William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 14] [part 12] [Cutler's History]


The Robinson of to-day bears date from the building of the railway station upon the completion of the St. Joseph & Denver City Railway in 1871. Prior to the advent of steam transportation, the old California trail, running half a mile to the south, had built up a horsing station with the attendant buildings.

This town, now known as Old Robinson, contained a tavern, kept in 1858 by Samuel Wade, and later by William Brown; general stores by Daniel P. Williams and S. Morehead, and two blacksmith shops.

The site of the old town is now a farm.

The new town of Robinson was first platted in 1872, the plat showing a site of forty acres, all upon the land of Z. Holcomb. This plat was not, however, satisfactory to interested parties, and the following year a new survey was made. A third and final survey and plat were completed in 1881.

The first building in Robinson was a dwelling house erected by Z. Holcomb, and still standing near the railway track. This was very shortly followed by the drug store of E. Odell and the dwelling of D. P. Williams. The first merchant in general business was John A. Dowell, who was almost immediately followed by D. P. Williams and the firm of Moorehead & Anderson.

The postoffice was opened in 1871 in the store of Moorehead & Anderson, Mr. S. Moorehead acting as Postmaster. From this point it was removed to the store of J. B. Mitchell on his accession to the office of Postmaster, and with him it has ever since remained.

The first birth near the new town was that of a son of Porter Sanborn, which occurred in 1870; the first death was that of Miss Sophia McAllister; the first wedding the union of Dr. James Parsons and Miss Phœbe Martin. This Dr. Parsons was the first physician of the town and continued the practice of his profession until shortly before his death. A Dr. Burns was also an early practitioner in the neighborhood, but remained but a short time. After him in the order named came Drs. George Parsons, J. L. Le Master and W. Taylor, who are all at this time residents of the community.

The first hotel was kept in 1871 by C. McAllister, who after various changes of base occupied in 1875 the building next the store of Charles Hack, where he remained until burned out in the great fire. Within two weeks after this memorable event in the town’s history Mr. McAllister erected on Parsons Street a building which is the only hotel in the town.

Shortly after McAllister’s opening in 1871 G. M. Wade opened a hotel on the south of the railway. This was after a year or two converted into a dwelling house. The third hotel of the town was opened on the corner of Parsons street in the building formerly used by L. C. Parker as a storehouse and leased from him by A. C. Nellans. It was destroyed in 1881 and has not been rebuilt.

The first blacksmith in the town was C. McAllister, who opened a shop in May, 1871. He was very shortly followed by John Wyncoop, who began business in February, 1872, removing from Old Robinson.

The first 4th of July celebration occurred in 1871 and was observed by “national salutes” speeches, and in the evening by a dance at the grain house, now the store of J. A. Gilbert. The next year the Odd Fellows had charge of the celebration and carried out their programme, including a dance in Dowell’s store on Parsons street, to the satisfaction of a large crowd which had assembled from the country round.

