A Trip Around the World

The last couple of posts dealt with members of the John and Ruth (Anderson) Robbins family of Decatur County, Indiana.  This post does too, though the focus is more on a Robbins in-law.

John and Ruth Robbins had a small family for their time.  Instead of the large number of children farming families tended to have, this couple only had four children that we know of:  Mary Ellen, William Anderson, Sarah Ann, and Nathaniel.  The eldest, Mary Ellen, was married to Calvin Paramore and while they had seven children, all died in childhood, never married or had no living descendants.  The youngest, Nathaniel, died in infancy in 1824.  That leaves two children whose family lines continue today.  Last week’s post was about the Snooks and the Schumachers – they were descendants of Sarah Ann (Robbins) Snook.  The post before that one was about Jacob Gates Robbins, a son of William Anderson Robbins.  This post also deals with descendants of William Anderson Robbins.

John Robbins and family

William Anderson Robbins had several children besides Jacob Gates.  The two that had descendants were William Marion Robbins and Charles Francis Robbins.

Charles Francis Robbins, Sr., was the proverbial small-town boy made good.  Born in Decatur County he became an attorney in Indianapolis.  He was married to Venora (“Nora”) Hammond in 1883, they had one son Charles Francis Robbins Jr. (born 1886).  The law must have been very lucrative in Indiana’s capital city, because by the late 1890’s they were touring Europe and living in France.  They do not appear to have returned to Indiana.  Not found in the 1900 census as perhaps they were still in Europe, they are in the 1910 census living on West 85th Street in Manhattan, where Charles’ occupation was listed as “own income.”  Charles Sr. died in 1914.

A.G. Spalding & Bros.

Son Charles Francis Robbins Jr. was destined for the business world and specifically the international sporting goods company, A. G. Spalding.  By the time he registered for the World War I draft in 1917 he was a manager at Spalding and in the 1920 census he was listed as vice president at Spalding.  Between those two years Charles Jr. was married to Elizabeth Brown, a niece of the company’s founder, A. G. Spalding Sr.  By 1930 Charles Jr. was president of the Spalding Company and his family had moved to Llewellyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey.  He and Elizabeth have descendants through their three sons.

But – back to Nora (Hammond) Robbins, wife of Charles Francis Robbins Sr.  After her husband’s death Nora continued her international travel.  And it was a trip in 1923 which became the basis for her small book, Hitting the High Spots of My Trip Around the World, published in 1938.

Venora Robbins passport application

In this book, dedicated to her son Charles Jr. and her three grandsons, Nora Robbins describes her trip around the world.  She crossed the continent to San Francisco, where she boarded the ship SS President Cleveland and sailed for Honolulu.  After a visit to the Hawaiian Islands, Nora continued on to Japan, then China, Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Macao, Southeast Asia (the future Vietnam and Cambodia), Indonesia and Singapore, then on to Ceylon, across the Indian ocean to the African coast, then up the Red Sea to visit the highlights of Egypt, and then on to Europe, stopping in Venice, Paris, and from London returned to her “little old New York.”  She had been gone from the United States for almost 13 months but later Nora returned to France where she had a villa on the Riviera, living there into the 1930s.

Title page of Venora (Hammond) Robbins book

What’s fascinating about Nora’s book is that she was travelling soon after the end of World War I but before some of the worst events preceding World War II.  For example, she describes visiting the “very interesting” city of Nanking, later the scene of the notorious “rape of Nanking” by Japanese soldiers a decade later.  She reported:  “The tombs of the rulers of the Ming dynasty are here.  Long rows of stone animals are on either side of the road leading up to their temple.  It was a beautiful October day and the trip out through the country in rickshaws was delightful.”

In visiting Beijing (then spelled Peking) Nora espouses her philosophy of travel:

The whole wonderful city was most impressive.  Peking! – that I had so long dreamed of – and I was there!  It is a very happy thing to have a first experience.  You have thrills of pleasure that never come with the second one.  I am sorry for anyone who has “seen everything:”  No chance to see for the first time – which is the best of all.

Towards the end of her travels, when she was in France, she describes the former battlefields of the first world war.  “We were in dugouts; saw trenches and barbed wire entanglements; the great cemeteries of the French, Italians, and Germans; the cemetery of the Americans at Belleau Woods.  Where the English are buried there are the blooming roses.  Always flowers!”

At the beginning of the book she writes:

It is so commonplace a trip today, to circle the globe, that it is almost presumptuous to essay an entertainment of others with one’s own experiences.  There-fore I venture forth on even a brief recital of my own with much hesitation, as most of you have probably seen more and know more about what you have seen that I do.

I’m not so sure of that.  Overall, Nora’s book is a delightful account of travel in a bygone era.

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-John Robbins-William Anderson Robbins-Charles Francis Robbins, married to Venora (“Nora”) Hammond-Charles Francis Robbins Jr.)


Snooks, Schumachers and a Librarian Too!

