Burks Chapel, Rodney, and Rock Creek Cemeteries (Decatur County, Indiana)

Burks Chapel Cemetery

The Burks Chapel Cemetery is a small plot right next to the road on W. County Road 750 S.  I believe it is privately owned but being near the road the last time I visited it was a simple thing to park and enter. (I guess we’ll find out on our cemetery tour if the owners object to a group of visitors!).

Burks Chapel Cemetery location

In this cemetery rests one of the early progenitors of many descendants of the family:  George Robbins.  George, the son of Absalom and Mary (Ogle) Robbins, was born in 1792 and lived until 1888.  He and his wife Nancy Pruitt were said to be the parents of at least eleven children.

George Robbins
Jonathan and Margaret (Spilman) Robbins

George’s son Jonathan Robbins, with his wife Margaret Spilman, are also buried in this cemetery.  Among the other related family names here are:  Bower, Coleman, Cripe, Flint, Scripture, Skinner, Vanderbur, and Voiles.

Rodney Cemetery (Decatur County, Indiana)

The Rodney Cemetery is located next to the Rodney Friendship Separate Baptist Church in Christ (so reads their sign), in a fairly wooded section of Decatur County, along S. County Road 60 SW.  I have not been able to find any additional information about this church but the cemetery seems old, but with recent burials too.

Rodney Cemetery location

Micajah Robbins (1788-1865), another patriarch of the family and eldest son of Absalom and Mary (Ogle) Robbins, is reportedly buried in the Rodney Cemetery, but his grave seems to be unmarked.  Notes by a grandson, John W. Holcomb, state: “Macajah m. Elizabeth Hanks a cousin of William Hanks.  They were my Grandfather and Grandmother.  They are buried at Rodney Cemetery near their home.”  (Micajah’s wife was actually Elizabeth Vickery).  It’s possible that the grave was marked at one time but the stone was lost over the years, perhaps even buried below the surface of the lawn today.

Levi and Sarah (Lemasters) Robbins

There are other Robbins family members buried at Rodney, including Micajah’s daughter Nancy (Robbins) Evans and family, and descendants of Micajah’s brother George, including Levi W. Robbins (1841-1930) and some of his family line.  Other related family names found in the cemetery include:  Bower, Giddings, Harrison, Martin, Shoemake, and Stone.

Rock Creek Cemetery (Decatur County, Indiana)

Rock Creek Cemetery, which is also spelled Rockcreek, is located towards the southeastern corner of Decatur County, along W. County Road 1100 S, next to the Rock Creek Baptist Church.

Rockcreek Cemetery location

William (“Rock Creek Billy”) Robbins is buried here.  “Rock Creek Billy” being one of those many early Robbins family nicknames to distinguish this William from all the other Williams!  This gentleman was the son of Jacob and Rachel Robbins and brother of the Jacob Robbins who emigrated to Oregon in 1852.

William (“Rock Creek Billy”) Robbins

“Rock Creek Billy” Robbins was married twice, first to Mary Moffett, then following her death, to Elizabeth Ferguson, and altogether he fathered perhaps as many as twelve children.  As happens in the Robbins family, there were intermarriages, so his oldest daughter Eliza Catherine (“Katty”) Robbins was married to her cousin, once-removed, Job Robbins, son of George (see above about Burks Chapel Cem.). 

Besides finding the Robbins surname in the cemetery, you will find many other family names such as:  Deweese, Evans, Ford, Harrison, Hockersmith, Holcomb, Ponsler, Rork, Spencer, Sutton, and Taylor.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery (Decatur County, Indiana)

Sunday, July 31st, the day after the Robbins Bicentennial Reunion this summer in Westport, Indiana, will feature a tour of some of the Decatur County cemeteries where our Robbins ancestors are buried – I’m hoping some of the readers of this blog can join us.  I’m planning to do several posts highlighting some of the cemeteries we hope to visit, focusing on those with the oldest forebears of all the various branches of the family.  But I might add:  every cemetery in Decatur County holds someone of some relation to the Robbins family.

The Mount Pleasant Cemetery is privately owned and accessed through the owner’s property.  So, while the schedule of the tour is yet to be worked out (and it can be done as a group or a “self-tour” once we have a map, directions, and descriptions uploaded to this blog and our reunion Facebook page) it makes sense to have a set time for a single group visit to this private cemetery (arranged for 11am that day).

Mount Pleasant Cemetery (Decatur County, Indiana)

This cemetery holds, I believe, the earliest county burials of the Robbins family and their in-laws.  It is located on the original land tract of John Robbins (1795-1881), son of William and Bethiah (Vickery) Robbins, south of Greensburg on South County Road 60 SW.  John’s land patent for the property was issued in 1823.

Here is a map showing the general location relative to Greensburg:

And a close up courtesy of Google Earth:

The cemetery isn’t limited to Robbins family members and in-laws (Kirkpatricks and Andersons, specifically), but other families with later connections to ours:  Barnes, Cheek, Evans, Ferris, Hunter, Ketchum, Kitchin, Marsteller, Paramore, Snook, Travis, and Vanderbur, among others.

All of the Robbins family buried in the cemetery are descendants of William and Bethiah through five of their children:  Marmaduke Robbins, Mary (Robbins) Kirkpatrick, John Robbins, William Robbins Jr., and Charlotte (Robbins) Anderson.  Note that three of these siblings married Anderson siblings, children of Sarah Anderson (also buried in the cemetery).

I believe the earliest Robbins known to have been buried in the cemetery, and probably the earliest burial of anyone there, was Nathaniel Robbins in 1824, the infant son of John Robbins, original owner of the cemetery property.  Only a year later he was followed by his grandmother and matriarch, Sarah Anderson.  I would not be surprised if the death of young Nathaniel is what spurred John into setting aside a tract of land for the cemetery.

William Robbins, our Revolutionary War ancestor, was laid to rest in 1834, while his wife Bethiah joined him in 1850.  You can read more about William’s war experiences in my blog post here.

William Robbins grave in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Decatur Co., Indiana

Polly (Robbins) Kirkpatrick and her husband John, both of whom died in the 1850s, are buried there, along with two of their grandchildren Burrell and Martha.

John and Ruth (Anderson) Robbins, parents of the aforementioned Nathaniel, lived very long lives, until 1881 and 1871, respectfully.  Several of their Paramore grandchildren are also buried there.   And, while Nathaniel represented the earliest Robbins burial, John and Ruth’s son William Anderson Robbins was one of the later family burials, in 1907.  Long before that point many of the Robbins family members had started being buried in the huge Greensburg cemetery, South Park, as well as in other cemeteries around the county.

William and Elinor (Anderson) Robbins are buried in Mt. Pleasant, along with some grandchildren, as are Abraham and Charlotte (Robbins) Anderson and family.

There is a possibility that Marmaduke Robbins, another son of William and Bethiah, is buried in the cemetery, as he died about 1838 and his grave has not otherwise been found. FindAGrave lists his son Jacob F. Robbins and wife Catherine Myers as both being buried in Mt. Pleasant (with Catherine’s 1899 newspaper death announcement stating:  “Internment at Robbins cemetery, south of Greensburg”).

We are fortunate that the property owners take pride in the cemetery and feel a deep sense of responsibility for its preservation and maintenance and are always warm and welcoming to visitors.  In speaking with one of the owners this week she said she’d make sure it was all “spiffed up” and ready for our visit!

James, Jacob, and Margaret Robbins and Their Families

I decided to combine these three children of Jacob and Mary Robbins into one post primarily because I don’t have a lot of source material about each one.  My biographies of each will be rather short.  While they didn’t all live in Decatur county, Indiana, each had some part of their family reside there.

Some of these families first settled in Jennings and Scott counties, Indiana, located to the south of Decatur.  Keep in mind distances here are fairly small so even if someone lived in another county, they could actually be just down the road.  Here is a map, just for comparison, of the geographical closeness of these areas.

1845 Indiana

James Robbins

When was James Robbins born?  He married in 1790 and no consent by his parents has been found, though there is one for his wife.  That would indicate he had reached the age of 21, providing a birth year of 1769 or earlier, in North Carolina.  Then, he appears in the 1830 and 1840 Jennings county, Indiana censuses, with an age given as being between 50 and 60, and 60 and 70, respectively.  That would give a birthdate ranging from 1770 to 1780.  I’m going to propose a birthdate of about 1769 to 1770.  (I had always listed the next brother, Jacob, as older than James, but this re-evaluation of the few sources we have made me switch them in my records).

James married Hannah Jarrett on 3 August 1790 in Franklin county, Virginia.  Hannah’s grandparents provided consent.

Hannah Jarrett’s grandparents give consent for her to marry James Robbins

The next records in which I find James are tax records for Shelby county, Kentucky, where he first appears in 1797 continuing through 1805.  It should be noted that, as ever with the Robbins family, there was another James:  that one being a first cousin, the supposed son of Nathaniel Robbins, James’ uncle, and a few years younger.  That James seems to have moved to nearby Bath county, Kentucky.

Also in Shelby county, in 1804, our James was a bondsman and a witness for his sister Margaret’s marriage to Thomas Robbins (see below).

And that is the last record in which I find James and Hannah Robbins until 1830 where he appears in the Jennings county, Indiana census:  1 male aged 50-60 (James), 1 female aged 50-60 (Hannah), and two males aged 15-20 (presumed to be sons James Jr. and Andrew M.).  James is again found ten years later in Jennings county, now 60-69, with one female 60-69 (Hannah) in the household.  Neither James nor Hannah are found again after that and presumed to have died in the 1840s and buried at some currently unmarked location in Jennings county.

Bottom of the deed – executed in 1839 but not recorded until 1847

In looking at land records in Jennings county, I was excited to find one recorded in 1847 where James and Hannah Robbins sold land to Jacob Robbins.  That would have advanced their lifetime a bit in the records.  Unfortunately, the land transfer actually took place in 1839 but wasn’t recorded until 1847.  Jacob probably had a reason to demonstrate legal ownership at that point and took the deed to the courthouse for recording, still leaving us with the 1840 census as the last appearance of James in the records.

James and Hannah Robbins are believed to be the parents of the following children:

  • Ransom Robbins (1793-1868) – lived in Jennings county, Indiana, before moving to Le Sueur county, Minnesota.
  • Jacob Robbins (1796-1874) – lived in Jennings and Fulton counties, Indiana.
  • Mary (“Polly”) Robbins (1798-1886) – married James Green and lived out her life in Jennings county, Indiana.
  • John Robbins (1805-1888) – lived in Jennings, Clinton, and Fulton counties, Indiana.  Note: he was married to Mary Margaret Deweese in Decatur county – she being the relative of other Deweese’s who married Robbinses in Decatur.
  • Matilda Robbins (1807-1888) – married Thomas Robbins Jr., son of Margaret (below), lived out her life in Jennings county, Indiana.  Their son Absolem Robbins moved to Decatur county, Indiana, where they have descendants to this day.
  • James Robbins (1811-1885) – lived in Jennings and Jackson counties, Indiana, before moving to Cloud county, Kansas.
  • Andrew Martin Robbins (1814-1882) – lived in Jennings, Jackson, and Marshall counties, Indiana, before moving to Le Sueur county, Minnesota.

