Category Archives: Alabama Family

A “Found” Patriot

Heritage. As a youngster, I always wondered of the heritage that resulted in me.  The culture at home was a simple one when it came down to family stories and history. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” Well, I guess I won’t ask THAT question again!

What follows are a few descriptions of discoveries I’ve made since I began my genealogical journey.

My father, Henry Dunn Robison (Find A Grave Memorial# 33567770), went into the Navy exactly 3 weeks after Pearl Harbor at the “insistence” of his maternal grandmother, Gilma Cecilia Robertson Dunn. She went so far as to have his birth record destroyed (there’s no record of his birth to this day!), falsify his age and ship him off at age 15!

My father and the previous 4 generations had lived in Alabama and Tennessee. As I discovered years later, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah Robertson/Robinson/Robison/Robrson (Find A Grave Memorial# 7048152), was a veteran or the War of 1812 having served with the East Tennessee Volunteers then settled in Limestone County, Alabama. There were a few Confederate ancestors who served in the “War of Northern  Aggression.” One of my 2nd great grandfathers died at the Rock Island Confederate POW camp in Rock Island, Illinois (Find A Grave Memorial# 5092694). During World War II,  while Henry was in the Caribbean, his mother divorced her husband and moved to Massachusetts.  As far as I can tell, this was the reason they wanted Henry out of the way. The short version here is the “Granny” lived with us in Springfield for a while until she entered a nursing home in the mid-60s where she died in 1970.

I never knew my paternal my grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison (Find A Grave Memorial# 5092687), who remained and remarried in Alabama. I was only marginally aware of the fact that I even had a grandfather.  My father would make a 5- or 10-minute call “down south” around Christmas-time every year. I never saw “Papa Lee” nor did I ever speak with him. He died in 1964.  My first view of him was his obituary on the front page of the Anniston (Alabama) Star. While I shouldn’t have been surprised, he looked exactly like my father and it was a little unsettling.

My maternal grandfather, Clement Alexis Dickson (Find A Grave Memorial# 11132523), died when I was about 3 years old but my maternal grandmother lived until 1962. Of all of my grandparents, she’s the only one with whom I had ever had any semblance of a conversation.

The upshot is that my father didn’t care to talk about his side of the dysfunctional Robison family and my mother thought it best to hold the same line with regard to her side.

Now, enter the genealogist! I wouldn’t say that I was desperately seeking anything necessarily. But the lack of information led me to feel that we were all dropped off on earth by an alien spaceship back in the early 50s! Then, as I began researching for details, I was able to interview some of the prior generations of relatives: 3 aunts, 1 great-grandaunt and a couple of second cousins. If I only knew then what I know now!

In 2001, I got the bug to join a lineage society. If successful, that would “install” a heritage that was there all along but of which I was totally unaware. Maternal family lore stated that we descended from Pilgrims. Okay, but who, what, where, why, and when? There was a box of spoons that were allegedly made from the silver buckles of their shoes. Spoiler: hardly any pilgrims had silver buckles on their shoes! More on that some other time.

Paternal lore stated, well, nothing! But after a comparatively short period of time, I began to suspect that there was some validity to the Pilgrim story, underscore “some.” At the same time, I uncovered real evidence that my paternal lines stretched back to at least the War of 1812, as I mentioned earlier, and possibly the Revolutionary War.

So, here we go! Let’s join the Sons of the American Revolution. I downloaded an application and worked on it sporadically for about 15 years. Yes, not 5 or 10, but for 15 years, the application languished in my desk. In my defense, I was certainly busy with dozens of projects, nearly all of which involved genealogy. Then, in 2016, I was a co-chair for NERGC, a relatively large genealogy conference to be held in Springfield, Massachusetts in the spring of 2017. We normally brought in 2 featured speakers along with several dozen others. It was  my intent to solicit Kenyatta Berry, one of the very personable hosts of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show.” It was to be filmed in Providence, Rhode Island. So off I went to Providence, Rhode Island. Short version, Kenyatta Berry became the third and very welcomed featured speaker. Score 1 for Dave.

In the meantime, many of my fellow genealogists were at the filming representing various clubs and societies in the vendor area of the venue. A friend of mine introduced me to the Registrar for a chapter of the DAR. I told her my story of profound procrastination with my SAR application. She eagerly said, “I can help!” OK, that’s great but I can’t join the DAR, I would qualify! She asked if I had a daughter which I most certainly do. As a result, my daughter is now a member of the Lexington Chapter of the DAR. For my purposes, I merely had to finish my SAR application, exclude my daughter’s generation and I could qualify.

