D. R. Robbins Remembers (Part 2)

This is a continuation of last week’s post, sharing some of the stories told to David R.. Robbins by his grandfather Ransom Robbins, an early pioneer of Jennings County, Indiana.

Living in southern Indiana in 1812 could be a dangerous proposition.  The war with Britain was starting up and the Indians of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and other territories were allied with them in an attempt to reclaim homelands taken over by white settlers.  At the minimum they wished to drive the Americans across the Ohio River.

The Pigeon Roost settlement in southern Scott County was the site of a well-known attack in 1812 where 24 settlers were killed by Indians.  Here are some of the Robbins stories about that time, edited lightly for spelling and grammar.

Sometimes afterwards when grandfather [Ransom Robbins] was a young man, he went over to Kentucky to make a visit with his old neighbors.  While he was there, word came that the Indians had killed all the people in Fourteen Mile Creek and Pigeon Roost settlements.  Grandfather shouldered the rifle and started for home.  After he had crossed the Ohio River (on the ferry boat) and he had gone about two miles, he seen a man lying across the road.  Well, he thought, this is the first sign.  He walked up a little closer and stopped.  He could not make out whether the man was dead, asleep or drunk from the position the body was in.  He thought he might be asleep and his gun was under him as if ready for instant use, and if he should walk up near him, he might wake up and shoot.  So he concluded that the safest was to go around him and come to the road beyond this man.  He done so.  He never heard of any man being found dead in that place.  When he got home he found the folks all alive and well in the whole settlement.  But the Indians had killed nearly all the people at Pigeon Roost.

Pigeon Roost Sign (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

About a year afterwards an Indian came to my great-grandfather’s house [James Robbins] one day, at Fourteen Mile Creek settlement, and took dinner with them.  The Indians were all peaceable then.  He told them that he was one of the Indians that killed the people at Pigeon Roost.  That he and eight other Indians camped for one week in the creek bottom land in sight of their house, and near the path that the women and children came along to after and driving home their cows.  It had been planned for nine other Indians to join them there, but they did not come.  And as there was so much shooting going on in the settlement that they thought they were not strong enough to kill both settlements.  At the end of week they went to Pigeon Roost settlement.

James and Hannah Robbins were the parents of seven children, the oldest son being Ransom (D.R.’s grandfather) and the oldest daughter being Mary, also called Polly.  Ransom’s first wife was Rebecca Green, while Mary’s husband was Rebecca’s brother Jams (“Jimmy”) Green.  D. R. Robbins talks about the siblings and their spouses.

Grandfather told me of their having a very good neighbor at Fourteen Mile Creek by the name of Green.  Their oldest son’s name was James, and was known as Jimmy Green; that he and Jimmy Green were the best of friends.  I don’t remember what year grandfather said that they moved from Fourteen Mile Creek to Jennings County, Indiana.  I remember him saying that he was quite a young man, and the Green family moved at the same time they did, and they all settled near Musquatok [Muscatatuck] Creek and took up claims on government land and commenced clearing up the land and making a house and farm again in the heavy timber.

Jimmy Green and grandfather were about the same age, and they were both stout, active men, and they thought a great deal of each other and were like two brothers.  When they were twenty-one years old, they had forty acres of land apiece and were joining.  They both built a log house on each forty, one helping the other till they had them completed, and a small clearing around their houses.  During this time Grandfather was courting Jimmy’s sister Rebecca, and Jimmy was courting Grandfather’s sister Mary and soon after they had their houses finished, all four were married, on the same day and at the same place, and then commenced their housekeeping on the same day, and they were married by the same minister.

Clark Co., Indiana marriage record of Ransom Robbins and Rebecca Green

The two couples were married in 1815 in what was then Clark County, Indiana, as Jennings County was not created until two years later.  Interestingly, the marriage of Ransom Robbins and Rebecca Green is recorded in the Clark County marriage records, while that of James Green and Mary Robbins is not.

(Jacob Robbins-James Robbins-Ransom Robbins-Jacob Green Robbins-David Ransom Robbins)

D. R. Robbins Remembers (Part 1)

The last post provided a brief biography of James Robbins, one of the sons of Jacob and Mary Robbins.  James was the ancestor of many of the Jennings County, Indiana, Robbins descendants.

One of his descendants was David Ransom (D. R.) Robbins, who recorded his memories of the Robbins family, in particular those told to him by his grandfather (James’s eldest son) Ransom Robbins.  D.R. acknowledges that he cannot remember all of his ancestors’ names but he none the less provides a fine narrative of the family from the time of the American Revolution until the early 20th century.  It is sometimes the only source for stories about these early family members.  I received a typed copy of this manuscript very early in my Robbins research from Mary Kate Horner or Orpha Fessler, both of whom shared information about the Robbins family.

Some excerpts follow, with editorial explanations in brackets.

Of the family’s emigration from Virginia to Kentucky, he writes:

I don’t know how many there were of the Robbinses that moved from Virginia to Kentucky.  I remember that Grandfather [Ransom Robbins] said this grandfather [Jacob Robbins Sr.] was one of them.  Grandfather said that he had listened to his folks talking about what a time they had on the way over the mountains [Ransom would have been a small child, under 10 years of age, at the time of the move].  Scarcely any road to follow.  One day it had rained all day and (when, on) towards night it turned cold.  Where they camped for a night everything was so wet that they couldn’t find any dry punk [a fire starter found inside decayed logs].  They got the driest punk and kindlings they could find and tried to set it afire with their steel and flint which was the only way they had to start a fire.  Which was done by holding a flint rock in one hand and striking it with a piece of hard steel with the other hand, holding it down close to the punk and kindlings.  The sparks from the flint would go onto the punk and set it afire.  There were no matches in those days.