Enola Snook was a great-granddaughter of John and Ruth (Anderson) Robbins of Decatur County, Indiana.  Her parents William Snook and Emma Elliott were married in Jennings County in 1868, but spent most of their lives Altamont, Illinois, where they were joined by William’s brother John Snook.  Their one sister, Mary Alice Snook, was married to William H. Rybolt and remained in Decatur County.

Enola’s uncle John Snook, a Civil War veteran like his brother, founded a commission business with William, which they engaged in until 1900, when John was named postmaster of Altamont, and later served as alderman and mayor of that town.  John and his wife had no biological children but did “foster” one son, Benson Snook.

Enola Snook was an only child and must have been joyfully welcomed fourteen years into her parent’s marriage.  Before that event her father William had been very busy supporting his wife.  They initially farmed in Jennings County, then moved to Altamont where William engaged in the furniture and hardware business.  By 1874 he was engaged in the grain and stock business, becoming a partner of H. A. Carter in the firm Carter & Snook.  He and Emma appear in the 1880 census in Kansas, where he is listed as a cattle buyer, but they were shortly back in Altamont when Enola came in 1882.  Around that time William Snook joined in partnership with Charles Schumacher and the men dealt in grain and livestock.

Excerpt of William Snook biography in a history of Effingham County, Illinois (1883)

Frank Schumacher, Charles’s son, married Enola Snook in 1908.  Charles continued in the grain dealing business started by his father and father-in-law, engaged in other businesses as well, and the Schumacher couple were quite prominent in the small farming community of Altamont.  In addition to his businesses, Frank served on the city commission, served as a director of the Altamont Building and Loan Association, and served on the board of the Chamber of Commerce.

A 1925 article in the local newspaper recounted how Frank was injured while working on his new creamery.  “The scaffolding on which Mr. Schumacher was standing gave way and he fell to the ground, breaking one rib from the back bone, and splintering another rib.  As a result he will be confined to his home for a week or two.  Mr. Schumacher is owner of the new creamery, which he hopes to have in operation some time in December.”

Enola was also involved in community activities.  She was vice-president of the Altamont Women’s Club, treasurer of St. Elmo Rebekah’s Lodge, was a director, like her husband previously, of the Altamont Building & Loan Association, and attended the First Methodist Church.

Gravestone of Enola (Snook) Schumacher (photo taken Sept. 14, 2011 by author)

One remarkable thing about Enola (Snook) Schumacher was that she served 30-years as city librarian.  The Altamont City Library opened in 1908 and then closed in 1920 when the materials were given to the public schools.  The library was re-opened in 1937 in a room above the fire station and two years later Enola Schumacher was named city librarian.  In 1948 the library was moved to a new location and Enola remained as city librarian until her retirement in 1969 at the age of 86!  She passed away only four years later and is buried in Altamont’s Union Cemetery with the Snook family.  Of Frank, we do not know what happened to him, when he died, or where he was buried (if in Union Cemetery his grave is unmarked).  The couple had no children and this Schumacher-Snook line ends with Frank and Enola.

[Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-John Robbins-Sarah Ann (Robbins) Snook-William L. Snook-Enola (Snook) Schumacher)


Jacob Gates Robbins (1845-1883)

William Anderson Robbins and his wife Rebecca Gates had five children, several with very interesting biographies.  The oldest son, Jacob Gates Robbins, never married and passed away at a young age but his passing was noted in Decatur County, Indiana, where he had lived his entire life.

Born in 1845, Gates Robbins, as he was known, engaged in farming with his father.  The family specialized in raising Poland China hogs and were said to have made the family firm “an enviable reputation and decided success.”  Poland China hogs were developed in the United Sates about 1816, being derived from several other breeds.  They are known for their extremely large (as in record-breaking large) size.

China Poland hogs

The raising of these hogs must have been very lucrative because William A. Robbins is listed in the 1860 census as having a substantial $8000 value of real estate (up from $1500 in 1850) and $2300 in personal estate.  And by 1870 the real estate value had increased to $15,000.  In each of these census years Gates Robbins was always listed as being a member of the household; he never left home.

At the time of his death, it was reported “Mr. Robbins was a single man in the prime of life.  He was full of energy and business and had acquired a considerable little fortune by his own exertions.  Whether it was business, politics or enjoyment he was engaged in, he engaged in it with all his might.”

The story of Gates’ death was reported in the November 17, 1883, Greensburg, Indiana, Saturday Review, in two stories: a notice of his death and an obituary, both appearing on the same page.  The newspaper reported:

“During the day [Wednesday, November 14] he had been working on the farm and was in apparent good health.  He ate a hearty supper and was sitting by the fire talking to his father.  Suddenly he drew a long breath or two and expired in his father’s arms.”

The Review continued:  “The shock comes to his aged parents and to his brothers and friends as a clap of thunder from a clear sky.  He will be missed and mourned.  He was a good man.  Truly does death love a shining mark.  The funeral services too place yesterday [November 16] and the body was followed to its last resting place by a large concourse of friends.”