But here, finally, is the most interesting part of the story: I have identified at least 24 ancestors who are age-appropriate to have served in the War, all would have been between their late teens to their early 40s. The specific ancestor we picked was a Patriot who had only most recently been identified as such. Timothy Blodgett’s (Find A Grave Memorial# 74484986) story involves mostly obscurity. He was a family man who, with his wife ran a small farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts while raising a small brood of 14 children. He was born in 1740 in Lexington, Massachusetts and was involved in the first battle of the War. The Lexington engagement occurred on 19 April 1775 then shortly thereafter came the battle at Concord. My ancestor was one of the registered Minute Men under Captain Charles Parker who confronted the British at Lexington, his hometown.

The singular reason that he was finally identified as a Patriot is that he lost his musket during the battle and petitioned for compensation at the Lexington Town Hall the following morning. The record of that petition was only discovered in 2012.

From www.wickedlocal.com:

     “Bill Poole, executive officer with the Minute Men, said he discovered Blodgett when he was researching local militia in the archives of Capt. Parker’s Company in Lexington. Blodgett had  moved to Shutesbury the year after the fateful morning on April 19, 1775 and his name was    never included on the official “muster roll.”

     But Poole said he found several documents confirming Blodgett’s post, noting he even           applied for a reimbursement from then selectmen for a firearm he lost on the Battle Green.     The young militia man lost the musket when he attempted to jump over a fence to while           fleeing from the Regulars, Poole said.”1

Here is the photo from the article clearly showing the addition of Timothy Blodgett’s name to the bottom of the second column:

Timothy Blodgett added to the Memorial at Lexington Green. Photo: http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington

The proof of my ancestor came fairly easy as I already had nearly every document necessary. We used the documentation first for my daughter’s DAR application, then for my own SAR application. Success with both apps!

But wait! There’s more! In early 2016, I was giving a presentation on genealogy to the East Longmeadow (Massachusetts) Historical Society. It was a basic introduction to family research that was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. Apparently, the members of the East Longmeadow Historical Society are in the habit of showing up just a little late for their meetings. So at 6:58, I was “concerned” but not showing it. Then in walked our first guest. A delicate woman, a senior citizen, who I greeted with a smile. Her name is Ruth Washburn, my first guest that night. I smiled because I had at least one person for the audience. She said, “I’m so glad I could make it. I usually don’t drive at night.” I offered her a ride home as I was sure there would be someone there she knew but she turned me down, flat! As I walked her to the front of the room, I sat her in a seat that was directly in front of where I would be speaking. When I mentioned the SAR, I also mentioned that my Patriot Ancestor was Timothy Blodgett. At that moment Ruth gasped and covered her mouth. Naturally, I suspected that something was wrong. I stopped and asked if she was OK. With a tear in her eye (really…she teared up!) she said that she, too, was a descendant of Timothy Blodgett.

As it turns out, Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn is a very energetic 91-year-old cousin who, in her own right, is a well-established family historian.  She’s pictured here in front of the window that was in one of her cousin’s family’s home. When her cousin asked if there was anything in the house she would want, she said she’d love to have the window from her bedroom but knew it was impossible. She had spent a great deal of time at this house during the summers of her youth and remembered the happiness that the sunlight brought her when it came streaming through the multicolored window. The window is a real piece of art!

Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn

I’ve spent time with Ruth to hear her stories and learn more about the Blodgett line. She has an extensive database which she has been more than willing to share with me.  But more important to me than a database, she has extensive personal knowledge and a clear, sharp memory.

Now, if I ever have the time, I just might prove more Patriot ancestors from both my maternal and my paternal side.

And one more thing, I’ve found 4 direct Mayflower ancestors. All I need to do is prove those lines and I’ll have a unique way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the 1620 Mayflower landing in 2020.

  1. “Lexington Minute Men add new name to monument,” website, (http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington : accessed 18 July 2016).

What do you do when you find hundreds of living relatives? Part 3

Cortland New York was transformed into Evergreen Alabama for 2 days last week. Aunt Cissy brought so many pictures, family artifacts and stories that she had me saying “ya’ll” like a pro way before lunch time!

Henry Dunn Robison ca1927 in Evergreen Alabama

Henry Dunn Robison ca1927 in Evergreen Alabama

But to me, the visit was far more than pictures and documents, all of which are in themselves treasures seeking a caretaker. So much is lost when their value is not recognized. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” is an adage that comes to mind to underscore an important lesson. Their value increases exponentially when a family member who knows or knew the people in the photos, or the story behind the events perhaps because they were there at the time, or are able to pass along the story of family treasures left for subsequent generations can put “meat on the bones,” so to speak.

So what is there beyond the tangible? Let’s begin with the stitching together of bits and pieces of stories overheard in childhood when the background of those stories are met with “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” Really? The reality is what you don’t know might drive you crazy! Or it may lead you to assumptions that are so far beyond the truth, a very warped picture of your own family emerges. What’s the real story behind the story?

