The Deweese Family

There are a number of families that married into the Robbins line several times.  One of those was the Deweese family.

There are three main connections between the Deweeses and the Robbins of which I am aware: Mary Margaret Deweese married John Robbins, Beverly Deweese married Mary Helen Robbins, and Jacob Deweese married Mary Ellen (“Polly”) Robbins.  Note:  the names Mary Helen, Mary Ellen, Mary, and Polly have been used for these two women almost interchangeably in records though I refer to Beverly’s wife as Mary and Jacob’s wife as Polly.

Also, I am going to discuss the two male Deweese families here, only briefly touching on Mary Margaret’s family.  I have not done research on the ancestry of the Deweese family and have relied on others work that has been shared with me in the past or is currently online, primarily Ancestry’s trees that look most well documented.  Also be aware research is still ongoing.

The proposed relationship outline is as follows:

Mary Margaret Deweese

Mary Margaret Deweese married John Robbins in 1826 in Decatur County, Indiana.  John was the son of James and Hannah (Jarrett) Robbins of nearby Jennings County.  The couple had five children that I’m aware of:  James Deweese Robbins, Isaiah Wilson Robbins, Mary Robbins, Hannah Robbins, and William Riley Robbins.  They lived in a variety of locations in Indiana, including Jennings, Clinton, and Fulton counties.  I will not add more here, as this post will focus on the two male Deweese connections.

Beverly Deweese

Beverly Deweese, born about 1813 reportedly in Pendleton Co., Kentucky, was married to Mary Helen Robbins in 1833 in Decatur County, Indiana, by Justice of the Peace, Nathaniel Robbins.  Polly was the daughter of Micajah Robbins, Nathaniel’s wife Nancy’s eldest brother.

They owned 80 acres in Decatur County, received from federal land patents in 1837 and 1843, generally between Letts and Gaynorsville.  About 1856 the Deweeses left Indiana and moved to Atchison County, Kansas, purchasing 160 acres of land in 1858 about seven miles west of the city of Atchison (it wasn’t officially patented until 1863 after Beverly’s death).  While Beverly died in 1862, Mary lived here until her death in 1905. 

Beverly and Mary Deweese had ten children:  Emily, Hardin, Rhoda, Nancy, John, Martha, Benjamin, Daniel, Lewis, and Hiram – many names which appear in Robbins family groups close to Mary.

Son John H. Deweese enlisted in Company D of the 7th Kansas Cavalry (Volunteers) in November of 1861 for three years.  Sadly he died of measles only two months later in January of 1862.  However, his death resulted in a pension application by his mother which provides a small snapshot into the lives of this Kansas family.

Mary Helen (Robbins) Deweese – “mark” on pension application

Among the information provided in the pension papers include that Beverly Deweese had been an invalid for five years prior to his death (so from about 1857 to 1862), and totally disabled since 1860 to his death.  Oldest son Hardin was also an invalid and he suffered from epilepsy.  Sadly, in the 1880 census 43-year-old Hardin, living at home, is listed as “insane”, a not-uncommon view of epileptics at the time.

The quarter section of land they owned (160 acres, being the SW¼ of Sec. 4 of Township 5 South, Range 19 East) was described as being “rough and unimproved” with only a small part being under cultivation.  The crops all across Kansas were said to be a failure in 1860 (reported in the pension application).  The farm was located about three miles east of the tiny hamlet of Huron, which wasn’t established until 1882. 

The Deweese quarter section was the area between the two marked corners – the small community of Huron is to the left

Young John Deweese hired out by day or month to neighbors to help support his parents and siblings from the age of 15 until his enlistment (he was only 18 or 20 at the time of enlistment and death).  He was the family’s sole source of support.  Upon his death, with an invalid husband (soon to follow him to the grave), an invalid son, and other, mostly younger, children, Mary had to run the farm, which resulted in approximately $50 income each year.  Tax assessments by the county placed the value of the land anywhere from $550 to $920 in the years 1862 to 1883, when Mary filed her application for a pension.

John was buried in the Old Huron Cemetery but his mother Mary was buried in the Anderson Cemetery, located just across the county line to the north in Doniphan County.  We don’t know where Beverly was buried – Old Huron? or Anderson?

Several of the children remained in Kansas for the rest of their lives, including Emily (who was married to Thomas Stone), Daniel, and Lewis Franklin (“Frank”).  Frank was an interesting case as he traveled back to Breckinridge County, Kentucky, where many of his Robbins cousins were living, to marry one of them, Mary Elizabeth Robbins (daughter of Micajah Robbins Jr.), in 1888.  Two of Beverly and Mary’s children, Rhoda (who married Matthew Dorland) and Benjamin (who seems to have never married), ended up in Burlington, Skagit County, Washington.  What happened to several of the children remains unknown:  did Nancy or Martha marry?  Did Hiram survive to adulthood and marry?  Hopefully further research will give us answers.

Jacob Frederick Deweese

Jacob Deweese was born in 1819 in Grant County, Kentucky, and married Mary Ellen (“Polly”) Robbins in 1845 in Decatur County, Indiana, by Justice of the Peace, Nathaniel Robbins, Mary Ellen’s uncle.  Mary was the daughter of Nathaniel’s older brother, Marmaduke (see previous relationship chart).