J. Gates Robbins gravestone

It was also reported:  “His sudden taking off can only be accounted for on the usual theory of heart disease or apoplexy.  The Review unites with his other friends in their sorrow and regrets, for he has been its strong friend.”

[Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-John Robbins-William Anderson Robbins-Jacob Gates Robbins]


Dating Old Robbins Photos

It’s not always easy to determine the date when an old family photograph was taken.  We look at the type of photograph it was (daguerreotype, tintype, carte de visite, cabinet cards, etc.), the dress of the subjects, and other clues to provide a date.  Sometimes the only information we have to go on is an individual’s lifespan.  One such photo is that of Nathaniel and Nancy Robbins, Oregon emigrants of 1852.  While Nancy lived until 1880, we know that Nathaniel Robbins died in December of 1863 so the only photograph we have of them is before that date.

Nathaniel and Nancy Robbins (by or before 1863)

Most of the Robbins family did not avoid photographers’ studios and the new technology that allowed a person’s likeness to be captured for posterity was thankfully taken advantage of by our ancestors.  Unless we know otherwise (and occasionally we will hear of a family member who refused to have their photo taken) I firmly believe that the majority of our family that lived after about 1860 had their photograph taken, whether we still have those photos today or whether we recognize those photos that lay unidentified in our photograph collections.

I received the photograph below from the late Patrick Masterson of Port Orford, Oregon.  Patrick was a descendant of Jacob and Sarah Robbins, emigrants of 1852, and a local historian with long-time connections to his small Oregon coast community.  Patrick claimed that this photograph was of Jacob Robbins’ father, another Jacob Robbins.  This Jacob would have been the brother of William Robbins, the Revolutionary War veteran, Absalom Robbins, who died at an advanced age in 1859, James Robbins of Jennings County, Indiana, and other siblings.  Jacob (of the photo) was born in 1767 but we do not know when he died.  He appeared as an 83-year-old in the 1850 Decatur County, Indiana, census.  Due to the advanced age of the subject, it could very well be that this photo truly is of Jacob Robbins in his old age.  Or is it of someone else in the family?

said to be Jacob Robbins (1767-after 1850)

Nathaniel and Nancy Robbins’ daughter Nancy, was married to Joseph Barstow in 1856 and this appears to be their wedding photograph.  As their wedding was only one month after Nancy’s eldest brother William Franklin Robbins was tragically killed while out bear hunting, the descendant of Nancy who gave me this photograph believed the sad look on Nancy’s face, during an otherwise happy event, was due to grief at her brother’s recent death.  If so, the photograph dates from 1856.

Joseph and Nancy (Robbins) Barstow (1856)

Another photograph in the Jacob Robbins line is that of Harvey and Levi Robbins, teenage brothers who crossed the plains in 1852, sons of Jacob and Sarah Robbins.  I believe this photo shows the brothers prior to their marriages.  If so, the photograph was taken by or before 1858, when Harvey married his wife Perlina (Levi married the following year).

Levi and Harvey Robbins (c1858)

In some cases, like that of Nathaniel, we know the latest date by which a photograph was taken, while in others we try to calculate, whether from age or dress or other criteria, when the image was created.  It’s not always perfect, but usually we can arrive at a general date for the photo.  These aren’t the only old photographs I have in my collection, just a few examples.  Who do you have in yours?

“Respected by All Who Knew Him:” Nathaniel Spencer Robbins

Nathaniel Spencer Robbins, called “Uncle Nat” in my family (he was my great-grandmothers oldest brother), was born in Decatur County in 1837 and was fifteen-years-old when his family crossed the plains on the Oregon Trail.  His father William Franklin Robbins took a Donation Land Claim approximately where today’s Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 intersect, southeast of Tualatin, and not many miles west of Oregon City.  According to his obituary he lived there his entire life.  My mother remembered as a child and teenager hearing about “Uncle Nat” as though he just lived down the road.  However, by that point he’d been dead for 40-plus years.

Soon after arriving in Oregon in the late, rainy autumn of 1852, most of the family was ill.  Nat’s family was living on the west side of the Willamette River in Linn City.  When his little brother Gilman became sick and died, teenage Nat, one of the few healthy family members, was sent off to Oregon City to find his uncles Dow and Norval to come dig a grave.  Soon, however, Nat was ill along with his uncle Dow and grandfather Nathaniel and his father reported that “Nat was the lowest I ever seen anyone to recover.”  Later his sister Nancy Adeline wrote “…for two weeks he couldn’t speak above a whisper.  Just laid on a bed on the floor.  But at last he got well.”

