Robinson family came from England to Massachusetts in 1600s

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Robinson family of Covington County has left quite a legacy to local citizens. In addition to their success and services to the area, the Robinson Memorial Park is one of the family’s contributions to Andalusia. It is certainly a fitting tribute to those who added so much to the town.

The earliest member of this family to be identified by this writer is Christopher Robinson who was born circa 1520 in Boston, Lincolnshire, England, and died after 1584 in Sturton, Nottinghamshire, England. It is believed that he married Lucy Webbe. He and his wife had a son named John R. Robinson, born 1550, in Sturton, England, who married Ann ? and died there in 1614. John R. had a son named John R. Robinson, Jr. who was born in 1596 in Sturton, married Bridget White and died circa 1624 in Holland. They had a son named Isaac Robinson who was born in 1610 in Holland, married Mary Founce in 1650 and died in 1704 in Massachusetts, so he would have been the ancestor to bring the family to America sometime before 1655.

Isaac and Mary Robinson had a son named Peter Robinson who was born in 1655 in Massachusetts, married Mary Mantor and died in 1710 in Connecticut. They were the parents of Lieut Peter Robinson who was born in 1697 in Tisbury, Dukes County, Massachusetts, and died in 1785 in Windham, Connecticut.

Lieut Peter Robinson was married in 1725 to Ruth Fuller (1706-1795). They had the following children: Samuel, b. 1726, d. 1792, m. Mary Kimball; Experience, b. 1728, d. 1807; Peter, b. 1730, d. 1778; Elizabeth, b. 1732; Jacob, b. 1734; Nathan, b. 1735, d. 1804; Abner, b. 1738, d. 1815; Ruth, b. 1740, d. 1791; Eliab, b. 1742, d. 1836; Rachael, b. 1744; Bathsheba, b. 1746, d. 1824; and Joshua, b. 1748, d. 1834.

Lieut’s third son, Jacob Robinson, was born in Windham, Connecticut, and was married in 1756 to Ann Tracey (1732-1815). Jacob died in 1808 in Scotland, Windham County, Connecticut. Among their children was a son named Vince Robinson who was born in 1767 in Scotland, Windham, Connecticut, and died in 1843 in Brooklyn, Windham, Connecticut. He was married in 1791 to Dorcas Chapman (1767-1857). They reared the following five children: Harriett, b. 1791, d. 1865, m. Adam White (1767-1857); Gurdon, b. 1792, d. 1872; Edwin, b. 1797, d. 1881, m. (1) Amelia Frances Hart (2) Sarah Weld Palmer (3) Sarah Trumbull Williams; Daniel Chapman, b. 1803, d. 1878, m. 1828 Pamela Kies (1811-1839); and Francis “Frank,” b. 1814, d. 1885, m. Anna ?.

It is the son Edwin’s family and descendants who will be followed in this writing. He was born in Brooklyn, Connecticut, and was given a quality education. At the young age of 17 years, he was granted a certificate that qualified him to teach school. He secured a job in the school at Killingly, a small village near his hometown. While teaching school, he also worked on his father’s farm for a period of three years.

During the summer of 1817, Edwin was hired as a clerk and bookkeeper for a store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A year later in the summer of 1818, he made a decision to become an adventurer and travel with his brother, Gurdon, to the Alabama Territory. They made necessary preparations and were ready to undertake the treacherous journey by the fall of 1818. They set sail aboard the brig called Savannah Pocket, which was commanded by Captain Fowler and bound for Mobile.

Eight days into the voyage, they experienced bad weather that forced a landing at one of the Bahamas Islands. After several days amid the islands, they were able to sail to Nassau where they spent a couple of weeks. Finally, they were able to secure passage on the Primrose, a small schooner, which meant those aboard were quite crowded. After 14 days, they arrived in Mobile on December 9, 1818, with very limited resources.

Immediately, the two Robinson brothers and three other friends headed inland for Claiborne, the site where Gurdon had planned for them to settle. Within four days they arrived at the site to find only a settlement of log cabins. Edwin Robinson and Dr. Ephraim Houghton formed a partnership at Murder Creek, which would later be called Hampden Ridge. Edwin operated a store and Dr. Houghton practiced medicine, and they shared their incomes equally during this time. Edwin continued to operate the store until the summer of 1821, the year in which Covington County was created.

In December 1820, Edwin Robinson was married to Amelia Frances Hart, a native of Fairfield County, South Carolina. She was living at her parents, Benjamin and Margaret Hart’s, home in Bellville, Conecuh County. Their first child, Julius Gurdon, was born near there in 1821. When Julius was three months old, Edwin moved his wife and infant to an unsettled site near the falls of the Sepulpa River. He soon named the place Brooklyn after his hometown of Brooklyn, Connecticut.

Edwin once stated that no one lived within a mile of his home, but he established a store there, which soon became a landing for as many as 2000 bales of cotton. There had been a ferry there in the past. His wife’s parents soon joined them at Brooklyn. In 1825, Edwin formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, James Hart, and they developed a very successful merchandizing business.

In the spring of 1828, Edwin, under the influence of his brother, Gurdon, sold his property at Brooklyn and purchased a steam sawmill operation in Mobile County. He moved his family there and began operation of the mill. Unfortunately, this venture was unsuccessful, so with financial difficulties, he was forced to sell the mill and all his property. He also experienced several tragedies in his personal life during his time there. In 1928, his four-year old daughter drowned, and in 1830, a four-month old daughter died unexpectedly. Also that same year, a three-year old son drowned.

That year in 1830, the family moved to Mobile, and Edwin secured a job as clerk in a store where he worked for several years. Tragedy struck again in1831 when his wife and an infant daughter died. Very little other information is known about the family during the years 1832-1840. About 1840, Edwin made a decision to take his only surviving child and return to his former home in Brooklyn, Connecticut. Once settling there, he established a dry-goods store, remarried and reared a second set of children.

One can imagine Edwin’s thoughts regarding the decision as a young man to travel to unsettled territory in what would soon become the new State of Alabama, the challenges of establishing a life in a frontier and then experiencing the tragedies of losing his wife and four young children. His ability to rise above this and return to his hometown of Brooklyn, Connecticut, and then create a new life with a second family and new business is a testament to his strong character.

Next week’s column will be a review of the life and genealogy of Edwin’s surviving son, Julius Gurdon Robinson, who became a leader in Conecuh and Covington Counties. Also, what is known about his second set of children will be shared.

Sources for this review of the early Robinson families include records from, Gus and Ruby Bryan’s Covington County History, 1821-1976, and Wyley Ward’s Early History of Covington County, Alabama 1821-1871. In his book, Ward has written a complete chapter on Julius Gurdon Robinson, which is most interesting and informative. Anyone interested in local history would do well to purchase a copy of this book.

Anyone who might have any corrections to the above history or additional information on the Robinson family is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or e-mail: