THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THOMAS AND ISABELLA ROBINS
WESTMORELAND COUNTY. VIRGINIA
It is written that the name of Robbin, Robbins, Robin or Robins was derived from the ancient Italian tribes called the “Robini,” and was represented there in the tenth century by the Counts de Robin. By the thirteenth century, the name in several forms, was on record in England. In colonial America, the name was recorded as Robyn, Robbyn, Robbin, Robben, Robino, Robinus, Robines and, of course, Robins and Robbins.
By the mid-1700’s, our family was using the spelling of “Robbins.” Regardless of the absence of proof, the senior Thomas of Westmoreland County, VA could have been an immigrant. If not, his ancestry may never be proven. Subsequent writings, however, do state that he was of English origin. As recorded in VIRGINIA WILLS AND ADMINISTRATIONS, we do know, however, that he died without a will in 1725; and, while searching records at the county seat of Westmoreland County, VA, we found records which recorded the senior Thomas as the father of our younger Thomas, who migrated to North Carolina shortly after 1741.
The Robins family settled on the east side of Monroe Creek, about a mile above the mouth of the Attopin (now called Mattox) Creek, near the point where it flows into the Potomac River. This location was identified in the book. WESTMORELAND COUNTY, VIRGINIA, as “Robins Point Grove.” Through the years, some of the nearest neighbors of Thomas and Isabella included several generations of the Washington family, which included ancestors of George Washington. One of our earliest presidents, James Monroe, was bom nearby. As a young man, he attended a school located in the area, which was conducted by the Reverend Archibald Campbell. At that school, the young James Monroe made the acquaintance of his lifelong friend, Chief Justice John Marshall, who was a student there for one year. A few miles down the road was the home of Richard (Henry) Lee, the ancestor of General Robert E. Lee.
When the senior Thomas died in 1725, his oldest son, Thomas, inherited the plantation home and other real properties. About fifteen years later, this younger Thomas Robins and his family were living in Edgecombe County, NC where he died. His will, proven in the January Court of 1776, mentioned three sons, four daughters, and his wife, who was not named; however, her name was recorded in subsequent estate records.
Proof of the above facts was found in deed and estate records of Westmoreland County, VA. For instance, the inventory of the senior Thomas’ estate was witnessed by lis wife, Isabella, on 25 August 1725. In addition, tracts of land disposed of by the younger Thomas in later years were the same tracts of land the senior Thomas and Isabella had acquired in 1698, 1708 and 1714. One of the deeds stated the property descended to the younger Thomas in 1725 at the death of his father, Thomas Robins. In one of the later documents, a Sarah was mentioned as being the wife of the younger Thomas when the document was executed. This writer also noticed that, in the earlier land transaction deeds executed only by the younger Thomas, her name was not mentioned. This is an indication that she was not his wife at the time.
In THE ROBBINS BOOK by Mrs W. R. Eckhardt, Jr.. it is recorded the families of Watkins and Evans came from Virginia to Edgecombe County, NC with the Robbins family. Several Watkins families were listed in records of the Westmoreland County, VA area, as well as in records of other Virginia counties. An Edward Watkins was a bond master for some of the servants from Bristol, England who came to New England during the period 1654-1659. Most significant to this writing, though, are land records which reflect that our younger Thomas and Sarah were living in the same area of North Carolina as were the Evans and Watkins families. During the late 1690’s and very early 1700’s, tobacco was the main crop of the colonists. The senior Thomas was listed as a planter. He had purchased 250 acres from Robert Foster/Forster in Washington Parish of Westmoreland County on November 13, 1698. He sold 100 acres of this property to Robert Frank on January 29, 1699.
On January 27, 1714, Thomas received a warrant for 82 acres which adjoined their tract of 150 acres. He and Isabella made these combined tracts of land their plantation home. This combined tract is one which the younger Thomas inherited from his father in 1725 and leased by him to Thomas Vivion on 28 July 1741 when he departed the area.
In the meantime, on 21 February 1708, Thomas and Isabella increased their holdings when he gave Francis Wright and his wife, Ann Washington, “one thousand pounds of good tobacco” for 200 acres of land situated between what is now Colonel Beach and Oak Grove, VA. At one time, this land was owned by Ann’s father, Colonel John Washington, and was furnished to the parish minister as part of his salary. This farm, along with a house, was commonly known as the “Glebe.” It was the first Glebe of Washington Parish; and, at the time Thomas and Isabella acquired this land, it was named the “Mesuage Plantation.”