Nathaniel Spencer Robbins

Some information about Nat’s three wives, such as all of their birth and death dates is not known.  He was first married to Sarah Evans about 1873.  She died in 1880 at approximately thirty years of age.  Together they had three children:  Clara, Hampton (“Hamp”), and Stella.  After Sarah’s death he married Martha Jane Rodgers in 1882.  No additional information is available about her except that she was the mother of Nat’s youngest son William Berry Robbins.  Thirdly, Nat married Anna Marie (Mary) Kunst, who survived him.

The 1870 agricultural schedule of the U.S. census provides a little detail of Nat’s farm in Washington County.  In the year leading up to the census enumeration he had 14 improved acres, 306 acres of woodland, two horses, three milk cows and four other cattle, and eight swine.  He produced 63 bushels of spring wheat, 108 bushels of oats, 83 bushels of barley, 50 pounds of tobacco (not the most common crop in Oregon!), 40 bushels of Irish potatoes, 7 tons of hay, and 200 lbs of butter.  That is a lot of produce for 14 improved acres of land.

N. S. Robbins signature (1892)

According to his obituary Nat Robbins, who passed away in 1895, died of “la grippe” followed by typhoid fever, just short of his 58th birthday.  What is “la grippe?”  That’s another term for influenza.  Medical experts of the 1890s sometimes reported that it was hard to differentiate between the two diseases, and whether one really followed the other. Whatever the real diagnosis, his death saddened his family and the community.  The Portland Oregonian reported Nat “was an upright man and respected by all who knew him.”

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Nathaniel Robbins-William Franklin Robbins-Nathaniel Spencer Robbins)

Law Runs in the Family

There were a number of ties between the Robbins and Anderson families.  Both families lived in Shelby and Henry counties, Kentucky, and both seem to have come to Decatur County, Indiana, at the same time.  There were at least four Robbins-Anderson marriages.  Among the children of William and Bethiah Robbins, their son William married Eleanor Anderson, son John married Ruth Anderson, and daughter Charlotte married Abram Anderson.  Another marriage, an Absalom Robbins to Elizabeth Anderson, likely was a second marriage for Absalom the brother of William, after Absalom’s first wife died.  Other Anderson children married members of the Vest, Pruitt, Parsley, Bowler, and White families, some of whom are buried in the historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery south of Greensburg.

This post will discuss the family of Abram and Charlotte (“Lottie”) (Robbins) Anderson.  The couple were married in 1827 in Decatur County, Indiana, one of the earliest marriages of the Robbins family in that county since the family moved there in the early 1820s.

The couple had four children, possibly more, but only four names have come down to us.  The oldest child, Sarah Elizabeth Anderson, was only three years when she died and was buried in the Mount Pleasant cemetery.  The next child, Susannah Anderson, may have died young or may have lived to marry someone named “Songer” – the family record hint at a marriage, but no documentation exists.  A son, William James Anderson, was born in 1833, married twice, and died possibly around 1859 or 60, at less than 30 years of age.  With his second wife Maria Catherine Myers he had a son John Abram Lastly Anderson who we lose track of after the 1880 census in which the 21-year old is listed as a farm laborer in the household of his mother and step-father.

The youngest child of Abram and Charlotte was Nancy Bethiah Anderson born in 1838.  Her middle name comes from her grandmother Bethiah (Vickrey) Robbins, who was living with the family in 1850.  Nancy Bethiah Anderson’s family is where we find descendants today of Abram and Charlotte.

Charlotte Anderson died in 1874 and two years later, at the age of 71, Abram married Olivia Morgan.  When Abram died in 1891 at the age of 87 he was the very last of his generation of children and children-in-laws of William and Bethiah Robbins.  For years the Andersons had farmed in Decatur County, living south of Greensburg, and both found their final rest in the Mount Pleasant cemetery near so many of their family members, both Andersons and Robbins.

Nancy Bethiah (Anderson) Shane

The youngest daughter, Nancy Bethiah Anderson, was married to Christopher Shane in 1860.  When I first started working on this family’s genealogy, I had about as much information on the couple as I did on the possible marriage of sister Susannah and at first thought this would be one of those families that just sort of fade out of the records. but between Ancestry.com, the Washington State Digital Archives, and a descendants’ wonderful website (the photos here are courtesy of Michael Shackleford) it really didn’t take long to discover much more concrete information about the couple and their descendants.  It helped that Chris Shane was prominent: he served as mayor of Greensburg, Indiana.

Chris Shane

Chris Shane, though a native Hoosier, worked for four years as a clerk in the pension bureau in Washington, D.C.  According to a county history he began practicing law in Decatur County in 1865 with William Moore, however in the 1860 census he is already listed as an attorney.  In 1867 Shane was elected mayor of Greensburg, which position he held for six years.  He later served as both city and county attorney.

Before she died at the early age of 39, Nancy (Anderson) Shane had five children: Elizabeth, Charlotte, Charles, Warren, and Martha.  They suddenly disappeared from Decatur County records but with a little searching I discovered that in the early 1890s Chris Shane and his children moved across the country to Tacoma, Washington.  There Chris apparently engaged in the insurance business for a brief period but he died in 1896, only a few years after arriving in the Pacific Northwest.

