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Sunday, September 13, 2009

William Walter Robbins, The Grandfather We Did Not Know About

This is the case of William Walter Robbins (1859-1918), father of William Augustus Robbins (1888-1948), and grandfather of Kenneth Charles Robbins (1932-).

We will begin with the Obituary for William Walter Robbins, copied from the Middletown Daily Times-Press, Monday, September 23, 1918, Page 2, Column 7.
"William Walter Robbins, oldest son of the late Walter Robbins and Cornelia Strong, died Sunday, the 15th, in the South Side Hospital, Babylon, in his 60th year. He had been in failing health for some time. Mr. Robbins was born in Babylon, and the greater part of his life was spent there."
William Walter Robbins, father of William Augustus Robbins and grandfather of Kenneth Charles Robbins. This photograph and others were taken by Linda Robbins in 2000 during Ken's 50th Islip H.S. Reunion, Suffolk County, New York. At at time, we did not know the significance of the people whose names appeared on the headstones in the Babylon
Rural Cemetery in what is now a residential section of Babylon, New York.

"In his early days he lived in this city with the late Mr. and Mrs. James W. Stewart, on Mulberry Street, Mrs. Stewart being his aunt. He represented a business house on the road and traveled quite extensively."

"He is survived by a brother, Jeremiah Robbins. The funeral took place at the latter’s home last Tuesday afternoon in Babylon."
From reading the obituary, one would think that William Walter Robbins had no immediate family, only his brother Jeremiah Robbins in Babylon, NY, and his late aunt and uncle Julia [Ann Strong] and James [W.] Stewart of Middletown, NY.


Wedding Announcement of William Walter Robbins and Pauline Wheeler Robbins, San Francisco Morning Call Newspaper, copy sent by Jim W. Falkenbury, Sacramento, CA genealogist.

However, that was not the case. At the time of his death, William Walter Robbins had a wife and child he deserted about 1890 in San Francisco. He had married Pauline Wheeler, daughter of James, an attorney, and Sarah LaRose Wheeler of San Francisco, CA in 1887. James Wheeler's father was Elisha Pearl Wheeler, a famous saw manufacturer of Middletown, Orange County, New York.

The obituary for William Walter Robbins appeared eight days after he died. The paper was published daily except for Sundays and holidays. Perhaps obituaries only appeared on Mondays or someone did not turn the information in soon enough for the obituary to appear closer to the time of William Walter Robbins' death. The funeral was held one day after he died, indicating there were not many family members to come from greater distances, so the funeral was arranged rather quickly.

As a matter of fact, William Walter Robbins had a wife, Pauline Wheeler Robbins, who was incarcerated in the Napa State Hospital from the late 1890s until she died in 1940 in California. She retained her surname Robbins to her death from her marriage in 1887.
He had a son, my husband’s father, William Augustus Robbins, who was born in 1888 in Babylon, Suffolk County, New York, was raised by his mother and Grandfather James Wheeler in San Franciso, California. until 1893 when his Grandfather Wheeler died. After that year, his mother and he became destitute and he was raised at San Mateo's Armitage Orphanage until he was 18. He went to the University of California at Berkeley and earned a Civil Engineering Degree in 1914. How he could afford to do this still remains a mystery to this writier. He had moved to Maui, Territory of Hawaii, at the time of his father’s death and was working at a sugar cane plantation that later became the C&H Sugar Cane Company. He was 30 years of age. I believe that no one contacted him about his father's death.


A photograph of the Bishop Armitage Orphanage in San Mateo, California where William Augustus Robbins was raised from about age 5 to age 18 from 1893-1906.

As far as can be determined at this time, there is no record of divorce, only seemingly a record of desertion by the father of his wife and son.

When William Walter "Willie" was almost four, his father, Walter Wilson Robbins (1818-1863), passed away. William Walter "Willie’s" older half brother whom he never knew was named Elbert Strong (1857-1858) and lived for ten months from 1857-1858. William Walter "Willie’s" younger brother, [Abraham] Abie T. Robbins (1860-1866) lived for five years, eleven months. William Walter Willie knew his brother Abie T. for the years he lived. William Walter "Willie’s" youngest brother Jeremiah Robbins (1863-1929) was born one half year before their father died in 1863.

Walter Wilson Robbins, husband of Cornelia Strong Robbins, Father of William Walter Robbins, Abraham Abie T. Robbins, and Jeremiah Robbins. Walter Wilson Robbins also claimed Elbert Strong as his son.

Cornelia Strong Robbins, Wife of Walter Wilson Robbins and Mother of Elbert Strong, Abraham Abie T. Robbins, William Walter Robbins, and Jeremiah Robbins

Elbert Strong, older half-brother of William Walter Robbins

Abraham Abie T. Robbins, younger brother of William Walter Robbins










Jeremiah Robbins, youngest brother of William Walter Robbins

Between 1863 when William Walter Robbins’ father died and the 1870 U.S. Census, William Walter lived with his aunt Julia Ann Strong Stewart and her husband. It was here that William Walter was called "Willie" in the 1870 U.S. Census. His wife, Pauline Wheeler Robbins, who retained the Robbins surname all her life, also called her son, William Augustus Robbins, "Willie."
In the 1920s, after William Walter Robbins's son William Augustus Robbins returned from San Francisco and the Territory of Hawaii to Babylon and Islip, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York to live, there is evidence from family correspondence between William Augustus and his uncle Jeremiah Robbins and Wheeler descendents in Middletown, Orange County, New York that William Augusus Robbins learned more about his mother Pauline Wheeler Robbins, his father William Walter Robbins and made a genealogy pedigree chart of his family history on a sheet of paper.

William Augustus Robbins in his U.S. Army Uniform, stationed in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii in 1918, the year that his father died
Kenneth Charles Robbins, William Walter Robbins' son, never knew who his father's mother was for sure, although he had heard of a Pauline, but did not know what her significance was, or who his father's father was at all until 2008 when Kenneth's family began researching records, letters, diaries, and hired two genealogists who helped from the San Francisco area to put the mortor and missing bricks together from the brick walls of his past.



Kenneth Charles Robbins at the Robbins and Strong Family Plot at the Babylon Rural Cemetery, Babylon, Suffolk County, New York.

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