This Deweese family lived in Decatur County, Indiana, until about 1866, when a deed is recorded for 180 acres of land in Clay County, Illinois.  They weren’t the only family members living in Clay County, as Polly’s sister Docia (Robbins) Travis had also moved there after Polly did.  The Deweeses lived in Illinois into the 1870s (until 1875 according to one of the children’s obituary) when they packed up and moved to Marion County, Kansas.

Jacob and Polly had at least eight children:  William, Abraham (“Abram” or “Abe”), Gerusia (or Jerusia or Jenny or Ellen?), Hortensia, Cyrus Holman, Laura, Mary Jane, and Jacob Jr.  One of the daughters, listed as Ellen, remained in Illinois where she married Franklin Henthorn.  Age-wise I believe it was probably Gerusia or Hortensia – both are listed in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in the Deweese family and both would have been old enough to marry in 1871 – and both might have wanted a simpler name like Ellen.  The only other unaccounted for daughter, Laura, would have been too young to marry in that year.

Back in the early 1980s I was given a copy of the research done by Robbins researchers Margaret Davis of Yakima, Washington, and Mary Kate Horner, of Kokomo, Indiana.  The two had collaborated for many years but by the time I started researching genealogy they had pretty much moved on to other things.  I was lucky to visit both of them several times over the years and they were pleased that I was continuing with their foundational research.  Mary Kate was also a descendant of Marmaduke Robbins so she had more access to other descendants and family records down that line of the family.  Included in the records of Davis and Horner were two transcribed letters written by Jacob and Polly to two of her siblings.  I do not know if the originals have survived, but I’ll include some excerpts here, with the exact spelling as was transcribed but with some fuller names in brackets.  As the originals are unavailable to me I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the transcription.

Letter from Jacob Deweese and family to Permelia (Robbins) Hopkins – Polly’s sister

Peabody, Marion County, Kansas

Jan 21, 1881

“My dear ould sister  it is with pleasure that I take this opertunity to answere your welcom letter that you give me great counfor to her from you but was sorry to her that William [probably son William M. Hopkins] was cripled but I hop he can make a living at and brother Founts boy [Dan Robbins, the two women’s nephew] has got his arms shot off and he is a criple and we have good health and that is a great blessing for us at this time……yo sister Polly Ellen is stout and harty and she hant any help now a twal the girls is all married and we have two children single with us now that is Holman and Jacob and Ellen lives in Illanoys and the last time I heard from her she had 3 children and Abram lives in Kansas and he has two children and Viney she has one child and the rest haven’t got any yet and sister Dotia [Travis] lives in Illanoys, Clay County….and Caroline [Robbins Hopkins] post office is Miami County New Lancaster Kansas…I want you to excuse me for my bad writing for I cant see any more without specks…”

Letter from Jacob Deweese and family to William C. Robbins – Polly’s brother

Peabody, Marion County, Kansas

December 14, 1881

“Mr. W. C. Robbins

It is with pleasure that I take this opertunity to drop you a fu lions to inquire after you for I haven’t heard a word from you since you left my house….we hav plenty of wheat to do us and we hav corn nuff to get along with and hope that you hav the same so William I have bin very uneasy about you and have bin wating with patience to here from you…I wa[n]t you to give me history of your travil and evry thing in general and how long was away from home and whether you ever low to come to Kansas…”

“…we hav five head of milk cows and four head of calves and 18 head of hogs…Cyrus has got 3 good horses and I hav two horses so William we are plowing and discing for a crop and we havt had any cold weather her yet and wheat looks well and I have got 47 acres of wheat this year so William I will have to close my bad writing and spelling. This and from Jacob Deweese and Polly E. Deweese and family to William C. Robbins and family writ in haste.”

All of the children of Marmaduke Robbins seem to have dispersed widely over the years.  At the time of writing these letters Polly was in Kansas (Marion County), sister Caroline (Robbins) Hopkins was also in Kansas (Miami County); sister Docia (Robbins) Travis was in Clay County, Illinois; brother William Corydon Robbins was in Benton County, Iowa; sister Permelia (Robbins) Hopkins was in Wapello County, Iowa; while brothers Jacob F. and Fountain Robbins were back in Decatur County, Indiana.

And Jacob and Polly didn’t stay in Kansas either.  Sometime in the 1890s they made the move to the Pacific Northwest – settling near the town of Palouse in the very southeastern corner of Washington State.  At least three of the Deweese children also moved to Washington:  Abraham, Mary Jane, and Jacob Jr.

And so it was that Polly passed away near Palouse in 1899 and Jacob in 1901.  Both are buried in the Eden Cemetery, surrounded by the rolling Palouse wheat fields on all sides.  Note that Polly’s gravestone indicates her name as “P. E. Deweese” – Polly Ellen Deweese.