Of the children, Elizabeth Shane never married but worked as a teacher her whole life.  Charlotte was married to John Shackleford, while her sister Martha was married to John’s brother Lewis Shackleford.  Both Shackleford men were attorneys and later served as judges and assistant U.S. Attorneys and other high offices in Washington State.

Charles Shane worked as a clerk in the Shackleford’s law office and was later listed in the census as an attorney himself, though he seems to have ended up on the opposite side of the law.  According to several newspaper articles Charles embezzled money from the city of Tacoma (he was then municipal court clerk).  What the resolution of his legal troubles was is not known and he disappears from census and other records. Perhaps he’s still on the run? It’s doubtful that his upstanding brothers-in-law, as well as the rest of his family, approved of his behavior.  Finally, brother Warren Shane married, but had no children, and died as a widower in Chicago in 1942.

The Shacklefords, both couples, had children, but only Martha and Lewis’ son John married and has descendants today.  Charlotte and John Shackleford had three daughters, none of whom married, but each of whom had notable careers.  Charlotte was a teacher and Martha earned three degrees, including a Ph.D., and was a professor of biology and chair of the science department at Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts.

Middle daughter Elizabeth Shackleford, however, followed a family tradition and went into the law.  She was the only woman admitted to the Washington State Bar in 1922, worked as an attorney in Tacoma for many years, and was appointed a Pierce County Justice Court judge in 1954, the title changing to District Court Judge, and serving until 1967.  She then continued to practice law until she retired at the age of 85 in 1981!

Judge Elizabeth Shackleford, great-granddaughter of Charlotte (Robbins) Anderson

At the time of her death the Tacoma Morning News Tribune wrote:

In those days [1927], there were only five female lawyers in the area, and clients were scarce.  So she took a job with the federal tax collection agency, which later became the Internal Revenue Service, while struggling to build her practice.  During the 1950s and 1960s, Shackleford was the only female attorney practicing in the area and one of the few to take on black clients.  She is credited with helping an association of black women and a group of black businessmen to establish clubhouses in Tacoma and providing free legal assistance to blacks.  She was active with the local League of Women Voters.  For her efforts, she was honored by black, Indian, and religious groups in a special ceremony in 1981.

[Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Charlotte (Robbins) Anderson and descendants]

Frank Heater: Police Chief

Among our cousins was a highly respected police chief in the eastern Oregon city of The Dalles.  The subject of numerous newspaper articles about his exploits, including that of his marshal’s start stopping a bullet, Frank Heater is a family member we should know and honor.

The Dalles (Oregon) in 1884

Frank Heater was born in 1875 to Lorenzo Peter (“Pete”) and Judith Amanda (Robbins) Heater.  His mother was born shortly after the family arrived in Oregon, and after marrying Pete Heater the couple moved to eastern Oregon, settling in The Dalles along the Columbia River.

As a boy, Frank herded the neighborhood cows to grass, then back home again in the evening.  He earned 50¢ a month from each cow owner.  He worked as a cowpuncher, a sheepherder, and a “buckeroo.”  By 1910, he as operating a saloon with Frank Brown at 106 First in The Dalles.  They had sawdust floors to catch the blood and falling bodies from the fights that broke out.

Chief of Police Frank Heater

On July 1, 1918, Frank Heater joined The Dalles city police force.  The following year, after the city marshal had been killed by bank robbers, Frank assumed the position, usually referred to as “chief of police”, and held it until his retirement in 1946.  He was highly regarded in The Dalles.

One of the more spectacular episodes of The Dalles history that Frank Heater participated in was the Chinese Tong War of 1921.  The fight began when one group of Chinese heard that gunmen from Portland were coming to kidnap the leaders of their tong.

About 11 p.m., October 20, 1921, two railroad policemen stopped to interrogate one of the Chinese lookouts, who mistook the white men for the hired gunmen expected from Portland.

Reinforcements quickly came to the guard’s aid, and the railroad police, now joined by city officers, retreated along 1st street, between Court and Union, under a fusillade of fire.  About this time Heater, who had been routed out of bed, arrived on the scene.

As Heater hurried along Court street toward the railroad tracks, a Chinese with gun in hand ran out of the alley, then ducked back in, firing at Heater as the marshal gave chase, shooting the latter in the chest.  Another Oriental opened fire behind Heater and shot the officer in the left leg.  A third shadowy figure moved and Heater shot him in the hip.

By this time all hell had broken loose and slugs from Lugers, revolvers and shotguns were peppering the fronts of the old McCoy garage, Williams’ second hand store at 206 Court Street and the old Baldwin saloon.  A general alarm had been sounded on the fire bell and a large crowd of heavily armed white men appeared on the scene, but were later dispersed.

