Oliver and Mary Robbins

Oliver Robbins, the fifth child of Jacob and Sarah (Spilman) Robbins, was born in Decatur County, Indiana, in 1840.  He turned 12 years old on the Oregon Trail as the family came west in 1852.

After arriving in Oregon, Jacob’s family initially settled near Salem in Marion County, but soon enough moved north to take up land around Molalla in Clackamas County, about half way between Salem and Portland.

Molalla – between Portland and Salem

In 1865 Oliver Robbins, then about twenty-five years of age, purchased 1008 acres about a mile south of Molalla.  That same year he was married to Mary Jane Thompson, the daughter of a pioneer from nearby Marquam, Oregon.  Mary had attended school in Oregon City and always remembered being drive back to Marquam by a freight hauler.  It took the hauler’s ox teams three days to make the trip because of the poor roads.  A clipping from an unknown newspaper later recounted Mary’s story:

“…when a wheel dropped into one of those chuck holes, the man would get a fence rail, or a limb to pry it loose so the oxen could draw the wagon on.  Sometimes I was sitting on the rail or limb to help pry the wheel up, and sometimes I was whipping and hawing at the oxen.  And sometimes the man, he was such a big fellow, was doing the sitting and I was driving and making all the noise I could.  If we had met anyone I don’t know how they could have passed us, the road was so narrow.  We would bounce over a big root, and down into a big chuck hole would go the wheel, then our work would begin all over again.  The oxen were poor and weak and the road was worse than bad.  I have forgotten a great many things, but I’ll never forget that trip from Oregon City.”

Oliver Robbins

The year following their marriage, Oliver and Mary moved to Umatilla Meadows in eastern Oregon.  where they remained until 1871, when they returned to Molalla.  Oliver’s father Jacob and older brothers Harvey, Martin, and Thomas, were engaged in freight hauling and other activities in eastern Oregon during this time.  In 1871 Oliver and Mary Robbins returned to Molalla, where they remained for the rest of their lives.

Mary Jane (Thompson) Robbins

In 1880 their farm was described in the U.S. census as comprising 200 tilled acres, 400 acres of pasture or orchard, and 40 acres of woodland.  Their farm produced 50 tons of hay, 600 pounds of butter, 350 bushels of Indian corn, 1200 bushels of oats, 900 bushels of wheat, 180 bushels of Irish potatoes, 400 bushels of apples, 40 pounds of honey, 10 pounds of wax, and 45 cords of wood.  Overall cash value of the farm was estimated at $11,000, making it a very large, profitable operation in Clackamas County.

An article at the time of their 65th wedding anniversary (in 1930) reported that:

“Uncle Ol and Aunt Mary have been identified with business interests in the county in a large way and have always been progressive.  They have contributed their share to the progress and development of the Molalla valley.  It was by putting $10,000 into the Willamette Valley Southern railroad at a critical time in its construction that it was built.

They now live on a fifteen acre farm three blocks from the Molalla four corners.  They do all their own work and raise ducks, chickens and hogs, and milk three cows which they raised from calves.”

Mary Robbins was a noted lover of flowers and gardens and was instrumental in helping organize the local Women’s Civic club.  During its first years when she was President the club helped the city purchase the city park and set out maple trees and shrubs.  The article about their wedding anniversary also noted that Mary “has not submitted to the modern style either.  She has beautiful long hair that has never been cut.”  

Oliver Robbins

Oliver and Mary were very active until the end of their long lives.  Oliver was a noted hunter late into life and his wife Mary, at age 90, once routed a burglar out of their home.  A scrap of an undated newspaper clipping reports:

Mary Jane (Thompson) Robbins

“A burglar failed to ruffle “Aunt Mary” Robbins, 90, when he entered her home.  “Aunt Mary” heard a noise in the dining room, and thinking it was her daughter, she arose, but was surprised to find a man.  Undaunted she demanded: “What are you doing here?”  “I want something to eat,” the man said.  “Now you get right out of here and come around and ask for it right. Git!”

Oliver and Mary were the parents of two daughters, Kate and Orla.  Kate was married to George Adams and they lived in Molalla on Lay Road.  The nearby Adams cemetery (where many members of the Robbins family are buried) are named for the family.  Orla Robbins attended the Oregon Agricultural College (later Oregon State University) where she met her future husband Austin T. Buxton and they courted by horse and buggy.  There are many descendants of Oliver and Mary today.