Jacob Robbins (II or Jr.)

Jacob Robbins, another son of Jacob and Mary, was born anywhere from about 1767 to 1773 or later in North Carolina.  The earlier date has been passed down in the family but the latter is deduced from his age in the 1840 and 1850 censuses and is the date I’m using.

The first record in which he appears is his marriage to Rachel Robbins, a daughter of his uncle Nathaniel and aunt Ann Robbins in 15 November 1790 in Franklin county, Virginia.  Both sets of parents give consent for the marriage and brother William is one of the bondsmen.  If consent was necessary for the marriage then Jacob was under the age of 21, giving a birth year no earlier than 1769.  Because his marriage required a consent from his parents, while his brother James’ marriage the same year did not, I’m working on the assumption that James was the elder.

Consent by parents for Jacob and Rachel Robbins to marry

It is said that Rachel Robbins died young, around 1801, and that Jacob Robbins then married Nancy Hanks.  This Nancy Hanks should not be confused with Abraham Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks – despite wildly inaccurate trees on Ancestry and elsewhere, Abe’s mother was not married to Jacob Robbins before Thomas Lincoln.  However, it is believed that she was a cousin of Abe’s mother.  I’m not going to go into the murky history here but you can read my previous post about the Robbins-Hanks-Lincoln connection.  It is also suggested that Nancy (Hanks) Robbins died early and Jacob married a third time, one suggestion being to a Sarah Jane Johnston.  I have found no marriage records between Jacob and anyone other than his first wife, Rachel.

One of the problems with identifying this Jacob in the records is that once he came of age (he is estimated to have reached 21 sometime in the early 1790s) it is hard to distinguish between he and his father and, later, his nephew Jacob, son of William.  In the early Kentucky tax records, for example, it’s hard to tell them apart as we find listings for Jacob, Jacob Sr., and Jacob Jr. The name Jacob appears in Shelby county from 1796 to 1804, then picking up in Henry county in 1805 and running through 1825.

I’ll briefly mention some of the history written down by Jacob’s grandson, Harvey Robbins.  Harvey’s stories, a bit imaginative and not always accurate or consistent as they were derived from oral history on these early generations, unlike his first-person accounts of the trip west and the Indian wars, still provide some color for these early years.  He recorded that his grandfather Jacob was involved in the Pigeon Roost settlement of southern Indiana, infamous for the massacre by Indians that took place in 1812. The attempt to settle in Indiana failed because of this and Jacob returned to Kentucky. Harvey also mentions that his grandfather was nicknamed “Big Toe” Jake while his son, Harvey’s father, was called “Little Toe” Jake.  Neither the event or the nicknames appear in any historical record.

I believe he is the Jacob Robbins who appears in the 1840 Scott county census, listed as a male between the ages of 60 and 69, with one female between the ages of 40 and 49 (identity unknown), and one male under 5 (unknown; a grandchild perhaps?).  And then in the 1850 Decatur county census he is listed, age 77, living with a 12-year-old John H. Robbins, relationship unknown.

I covered this in a previous blog post here but it is possible we have a photograph of this elderly Jacob Robbins.  The photo below came from the late Patrick Masterson, a descendant of Jacob, and he claimed that this photo was of Jacob Robbins.  Photography was becoming more widely available in the 1850s – could this be the earliest example we have in the family?

Said to Jacob Robbins (1773-after 1850)

Below is my list of the children of Jacob Robbins.  Because of the gap in birthdates it is certainly possible that he had additional children, who either died in infancy (except for family records there were few sources in early Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana that would list these children), or are simply unknown to us.  This is where some DNA research (of which I am not an expert) could prove useful, especially for those who have genetic matches to Robbins families that don’t seem to fit elsewhere but point towards this family line.

  • Aaron Robbins (c1791-?) – nothing much known.
  • John Henry (Hance) Robbins (1797-?) – lived in Decatur before moving to Scott county, Indiana.
  • William (“Rock Creek Billy”) Robbins (1801-1864) – lived out his life in Decatur county, Indiana and has descendants there today, I believe.
  • Jacob Robbins (III or Jr.) (1809-1896) – lived in Decatur county, until 1852 when he and his family, along with cousin Nathaniel and family, moved to Oregon.

Margaret Robbins

We do not have a lot of information, at present, about Margaret Robbins and her husband Thomas Robbins.  Margaret was probably born about 1784 while the family was living in Franklin county, Virginia.

The first record she appears in is her marriage to Thomas Robbins in 1804 in Shelby county, Kentucky.  The bondsmen were Thomas and her brother James, consent was given by parents Jacob and Mary (indicating a birthdate later than about 1783), which was witnessed by her brothers Absalom and James Robbins.  While it is unclear who Thomas Robbins parents were, it has been suggested that his father was Richard Robbins and his mother possibly a Catherine (to date I’ve found no documentation for this), with Richard being suggested as the eldest son of Nathaniel and Ann Robbins, making Margaret his first cousin, once removed.

Permission for Margaret Robbins to marry Thomas Robbins

Thomas Robbins appears in the 1806 and 1807 Shelby county, Kentucky, tax lists, before showing up in Henry county in 1808 and continuing through 1814.  Their absence after that suggests that Thomas and Margaret may have been among the early settlers of Indiana.