Not until cooler heads among the tong men realized the mistake being made did the firing cease.  By that time Heater, a Chinese man and Robert Saunders, then a high school senior, had all been shot and rushed to the local hospital.

It turned out that Frank Heater had been shot twice, once in the leg and once in the chest.  The bullet to the chest was stopped by his marshal’s star.

A bullet did not literally ‘lodge over his heart.’  Fired from a gun at close range the pellet struck the center of his metal star and would have gone through but for the fact its nose mushroomed and the metal of the star crumpled up around it.  The point of the bullet went through the chest wall, just entering the cavity.  Another inch now and this story wouldn’t be written today.

‘I knew I had been shot,’ Heater reminisced recently at police headquarters.  ‘From the way the bullet walloped me I thought it was pretty bad and that I was done for.  I don’t know when I was shot in the leg.  I never felt that at all until later.  There was too much excitement and shooting going on to notice it when it happened.

Heater’s granddaughter, in a biography for the Oregon State Archives, states that the damaged marshal’s star was given to The Dalles Police Department in 1966 by her mother, Charlotte (Heater) Proudfoot.

Another newspaper story, this one from 1933, reported “A bullet wound in his right hand, Fred Jackson, transient, was taken to The Dalles hospital this morning after attempting to flee from Police Chief Frank Heater on a downtown street.  Heater shot Jackson when the latter failed to heed the officers warning to stop, after the itinerant had been discovered in possession of stolen property.”

The following year when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt motored by car (by her own hand) through The Dalles, Chief Heater offered her an escort through the city, which Mrs. Roosevelt refused.

City of The Dalles Police Department (Chief Heater sitting, far right) in an undated newspaper clipping

In an undated news article entitled “Jest-a-Minute” by “K.W.” the author writes:

“And why don’t we tell people oftener how much we think of them, and how much they have meant in our lives?  I think today, I’ll throw a bouquet, in the direction of…

Frank Heater—The best gosh darned chief of police this community ever had, who maintained law and order when everyone else thought The Dalles had to be part of the accent on the WILD West, and who still bears bullet scars to prove that he was afraid of nothing.  Maybe he did always call me “Benny,” which never was my name.  I always felt my family was safe, in the old days, with him on the job.

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins/Absalom Robbins-Nathaniel/Nancy Robbins-James Anderson Robbins-Judith Amanda (Robbins) Heater-Frank Heater)

The Robbins-Hanks-Lincoln Connections

Stories have been told for years about the relationship of the Robbins family to Abraham Lincoln.  I grew up hearing these stories.  As an adult, researching the connections between our family and our most-famous President, I came to realize that while I wasn’t related to Lincoln, others in the family were. In other words, some Robbins descendants are cousins of Lincoln, while others, like myself, share cousins in common with Lincoln.

Most of the stories, and all the documented connections between Lincoln and the Robbins family are through his mother’s family, the Hanks.  I’ve seen no mention of a direct Robbins-Lincoln connection.

This post will look at some of the connections that are documented and mention some that aren’t, and point out some of the family lines that descend from these connections.

The clearest and easiest connection to document is that of two of Lincoln’s first cousins, James Hanks and Jemima Hanks, siblings, who married Robbins family members.  James Hanks was married to Charity Robbins, and Jemima Hanks was married to Absalom Robbins, both of whom were children of Absalom and Mary (Ogle) Robbins.  Both of the Hanks were the children of William Hanks and his second wife Elizabeth Loyd, and William was the brother of Nancy Hanks, Lincoln’s mother.

Robbins-Hanks-Lincoln relationship chart

James Hanks was married to Charity Robbins on 12 June 1830 in Decatur County, Indiana.  They had five children:  William, Absalom, Elizabeth, Mahala, and Jemima.  Tragedy struck this family early on when James Hanks and his eight-year-old son Absalom were killed while out coon hunting when a tree fell on them.  This happened just west of Gaynorsville, Indiana, on April 13, 1841.  With the death of James Hanks, Dr. Nathaniel Robbins (whose wife Nancy was the elder sister of Charity) was the court appointed guardian of the remaining children.  He retained this duty until he left for Missouri in the fall of 1851.  Nathaniel was involved in disputes with the estate of James Hanks over land, and this was one of the reasons he returned to Indiana in the spring of 1852.  He had unfinished business relating to the Hanks estate to conclude.

The families of James and Charity tended to stay in Decatur County.  Among the surnames of their descendants are Skinner, Purvis, Van Treese, Morgan, Wasson, Patrick, Fultz, Ricketts, Jessup, Stout, and Whipple, among others.

Meanwhile, Jemima Hanks was married to Absalom Robbins on December 26, 1831, in Decatur County.  Absalom and Jemima Robbins remained in Decatur Co., Indiana, a few years before moving to Breckinridge County, Kentucky.  They had possibly twelve children, and their descendants surnames include Stillwell, Armes, Ryan, Basham, and Macey.  Absalom and Jemima are thought to have been buried in the Old Robbins Schoolhouse Cemetery in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, a cemetery that exists only as bare rural lot out in the countryside.  Reportedly William Hanks and his wife Elizabeth are also buried there.

