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.
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.”
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.
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 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:
“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]