For some, this family culture in which my sister and I grew up may be hard to imagine. We were denied access to a rich part of our family’s story, its history, its traditions, the real people who comprised where we came from. As a child, the things of children are enough to fill the days. But as we grew and matured, questions inevitably crept into our minds. Why did he or she do this or that? Why did they, collectively, act the way they did good or bad?

I would have to say that it is impossible to put it all together. It’s far too late to experience the past and be an active part of it. Compare it to reading about the Revolutionary War. It happened, we know that as a fact. But what was it like? What was the culture at the time? Who were the people involved and what were they like? All we can do is listen to the stories and try to be a part of it.

Now I’m learning about the lives of the characters I had only heard about, or more specifically “overheard” about if there is such a term.

I should point out that I’ve met with other members of my father’s long lost family. I’ve written about Aunt Sarah earlier. She had been my first contact and the source of nearly everything else I wanted to know. Or rather, everything else I didn’t know I wanted to know until I accidently found her. From there, I met another Sissy. Mary Elizabeth Robison Derr is a cousin, the daughter of Herbert “Uncle Hub” Robison my grandfather’s brother. Uncle Hub was a businessman in Evergreen Alabama and was once its Mayor. She was tremendously helpful with family stories about life in Evergreen where my father lived off and on before he enlisted in the US Navy.

The 2003 Robinson/Robison Family Reunion was quite an event. About 300 or so members of my extended family attended. It was held near Elkmont, Limestone County, Alabama. It took me quite some time to sort out who everyone was and how we were all connected. After all, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah, had 12 children, 11 boys and 1 girl. At least 10 survived to adulthood and 9 of whom married and had families of their own. The long and the short of it is this: After nearly 16 years of researching both maternal and paternal ancestors, and with the help of Aunt Sarah, Sissy Derr, David Sanders (a second cousin who started all of this!), Tom Moore, and many others, I’ve managed to put together basic genealogical data on 978 descendants of my paternal great grandfather, Hezekiah, with details on roughly half of those.

Diane Robison Lillie - Cissy Robison Hunter - Dave Robison

Diane Robison Lillie – Cissy Robison Hunter – Dave Robison

The latest treasure trove has come from someone who was closer to my father than anyone I’ve ever met, Cissy Robison Hunter. I’d tell you her birth name but she would not appreciate it! Your welcome Aunt Cissy!

Finally, my sister and I do not have words to thank all of the family members who have contributed to the story of us. But most especially, Aunt Cissy who came north to visit, hug, discuss, share and enrich our lives that much more.

 

 

What do you do when you find hundreds of living relatives Part 2

It was Friday evening about 8:30 pm. Karen and I pulled into my sister’s driveway in Cortland, New York. She greeted us warmly with hugs and kisses, but I kept looking over her shoulder to get a look at the woman I came here to see. Apparently having nodded off after her long flight from Alabama, Aunt Cissy looked perfectly comfortable but not so much that I wasn’t willing to go over and wake her up!

By this time, my brother-in-law, Ray, had come out of the house to watch the big event. Karen and I walked slowly toward Aunt Cissy followed by Diane and Ray as he came down the steps to the back yard. Aunt Cissy wasn’t really sleeping.  She was hoping to give me a bit of a scare. It worked! She leaped up in a big “Surprise!” moment…

Diane Robison Lillie - Cissy Robison Hunter - Dave Robison

Diane Robison Lillie – Cissy Robison Hunter – Dave Robison

When I finally got my arms around her, I said to everyone that I felt as though I was hugging Aunt Cissy, my grandfather Cecil Lee Robison, his parents Erskin and Linnie Otto Peace Robison, their parents Samuel and Mary Hardin Robison, their parents Green Coleman and Eliza Ann Francis Rochelle Robinson and lastly, Green’s parents, Hezekiah and Tabitha Grantham Robinson. Hezekiah’s father might have been Jonathan Robertson a mid-1700’s Scots-Irish immigrant. But that, so far, has yet to be proven. What a crew!

 

My aunt is the daughter of my paternal grandfather and his second wife. That means she is my half-aunt. But that’s just a technicality. To Diane and me, she is a full-fledged aunt!

Cissy was no disappointment! She came loaded with stories, photographs and documents along with her excitement and genuine happiness over finally getting to meet Diane and me. She also brought 2 crocheted Christmas decorations, hand-made 5 X 12 wall hangings that have the word “NOEL” set crocheted into them.

Onto to Cissy’s story, blended with what I know based on the few stories I heard as a child or more recent genealogical research.