While their oldest son Thomas Robbins Jr. appears in the 1830 Jennings county, Indiana, census, Thomas Sr. is not found there.  It is possible that one of the two other Thomas’s in that census year in Indiana, one in Jefferson county (next door to Jennings) and one in Daviess (a bit to the west) are our Thomas Sr. but the information doesn’t jibe clearly (not that that is unusual in census records).

There are several confusing land transactions in Jennings county which refer to Thomas’ widow Margaret and heirs (listed as Thomas Jr., William, and Polly Robbins).  These records focus on a particular 40-acre section of land in that county, transferred back and forth beginning in 1840, suggesting a death date for Thomas before that.  As Margaret is not found in the 1850 census, at least under the name of Robbins, it is possible she was deceased by that date.  Further research, including into potential probate or court records for Thomas Sr., might clear up some of the questions.

The children of Thomas and Margaret Robbins:

  • Thomas Robbins Jr. (1805-1858) – married Matilda Robbins, daughter of James (above), lived out his life in Jennings county, Indiana.  Their son Absolem Robbins moved to Decatur county, Indiana, where they have descendants to this day..
  • William R. Robbins (c1807-1880) – lived in Jennings county before moving to Washington county, Indiana.
  • Mary (“Polly”) Robbins (?-after 1843) – nothing much known.

[Jacob Robbins-Jacob and James and Margaret Robbins]

Absalom Robbins Sr. and Family

The second known child of Jacob and Mary Robbins was Absalom, born 11 September 1765 in Rowan (now Randolph) county, North Carolina.  The area in Rowan county the Robbins family lived in later became Randolph when it was formed in 1779.  (Note that Absalom is sometimes also spelled Absolem, among other variations; the name comes from the Bible where it is commonly spelled “Absalom”).

Signature of Absalom Robbins

We have his birth date from the deposition he gave in support of his sister-in-law Bethiah’s application for a pension based on his brother William Robbins’ Revolutionary War service.  In his deposition, Absalom states that:

“…he was born on the 11th day of September 1765 in Randolph County North Carolina that he resided in his said native County from the time of his birth until the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.  He was too young to serve in the army during those years of trouble but he was still old enough to observe passing events, and he still has the most vivid recollection of many incidents of that period.  He further states that he is the brother of William Robins late of this county [Decatur] who died on the 11th day of Sept 1834, and who was at the time of his decease a pensioner under the government of the United States and the husband of Bethia Robins, who is an applicant for a pension….”

Absalom was married to Mary Ogle on 13 March 1787 in Franklin County, Virginia.  Mary’s parents were Hercules Ogle and Mary Carson, probably.  There are several records mentioning Absalom and father-in-law Hercules, besides the 1787 marriage bond where both were the bondsmen for the Robbins-Ogle marriage.

Unlike his brother William, for whom I have found no land records in Virginia, in 1790, at the age of 25, Absalom Robbins is listed in the Montgomery county, Virginia, tax books as the owner of taxable property “in the district of Thomas Robinson, Commissioner, formerly the upper district of Botetourt County and now the lower of Montgomery County for the year 1790.”

Excerpt from Virginia land record

Absalom Robbins, as assignee of father-in-law Hercules Ogle, received a land grant for 56 acres on the Mine Creek waters of Little River adjoining Ogle’s land, and he received a land grant for 56 acres on the Mine Creek waters of Little River adjoining his own lands.

In 1791 Absalom was a witness, along with his brother William, to the marriage of his sister Mary Robbins to Valentine Chastain.

In 1800 he is first found in the Shelby county, Kentucky, tax lists, where he appears through 1805, thereafter appearing in Henry county, Kentucky.  In 1804, while in Shelby county he witnessed the consent given by his parents for his sister Margaret to marry Thomas Robbins.

Later in 1809 in Henry county he gave consent, along with his wife Mary, for their daughter Elizabeth Robbins to marry Philip Stark.  In 1818 he gave consent, alone, for son John to marry Edy Sanders.  He appears in the 1810 and 1820 censuses for Henry county and appears in that county’s tax lists through 1828.

There is then a gap of some years before we find Absalom in any more records (I have not found him in the 1830 census).  In 1838 he received a land patent in Decatur county, Indiana, for 40-acres in Section 4 of Township 9 North, Range 9 East (located about midway between Harris City and Gaynorsville).  Other neighboring land owners in his section include his nephews Marmaduke and Nathaniel Robbins, Nathaniel’s son William Franklin Robbins, and several other names associated with the Robbins family:  Herren, Meredith, VanTreese, and Burke.

Approximate location of Absalom’s land in Decatur County

In 1842 Absalom Robbins married Susannah Huffman, for some reason in Hendricks County, Indiana, which is located to the northwest of Indianapolis, quite a distance from his home in Decatur County.  The couple sold part of the same land that Absalom had received in 1838 to Jacob Deweese in 1847.  Deweese was married to Absalom’s grandniece, Mary Helen Robbins (daughter of Marmaduke and granddaughter of Absalom’s brother William).  And in 1853 in they sold part to “Absolem Robbins of Breckinridge County, Kentucky.”

By the early 1850s some of Absalom’s children had moved out of Decatur County, including Nancy (to Oregon in 1852), John (to Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois by 1840), Mahala (to Missouri by 1840), Absalom Jr. (to Kentucky by 1840), as well as numerous grandchildren, in particular the children of Micajah (to Kentucky by the early 1850s).

