Black Walnut Cemetery, originally called the Robbins Burying Ground, but also pejoratively known as the Graveyard Slough, is situated on one acre of what was originally Moses Robbins’ land. The son, Moses B. and his wife, Mary Best Robbins, deeded the one acre to the township for this purpose. This Robbins family—Moses (1767-1818) and Abigail Cook (1767-1829) Robins—along with their descendants are intermarried with several other families—Bassett, Garvin, Johnson, Mittalbarger, Stonebraker—whose members are buried also in Black Walnut Cemetery.
Internments at Black Walnut Cemetery
Moses Robbins 20 January 1767—23 September 1818
Abigail Cook Robbins 07 December 1767—07 November 1829
Thaddeus Cook Robbins 23 December 1787—10 October 1823
Samuel H. Robbins 10 March 1807—12 January 1828
Moses B. Robbins 26 January 1797—27 February 1840
Mary Best Robbins 07 January 1806—April 1845
Moses Robins, born 20 Jan 1767 in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut, was the son of Moses and Keziah Minor Robins, eighth child of the couples’ nine. Moses and Abigail Cook, of Preston, New London, Connecticut, married 30 Dec 1784, in Preston. Together they had nine children—Thaddeus Cook (1787-1823); Welcome Arnold (1791-1868); Merinda (1794-1869); Moses Brintnell, aka Moses B. (1797-1840); Frederick Minor (1799-1859); Thomas Jefferson (1801-1859); Zeuriah (1804-1886); Samuel H. (1807-1826); and Abigail (1810-1894).
Robbins’ family historian, Philip Rhea, has traced Moses and Abigail Robbins after they left Connecticut for Butler, Pennsylvania and then moved west to St. Charles, Missouri. After Zeuriah was born in 1804 in Connecticut but before Abigail was born in 1810 in Pennsylvania, the Moses Robbins’ family joined a brother, Brintnal Robbins, in western Pennsylvania where the brother had lived since 1794. An entry in a history of Butler County, Pennsylvania, mentioned that Moses and Brintnal Robbins had established after1804 a grist and sawmill in Forward Township. The 1810 U.S. Census listed the Moses Robbins family in Middlesex, Butler, Pennsylvania.
Moses and his family most likely moved to Missouri as part of a tidal wave of immigrants to the newly open territory. The article, “The Forgotten War,” documented a slice of history of the recent Indian wars in the Missouri Territory. The author concluded: “But in the fall of 1815 and in the subsequent years, a tidal wave of new settlers began to pour into Missouri. Towns literally sprang up in the wilderness overnight and Missouri began entering a new phase of preparing for statehood.” A land transaction, dated 28 October 1816, and executed by Moses Robbins and Thaddeus C. Robbins, is the earliest record of the family’s presence. The 1816 Tax List for St. Charles also listed Moses Robins as owning land originally purchased by James Griffin.
Robbins’ family researchers believe the following members are buried in the Black Walnut Cemetery—Moses and Abigail Cook Robbins; Thaddeus Cook Robbins; Samuel H. Robbins; Moses B. and Mary Best Robbins. Findings and discoveries from the current restoration project will help confirm this thesis.
Moses B. and Mary Best Robbins deeded one acre of their land in 1826 to the Portage des Sioux township for the twin purposes of developing a graveyard and building a house of worship. The transfer was recorded in 1851. Almost fifty years later, in 1874, Zeuriah Robbins Boyer commissioned and had installed two obelisks in the cemetery—one for her parents, Moses and Abigail Cook Robbins, and her brothers, Thaddeus C. and Samuel H.; the second for her brother and sister-in-law, Moses B. and Mary Best Robbins. The cemetery restoration team has located a foot stone for Moses B. and Mary; perhaps at an earlier time a gravestone marked the site.
Thaddeus Cook, the eldest son of Moses and Keziah Robins, was born 23 December 1787 in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut. He seemed to have played out that role during his lifetime. Some evidence, a land record, suggested that he entered Butler, Pennsylvania ahead of his parents and siblings. He also ran a ‘fulling mill’ on Glade Run at the site of the Robin’s brothers’ mill. Later, in St. Charles, he advertised his ‘carding machine’ for wool processing. Thaddeus and his father conducted several land transactions in the county as well. It appeared he married Selah (Celia) Best, daughter of Stephen and Mary Kieney/Keeny Best, in 1822. Not long afterwards, Thaddeus died, and his estate was probated in St. Charles on December 23, 1823. Selah married Montgomery Perry in St. Charles on December 28, 1826. The couple moved to Van Buren, Iowa, where she died and was buried in Kilbourne Cemetery. Thaddeus and Sela had one son together, Thaddeus E., born about 1822, apparently just prior to the father’s death.