Cissy knew my father, Henry Dunn, but he was at least 15 years her senior. By the time she was born, Henry was living back in Evergreen with his mother, Mary Virginia, and his overbearing grandmother, Gilma Robertson Dunn. Gilma was widowed in 1918 when her highly successful businessman husband, Henry Wright Dunn, was driving out of town and heading up the hill on his way to pick up a nurse he had hired to work in his household. His car stalled on the hill and he rolled backwards and into the oncoming L&N train heading through town. He died 2 days later and his gravestone is marked, “Death Loves a Shining Star.” He had been a Ford and Buick dealer (a mega dealer in the early 20th century!), a hardware dealer and the owner of extensive rental properties in and around Evergreen. These stories I had learned through my own research, trips to Alabama, newspaper articles, cemetery visits, vital records and other family records that were made available to me. Henry Dunn had traveled up to Anniston from time to time to visit his father and step-mother. The visits were very short and long on antipathy.

Gilma Robertson Dunn  (1873-1954)

Gilma Robertson Dunn (1873-1954)

Back in Evergreen, Gilma had long ago managed to have my father’s birth records destroyed as she was no fan of the man her daughter had married and it seemed as though she didn’t want Cecil’s name to be associated with her grandson, Henry Dunn. Perhaps she was hoping to marry off her daughter to another man and have that man adopt Henry. Whatever the motivation, this turned out to have been a convenient decision on her part for her own nefarious purposes. Not only was Henry Dunn sent from one aunt and uncle to another, he was sent off to a boarding school in Mississippi, back to his father in Anniston and wherever else they could put him. Amazingly, the 1930 US Population Schedule shows 5-year-old

Henry’s parents, Cecil Lee and Mary Virginia, living on one side of town while Henry was in the household of 3 single African-American domestics on the other side of town. Fast forward to December 7th 1941. My grandparents were divorced with Cecil remarried and Mary living in Evergreen either alone or with my father whenever that was convenient for the family. But what were they to do with 15-year-old Henry? To Gilma, that was easy. She had a son who was a Lieutenant Commander in the Army Air Corps. Gilma had the connections to obtain an affidavit claiming the Henry was 2 years older than he really was. Voila, “17-year-old” Henry Dunn Robison joined the US Navy, enlisting in early January of 1942, 4 weeks after the Japanese attack.

 

Aunt Cissy knew my father. She was frightened by him given his age and height. He was over 6 feet tall, even as a teenager. He was also a much different person than Cissy’s 4 brothers. The dynamic in that household was far different than anything that my father ever experienced. So I can only imagine how “pleasant” Henry Dunn’s infrequent visits to his father and step-mother would have been.

 

My grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison, and his 7 siblings. Cecil Lee is in the upper right  hand corner.

My grandfather, Cecil Lee Robison, and his 7 siblings. Cecil Lee is in the upper right hand corner.

Henry Dunn’s father, Cecil Lee Robison, was also a tall man. He was a successful businessman in Evergreen working as an accountant and had been a deacon of his church. In other words, a well-respected citizen of his community. However, his home life was less than the typical 1940’s or 1950’s home life. His relationship with his family was not particularly warm and cozy. However, he was a loyal and faithful father and husband who, along with Hilda Mae, his wife, raised 5 children who were respected in their own right: a mayor, a teacher, a State Fire Marshall,

an independent business owner, an early DNA researcher… All quite successful.

There are quite a few more details I’d like to share. I’m sure you’ll want to hear about Uncle Michael, the early 1960’s DNA researcher at Duke University.

So as much as I’ve tried to put this whole amazing story into 2 parts, I’ve got to stretch it out with at least one more installment and maybe two.

Stay tuned!

 

Hezekiah’s Farm

This link is to an aerial view of what was my 4th great grandfather’s farm in Alabama. http://www.findaspring.com/locations/north-america/usa/robinson-hollow-spring-elkmont-alabama/. It’s located on Robinson

HESAKIAH ROBRSON: Yet another way to spell Hezekiah Robinson or is it Robison or maybe Robertson!!

HESAKIAH ROBRSON: Yet another way to spell Hezekiah Robinson or is it Robison or maybe Robertson!!

Hollow along Robinson Road near Elkmont, Limestone Co, Alabama where you’ll find Robinson Family Cemetery.

After marrying Anne Grantham who died young and then his sister-in-law Tabitha Grantham, Hezekiah Robinson (or Robison or Robertson or Robson) settled here after his service in the War of 1812.  The Robinson Family Cemetery is here but hidden by the trees in this view.  He was born sometime between 1777 and 1784 in Virginia and died in 1852 in Elkmont on his farm. His gravestone reads “HESAKIAH ROBRSON”!  Another case of “speeling duzn’t cownt”!!

Hezekiah’s widow, Tabitha spent almost 30 years trying to claim her widow’s pension. Government bureaucracy and the confusion as to how to spell his last name, letters went back and forth from Elkmont, Alabama to Washington for years!  She finally won out but died about 2 years later.