Another well-known connection with the Hanks family, but with less documentation, was that of a Nancy Hanks who married Jacob Robbins about 1801, and whose son was the Jacob Robbins who moved to Oregon in 1852.  No marriage record or bond has been found for the marriage of Jacob and Nancy and if you’ve ever seen the scraps of paper which are the early Kentucky marriage bonds that wouldn’t surprise you, but Nancy’s name has been consistently passed down in the reminiscences of her family, starting with those of her grandson Harvey Robbins.

It is not known who the parents of this Nancy Hanks were.  Harvey Robbins’ stories name her parents as being William and Elizabeth (Hall) Hanks.  But William and Elizabeth were married on September 12, 1793, and if Nancy married Jacob in 1801, she couldn’t have been more than eight years old.  At this point in the Hanks-Robbins research, we can’t say with certainty whom the parents of Nancy Hanks were.

Another problem with that timeline is that Jacob Robbins was married to a cousin Rachel Robbins in 1790 and they reportedly had one child, John Henry or “Hance”, Robbins.  Rachel is said to have died by or around 1800, then Jacob married Nancy Hanks, and had William (“Rock Creek Billy”) Robbins, Jacob Robbins Jr., and Aaron Robbins, the latter a name only found in family notes.  What if the date of marriage to Nancy is incorrect?  What if William was also a son of Rachel?  Ah, the joys of research on the Kentucky and Indiana frontiers!

Abraham Lincoln

Among the family surnames descending from this Hanks connection, from William, are Hartley, Bird, Murry, Barnes, Spencer, and Taylor, among others.  One of William’s daughters, Catherine, married her cousin Job Robbins, which adds another large line of, supposed, Hanks descendants.  Meanwhile the descendants of Jacob Robbins included the additional surnames of Gilliam, Loveridge, and Benson.

There are some other Robbins-Hanks connections suggested but not proven.  Micajah Robbins Sr. (another child of Absalom and Mary Robbins) was said to have been married to an Elizabeth Hanks.  However, the one marriage record found for Micajah clearly shows he married an Elizabeth Vickery.  Perhaps he was married again, this time to an Elizabeth Hanks?  His son, Micajah Robbins Jr., was married to an Elizabeth Swink.  Perhaps this name has been confused through the years with Hanks.

A daughter of Absalom and Jemima (Hanks) Robbins, Mary, has been suggested as marrying a Jacob Hanks, son of William and Elizabeth (Knatzear) Hanks, grandson of William and Margaret (Wilson) Hanks.  Jacob Hanks would have been a first cousin once removed to Abraham Lincoln.  This connection has also not been proven.

One silly suggestion that Nathaniel Robbins was married to Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s mother, as I’ve seen in some people’s Ancestry’s trees does not warrant discussion.

The interest, and excitement, in a possible relationship to a famous person can sometime lead us astray and away from the serious research needed to prove or disprove such a family story.  Perhaps today, with a combination of paper research and genetic research with DNA we can finally sort out all these possible and fascinating relationships.

Greenberry and Sarah Robbins: A Reconstructed Life

Some of our family lived in a time and a place for which records are scarce.  This post discusses a couple who died young, left descendants but few records.  What can we learn about Greenberry and Sarah Robbins?

Greenberry S. Robbins, sometimes called just “Berry,” (and the only Greenberry I’ve ever found in the Robbins family) was born about 1824 in Decatur County, Indiana, the son of George and Nancy (Pruitt) Robbins.  (In some family records he’s listed incorrectly as the son of George’s father Absalom Robbins, but he seems much too young for that family group).  He was married to Sarah Burgin in Decatur County in 1844 by James Blankenship, a Baptist minister.

Greenberry Robbins’ land in Decatur County, Indiana

In 1848 Greenberry was awarded a federal land patent for 40 acres purchased as a cash sale in Decatur County, located just east of the Pinhook neighborhood, on the current W. County Road 800 S.  But land patents were usually issued long after families had begun living on the property and by that date the family was already in Missouri.

We know that the family was in Schuyler County, Missouri, by 1846, because their daughter Louisa was born there that year.  And in the 1850 Federal census Greenberry, Sarah, and their three children Nancy Catherine, Louisa, and George Henry Robbins, appear in that county.  One of Greenberry’s brothers, Levi Robbins, lived in Illinois at this time, but all the rest of his siblings, along with his parents, were back in Indiana.  Why the move to Missouri?  It does appear that Sarah’s family were in Schuyler County, as a Burgins appear in the census and a probate record as mentioned later.  There were also Robbins cousins over the border in Davis County, Iowa, to the north. It could have been a combination of Sarah’s family being there and close relatives nearby in Iowa.