Welcome Arnold was born February 3, 1791, in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut. While he grew up in Pennsylvania, it was after the family’s move to Missouri and after Welcome achieved adulthood that he made his mark. He bought and sold land but perhaps also conducted other businesses for which we know nothing. He remained single until age 68 when he married Margaret Elizabeth Middelbarger on August 4, 1859. He was a monied man. The 1860 U.S. Census listed his occupation as a ‘gentleman’ with $26,000 in real estate and $1000 in personal estate. At that time, Elizabeth’s niece, Augusta Mittalberger, was living with the couple. Welcome also owned at one time a quite large house in what was known as Frenchtown in St. Charles that was built by John Orrick. Welcome and Elizabeth had no children together. He died in Rock Island, Illinois on March 30, 1868. No burial site has been found. Elizabeth married Henry Hull, a bank president, on November 28, 1871, in Rock Island and there she also died on December 16, 1919.
Merinda, the oldest daughter of Moses and Abigail Cook Robins, was born August 31, 1794, in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut. About 1816 she married Elijah Mallerson, son of Thomas and Ame Newton Mallerson. The couple may have married in Pennsylvania before the Robins family moved to Missouri Territory or shortly after the family’s arrival. The couple’s first child, daughter Amy, was born about 1817 in Missouri. Elijah was a complicated son-in-law and husband. He often assisted the Robins’ family with their legal and financial transactions. However, he was often in debt and crosswise with the legal system, including assault and battery and later a murder indictment in 1838. Both he and Merinda were suspended in October 1834 from the Presbyterian Church of St. Charles. In addition to Amy, the couple had seven other children—Lucinda (1819-1878; Elias (1821-1844); Moses Newton (1823-1910); Abigail (1827-1845); Frances Wood (1829-1907); Walter P. (1834-1849); and Thomas (Unknown-Unknown). Elijah disappeared from records; he is not listed on the 1850 U.S. Census; neither is Merinda. Most likely he had died. Merinda’s name appeared in Rock Island, Illinois, 1870 court records along with Elizabeth Mittalbarger Robbins in a partition of Welcome Arnold’s land. Her will was probated in Rock Island, Rock Island, Illinois on May 29, 1874. She may have died as early as 1869. No burial sites for her or for her husband have been located. Of note is the Robbins’ Tomb in Oak Grove Cemetery in St, Charles. Three of the children buried in the tomb are those of Merinda and Elijah—Abigail, Walter, and Elias. The other two are Merinda and Elijah’s grandchildren–Elizabeth Shue and William C. Mattalbarger.
Moses Brintnal was born January 26, 1797, in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut. He was a child when his family moved to Butler, Pennsylvania and only about 19 years old when his family arrived in St. Charles. He grew into his manhood as the Missouri Territory grew into statehood. About 1826, Moses married Mary Best, daughter of Stephen and Mary Kieny/Kenny Best. The couple’s first child, Franklin Jefferson, was born February 28, 1827, in St. Charles. Eventually they had five others—Mary Z. (1831-1867; Abigail (1834?-1860?); Louisa Ann (1834-1924); Welcome F. (1837-); Celia E.E., (1840-1912). Moses participated in numerous land transactions over the years. He and Mary were members of the Presbyterian Church of St. Charles where she was recorded as saying she never attended church because it was 10 or 11 miles distant. Moses was recorded as having ‘gone back into the world and died’. On February 27, 1840, Moses died and was buried at Black Walnut, the very cemetery for which he and Mary had donated an acre to the township. Mary married Cushman Bassett on February 28, 1842, in St. Charles. Not long afterwards, in April 1845, Mary died and was buried also in Black Walnut Cemetery.
Frederick Minor was born August 21, 1799. in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut. Like his brother, Moses Brintnal, Frederick was quite young when the family left Connecticut for Butler, Pennsylvania. He was about 17 years old when the family arrived in Missouri Territory. Nevertheless, after he grew into manhood, he purchased and owned property–land and slaves. He also often sold property. He was well-to-do. Frederick never married. However, in 1850, his brother, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas’ family—wife, Elizabeth, son, Rufus, and daughter, Lucresia—were farming and living together in District 78, St. Charles County. Frederick was monied, $16,000 in real estate; Thomas also was monied, $10,000 in real estate. Also living in the household at that time were Elizabeth’s mother, Nancy Ewing, age 55, and her daughter and Elizabeth’s younger sister, Arthema. Frederick died in April 1859. Although he and his brother, Welcome A., are credited with establishing the Robbins’ Family Tomb in Oak Grove Cemetery in St. Charles, Frederick’s burial site is unknown.
