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Robinson Family letters

Identifier: C-131

Scope and Contents

Letters of several generations of a number of related Quaker families in Vermont: principally the Robinsons, who were early settlers in Ferrisburgh, Vt., and the Stevens family, who were early settlers in East Montpelier, Vt. Letters include the Hoag and Jewell family of Charlotte, Vt., the Byrds of Vergennes, Vt., and the Rogers family of Ferrisburgh. Additional letters are from the Donaghy family, who came to Vergennes from Ireland during the Potato Famine and apparently changed their name to Donoway.

The letters concern personal, farming, and business matters relating to the various families, and major political and social issues of their times, including abolitionism, the Civil War, temperance, women's rights, education and controversies within the Quaker faith, including the Hicksite movement. Letters' topics include the literary and artistic careers of Rowland E. Robinson (1833-1900) and his daughters, Rachael (Robinson) Elmer (1878-1919) and Mary (Robinson) Perkins (1884-1931). Local politics and economic affairs of Ferrisburgh, whose town clerks from 1857 to 1962 were members of the Robinson family, are also part of the collection.

Major correspondents (from families other than those named) include Oliver Johnson (1809-1889) and William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), who worked on matters related to abolitionism with Rowland T. Robinson (1796-1879); Ann King (1786-1867), a close friend of Rowland T. Robinson and his wife Rachel; Ruth (Fish) Mealy Freeborn, whose sister Jemima (1761-1846) married Thomas R. Robinson (1761-1851) and sister Suzannah married Thomas Byrd (1753-1827). Correspondent Putman M. Cate, who may have been related by marriage to Mary (Stevens) Putman (1832-1912), and whose son lived with the Horace and Mary Putman during the 1850's, is part of the letters collection.


  • Creation: 1757-1962


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish must be requested from Rokeby Museum.

Biographical / Historical

Thomas R. Robinson (1761-1851), son of Thomas and Sarah (Richardson) Robinson, moved from Rhode Island to Vergennes, Vt. and then to Ferrisburgh, to operate a farm called Rokeby, which remained in his family until 1962. He married Jemima Fish (1761-1846); their son was Rowland T. Robinson; their daughter Abigail (b. 1789) was the wife of Nathan C. Hoag (b. 1785) and mother of Rachel (Hoag) Jewell (b. 1811).

Rowland T. Robinson (1791-1879), son of Thomas R. Robinson, was a successful farmer and businessman, ardent Quaker and leader in the Vermont Anti-Slavery Society and other social movements. He made Rokeby a stop on the Underground Railroad to assist fugitive slaves to freedom. He married Rachel Gilpin (1799-1862), who was also interested in social issues and education. Their children were Thomas R.(1822-1854), George G. (1825-1894), Ann King (Robinson) Minturn (1827-1917), and Rowland E. (1833-1900). A close lifelong friend of Rowland T. and Rachel was Ann King, a former schoolmate, who shared their interests and was often a guest at Rokeby for extended periods.

Rowland E. Robinson (1833-1900), son of Rowland T. Robinson, was a naturalist, farmer, commercial artist, cartoonist, illustrator, and author of works portraying life in rural Vermont. He married Ann King Stevens (1841-1920), who helped him with his literary works after he became blind. Their children were Rachael (Robinson) Elmer (1878-1919), Rowland T. (1882-1951), and Mary (Robinson) Perkins (1884-1931). Rachael and Mary were both successful commercial artists.

Rowland T. Robinson (1882-1951) managed the Rokeby farm and orchard after the death of his father in 1900. He was elected town clerk of Ferrisburgh in 1916, a position held previously by his grandfather, his uncle George G. Robinson and his mother. He married Elizabeth Donoway, who assumed the position of town clerk after her husband's death and remained at Rokeby until her own death in 1961. In 1962, the Robinson family established Rokeby and its contents as a museum.