Our senior Thomas was the executor of Basil Bailey’s will dated 20 April 1695. In the will, Basil referred to Thomas as “my brother in law.” This seems to indicate that Isabella could have been Basil’s sister. Her maiden name, then, could have been Bailey; however, a search of the records does not substantiate this.
Another will, that of Caleb Butler, was witnessed by our senior Thomas and probated in Westmoreland County in 1709. In this will, Caleb willed “all his wearing apparel, linen and woolen.” to this Thomas. By today’s standards, these items were not much to will to someone; but, in those days, all fine linen and woolen clothing were made by hand from homespun wool and expensive, imported linen. Caleb Butler was the county’s leading attorney and a successful tobacco planter. His daughter. Jane, married Augustine Washington of the same parish in Westmoreland County. She died in 1729, after the birth of three sons and one daughter. Augustine’s second marriage was to Mary Ball. Five children were bom of this union, the oldest being George Washington, our country’ s first president.
Augustine’s grandfather, Colonel John Washington, died in 1677. He was the immigrant ancestor of the Washington family in America. On 25 April 1711, our senior Thomas Robins was one of the appraisers of the estate of his son, the younger John Washington.
Our earliest Robins family was well known and very active in matters of their parish and county. As shown in Bockstruoks’s book entitled VIRGINIA’S COLONIAL SOLDIERS, the senior Thomas was an ensign in the Virginia State Militia. He served under Colonel Richard (Henry) Lee, Major Francis Wright, Captain Alexander Spence, Captain Charles Ashton, Captain Andrew Monroe, Lieutenant Humphrey Pope, and with other prominent citizens of Westmoreland County.
During the late 1690’s and early 1700’s, the senior Thomas was the constable of Washington Parish and often served as a juror. He and his family probably attended the Round Hill Church, which was situated near his home plantation. The church properties also adjoined the Mesuage Plantation that he and Isabella had purchased.
The combined tracts of land acquired in 1698 and 1714, was the home of the senior Thomas and Isabella until they died. After their death, the younger Thomas leased this home plantation when he left the area and later sold it to Reverend Archibald Campbell. In one record, it is written the Reverend made this his home until he died in 1775; however, other writings have recorded other details. Further research may prove the home called “Pomoma” today may be the home owned by the senior Thomas and Isabella.
Prior to the American Revolution, the parish churches played a major role in governing the citizens of colonial America, At the end of the revolution, this situation changed. The official records, which included the church register and cemetery records of the Round Hill Church, did not survive this change. There is, however, one bit of evidence which, to this day, gives the approximate site of the old Round Hill Church and Cemetery; that is, a marker on the grave of Rebecca, the wife of Reverend Archibald Campbell, the church’s last pastor.
Unlike those of other Virginia counties, the original records of Westmoreland County have been well preserved from the very earliest of colonial times. From these records, we may still read of the sale of Mesuage Plantation on 21 February 1708 to our ancestors, the senior Thomas Robins and his wife, Isabella. And we may read of when the younger Thomas returned to sell this plantation to Jeremiah Stuart-the same 200 acres which contained the Glebe of Washington Parish, situated adjacent to the site of Round Hill Church where James Monroe and George Washington may have been christened, and where our ancestors may have been buried.
As yet, we have found no record of when the younger Thomas actually left Virginia. The assumption is that he left shortly after leasing the homestead to Thomas Vivion in 1741, as the deed indicated, although he continued to be listed as a proprietor and free holder since he still owned 200 acres there.
The name, Thomas Robins, was found with those of his friends and neighbors in old account books of the trading post, which was located on the Rappahannock River at Port Royal near Leedstown, VA. To this writer, this is an indication that our ancestors and their friends and neighbors traded there on their trips to and from the frontiers of Southside Virginia and old Albemarle County, NC.
A copy of the “North Carolina Booklet XVI, October 1916, No 2,” may be found in most genealogical libraries. In this issue, Sybil Hyatt states that our family did migrate from Virginia to Edgecombe County, NC. In the meantime, their son, our next ancestor, William, met and married Mary, the daughter of William and Sarah Hunter Battle, who were living in old Nansemond County, VA.