Thomas Jefferson was born November 25, 1801, in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut. He also was quite young when his family moved to Pennsylvania. He was about 15 when they finally arrived in St. Charles. As an adult, Thomas bought and sold land, accumulating resources. On April 9, 1841, Thomas married Elizabeth Ewing, daughter of James and Nancy Glass Ewing. The couple had eight children together—Rufus (1842-1911); Virginius (1845-1845); Diogenes (1845-1845); Amanda (1847-1849); Elitha (1848-); Thomas Jefferson (1854-1930) and two other unidentified children. By 1850, Thomas had accumulated $10,000 in real estate as a farmer and stock-raiser. However, he and his family at that time—Elizabeth and Rufus—were living with Thomas’ brother, Frederick. An 1852 Missouri state census identified him as living with his family separate from Frederick but also owning slaves. On April 7, 1859, Thomas died of pneumonia and typhoid. He was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery. Elizabeth married Philip P. Orrick on April 9, 1862, in St. Charles. Elizabeth died January 5, 1875, and was buried in Oak Grove, beside Thomas Jefferson Robbins.
Zeuriah was born May 5, 1804, in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut. She was a toddler when the family removed itself from Connecticut to live in Butler, Pennsylvania. She was about 12 years old when her family settled in the Missouri Territory. Her father died in St. Charles when she was 14 years old and she, like her siblings, was appointed a guardian. On September 17, 1830, Zeuriah married Charles Walter Phillips in St. Charles. Charles was a businessman in St. Charles town. In 1820 he had been involved in a land dispute on Main Street but later, in 1823, he was granted a liquor license. Charles and Zeuriah together had one child, a son named Nathan, who was born August 31, 1831, and who died December 2, 1836, in Rock Island, Rock Island, Illinois, where the family had re-located. Shortly thereafter, on September 25, 1827, Charles died and was buried in Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island. Zeuriah remained in Rock Island where, on November 7,1841, she married John A. Boyer, a leading citizen of that community. They were married 45 years; the couple had no children. However, the couple took a young man named Thomas Campbell into their home and he remained for decades. He became their ‘son.’ Thomas was the beneficiary of Zeuriah’s and John’s estates. The Boyers appeared to always have live-in family members. In 1850, three of Moses B. Robbins’ children—Welcome A., Mary, and Celia—living with the couple. Zeuriah’s brother, Moses, had died in St. Charles in 1840 after which these children of his had been assigned guardianships. In 1870, Laura Duggan and Minnie, Duggan, niece Mary’s two daughters, ages 12 and 10, respectively, were living with Zeuriah and John. Then in 1880 Abigail McKnight and Albert McKnight, Zeuriah’s widowed sister and nephew, were living with Zeuriah and John. Family appeared to be important. Zeuriah was the family member who had the two obelisks installed in Black Walnut Cemetery in honor of her family. Zeuriah and John contributed greatly to the Rock Island community. They were wealthy stalwarts in their church, largely responsible for the development of First Baptist Church. John was deputy sheriff for two years and a member of the board of supervisors. John died December 5, 1891, in Los Angeles. Zeuriah had preceded him in death, dying March 16, 1886. Both are buried in Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island.
Samuel H. was born March 10, 1807. No record of his birth in Voluntown, New London, Connecticut has surfaced. This absence may suggest that the family was either travelling to Butler, Pennsylvania or had already relocated to that county where such records were yet to be compiled. Samuel grew up in Butler County, leaving it with his family about 1816 when they moved on to the Missouri Territory. He would have been about nine when he arrived. Two years later, in 1818, his father died. Like Frederick, Thomas, Zeuriah, and Abigail, he was assigned a guardian by the St. Charles County court. On June 12, 1826, Samuel died and was buried in Black Walnut Cemetery. He was single with no children.
Abigail was born June 4, 1810, in Pennsylvania. As the youngest child of Moses and Abigail Cook Robbins, she may have been the only one to have been born in Pennsylvania. She was only about 6 years old when her family moved to the Missouri Territory where she ultimately grew to adulthood. On April 1, 1833, she married John F. McKnight in Portage des Sioux. He was 12 years her senior and had been previously married to Sarah Griffith. The couple had one child, Daniel G. (1827-1897). John and Abigail together had four—Ellen (1834-1905); Sophia (1836-1855); Albert Gallatin (1838-1905); Matilda (1840-1853). John died shortly after Matilda’s birth, on May 13, 1841. He was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in St, Charles. Abigail never remarried. In 1850 she and her four children were making their home with Abigail’s brother, Welcome A. Robbins in St, Charles. In 1860, Abigail and her son, Albert G., were living in Columbia, Boone, Missouri. In 1870, Abigail and Albert G. were living with her daughter, Ellen, and her husband, James H, Halford, in Helena, Louis and Clark, Montana Territory. By 1880, Abigail and her son, Albert, were living with Zeuriah and John Boyer in Rock Island, Illinois. Abigail died on January 1, 1894, in St. Charles, and she was buried next to John F. in Oak Grove Cemetery.
Abigail Cook Robbins and sons Samuel and Thaddeus – Photo by Jerry Prouhet 2021
Reverse of obelisk – Photo by Susanne Paradis 2021
Moses B and Mary Best Robbins – photo by Jerry Prouhet 2021
Reverse of Obelisk – Photo by Susanne Paradis 2021
Robbins cousins – Philip and Jim – photo by Susanne Paradis 2021
1826 deed from Robbins family for Black Walnut Cemetery