While Absalom and Susan were living in Decatur County for the 1850 census, he apparently decided to join his Kentucky children and grandchildren, and moved to Breckinridge County, Kentucky, by the mid to late 1850s.

While it is rare to find death records for this time and place, we are lucky to find Absalom Robbins listed in the 1860 Mortality Schedule of the U.S. Census.  The mortality schedule was a special enumeration collecting the details of those persons who died within the previous census year.  In 1860 the census enumerators listed the “name of every person who died during the year ending 1st June, 1860, whose usual place of abode at the time of death was in this family.”  And lo and behold, we find Absalom:

Absalom Robbins entry in 1860 Mortality Schedule

Now, he wasn’t quite 100 years old, he was 93, but who’s quibbling at that point?

It is suggested, but not confirmed, that he might be buried in the same decrepit cemetery where Absalom Jr. and Jemima are buried in the Old Robbins Schoolhouse Cemetery (you can find a brief description on FindAGrave here).

Below is my list, believed to be complete and accurate, of the children of Absalom and Mary Robbins. This list of names comes from miscellaneous family records, county histories, and the occasional other document that provides a relationship.

There is one possible problem with my list:  Absalom Robbins Jr.  Some oral family history says that Absalom had a son Absalom Jr. who in turn had one son Absalom III, who was married to Jemima Hanks.  I’ve made the case that there were only two Absaloms, and that Absalom III was really the youngest son of the elder Absalom.  I won’t go into all the reasoning here, and I may very well be incorrect, but you can read my blog post about it here. Note that some of the dates below are estimates based on available records.

  • Micajah Robbins (1788-1865) – lived out his life in Decatur county, Indiana.
  • Elizabeth (Robbins) Stark (1790-1886) – married Philip Stark, lived many years in Decatur county, before moving to Boone county, Indiana.
  • George Robbins (1792-1887) – lived out his life in Decatur county, Indiana.
  • Nancy Robbins (1797-1880) – married her cousin Nathaniel Robbins, lived in Decatur county, until 1852 when she and her family moved to Oregon.
  • John Robbins (1799-1857) – lived in Decatur county, Indiana, before moving on to Missouri and Iowa.
  • Mahala Robbins (1802-1866) – married David May, lived in Decatur county, Indiana, before moving to Missouri and Texas.
  • Absalom Robbins Jr. (1810-1885) – lived in Decatur county, Indiana, before moving to Breckinridge county, Kentucky.
  • Charity Robbins (1811-1892) – married (1) James Hanks and (2) John Purvis; lived out her life in Decatur county, Indiana.

I believe that today there are descendants of Micajah, Elizabeth, George, and Charity in Decatur county, Indiana.

My next family group post will discuss three siblings of William and Absalom:  Jacob Jr., James, and Margaret.

[Jacob Robbins-Absalom Robbins]

William Robbins Sr. and Family

This is the first in a series of blog posts about major Robbins family groups in anticipation of this years’ Decatur County, Indiana, bicentennial reunion.

The eldest son of Jacob and Mary Robbins appears to be William Robbins, who was born on 21 September 1761 in Rowan county (now Randolph), North Carolina (Randolph county not being established until 1779).  William served in the North Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War (you can read about that here:  https://robbinsroots.blog/2017/07/01/william-robbins-teenager-in-the-american-revolution/) and was married to Bethiah Vickrey, a daughter of Marmaduke and Elizabeth Vickrey, on 27 February 1779.  (Vickrey may also be spelled Vickery).

There is a family tradition that Bethiah Vickrey was married to two separate men named William Robbins.  I’m not sure that I believe this account.  I won’t go into all the reasoning here but the marriage date above comes from Bethiah’s application for a pension based on the service of this William Robbins in the war.  All of the known children were born after this date.  Therefore, either Bethiah was married to one William and not two, or she lied on the application.  Without any further evidence, one way or another, except for oral family tradition, for the purposes of this post I’m assuming one marriage to one William Robbins.

Following the Revolutionary War, which devastated parts of North Carolina with partisan, brother-against-brother violence and destruction, William and Bethiah moved to Franklin County, Virginia, with other members of the Robbins family.  One marriage bond there in 1791 lists William as a witness to the marriage of his sister Mary to Valentine Chastain.  Another marriage record in 1795 has William, along with his brother Absalom serving as a bondsman for the marriage of their sister Martha (called “Massey”) to Rene Chastain.  I have not found William in any land records in Virginia, either Franklin, nor nearby Montgomery county where others of the family lived.

William and Absalom Rob[b]ins witness the marriage of their sister Mary Robbins to Valentine Chastain

William Robbins does appear in Henry Co., Kentucky deeds, and he appears in that county’s tax lists beginning in 1804 and continuing through 1825. He also appears in the 1810 and 1820 censuses there in confusing census entries, and in 1822 was a bondsman along with John Herren to Herren’s marriage to William and Bethiah’s daughter Theodoshia.  At some point after that he moved to Decatur County, Indiana. 

On 26 May 1826 he was a granted a federal land patent to 80 acres of land in Decatur County, located in Section 9 of Township 9 North, Range 9 East, about half way between todays Greensburg and Westport.  Others in the same section were his son Nathaniel Robbins; nephews Micajah, George, and Henry Robbins; and son-in-law Abraham Anderson.  Surrounding sections were also full of family members. 