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]

Herbert Robbins: A Death in Wichita

I was recently “working” a family, trying to identify descendants of Jacob F. and Catherine (Myers) Robbins.  I’m related to both, being a Robbins and a Myers.  Another descendant of Jacob, Mary Kate Horner of Kokomo, Indiana, was a great help to me when I first started doing genealogy forty years ago.  She and Margaret Davis of Yakima, Washington, collaborated for many years on the Robbins family history.  At about the time they “retired” from active research, I was starting up and they gave me a copy of all of their research.  Included in this was what information they had on descendants of Jacob and Catherine.

The third child of that couple was Allen Robbins, and his family was one that Mary Kate and Margaret didn’t have a lot of information about.  With today’s Internet resources I was able to find a great deal in the past several weeks, including the fact that Allen and some of his family moved to Missouri from Decatur County, Indiana.  Some of the children remained in Indiana, some lived in Missouri, some lived in Kansas, and some who had moved away, moved back to Decatur County.  What was going on with this family?  Finding an obituary for Herbert Robbins, a son of Allen, added another dimension to the sad dynamics of this family group.

Allen Robbins was born in 1841 in Decatur County, Indiana.  A record exists of his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor in 1867.  We know from the 1900 and 1910 census, that Allen was married to an Alice, and the death record of daughter Kathryn provides her maiden name, LeVaugh, which matches with fragmentary family oral history.  Allen and Elizabeth had six children, Anna, Frank, Charles, Martha, Maude, and Herbert.  With Alice, Allen had three more children: Ernest, Ida, and Kathryn.

At least Charles, Martha (married to Thornton Nuzum), and Maude (married to Elmer Scripture), lived in Decatur County, Indiana.  The other children either lived elsewhere or their final whereabouts are unknown.  But we do know where Herbert Robbins ended up.

“Unrequited Love Caused His Suicide”, Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, Kansas), Wed., 7 Aug. 1901, p. 1.

On Monday, August 5th, 1901, Herbert Robbins, checked into the Hamilton Hotel in Wichita, Kansas, under an assumed name.  Sometime around midnight, the porter heard a noise coming from Robbins room, and entered the room through the transom.  He found Robbins groaning in his bed after apparently ingesting laudanum or carbolic acid (reports varied).  A local physician was called and began to treat Robbins, but he died at about 1:30 am.  The local newspaper, the Wichita Daily Eagle, as well as other newspapers in Kansas and Indiana, reported the suicide of this young man, with the full story slow in coming.

According to the news reports, Herbert came from a very poor family, was “orphaned” at an early age, and was raised in the orphan’s home in Greensburg, Indiana.  He later went to live with a wealthy banker, William Kennedy, in nearby Hope, Indiana, who paid for Herbert to go to college in Franklin, Indiana.   Since his father was alive for several more decades, you must wonder if perhaps Herbert’s mother died at the time of his birth and possibly Allen farmed several of his children out as he was unable to care for them.  Herbert remained in Indiana until just a few months before his death.  Father Allen Robbins, stepmother Alice, and some of his siblings were living in Missouri by then.

Herbert left Indiana and appeared in Topeka, Kansas (did he visit his father Allen in Kansas City, Missouri en route?) where he attempted suicide while staying at the National Hotel.  Guests of the hotel complained about smelling gas and when investigated, it was discovered coming from Herbert’s room.  This occurred several times.  The proprietress took a motherly interest in the young man and found him room and board with a  Dr. Hamilton.  Soon after Herbert went to work for a local undertaker, Mr. Palmer, who was pleased with his work and believed that Herbert was going to go into that profession.  Then he vanished without a word to anyone until he was reported dead in Wichita.

He had made efforts to hide his identity, but a letter of recommendation from William Kennedy back in Indiana was found that led to his identification.  He did leave a note that his body should be held until the arrival of Elmer Scripture (his brother-in-law) from Westport, Indiana.  There is no evidence that Scripture arrived or that he was even able to make the trip.

Further news stories report that Herbert’s suicide was the result of “unrequited love.”  Apparently while in Topeka he wrote letters and sent telegrams to a young woman in Indiana.  A letter found there from a woman named “Edith” said she could not have anything more to do with him, and when he telegraphed her, asking if her refusal was final, she said it was.

Another story reported that his father in Kansas City called and was satisfied that the dead man was his son Herbert.  A follow up story discounts that the caller was the father, saying that he had no father.  However, Allen Robbins was living in Kansas City in 1900 and it’s not unreasonable to assume he did make the call, but for whatever reason he didn’t follow up.  Another aspect of this family’s dysfunction?  As mentioned above, it is not known what happened to Herbert’s body.  Was he returned to Indiana via Elmer Scripture? Was he buried at public expense in Wichita?

“Are Very Curious,” Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita, Kansas), Sat., 10 Aug. 1901, p. 5.

One final and gruesome story was reported in the Wichita newspaper.  The people of that town turned out in great numbers to visit the undertakers to take a look at Herbert Robbins’ body.  When asked why, they said they’d “never seen a man who killed himself and want to see how he looks.  Then there are others who want to see him because they think that the poison must have turned his skin blue or red or black or some other color and are greatly surprised when they find the man’s skin about the same color as any dead person.”

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Marmaduke Robbins-Jacob F. Robbins-Allen Robbins-Herbert Robbins)