Wilderness Road between Virginia and Kentucky

They finally gave up making any fire that night.  As it was getting colder very fast they concluded that the women and all the children would sleep in the covered wagons, using all the bed clothing, that the men folks used in sleeping under the wagons.  There was quite a hill near camp.  The men planned that they would run up an down the hill all night to keep warm.  They kept it up till they began to get pretty tired.  when one fellow says, “what’s that light down there in the kindlings?”  They all ran to see and sure enough a spark had caught in the punk and finally started a fire.  Then they made a rousing big campfire.  It had grown to be so cold that they concluded that if the fire had not started, that they would have tired themselves out and laid down on the frozen ground and probably perished before morning.

The family lived initially in Shelby and Henry counties, Kentucky, before moving north across the Ohio River into Indiana.  The Robbins names have no appeared in records of the Fourteen Mile or Pigeon Roost settlements, but more than one family account attests to their presence there.

Their relatives and others came over Kentucky and settled in the Fourteen Mile Creek settlement till there was quite a settlement.  A man by the name of McCollum started a settlement  in the spring of 1805, on year after the Robbinses came to Fourteen Mile Creek.  McCollum named this settlement the Pigeon Roost, because there was a very large wild pigeon roost nearby.

Clark County, Indiana (1818)

Sometime after, when grandfather [Ransom Robbins] was older, his Grandfather Robbins [Jacob Robbins Sr.] was living with them.  He got up real early one morning and went hunting on horseback.  His grandfather had a good rifle that was not so heavy as his, so he took it.  Their horses were used to a gun being shot from their backs.  They often hunted that way, because they could get nearer game than they could on foot.  He saw a nice deer standing looking at him.  He stopped the horse and shot.  The horse jumped and he fell to the ground, breaking the new block of his grandfather’s rifle, which he had just made out of curly maple and had taken a great deal of pains in making.  Grandfather killed the deer, but he felt very bad about breaking the gun stock.  When he got home he told his father [James Robbins] what had happened.  His father told him to go and tell granddaddy all about it.  He done so.  All he said was, “Did you kill the deer?”  He said he did.  That was all.  Then he told his father what his grandfather had said.  “Well,” his father said, “if you had missed the deer he probably would have given you a switching.

During the War of 1812, the settlement of Pigeon Roost was the scene of a massacre by Indians.  That story and the family’s move to Jennings County will be in next week’s post.

(Jacob Robbins-James Robbins-Ransom Robbins-Jacob Green Robbins-David Ransom Robbins)

 

 

James Robbins: Progenitor of the Jennings County, Robbins Family

Of the children of Jacob and Mary Robbins, some appear frequently in records and those records are such that you can sort out who’s who, and some of the records provide us with at least minimal substance about that person  Two of the sons, however, Jacob and James, suffer from a lack of documentation, and are often confused with others of the same name.  This post will focus on James.

James Robbins was born about 1771 in North Carolina.  His year of birth is estimated from his age in the census.  The state of birth is derived from what we know about earlier and later siblings, as well as his children reporting the state of their father’s birth in much later censuses.

Family stories and records indicate this part of the Robbins family left North Carolina after the Revolution and settled in Franklin and Montgomery counties in southwest Virginia.  The first record James appears in is the marriage bond that was filed when he married Hannah Jarrett in 1790 in Montgomery County, Virginia.  Hannah’s parents were either deceased or not in the county, as her grandparents gave permission for her marry.

James Robbins & Hannah Jarrett marriage bond (1790)

The next record James Robbins appears in is another marriage bond, this time as a bondsman for his sister Margaret’s marriage to a cousin Thomas Robbins in Shelby County, Kentucky.  To add to the confusion of similar names, just a few years before another James Robbins, a probable cousin, was married in that same county to Mary Lastly.  At least this family appears to have moved to Bath County, Kentucky, while James and his family moved north into Indiana.  So, it is probable, though not a given, that the James Robbins who appears in the 1792 through 1805 Shelby County tax records and later in the 1814 and 1816 Henry County tax records, is the James Robbins who married Hannah.

After that we only find James in two U.S. census enumerations: 1830 and 1840.  In 1830 Jennings County, Indiana, we have head of household James Robbins aged 50 to 60, with a woman of the same age, and two boys 15 to 20 years of age, likely their two youngest sons.  And in 1840 James is head of a two-person household, both a man and woman of 60 to 69 years of age.  No land records have been found in Jennings County for James and no probate or other court records have been found.  He and Hannah do not appear in the 1850 census and both appear to have died in the 1840s.  Where they are buried is unknown.

Jennings County, Indiana, and its neighboring counties in 1836 map

We have a list of children that is thought to be complete:  Ransom, Jacob, Mary (“Polly”), John, Matilda, James Jr., and Andrew Martin Robbins.  The connection of them to James and Hannah Robbins is a matter of family tradition.

With that we have all the known formal documentation of James Robbins.  But we do have one further source.  His oldest son Ransom Robbins told stories about the family to his grandson David Ransom Robbins and David wrote these stories down.  Like all oral-history based recollections there are problems with the reminiscences, with places and dates that don’t quite jibe, but over all it’s the single source for some of the colorful activities of this pioneer family.  Following posts will quote from this record.

Meanwhile, research is ongoing and there are records still to explore, in particular land records of the counties between the Ohio River and Jennings County.  In attempting to write up an individual’s or a family’s story, you come to realize that maybe, just maybe, not all the records have been checked and there is still something else out there.  At least that’s the hope.

(Jacob Robbins-James Robbins)