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Angelo Merrick Robbins, Sr.
(1874 - 1923)
 

Angelo Merrick Robbins, Sr. was born 24 February 1874 in Southbrook Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota, where his family was living when the 1880 Federal Census was taken.  State land records show his father, Charles H. Robbins, owned 80 acres of Section 3 during that time.

The family of Angelo’s mother, Viola Gertrude Peck, also lived nearby.  Viola’s stepfather, John Crapsey, an itinerant minister, and her mother, Lura Ann Jackson, lived on a neighboring farm with Viola’s half-siblings.  Angelo was named in honor of two uncles who had fought in the Civil War: Angelo M. Crapsey, his mother Viola’s stepbrother; and Merrick Jackson, his grandmother Lura’s brother.

Angelo Robbins’ siblings were: William W. “Willie” Robbins (1865 – 1903); Burton Wallace Robbins (1867 - 1960); Edwin Warren Robbins (1869 - 1941); Emma Robbins (Mrs. Lincoln Drake) (1872 – 1955); and Arthur A. Robbins (1880 – 1885).

The Crapsey and Robbins families originated in New York and Pennsylvania.  They immigrated to Minnesota via Western Michigan.  Around 1883, the Robbins family returned to Newaygo County, Michigan, to settle in the village of Hesperia, which lies directly on the Newaygo - Oceana County border.  Although only a young boy when he left Minnesota, as an adult he recalled how he had learned to twist hay to burn as an alternative fuel source while living on the prairies, much like Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about in her book The Long Winter (Chapter 19 - "Where There's a Will").

In Newaygo County, Angelo met his wife, Mary May Kimball, also known as Lula Weaver.  They married 23 November 1892 in Hesperia, Newaygo County, Michigan and had six children: Floyd, Lloyd, Bill, Reva, Angelo, Jr. and Donald.  Lula also gave birth to a stillborn son in 1906.  See the bottom of this page for more detailed information on these children's lives.

From as late as 1893 until at least 1914, Angelo was a schoolteacher.  He lived and taught in various areas of Newaygo County, Michigan, including Denver, Norwick (Woodville School) and Ensley Townships.  These schools were usually one-room schoolhouses.  There is a story that has been passed through the generations about Angelo’s teaching years.  At one school where he was a new teacher, there was a notorious bully—the kind that threatened to beat up the teacher and break up the school.  So on the first day of school, Angelo went around the classroom and shook each child’s hand and asked his or her name.  He made his way from the youngest to the oldest children.  When he reached the bully, he grasped his hand and started squeezing it, slowly but firmly into a crushing grip.  “Hello, I’m Mr. Robbins, your new teacher.  We’re not going to have any trouble this year, are we?” he asked.  “Oh, no, Mr. Robbins, I promise, I won’t be any trouble at all!” cried the vanquished troublemaker.

Angelo’s later years must not have been happy ones.  His eldest son Floyd died at the young age of 22 after contracting pneumonia.  His only daughter Reva suffered from mental illness and was committed to the Traverse City State Hospital in Grand Traverse County, Michigan, where she later committed suicide.  Sons Lloyd and Bill faced the dangers of chemical warfare in the Allied trenches of World War I.  By 1920, Angelo had left the teaching profession and worked as a salesman in a nursery in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon County, Michigan, where he lived.  One day, he developed an attack of appendicitis.  His appendix ruptured, and he died on 16 July 1923 in the City of Muskegon, Muskegon County.  He was buried two days later in Mona View Cemetery, Muskegon Heights.

Gravestone of Angelo Merrick Robbins, Sr., Mona View Cemetery, Lot 61, Block A-3

Children:

Floyd Arthur Robbins was born 12 June 1893 in Newfield Township, Oceana County, Michigan, probably in Hesperia.  At the time, his parents were residents of Hesperia, but lived on the neighboring Denver Township, Newaygo County side, where his father was teaching.  In 1914 Floyd married Flora Liefers.  He died 4 April 1916 in Ensley Center, Ensley Township, Newaygo County.  The family story is that he died after eating some wild mushrooms, and to this day, many Robbins family members refuse to eat wild mushrooms for fear of accidental poisoning.  However, his official death record states his cause of death as pneumonia.  He and Flora did not have any children.

