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.

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