Thomas Byrd (1753-1827) came to Vergennes, Vt., in the early 1790's, and served as mayor, representative to the Vermont legislature, and justice for Vergennes and vicinity. His first wife was Suzannah Fish (d. 1812), whose sister, Jemima, was married to Thomas R. Robinson; their daughters were Mary (Byrd) Orcutt, a friend of the Robinson family and frequent guest at Rokeby, and Rachel Fish Byrd, who married Stephen Foster Stevens of East Montpelier. Byrd's second wife was Abigail Huntington; their son John Huntington Byrd (1816-after 1890) lived in Ohio and later in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he employed several of Stephen and Rachel Stevens' sons in his business.

Clark Stevens (1764-1853) fought in the American Revolution, and moved to East Montpelier, Vt., in 1792, where he joined the Society of Friends. He was one of the original signers of the Montpelier town charter in 1797. He ran a farm in East Montpelier and was known as a Quaker minister. He married Huldah Foster; their children were Paulina (Stevens) Davis (1795-1881), Mary (Stevens) Varney (1797-after 1857), Stephen Foster Stevens (1799-1858), and James (1804-1839).

Stephen F. Stevens (1799-1858) was born in East Montpelier, Vt. In the 1820's he lived in Monkton, Vt., where he was known as a cabinet maker, attended Quaker meetings and became friendly with Rowland T. Robinson, who introduced him to Rachel Fish Byrd. Stevens married Rachel in 1829, and they moved to East Montpelier in the 1830's, where he was known as a Quaker minister, successful businessman, farmer, and inventor of the "Stevens Platform Scale." In 1855 he was representative to the Vermont Legislature. His children were Mary (Stevens) Putman (1832-1912), Thomas Byrd Stevens (1833-1898), Timothy Dennis (1836-after 1909), William Byrd (1837-1864), Ann King Stevens (1841-1920), wife of Rowland E. Robinson, and James Byrd (1843-1908).

William B. Stevens (1837-1864), was born in East Montpelier, Vt., taught in the district school and attended the University of Vermont. In 1861 he was recruited by the Vermont Militia and served in the Civil War, for which he was voted out of the Society of Friends in 1862. He died in 1864 of wounds received in a battle in Virginia.


58 Boxes

Language of Materials



Organized in the following series:

I. Letters of Sarah and Abigail Robinson, 1757-1828

II. Thomas R. Robinson, Letters, 1791-1851

III. Rachel H. Jewell, Letters, 1850-1853

IV. Rowland T. Robinson, Letters, 1824-1880

V. Rachel G. Robinson, Letters, 1820-1862

VI. Ann R. Minturn, Letters, 1850-1887

VII. Thomas R. Robinson, Family letters, 1847-1899

VIII. George G. Robinson, Letters, 1840-1894

IX. Rowland E. Robinson, Letters, 1847-1900

X. Ann S. Robinson, Letters, 1853-1920

XI. Rachael R. Elmer, Letters, 1882-1918

XII. Mary R. Perkins, Letters, 1889-1922

XIII. Rowland T. Robinson, Letters, 1892-1951

XIV. Elizabeth D. Robinson, Family letters, 1833-1961

XV. Byrd family, Letters, 1794-1877

XVI. Rachel B. Stevens, Letters, 1816-1868

XVII. Stevens family, Letters, 1820-1909

XVIII. Stephen F. Stevens, Letters, 1819-1857

XIX. Mary S. Putnam, Family letters, 1842-1909

XX. Ann King, Letters, 1834-1866

XXI. George F. Stone, Letters, 1851-1855

Collection is arranged chronologically.

Other Finding Aids

Inventory, including genealogies, available at the Middlebury College Special Collections and at the Rokeby Museum.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

On loan from: Rokeby Museum.

Existence and Location of Copies

Transcriptions of abolition letters available in Middfiles. Contact for access.

Related Materials

Student paper: Victoria Bullock, The Myth of the Vermont Underground Railroad with specific reference to the Life and Works of Rowland Thomas Robinson and Rowland Evans Robinson. Middlebury College, 1996.

Related Materials

Student paper: Marion Bartle, Rowland Thomas Robinson (1796-1879): An Anachronism for his Time. Middlebury College, 1982.

Related Materials

Student paper: Jessica Wright, The Legend and History of the Underground Railroad in Vermont. Middlebury College, 1996.

Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States