Location of William Robbins property in Decatur County, Indiana

Later, in 1831, William and Bethiah deeded the property over to their son-in-law Abraham Anderson, who was married to their next to youngest daughter Charlotte.  The deed entry records that “for and in consideration of the natural love and affection which he the said William Robins hath and beareth unto the said Abraham Anderson as also for the better maintainance support livelihood and preferment of him…” and that further “…it is express[ly] understood that the said William Robins is to have the use and possession of the above granted premises as long as he lives, and at his death the above deed to be of Full Force and virtue in law.”  The closeness of the parents to Charlotte and her husband is also underscored in the 1850 census where the widow Bethiah is listed living in the household of the couple.

Signature of William Rob[b]ins from his pension application

William applied for a pension based on his service in the North Carolina militia on 31 October 1833.  Following his death, his widow Bethiah applied for her portion of the pension, with a supporting affidavit from William’s brother Absalom.

William died on 11 September 1834 and is buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Decatur County.  His widow Bethiah survived until 8 December 1850, living until she was 90-years of age.

William Robbins gravestone installed by the D.A.R.

The three oldest children of William and Bethiah were born in North Carolina before the parents had left the area.  All of the remaining children were born in Virginia, with exception of the youngest who was born after they arrived in Kentucky. 

Below is a list, believed to be complete and accurate, of the children of William and Bethiah Robbins. This list of names comes from miscellaneous family records, county histories, and the occasional other document that provides a relationship.

  1. Abel Robbins (1779-1866) – lived his entire adult life in Henry county, Kentucky.
  2. Charity Robbins (1780-c1832) – married Buell or Boal Wooden and lived in Henry and Oldham counties, Kentucky.
  3. Benjamin Robbins (1781-1841) – said to have gone to Tennessee.
  4. Marmaduke Robbins (1786-1838) – settled in Decatur county, Indiana.
  5. Jacob Robbins (1786-1873) – lived first in Decatur county then moved to next-door Bartholomew county, Indiana.
  6. Elizabeth Robbins (1788-1877) – married Jesse Watkins and they settled in Scott county, Indiana.
  7. Mary (aka “Polly”) Robbins (1791-1851) – married John Kirkpatrick and they lived in Decatur county, Indiana.
  8. Nathaniel Robbins (1793-1863) – married his first cousin Nancy Robbins – they lived in Decatur county, Indiana, and then traveled to Oregon in 1852.
  9. John Robbins (1795-1881) – lived out his life in Decatur county, Indiana.
  10. William Robbins, Jr. (1797-1868) – lived out his life in Decatur county, Indiana.
  11. Charlotte (Lottie) Robbins (1799-1874) – married Abraham Anderson and they lived out their lives in Decatur county, Indiana.
  12. Theodoshia (Dosha) Robbins (1804-1881) – married John Herren; they lived in Decatur County until they moved to Missouri, and then finally on to Oregon in 1845.

Of these children, the only one known, for certainty, to have descendants today in Decatur County is William Robbins Jr.

Some of the children had descendants in the county for many, many years, but over time they moved elsewhere in Indiana, elsewhere in the U.S, or, in a few cases, moved internationally.  A few of the family lines just petered out in recent decades.  I believe that the last descendant outside William Jr.’s family (in fact a descendant-in-law – is that a term?), was Dorothy (Meek) Gannon who died in Greensburg in 2007.  She was the wife of William Emerson Gannon, a descendant of Polly (Robbins) Kirkpatrick.  The descendants of William Jr. in Decatur county were prolific, as were the family members who moved elsewhere.

However, William Sr. wasn’t the only child of Jacob and Mary to settle in Decatur County and leave descendants; my next post will discuss their son Absalom Robbins, who also has descendants there today.

[Jacob Robbins-William Robbins]

William Franklin Robbins: Family Historian

At the 1922 Robbins reunion, celebrating 100 years of the Robbins family being in Decatur County, Indiana, a man named William Franklin (W. F.) Robbins read a history he wrote about the family.  This history was also published in the newspaper along with the story about the reunion.

William Franklin (W. F.) Robbins (photo courtesy of Joyce King Higginbotham)

When I first started researching my family history in the late 1970s, my parents and I visited Greensburg, Indiana, where we met up with Melvin and Rosalie Robbins.  Rosalie had a done a lot of family history and she gave me my first copy of W.F. Robbins’s history.  I say, first copy, because over the following years, each time I made contact with another Robbins family researcher, they usually sent me, uninvited, another copy of the W.F. Robbins history, until I had quite a collection!

The typed copies all mentioned that they were transcribed from the history as printed in the Greensburg newspaper, but no one seemed to have a copy of the actual article.  It was only in the 1990s, with the assistance of interlibrary loan of microfilm, that I was finally able to find the article in the newspaper and make a fresh transcription.

Now, more recently, I have been given a copy of the physical newspaper that contains the history, by Robbins cousin Sherrill Beck.

In transcribing and reading the history I did notice that W. F. got some things wrong, but in general the story of a large family moving into a county, with some folks staying for decades, with others moving on to new locations, was accurate.  Considering that the man was compiling a family history without the Internet and online collections of genealogical material, genealogy libraries, or easy access to near or distant record collections, he wrote a good introduction to our family’s history.

So, who was William Franklin Robbins?  He was born in 1850 in Decatur County to Jonathan and Margaret (Spilman) Robbins and was reared near the small community of Westport.  Jonathan was the son of George, the third child of Absalom and Mary (Ogle) Robbins.  Margaret Spilman was the sister of Sarah Spilman, wife of Jacob Robbins, who emigrated to Oregon in 1852.  The close, first-cousin, relationship between W.F. and his cousins in Oregon is reflected in his knowledge of his Pacific Northwest kin and their knowledge of Decatur County happenings.