Greenberry did not enjoy a long life.  He died about September of 1852 at the age of 28 in Schuyler County.  Life could be short then, with the most minor medical problems leading to death.  We know that Greenberry at that time because in October of 1852 John Burgin (possibly Sarah’s brother) was appointed administrator of the estate, with securities being John Kerr, Samuel Bradley, George Bradley, James Burgin, and Isaac Burgin.

In 1857 a land patent was issued to Greenberry Robbins for 40 acres of land, another cash sale, in Schuyler County.  Remember that it took some years for the person to improve the land and make the payment(s), so it’s not unusual that the land patent was issued in Greenberry’s name even though he was now five years dead.  Greenberry had also purchased 40 acres from neighbor John Kerr in the spring of 1852.  The fact that the land was purchased just months before his death would seem to indicate that Greenberry became ill quickly or suffered an accident that caused his death.  The appointment of an administrator for his estate came with the statement that Greenberry “died intestate as it is said having at the time of his death property in this State which may be lost or destroyed or diminished in value if speedy care be not taken of the same…”

Greenberry Robbins probate excerpt

Sadly, Sarah doesn’t seem to have had a long life either.  She appears with her children in the 1860 census.  After the 1850 census but before Greenberry’s death, one last child, John Milton Robbins, was born.  The obituaries for the two sons, George and John, both recount that their father died when they were very young and their mother died only a few years later.  The dates they provided indicated she was dead by 1860 but that’s disputed by her appearance in the census.

Another interesting record is available.  In 1856 Sarah Robbins was married to Noah Pilcher in Schuyler County.  It must be our Sarah, but what happened to the marriage?  By 1860 she’s back to being listed as Sarah Robbins in the census.

The agricultural schedule of the 1860 census provides a little bit of information about the Robbins farm in Missouri.  Sarah was listed as head of household, with 20 acres of improved land, 60 unimproved; the cash value of the farm was $300.  They had two horses, two “milch” cows, eight sheep, eight swine, and their livestock was valued at $150.  The farm had produced 200 bushels of Indian corn, 23 pounds of wool, 80 pounds of butter, and 13 gallons of molasses.

Where were Greenberry and Sarah buried?  It is not known.  Most of the family were later buried in the Bethel or Queen City cemeteries.  Since the couple died so young, its possible they were buried, unmarked, in what was called the Burgin-Vittetoe cemetery, a rural county cemetery with Sarah’s relatives, but that’s just one possibility.

Finally, we do not know who raised the children of Greenberry and Sarah Robbins.  However, I think Greenberry and Sarah would be pleased to know that Nancy, Louisa, George, and John, grew up, married, and have many descendants to this day.

(Jacob Robbins-Absalom Robbins-George Robbins-Greenberry Robbins)

A Very Rare Artifact

Coverlid – noun, archaic or dialect variant of coverlet

(Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition.
 Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“This coverlid was wove on a hand loom in Virginia before 1836 for the hope chest of Miss Melvina Meyers who later became Mrs William Robbins,was brought to Oregon by Mrs Robbins in 1852, later became the property of Mrs Nancy A Ball.  It is now owned by Mrs. A McConnell.”


Melvina (Myers) Robbins coverlet

This is a hand-written note made by Ada (Ball) McConnell (the subject of last weeks’ post), that accompanied the “coverlid” or coverlet down to the present day.  The original note, along with half of the coverlet, is now in the custody of the Tualatin Historical Society.  The other half of the coverlet is in the possession of cousin Barbara Stinger, for whom I thank for this story and the photos of the textile.

Let’s back up a bit.  Melvina Myers was a daughter of George and Margaret (Moore) Myers and born in Kentucky in 1818.  The Myers family moved to Decatur County, Indiana, where Melvina met and married William Franklin Robbins in 1836.  Her sister Catherine was married to William’s cousin Jacob F. Robbins.

The note accompanying the coverlet states it was “wove” in Virginia.  Melvina didn’t live in Virginia, so it could be that the writer did not know exactly where she was when she received the coverlet.  It’s probably more likely it was created in Kentucky or Indiana.  The hope chest, also called a dowry chest, was traditionally used by young unmarried women to collect items such as clothes and household linen in anticipation of married life.

Melvina (Myers) Robbins

After her marriage in 1836, Melvina and William had seven children born in Indiana, one born in Missouri when they wintered over before leaving for Oregon, and one after their arrival in Oregon (my great-mother).  After William’s death by accidental shooting in 1856, Melvina married again, to Robert Lavery, had one more child, and then after her death seems to have returned to the Robbins fold, being buried in the family’s cemetery under the name Melvina M. Robbins.

Cousin Barbara adds that the coverlet measures 35 inches wide by 75-1/2 inches long, and that there were two pieces sewed together.  What a treasure!

[This post was updated to reflect that the coverlet is in the possession of the Tualatin Historical Society, not the Oregon Historical Society.]

(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-Nathaniel Robbins-William Franklin Robbins married Melvina Myers)