins’s that eventually settled in Decatur County, Indiana. 

I have not spent a lot of time in recent years researching the Robbins family before their arrival in Virginia and Kentucky from North Carolina in the 1780s, 90s, and early 1800s.  Early North Carolina records are fairly sparse, at least as far as our Robbins family goes and drawing conclusions can be difficult.

While DNA evidence shows our connection to Daniel Robins of New Jersey, the intervening generations are unclear.  Rather than going out on a limb without the supporting documentation to even build a circumstantial case for our descent from Daniel, I have long since turned my attentions to what I could document.  And our earliest “documented” ancestors are Jacob and Mary Robbins.  This post will examine what we know about the couple and summarize existing records (or at least those found by me to date). 

We know from these records that Jacob’s wife was named Mary.  We do not know for certain her surname.  The most frequently found surname listed in online family trees for Mary is “Wells” or “Welles.”  I have found no documentation confirming that but perhaps other family researchers have (and, sorry, dozens of online family trees simply listing “Welles” as her maiden name do not count).  Their oldest child, William, was born, by all accounts, in 1761 in what is now Randolph Co., North Carolina (Randolph County wasn’t established until 1779 and at this time it was still part of Rowan).  Assuming that Jacob and Mary married soon before and in North Carolina, no marriage record has been found for the couple.

The records that I have identified for Jacob and Mary fall within a 17-year range: 1787 to 1804.  This is a brief period for which there are a limited number of Jacob Robbins who could be confused with this ancestor.  After 1804 it becomes more difficult to differentiate between Jacobs, as younger ones have come of legal age and may start to be found in official records.  We’re lucky if a record lists the Jacobs as Sr. and Jr., which helps us differentiate between them.

If my outline of the early family line is correct, we have our progenitor Jacob, we have his son Jacob II (born about 1767, reaching the age of 21 in 1788, and married in 1790), and we have Jacob II’s son Jacob (born 1809).  The only other Jacob during this time period was a grandson Jacob (1786-1873) son of William, who came of legal age in 1807.  Legal age was 21 years for males in early Virginia and Kentucky.  Therefore, only father and son could be confused during this time period.

Here’s an outline of the Jacobs, showing that only Jacob II could possibly be confused with our progenitor prior to 1807.

The records we have consist of land records, marriage bonds, and tax lists.  This is a chronological order of the documents I have found so far, with commentary:

16 July 1787 Botetourt Co., VAJacob Robbins received a land grant for 108 acres adjoining lands of Nicholas Allee on the waters of Little River   Nicholas Allee was the father of Keziah who married Daniel Robbins, a son of Nathaniel and Ann Robbins, with Nathaniel being a brother of Jacob. Botetourt, Montgomery, and Franklin counties are all located in southwestern Virginia. 
(see map below for geographic orientation) 
1804 Virginia map showing location of Botetourt, Franklin, and Montgomery counties
15 Nov. 1790 Franklin Co., VAJacob and Mary Robbins gave consent for son Jacob Robbins to marry Rachel Robbins, daughter of Nathaniel and Ann Robbins.   Jacob Robbins II and Rachel Robbins were first cousins.  
Jacob and Mary Robbins give consent for son Jacob Robbins, and Nathaniel and Ann Robbins give consent for daughter Rachel Robbins, to marry
1790 Montgomery Co., VAJacob Robbins is listed as owner of taxable property “in the district of John Robinson, Commissioner, formerly the upper district of Botetourt County and now the lower of Montgomery County.”  
24 Sept. 1791 Franklin Co., VAJacob and Mary Robbins gave permission for their daughter Mary Robbins to marry Valentine Chastain; witnessed by William and Absalom Robbins.   While not stated in the marriage bond, witnesses William and Absalom Robbins, both over the age of 21, are brothers of Mary.  
Jacob and Mary Robbins give permission for daughter Mary to wed Valentine Chastain
25 May 1795 Montgomery Co., VAJacob Robbins received a land grant for 500 acres on Little River adjoining a survey made for Hercules Ogle   Hercules Ogle was the father of Mary Ogle, wife of Absalom Robbins, Jacob’s second oldest son.  
17 Sept. 1795 Franklin Co., VAJacob and Mary Robbins gave consent for daughter “Masey” Robbins to marry Rene Chastain; witnessed by William Robbins.   “Masey” or “Massey”) was a nickname for Martha Robbins.  Again, while not stated directly in the marriage bond, witness William Robbins was a brother of Masey.  Valentine and Rene Chastain were brothers.  
Jacob Robbins gives consent for daugher “Masey” (aka Martha) to marry Rene Chastain
9 March 1797 Montgomery Co., VAJacob Robbins, as assignee of Zachariah Stanley, received a land grant for 225 acres adjoining his own land “on top of the mountain” including some of the waters of Piney Branch Waters of Little River and some of the waters of Pig River.   This is the final land record found for Jacob Robbins.  Unfortunately no sales of land by Jacob Robbins in Franklin or Montgomery counties have been found so far.  
16 June 1800 Shelby Co., KYJacob Robbins is listed in the county tax list, with white male over 21 (Jacob), and one horse/mare.   Jacob Robbins is not found in tax lists for Shelby County, Kentucky, prior to 1800, giving us a rough estimate of 1799 for his emigration to Kentucky. (See map below for geographic orientation)
Example of tax list entry: 1800 Shelby County, Kentucky, listing Absalom, James, and Jacob Robbins
7 May 1801 Shelby Co., KYJacob Robbins is listed in the county tax list, with one white male over 21 (Jacob), and two horses/mares.    
1804 Kentucky map showing location of Shelby and Henry counties
30 March 1802 Shelby Co., KYJacob Robbins is listed in the county tax list, with one white male over 21 (Jacob), and three horses/mares.  
23 April 1803 Shelby Co., KYJacob Robbins is listed in the county tax list, with one white male over 21 (Jacob), and one horse/mare.  
9 May 1804 Shelby Co., KYJacob Robbins is listed in the county tax list, with one white male over 21 (Jacob), and one horse/mare.  
25 October 1804 Shelby Co., KYJacob and Mary Robbins gave consent for daughter Margaret Robbins to marry Thomas Robbins; witnessed by Absalom and James Robbins.   This is the final record for which we are sure it is the eldest Jacob Robbins that is being mentioned.   
Jacob and Mary Robbins give permission for daughter Margaret to marry Thomas Robbins

The marriage records are very useful in establishing relationships that might otherwise have to be guessed.  They tell us specifically that Jacob and Mary were the parents of Jacob II, Mary, Martha, and Margaret.  We do not have a marriage record for oldest son William, and the marriage records for sons Absalom and James do not have parental consent attached.  It was common in this family for older brothers to be witnesses and/or bondsmen, once of age, so these records provide good circumstantial evidence that William, Absalom, and James are sons of Jacob and Mary Robbins.

I have not identified any earlier nor any later records specifically for this Jacob Robbins, though it’s possible one of the Jacobs in later records is this individual.  I believe it is likely that our earliest Jacob died in Kentucky, sometime not long after 1804.  There is no evidence he ever left Kentucky for Indiana with his children and grandchildren, and certainly no evidence he arrived in Decatur County after its establishment in 1822.  Unfortunately, because many women were invisible in the records of this time, we can’t say whether his wife Mary survived to move on to Indiana with other family members.

Perhaps others have found traces of Jacob Robbins the eldest?

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