W.F. Robbins was raised among the many, many Robbins family members that lived in Decatur County at that time.  He, himself, was one of nine siblings, while his father Jonathan was one of eleven, and each in turn had large families.  He was married to Julia Elizabeth Miller in 1873 and the couple had seven children of their own, five of whom lived to adulthood: Mary Cordelia (Robbins) Morgan, Elizabeth Leota (Robbins) Davis, Emma Flora (Robbins) Williams, Henry Cleveland “Cleve” Robbins, and Courtland Carlysle “Todd” Robbins.

W. F. was educated at Hartsville College, in neighboring Bartholomew County, just about ten miles to the northwest.  (The school was in Hartsville from 1850 to 1897, when the college building was destroyed by fire in January of 1898).

He taught school in Sandcreek Township in the 1870s and in 1886 was elected trustee of that township and served for eight years.  Besides a lifetime of farming he also worked as an attorney in Westport, and after moving into Greensburg about 1912, he served as the Decatur County prosecuting attorney from 1913 to 1915.  Politically he was a Democrat and a supporter of temperance, helping to “banish the saloon.”  A wealthy landowner, according to a local newspaper he was referred to as “Squire” Bill.  At the time of his death he and his wife Julia resided at 410 North Broadway in Greensburg.

His death made the front pages of the Greensburg newspapers, The Evening Times and the Greensburg Daily News

Seven months after the 1922 reunion, and just four weeks after he and Julia’s 50th wedding anniversary, William Franklin Robbins was killed when his automobiile was struck at the Mulberry Street crossing in Westport by a B. & O. passenger train detouring over the Big Four tracks.  The newspapers reported that the car was carried about 50 feet down the tracks.  He had been visiting one of his sons outside Westport before coming into town to conduct some business.

One of the newspapers stated:  “It is believed that Mr. Robbins, being familiar with the regular train schedules on the track which he was crossing, did not take the extra precaution to look up and down the track as he approached it.”

The train…..”hit the Overland car which he was driving and smashed it to pieces.  The body of Mr. Robbins was carried about fifty feet and he lived but a few minutes.  The body was taken to the Hamilton undertaking parlors” [now known as the Bass & Gasper Funeral Home in Westport].

“Because of telephone trouble the word did not reach Mrs. Robbins in this city for more than an hour after the accident.  A Times reporter who called carried the first word to her of a report that her husband had been injured.  She stated that she had already become uneasy because of having no message from him after his arrival in Westport as she had expected and had made an unsuccessful attempt to use the telephone.  It was left to a daughter to convey to her the death message.”

Not only was the news slow to reach his wife, but due to the fact there were multiple William Robbins’ in Decatur County there was confusion about who exactly had been in an accident.  The newspaper reported:  “When the news first reached Greensburg it was reported it was William H. Robbins of southeast of Greensburg. Later it was reported that it was Will S. Robbins of Horace.”

William Franklin Robbins, the very accomplished early historian of the Robbins family, is buried in the Mapleton Cemetery in rural Decatur County.  The gravestone he shares with his wife Julia has their photograph embedded in the center.

[Jacob Robbins-Absalom Robbins-George Robbins-Jonathan Robbins-William Franklin Robbins]

1922 Robbins Centennial Reunion

On June 11, 1922, the Robbins family celebrated 100 years in Decatur County, Indiana.  So many people showed up that the event made the front page of the local newspaper, The Evening Times.  The headline read:  “1,000 People at Reunion: Sixty-Two Families Were Represented at the Robbins Annual Assemblage Yesterday.”

The actual 100-year-old newspaper was given to me by Sherrill Beck, a descendant of Jacob Robbins (1809-1896), a leader of the 1852 Robbins wagon train to Oregon.  The Robbins family in Oregon kept in contact with their Decatur County relatives for many decades.  In fact, Harvey Robbins, brother of Sherrill’s ancestor Levi, reportedly went back to Indiana to attend the this reunion.

The article states:

One thousand persons, it was estimated, participated in the annual reunion of the Robbins families of Decatur county held Sunday at the Liberty Baptist church and at which the one hundredth anniversary of the pioneer Robbins settlement in Decatur county was celebrated………the descendants of the pioneers who attended the reunion yesterday were representatives of practically every field of human endeavor.  At the reunion 62 Robbins families were represented.

The newspaper went on to state:

One of the big features of the all day meeting was the dinner which was served at noon in the grove adjoining the church.  With the exception of one table at which the elder members of the Robbins descendants were served, the dinner was served in cafeteria style.  Two hay wagon loads of food were served during the noon hour.  Twenty gallons of ice cream in cones was consumed during the day.

The program which was given in two sessions, morning and afternoon was excellent and included a number of exceptionally fine features.  “A History of the Early Robbins Pioneers,” read by Squire William F. Robbins [a descendant of Absalom Robbins], was of special historical value and will be printed The Times tomorrow.  Roy C. Kanouse, who claims he is one of the Robbins descendants by marriage [he was the husband of Elizabeth “Nell” Pleak, a descendant of William Robbins], was in charge of the program which was given as follows.