It is rarely the case that small towns, even when constructed of the most inflammable material, are severe sufferers by conflagration. That fire may become utterly unmanageable in a few buildings and be only stopped by natural or artificial barriers is not an infrequent occurrence; but that all efforts should be unavailing, all barriers useless, is fortunately a rare event. Such was, however, the case in Robinson. To understand the course o the fire it must be premised that the business part of the town consisted of two streets running at right angles, one parallel to the railway and the other northward. On the upper portion of the latter stood the two-story building of C. Meisenheimer. Just before daybreak on February 16, 1882, flames were seen pouring from the upper story of this building and before the citizens could be aroused the whole interior of the store was seething with fire. Adjoining on the south stood the hardware store of Leslie & Hall, and attention was at once turned to removing its contents. Little had been done in this direction before the flames, impelled by a strong northwest wind, drove the workers from their places. Abandoning their efforts in this direction and trusting to a large vacant lot between the burning building and the hotel on the south the crowd turned to the store of G. W. Parsons, upon the north, already well ablaze, and to the dwelling of J. W. Baxter, on the east side of the street. It is needless to detail the half frantic efforts of those who saw their property endangered and the very existence of the town doubtful. Noon saw the flames subdued but chiefly because there was no more to burn. On the north of the building in which the fire started were the ruins of the building of G. W. Parsons, occupied by J. B. Mitchell as a drug store and postoffice, and in the upper story by the Odd Fellows’ and the Masonic Lodges; the grocery of H. C. King and the office of Dr. J. L. LeMaster. Below the stores of C. Meisenheimer and Leslie & Hall the fire had leaped the vacant space and burned from the corner westward, consuming the hotel building of L. C. Parker, leased by A. Nellans; the general store of Spencer & Spickelmire; the grocery of Round & Zieber; the meat market of A. Terrill, and the hotel of C. McAllister. On the east side of Parsons street was destroyed the dwelling of J. W. Baxter, also used as a millinery store; the barber shop of William Morris; the agricultural implement warehouse of Leslie & Hall; the meat market of N. Peek; the general store of N. P. Rush & Co.; the grocery of J. A. Gilbert, and the wagon shop of T. J. Jenkins. This was a clean sweep of both sides of Parsons street to the street next the railway. The loss by this fire footed up $31,000; the insurance on the property destroyed being $11,000. The heaviest losers were N. F. Leslie, J. P. Mitchell and L. C. Parker. The fire, it will be remembered, broke out on February 16th. On February 17th the work of rebuilding was begun, and in exactly one week the hardware store of Leslie & Hall was completed. A few days later the drug store of J. B. Mitchell was ready for occupation. Others followed, and in a month ten buildings were erected. Robinson of to-day, though the scars of her great disaster are yet visible, is to all appearance as thriving as before the eventful 16th of February, but it will be ong before the vivid recollection of the night of terror will leave the minds of the inhabitants.


The first public school was held in an old stable on the farm of P. S. Kelly, and was taught by a Miss Brownley. In 1867 a schoolhouse 18x36 feet was built at a point just northwest of the town. In 1878 the present school building was erected. This structure is 36x60 feet, and one story in height. It has two rooms and cost $1,400. The first teacher in this building was L. H. Smyth, the present County Superintendent, who taught the school three years and was followed by P. C. Carey, who held the position during 1881-82. The present enrollment of the district, (No. 26), is 120, but owing to attendance from outside the number actually in school is 115.

Prairie Spring Schoolhouse, District No. 25, Robinson Township, was built in 1867, on what was once a portion of the farm of Mr. Seeley Sherman, who donated the land for this purpose. It is a handsome frame structure, and was erected when there was not to exceed seven families in the district, at a cost of $1,000. It is well furnished throughout, and has a seating capacity of seventy-five.

The School Board is composed of the following named gentlemen: J. A. Jeffers, Treasurer; A. J. Owen and J. A. Dowell, Clerk.

Mr. Samuel B. McCray is the teacher at present in charge of the school. This schoolhouse was one of the first erected in Brown, and was for a long time considered one of the best in the county.

Robinson Methodist Episcopal Church.—The corner-stone of this church was laid in June, 1875. The church was completed at a cost of $2,700, and dedicated in 1877. The first pastor was the Rev. Walter A. Saville, who preached one year, and was succeeded by the Rev. B. F. Bowman. He continued in charge two years, and was succeeded by the Rev. S. M. Hopkins, who also had charge two years. The parsonage, a handsome structure, was built while he was pastor. Mr. H. was succeeded by Rev. J. S. Kline, who continued in charge one and a half years, and was succeeded by Rev. E. H. Bailiff, the present popular pastor. The first trustees were P. S. Kelley, chairman; C. L. Carroll, treasurer; John H. Lange, secretary, I. F. Martindale, Harry Cheal and Hiram Crounse. The present trustees are P. S. Kelley, chairman; Charles Hack, treasurer; John H. Lange, secretary, C. L. Carroll, I. F. Martindale, James A. Gilbert and A. Terrill. The congregation has 130 members, composed of some of the first families of Robinson and vicinity. Prior to the erection of the church, services were held by Rev. John Day in the old schoolhouse.

A Sabbath-school was organized in the summer of 1876 under the superintendence of J. H. Lange, and had about forty members. At the present time the attendance is fully seventy. The school is in charge of Mr. John Wood.

