Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What I Have Learned About Pauline Wheeler Robbins

Pauline Wheeler was born January 1, 1864 to James and Sarah Larose Wheeler, in New York. Pauline Wheeler’s father, James Wheeler, was born in Montgomery, Orange County, New York to Elisha Pearl and Phebe Wheeler. Pauline's mother, Sarah Larose Wheeler was born August 12, 1839 at Riverhead, Suffolk, NY to Joseph and Charity W. Hudson Larose. Pauline's maternal grandfather Joseph Larose was born in Venice, Italy (no date given) and Pauline's maternal grandmother Charity W. Hudson Larose was born July 1, 1814 at Riverhead, Suffolk, NY.

LaRose is sometimes spelled as Larose. This family's name appears more often in Suffolk County, Long Island Genealogy Records as LaRose. Suffolk County is the largest county on Long Island, New York.

Pauline Wheeler’s birth date given as January 1, 1864 is the date given in the 1900 U.S. Census when Pauline Wheeler was committed to the Napa Insane Asylum in Napa, Napa County, California. My opinion is that the date might have been manufactured since Pauline’s mind may have been such that she may not have known her exact birth date, or whoever entered the record into the 1900 U.S. Census made up the date to satisfy the records. Note in November, 2011. After visiting with several other genealogists, it may be that Pauline Wheeler Robbins was destitute after her father's death and did not have a source of income. She may have also suffered from depression which can be common after the birth of a new child. Pauline had a second child name Ida Pauline Lockwood. The father's name Lockwood has not been sourced, but there was a Lockwood who lived on the same block as the Wheeler family lived in San Francisco.

The 1870 U.S. Census lists Pauline (Paulene) Wheeler as being born about 1864 and age 6 by August 16, 1870 to James and Sarah Wheeler with brother Bradford and living in Astoria, Queens, New York. The post office was Astoria, Long Island. It lists all family members as being born in New York, James as a lawyer, with $6,000.00 real estate value, and $500.00 personal estate value. It lists the mother Sarah’s father as foreign born. I have discovered that Sarah's maiden name was LaRose or Larose in the Long Island Genealogical Society online database and her father was

The 1880 U.S. Census lists Pauline Wheeler as being 16 and living in San Francisco, San Francisco, California in what I suppose to be a rooming house with apartments owned by Mr. Alfred Rix, listed as the head. There were 38 people living at the rooming house besides the 5 Rix family members, but including the 4 James Wheeler members, James (Jas.), wife Sarah, daughter Pauline, and son Bradford. Pauline’s birth date is still listed as about 1864. She was listed as at school. The 1880 U. S. Census was taken on June 2, 1880. Another question arises? Alfred Rix was also listed as an attorney. Did James Wheeler possibly work at the same address as Alfred Rix? Not a top priority question, but one to think about since they were both attorneys. The street address is 745 Pine Street.

I was shocked to look for more addresses on the previous page 3 in this 1880 U.S. Census San Francisco, District 6, and I found a boarder at a lower number Pine Street address by the name of Arthur D. Lockwood. Could this man, age 23, bookkeeper, have known Pauline Wheeler, age 16, and later become the father of Pauline’s second child, named Ida Pauline Lockwood in 1895-1898? He and his parents were born in Connecticut.

William Walter Robbins went to San Francisco, California in 1887 to marry Pauline Wheeler, daughter of James and Sarah Wheeler, and sister of Charles Bradford Wheeler. William Walter Robbins was from Babylon, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. Pauline Wheeler married William Walter Robbins in San Francisco, California on February 22, 1887. They were married by Reverend A. L. Brewer according to the San Francisco Morning Call of February 23, 1887, page 6, column 8, a local newspaper that is reposited at the California State Library Microfilm Newspaper Collection, Sacramento, CA, no reel numbers. As it turns out, Reverend A. L. Brewer's name is significant because he was also the Episcopalian minister in charge of the San Mateo Orphanage where Pauline Wheeler Robbins' first child, William "Willie" "Robbie" Augustus Robbins will live after his mother Pauline was sent to Napa State Hospital by 1900.

In 1893 Pauline's father died in San Francisco, California. His body was sent to Middletown, Orange County, New York where his sister Emeline Wheeler Mosher received him. There was a small service with family in attendance, and burial was at the Hillside Cemetery where his father, Elisha Pearl Wheeler, was buried. These facts come from The San Francisco Morning Call and the Middletown, NY newspapers.

