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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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]