Robinson Lodge, No. 98, I. O. of O. F.— Was instituted September 27, 1872, with the following charter members: A. J. Owen, N. G.; L. C. Parker, V. G.; G. B. Sterline, Sec.; M. V. Christy, Treas.; Lum. Martin, W. Swift, J. Sherman and J. Wynkoop. The lodge first met in Dowel’s Hall, where it held its meetings until November, 1880, when it moved into Leslie’s Hall. On the 16th day of February, 1882, it lost its hall by fire, with all its furniture and regalia. On this loss there was, unfortunately, no insurance. A meeting of the members of the lodge was held a few days after the fire, when it was decided to rent another hall, and on the 25th day of March, 1882, it held its first meeting in Hack’s Hall, the Masons and Odd Fellows furnishing the hall together. The lodge is now in a prosperous condition, with thirty-five members, composed of some of the best citizens of Robinson and vicinity. The lodge was incorporated July 18, 1882, with J. B. Mitchell, J. Wynkoop, L. M. Hughes, William Parker and Miles Cook as trustees. The following named have been the Past Grands of the lodge: A. J. Owen, L. C. Parker, J. Wynkoop, A. Nellans, J. S. Stilwell, S. Iams, S. Mallott, J. B. Mitchell, C. C. Gregg, J. J. Payne and L. M. Hughes. The present officers are: W. M. Parker, N. G.; J. M. Morris, V. G.; C. S. Payne, Sec.; L. M. Hughes, Perm. Sec.; Ashael Terrill, Treas.; C. C. Gregg, representative, and J. B. Mitchell, D. D. G. M.

Robinson Lodge, No. 159, A., F. & A. M.— The dispensation for organizing this lodge was granted June 30, 1874, by the Grand Lodge of the State of Kansas, and chartered October 21, 1875.

The following named were the charter members: Charles Hack, W. M.; C. A. Lemon, S. W.; A. H. Wade, J. W.; R. H. Bollinger, Treas.; Geo. W. Parsons, Sec.; John Wynkoop, S. D.; William Morris, J. D.; Solomon Jamison, tyler, and Hiram Crounse. The lodge held regular meetings in Hack’s Hall, until the fall of 1880, when they removed to their new hallin Leslie & Parson’s block, which was destroyed by fire, February 16, 1882. The lodge lost all their regalia and property, on which they had, unfortunately, no insurance. Since the fire they have held their meetings in their old room in Hack’s Hall. The lodge has thirty-five members, comprised of the solid and influential men of Robinson and vicinity. The present officers of the lodge are: Dr. Geo. W. Parsons, W. M.; N. F. Leslie, S. W.; John Wynkoop, J. W.; John Bangtson, Treas.; E. C. Brown, Sec., William Morris, S. D.; Hiram Crounse, J. D., and Josiah Ball, tyler.

At an election held at their hall, December 19, 1882, by this lodge, the following officers were elected for the ensuing Masonic year: Charles Hack, W. M.; John Wynkoop, S. W.; Hiram Crounse, J. W.; John Bengtson, Treas.; William H. Morris, Sec.; James Jensen, S. D.; N. S. Wood, J. D.; Henry Smith, S. S.; E. C. Brown, J. S. and Julius Meecke, tyler.

A steam grist-mill was built in 1870 by D. P. Williams, at a point south of the railway. After running it for about a year Mr. Williams sold the mill to Sterline & Bower, who used it up to the time of its destruction by fire in 1873. It was valued at $5,000, and had two run of buhr-stones. After the burning of the old mill no steps were taken to supply its place until 1880, when L. C. Parker erected, on the north bank of the river the mill now in use. This structure is 24x36 feet in size and two stories in height. It is furnished with two run of buhr-stones—one for wheat and one for corn and feed—and has capacity for milling, 120 bushels of grain daily. Power is furnished by an engine of forty-horse power. The property was sold on June 1, 1882, to R. A. Groninger, who now carries on the business.

What is now known as the Leslie elevator was built in 1876 by Crosswaite & Middleton as a warehouse. In this form it was twenty by sixty feet. It was purchased in 1880 by the Gregg Brothers Grain Company, of St. Joseph, Mo., and enlarged to 48x110 feet. It is two stories in height and has a capacity of 15,000 bushels of grain. Power is furnished by an engine of twenty horse-power. With its improvements the elevator is valued at $5,000.

The town had, in 1882, a population of 300. Its business may be summed up as follows: Four general stores, four groceries, one hardware store, one drug store, one agricultural implement house, two millinery stores, two blacksmith shops, two harness shops, one wagon shop, one elevator and one hotel.

[TOC] [part 14] [part 12] [Cutler's History]