While this was a special, centennial reunion, the Robbins family had been having reunions for years and were so well organized they had officers.  The newspaper reported the following were elected:

W. S. Robbins was elected president of the organization of the descendants for the coming year.  Other officers elected were:  Frank R. Robbins, vice-president; Earl Robbins, secretary; Mrs. J. B. Kitchin, assistant secretary; committee on time and place for holding next reunion, C. F. Wright, Frank Kitchen, and John E. Robbins of Horace; corresponding committee, J. B. Kitchin, W. F. Robbins, John E. Robbins, of Greensburg; tables and eats committee, Robert McCoy, George Robbins, L. W. Gillespie, Londa Wright, Arthur Lemmon, John Gilchrist; committee on entertainment, Roy C. Kanouse, Hal Kitchin, Harry Robbins; finance committee Walter B. Pleak and W. H. Robbins; advising and assisting committee, F. B. Kitchin, Charles M. Woodfill, John E. Robbins of Horace; committee on parking, Ira Rigby, Calvin Thornburg, William Sefton Robbins, Bernard Kitchin, and Greely Robbins.

In the summer of 2022 we may not have 62 separate families represented, nor 1,000 attendees, but those of us who attend can be assured of an unforgettable bicentennial reunion.

I might add that William F. Robbins’ History was a great resource for me getting started in Robbins genealogy.  My next post will discuss the life of William and his sad death only six months later.

Robbins Bicentennial Reunion – 2022

We now have a date and a place for the Robbins Bicentennial Reunion in 2022. Saturday, July 30th, at the Westport Community Center in Westport, Indiana, about 20-minutes south of Greensburg, will be the location for the event. The Robbins family first arrived in Decatur County in 1822; a 1,000-person reunion was held in 1922; and we hope to have a great attendance at this once-in-a-lifetime event. Decatur County is also celebrating it’s bicentennial next year and there will be county-wide events.

In 1822 the children of William, Absalom, and Jacob Robbins arrived in Decatur County, with their parents and other relatives arriving over about the next ten years. They were later joined by some of the families of their younger siblings James Robbins and Margaret (Robbins) Robbins (she was married to Thomas Robbins). Other members of the family settled in nearby Jennings, Scott, Bartholomew, Washington, and Jefferson counties. I will highlight some of the Decatur County families in upcoming blog posts.

With the date and venue scheduled, we can now begin more serious planning. Safety considerations for Covid, publicity, food and catering, cemetery and local history excursions, and more, all remain to be planned. Any blog readers who would like to help, in any way at all, can contact me at “mittge @ yahoo.com.” If you have Facebook an Events page has been set up by cousin Laura Robbins Miller. Contact me for an invitation to this private group. And keep reading this blog for further updates!

Robbins Bicentennial? – An Update

Last year I had proposed that there should be a Robbins reunion in Decatur County, Indiana, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the family being in that county.  In 1922 there was a large (1,000 attendee reunion according to the local newspaper) reunion and it would be nice to see another special reunion next year.  Several blog readers expressed an interest in helping organize such an event.  Unfortunately, none of us actually live in Greensburg or Decatur County.

Earlier this summer I contacted Russell Wilhoit of the Decatur County Historical Society and asked if something could be added to one of their upcoming newsletters.  While he said he would see if he could get something in the next issue, the Fall 2021 newsletter doesn’t include any mention, but, and this is important:  2022 is also the bicentennial of the founding of Decatur County and there will be activities planned around that.

In August I visited with my cousin Janet Ketchum Armbrust in Kalispell, Montana.  While a Myers descendant not a Robbins (my ancestor William Franklin Robbins was married to Melvina Myers and Janet descends from one of Melvina’s sisters) she did suggest a contact in Greensburg who writes for the Greensburg Daily News.

As result of contacting Pat Smith in Greensburg there was an article in the September 8, 2021, edition of the newspaper, describing our interest in a reunion and asking three questions:  (1) is anyone already planning a bicentennial reunion for 2022?  (2) or are there any plans for a regular annual Robbins family reunion that would welcome relatives from across the country to make a larger, special event?  (3) or if not either of those two are there Robbins family descendants in Greensburg/Decatur County who would be interested in helping plan such an event with cousins from around the country? as it would be very helpful (and probably necessary) to have someone local to advise about venues, dates, etc.

In my email to Pat Smith I had described myself as “befuddled” about making contact with local family members who could assist.  Sadly my last contact were Melvin and Rosalie Robbins, who have both passed away.  “Befuddled Genealogist” then made it in as part of the headline of the story.  Oh well!  But it was great to have the question of a bicentennial reunion out there.  The article provided just about every possible way to contact me.

The upshot is so far I have not heard from anyone in Greensburg or Decatur County.  While cousins in Decatur County may still be thinking about responding, at this point if we wish to have an event, even if it just includes us from “away”, we will probably have to plan it without local assistance.  I have the list of folks from last year who were willing to help plan an event but if anyone else would like to help, please let me know (it’s probably a good idea for those who replied last year to confirm their wish to be involved).  I have a few ideas but I’m sure others will have great input too.

Regardless of a formal reunion, I am planning on visiting Decatur County sometime in the summer of 2022.  At the very least it would be great to coordinate a visit with others, get together to talk family history, and maybe take field trips to local family history sites (for example, the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery where William and Bethiah Robbins are buried).  For easiest contact my email is “mittge @ yahoo.com”.  Perhaps we can discuss this together, one way or another, in October!

George Thomas Robbins

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.

George Thomas Robbins (courtesy of Joyce King Higginbotham)

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.

Robbins-Vanderbur relationships

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.

Official Register of the United States Containing a List of the Officers and Employees of the Civil, Military, and Naval Service….(Vol. II, p. 119), 1 July 1887.

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]