Pauline's son, William Augustus Robbins, said he was born in 1888 in Babylon, New York, but he also said he was an orphan and was found to live in California at a fairly young age at the Bishop Armitage Orphanage at San Mateo, California. This information comes from the California State Library archives. William Augustus Robbins received a delayed New York birth certificate from his birth at Southside Hospital, Bay Shore, Suffolk County, New York in 1929 when he married Fannie Harriet Love.

In 1898 Pauline had a second child, Ida Pauline Lockwood, as evidenced by the child growing up in California in two girls' orphanages and later marrying as shown in each US Census except for 1890.

By 1900 Pauline Robbins was committed to Napa State Hospital, Napa, California and her two children were raised in two different orphanages, William Augustus Robbins in San Mateo County at the Bishop Armitage Orphanage, California and Ida Pauline Lockwood in Sacramento County, California.

Pauline Robbins remained at Napa State Hospital until her death in 1940.

The 1900 U.S. Census (California: Napa: Napa: District 93) lists Pauline Robbins at Napa State Hospital for the Insane (Patients), Napa, Napa, California, age 36, birth date 1864, taken on July, 13, 1900 (June marked out) birth place New York, Relationship to Head is Patient, listed as married, Residence is Napa Township, Soscol and Coombsville Precincts (Excludes Napa City), Napa, California. Pauline Robbins is #45 on page 22 of 54 in www.ancestry.com's original US Census copy. Her birth place is listed as New York, but her parents’ birth places are not listed at all. She is listed as a housewife, Months Not Employed: 12, Can Read: Yes, Can Write: No, Can Speak English: No. I wonder what caused this her inability to not be able to write or speak English? Was it her physical or psychological condition? Was it medication? Why did she shut down?

The U.S. 1920 Census lists Pauline Robbins (Row 33) at Napa, Napa, California (Juarez Precinct, Napa State Hospital, Enumeration District 56, taken on January 19, 1920), aged 55, born about 1865, birthplace New York, listed as Inmate, listed as Widow, Able to Read: No, Able to Write: No. Pauline’s place of birth: New York, Father’s place of birth: New York, Mother’s place of birth: New York; Able to speak English: No. By 1920, Pauline Robbins was not able to read, not able to write, and not able to speak English. Again, why did this occur? Was it her physical or psychological condition? Was it medication? Why did she shut down?

The 1930 U.S. Census lists Pauline Robbins (Row 29) at Napa, Napa, California (Jaurez Precinct, Napa Township, Inola: Unincorporated Place, Napa State Hospital (Insane), Enumeration District No. 28-12, Supervisor’s District No. 5, April 10, 1930), age 66, birth year about 1864; birth place: New York; listed as patient; Single; Attended school during the last year: No; Whether Able to Read and Write: Yes. Pauline’s Birthplace: New York; Father’s Birthplace: New York; Mother’s Birthplace: New York; Whether or Not Can Speak English: Yes. Why is Pauline able to speak English after 30 years of not being able to speak English at Napa State Hospital? Is this true or did the enumerator copy information that may be incorrect that the hospital staff gave him to copy?

The California Death Index, 1940-1997 lists Pauline Robbins, Female, Birth Date: January 1, 1864; Birthplace: New York; Death Date: June 5, 1940; Death Place: Napa; states No Social Security in Citation.

Her son William Augustus Robbins, who lived in Islip, Suffolk County, New York, paid for her headstone in Vacaville Cemetery, Vacaville, California. Pauline's friends Ralph and Laura Schaefer of Vacaville provided a burial place for her in their family plot.

Her daughter Ida Pauline Lockwood Cerf did not attend her mother's graveside service. She was preparing a dinner for her doctor husband and his business associates. They lived in San Mateo County, California. Some genealogists have offered an opinion that Ida Pauline Lockwood Cerf may have been to embarassed to attend her mother's funeral, even though her burial place was within driving distance of Ida Pauline Lockwood Cerf's home.

William Augustus Robbins' son Kenneth Charles Robbins never knew about his grandparents, William Walter and Pauline Robbins during his parents' lifetime and only found out through the efforts of his wife in genealogy.

Through good fortune, time, the Internet, writing letters, paying for vital records copies, and the assistance of professional genealogists, all, or almost all of the brick walls will come down to provide the true and complete story of Pauline Wheeler Robbins, my husband's paternal grandmother.

If any readers have had experiences similar to this story in your family history, I would appreciate your comments about how you approached the mental institutions for help to find out about your loved one who spent so much of their lives in a mental institution.


  1. Linda - interesting story! It would be interesting to find out why the "no English" for so many years. So sad that she was in the hospital for 40 years. Makes you wonder what caused her problems - post partum depression? Love life gone sour? Thanks for sharing.

  2. Information was updated on June 14, 2009 to reflect new information about Pauline Wheeler Robbins.


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