Oliver Robbins died in 1933, while Mary died in 1940.  Both are buried in the nearby Adams Cemetery.

Photos are courtesy of Oliver and Mary Jane’s descendant Betty Guild.

[Jacob Robbins-Jacob Robbins-Jacob Robbins-Oliver Robbins]

A Mystery in the Woods by Thomas K. Robbins

A Mystery in the Woods: Ye Old Robbins Burial Place Upper Freehold Township, New Jersey.  By Thomas K. Robbins. Havre de Grace, Maryland: self-published, 2022.  152 pages; illustrations, index, and appendices.  $25 plus $5 P&H.

I have posted in the past about how my family history focus is on the descendants of Jacob and Mary Robbins, who we last have record of in Shelby County, Kentucky, but whose children moved on to Indiana, especially Decatur County.  That is not because I don’t have an interest in earlier generations but I’ve had to make choices in where to spend my limited research time.  Others have focused on the earlier generations and I greatly appreciate their research and am always happy to promote their efforts.

A newly published book (2022) by Thomas K. Robbins of Havre de Grace, Maryland is titled A Mystery in the Woods: Ye Olde Robbins Burial Place, Upper Freehold Township, New Jersey.  In this nice piece of writing, Tom describes his purpose as “to document the forgotten souls buried here and my journey to find the owner(s) of the property.”

He begins with some background of Daniel Robins, our common ancestor.  DNA evidence does conclude that we are his descendants (basically, Robbins family members descended from Jacob Robbins match with proven, documented, descendants of Daniel Robins – ergo, we share a common ancestor).   Some feel there is a clear, documented descent from Daniel, and while I’m not so convinced of the paper trail (but remember I haven’t spent much time on the connections back in the 1700s), DNA proves the case.

Tom Robbins tells the story of how Daniel Robinson came to the American shores in 1651 as a prisoner of war, served as an indentured servant in Wethersfield, Connecticut, before moving on to Woodbridge, New Jersey, and shortening his name to Robins.  He finally came to Allentown, New Jersey, in the Upper Freehold Township. 

Daniel’s children and descendants were buried in a cemetery on property owned by Daniel Robins.  The cemetery is so old that burials may have pre-dated European settlers.  Called Ye Old Robbins Burial Place, along with several other names, this cemetery’s earliest marked grave is that of “Deborah Lincon”, a great-grandaunt of Abraham Lincoln, of all people.  The cemetery has survived over the years, probably because of its Lincoln connection.

The cemetery has also been lost, and then found, a number of times over the years.  Tom tells the story of the overgrown cemetery being “rediscovered”, cleaned up, only to fall into obscurity once again.  The cemetery is located on property belonging (at least originally thought) to the state of New Jersey’s Assunpink Wildlife Management Area and Tom describes his research in identifying and locating the cemetery’s real owners.  Tom admits that there are still unsolved mysteries in the story of the old cemetery.

Overall this is an enjoyable story of an ancient cemetery, how it has been lost, found, and reclaimed.  The book concludes with a listing of all inscribed headstones.

The book A Mystery in the Woods is available for $25, plus $5 for shipping and handling, directly from Thomas K. Robbins, 312 Woodduck Court, Havre de Grace, MD, 21078.  His order form provides several ways to pay for the book and you can always email him with questions at tomrobbins@comcast.net.

Daily News Reports on Reunion

Greensburg (Indiana) local columnist Pat Smith, headlined an article in the Daily News:  “Robbins Reunion Was a Success.”  Pat had contacted me for a report about the reunion.

“Months ago (or maybe even a year ago) I wrote about a Robbins reunion that took place in 1922 and wondered if anyone would be interested in one this year, 100 years later.  It did take place, and Kevin Mittge wrote to me about it saying it was a great success and that local attorney William (“Bill”) Hunter Robbins welcomed families to Decatur County.”

She goes to mention some of the Robbins history in Decatur County and then writes “I visited his [William Robbins Sr.} grave in 1975 when writing a series about Revolutionary War veterans buried in Decatur County with the help of the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

Pat also describes how reunion attendees came from all over Indiana and all over the United States, using some of the statistics that I provided in a previous post.

And finally she credits the generous reunion attendees for, not only covering the expense of the room rental and photographer fee, but providing much more that was donated in the name of the Robbins reunion to the Decatur County Historical Society (which organization, by the way, sent me a nice acknowledgment of the reunion’s donation).

Many thanks to Melissa Robbins of Greensburg for forwarding a copy of the newspaper to me!