Patriarch of Polk County: Marquis Lindsay Robbins (1820-1906)

In 1853, Marquis Lindsay Robbins (usually called Lindsay), age 33, his wife Mary, and four children left Iowa and made the trek to Oregon, joining other family members who had emigrated in previous years.  Not a lot is known of this family’s trip, just that the wagon train was captained by James Givens Campbell, another resident of Davis Co., Iowa.  After arriving in Oregon, Lindsay and Mary had another three children, and over the years their progeny populated much of Polk County and elsewhere around Oregon and the Northwest.

Lindsay Robbins was born in 1820 to John and Eda (Sanders) Robbins, John being one of the sons of Absalom Sr.  This family stayed in Kentucky later than most, not leaving for Decatur County, Indiana, until about 1830 or 31, and staying there only during that decade, before moving on to Missouri and later Iowa.  In Missouri, Lindsay was married to Mary Sanders, a first cousin.

Marquis Lindsay Robbins

The Robbins family, along with the Campbells, arrived in Polk County, Oregon, in October of 1853.  Mary (Sanders) Robbins’ parents, Reece and Sarah, were already living in the Ellendale community of that county.  Lindsay wasted no time in applying for work at Hallock’s mill that fall, where he was engaged in cutting timber for a new dam.  Always enterprising, during the winter he began making rawhide chairs, manufacturing about 100 and selling them for $2 each.

Signature of M. L. Robbins on Donation Land Claim

The next spring Lindsay and family set out for King’s Valley in Benton County just to the south and took a 320-acre claim on the Big Luckiamute River, near to where Fort Hoskins would be built in 1856.  His son, John Reece Robbins, later reminisced about life near the Fort.

 A company of soldiers was stationed at Fort Hoskins as protection for the settlers from Indian outbreaks. A pet bear which the soldiers kept for the fort was an interesting playfellow for the Robbins children. From time to time the Indians did cause trouble and occasionally the settlers would join in with the soldiers and take a scalp or two.  Captain Auger was in command of the fort at the time the Robbins family lived near it. Drinking among the troops proved a source of trouble, so Captain Auger finally prohibited all drinking at the fort. An enterprising citizen capitalized on this and set up a dive a short distance from the fort on the banks of the river. Captain Auger placed a guard over the place, but the soldiers off duty formed the habit of slipping in behind the bank and coming through the back way. The captain ordered the owner to move out or he would dump his building into the river. The enterprise faded out in short order.

In 1862 the Robbins family returned to Polk county, Lindsay buying land in several directions around the city of Dallas.  For about ten years he engaged in grain and stock raising near Fir Villa (just to the east of present Dallas), and then moved into Portland about 1885 because Mary Robbins was in ill health.

Fort Hoskins today (photo courtesy of Oregon Digital, (http://oregondigital.org/catalog/oregondigital:df6833978)

There was a mention of Lindsay Robbins in the local newspaper for an event that occurred in 1878.

Tuesday morning Mr. M. L. Robbins, living about two miles east of Dallas, set fire to a pile of straw in order to burn it …. The fire revived and communicated with a hay mow near by which was stowed away in a brand new bam feet in 26×40 feet in size which was not quite completed. The fire was discovered too late and the barn with thirty tons of hay and some of Mr. Ashbaugh’s carpenter tools was burned to the ground.

One of the little known and little used genealogical records is the agricultural schedule of the U.S. Census, available for the years 1850 to 1880.  The 1880 schedule listing Lindsay’s farm provides a wonderful snapshot of his life and holdings:  He owned 18 tilled acres, 75  acres  in pasture or orchards, and  600 acres of woodland.   The  cash  value of the farm was estimated at $2800, including $390 in farm implements and $850 in livestock.  The family had spent $110 in building and repairs of fences.  Of livestock, they owned 7 horses, 8 milk cows, 12 other cattle, 8 swine, and produced 100 pounds of butter in 1879.  Forty acres of oats resulted in 800 bushels, and 53 acres of wheat resulted in 800 bushels of wheat.  One acre of apples, with 100 bearing trees, produced 100 bushels of apples in 1879.

When Lindsay died in 1906 he owned over 783 acres of land in Polk County.  He left no will but probate records now at the Oregon State Archives detail many heirs, including his wife, children, and grandchildren, some of whom were living in places unknown to the family.

Lindsay Robbins was described as being five feet, ten inches tall, weighing 240 pounds, with auburn hair and blue eyes. With only three months of formal schooling, he was a fine speller and good at arithmetic. Like his brother John and others in this line of the family, he was a good singer (bass). Lindsay is credited with the naming of the small community of Eola, Oregon, just west of Salem. He was always fond of the Aeolian harp and named the community after that musical instrument with the spelling altered slightly.

As a final story, his granddaughter Mary Garwood reminisced about Lindsay’s sense of humor:

I remember a funny little story that I heard once of his boasting to his brother John H. Robbins about how fast his corn was growing. He said he believed it grew at the rate of an inch in a night. Uncle John was skeptical. Grandfather planted a stick by a hill of corn to show him. Uncle John slipped out and drove the stick down an inch. Next morning grandfather came in with his eyes opened wide and told uncle John to come and look at that stick. After grandfather had told it everywhere he learned the truth.

(Jacob Robbins-Absalom Robbins-John Robbins-Marquis Lindsay Robbins)