Lloyd R. Robbins was born 12 August 1894 in Michigan, probably in Oceana County.  When he was 16 years old, he lived with his uncle and aunt, Edwin and Emma (Coy) Robbins in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan.  The enumerator got nearly everyone's name wrong - Edwin was listed as "Edward" and Lloyd was listed as "Floyd", although it was apparent by his age that it truly was Lloyd!  He served in the U. S. Army with the 32nd Division in a machine gun corps in France during World War I.  On New Year's Day 1920 he married Josephine Rebecca Huff.  They lived with his parents and siblings at 1130 Reynolds Street in the City of Muskegon, Muskegon County when the 1920 Federal Census was taken.  At the time, he was a carpenter.  Later, he and Josephine lived in Comstock Park, Kent County.  They did not have any children of their own, and perhaps this is why Josephine was a family historian.  Much of the known Robbins family history is due to her hard work and research done in the days before personal computers and the Internet!  Lloyd and Josephine used to spend their winters in Lake City, Columbia County, Florida.  The last few years of their lives were spent in Plainfield Township, Kent County.  Lloyd died 30 March 1978 in Grand Rapids, and was buried two days later in the Plainfield Cemetery.  Josephine also died in Grand Rapids, on 26 July 1987, and was buried next to Lloyd.

William Bryan Robbins - my great-grandfather

Reva L. Robbins was born 6 September 1898 in Michigan, the only daughter of Angelo and Lula.  Hers is a tragic story.  By the time she was 21 years old, she was committed to Traverse City State Hospital in the City of Grand Traverse, Grand Traverse County for mental illness.  She was a danger to herself and others, and had on at least one occasion tried to attack someone with a knife.  Traverse City State Hospital was the same hospital in which her father's aunt Emeline C. Robbins had been committed for "mental incompetence"...what today would be called a developmentally disabled or retarded person.  In those days, the mentally disabled and mentally ill unfortunately were often housed together in institutions.  Emeline had died in the state hospital in 1917.  Reva remained at the state hospital until her death by suicide on 29 July 1926.  Her body was brought back to her family and buried on 2 August 1926 in the family plot near her father's grave in Mona Vista Cemetery, Muskegon Heights.  She never married or had children.  (obituary)

Angelo Merrick Robbins, Jr. was born 12 September 1904 in Woodville, Newaygo County.  In 1930, when the Federal Census was taken, he was living with his brother and sister-in-law, William and Marie (Lewis) Robbins (my great-grandparents), in Norton Township, Muskegon County.  At the time, he was working as a truck driver for a construction company.  Angelo, Jr. later married and had two sons.  He lived most of his life in the City of Muskegon, where he was employed by the packaging department of Bennett Pump Company.  He retired in 1966, and died 16 December 1982 in Muskegon Heights of cancer.  He was buried December 18 in Sunrise Memorial Gardens in the City of Muskegon.  (obituary)

A stillborn son was born to Angelo, Sr. and Lula on 11 July 1906 in Ensley Township.

Donald Charles Robbins was a "bonus baby," born 10 years after Angelo and Lula's previous surviving child, and was thus just a few years older than several of his nephews.  He was born 20 March 1914 in Ensley Center.  Donald married and had seven sons, including Dennis M. Robbins (1942 - 1965) who died young of Hodgkin's Disease.  Donald served in the U. S. Navy during World War II.  He lived most of his life in the City of Muskegon, where he was employed with the City Police Department.  He served as the Police Chief for Muskegon Township, and was also employed by the Muskegon Fire Department.  He was a member of the Muskegon County Masonic Lodge.  He died 22 January 2000 in Muskegon; his cremains were interred in Sunrise Memorial Gardens three days later.  (obituary)

More about my great-great-grandfather, Angelo Merrick Robbins, Sr., can be found in the Ancestories of his  wife Mary May Kimball, and his son William Bryan “Bill” Robbins..

I'd like to acknowledge my Dad and late grandfather, Robert Lewis Robbins, for handing down the family stories, my late great-grandmother Marie (Lewis) Robbins for sharing the family records and my Mom for making notes and picking Great-grandma's brain for info about the Robbins family.  Those handwritten notes my mother took down in 1978 were my first introduction to my great love...genealogy!

Photo courtesy of Toni Falcon of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.

Sources:

Detailed information on the above sources, as well as photocopies, are available by request.

Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff
created: 7 Oct 2003
updated: 18 Mar 2006

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