This township derives its name from its being first occupied by the brothers of Rix Robinson, the early Indian trader. In 1835 six brothers of Rix came in the vessel St. Joseph from Detroit to Grand Haven. They were Nathan, Edward, Rodney, Lucas, John and Ira, and the last four settled in Robinson Township. About three years later, however, Rodney and Lucas moved to Flat River. The six brothers and their families numbered forty-two souls. They tried lumbering but did not find it remunerative as the demand was not great, and they erected too expensive mills. In his first winter Ira cut with an ax and put into the river 996 logs for the Grand Haven Company at fifty cents a log. The company did not buy them and they lay several years in the river and were finally sold for a barrel of flour and two barrels of pork.

The settlement of the town was slow, and it was not organized until 1856, the first meeting being at the house of Ira Robinson, at which eighteen voters were present. The first officers were: J. W. Barnard, Supervisor; E.G. Robinson, Clerk; W. Furgerson, Treasurer; J. Hazard, W. H. Wood, A. Robinson, and F. T. Ranney, Justices.

After the Robinsons, and before 1839, came in W. F. Wood, J. and H. Conner, A. Trummbull, Jas. Black, Jos. Lemon, D. Ranney and Mr. Harlenburg.

The first census, in 1860, showed 128 inhabitants; in 1870 there were 406, and in 1874, 528, while in 1880 it had fallen to 439.

The township has a little village, Robinson, where is the "Eastman" mill, and a store or two and a church.

Robinson is a little over a full township and is bounded on the north by the Grand River, on the east by Allendale, on the south by Olive, and on the west by Grand Haven and is township 7 N, range 15 W. It was traversed until December, 1881, by the old Lake Shore R. R. line from Holland to Muskegon, crossing the river at Spoonville. The track has been taken up and the road sold to a rival line, which runs to the west. There was projected a line, the Michigan & Ohio, which runs diagonally from the southeast corner to the corner of section 18 and thence to Grand Haven. A great portion in the southeast is forest land.

There is also a "paper city" called Warren City, with two log houses in it, and at one time the County Commissioners determined upon it as the future county seat. It is still on paper.

Charles H. Clark was the first Supervisor, and held the office for a long term of years. In 1874 O. A. Whitney was elected to the office and held the same until 1879, J. W. Knight succeeding him. The present incumbent, W. C. Harper, is a merchant of Robinson village. The lands of Robinson are those largely known as pine and hemlock, a large portion of which is sufficiently elevated for successful fruit growing, with a soil fully as well adapted for the purpose as can be found in Michigan. Other portions of the township consist of low marsh and black, sandy loam, splendidly adapted to the production of grass. Of this marsh land Mr. George Eastman has improved and seeded to timothy and clover some 300 acres. He sold to one man at one transaction in December 1881, 200 tons of hay for the sum of $3,000 in cash. A large portion of the land of the township is still unsettled and uncultivated, and it is a fact that land of the best quality for the production of grain, hay or fruit, can at the present writing, be obtained at better figures than in any other township in the county. These cheap lands are being rapidly taken up and improved by actual settlers, and when he so-called big marsh is drained and otherwise improved, Robinson will be one of the most productive towns in Ottawa county. The village of Robinson contains some twenty families, two stores, a post office, one church, one hotel and school house in which a good school in maintained for eight or ten months in the year.


The man who has held the supervisor-ship of the town longest is Charles H. Clark, who has a beautiful farm in the northwest corner of the town, with the memorable Battle Point, an island in the river on his place. This is said to have derived its name from an ancient Indian battle. Mr. Clark, who is a brother of Sidney Clark, lumberman, Grand Haven, was born in Maine in 1835, and came in 1853 to Robinson, then a portion of Ottawa Township, to lumber in the woods, first building a horse railroad for the Gilberts. He lumbered off and on until about two years ago, taking his present farm of 120 acres in 1865. He married in 1855, Abbie H. Wall, of Maine who died in 1873, leaving five surviving children.

Mr. Clark has been ten times elected Supervisor, being first chosen in 1864; has been Township Treasurer, Justice of the Peace, and in fact has held every town office except that of Constable.

In 1881-2 the officers are, Supervisor, W. C. Harper; Clerk, Luke B. Kimmerly, Treasurer, C. H. Clark; Justice, C. H. Clark, J. W. Knight, R. Robinson, and Grosvenor Reed. the latter is one of the oldest settlers in the county, being first in Allendale, and has set a good example in the cultivation of cranberries, in which he has done well.

On the west there is some fruit growing by Mr. Chappel and others. Mr. Charles H. Clark has the most fruit on the west side, having fifteen acres in orchard, besides small fruit.


The first church was at Robinson station, and was first Congregational, but now Union. The Congregational missionary, and it was organized in Clark’s district in 1868.

The first district school was No. 1, at Robinson settlement about 1850. The second was in the Barnard neighborhood, on section 23, organized in 1847. In the following year No. 3, the Clark school, was organized with Sophronia Angell, of Lamont, as first teacher.

The first apple trees were set out by J. W. Barnard, on section 24, and C. H. Clark, on section 6, about the same time.

The first saw mill was erected at Robinson Station in 1872, by Galen Eastman, when the railway went through. It was burned some years after. There had been a shingle mill there before the railway. There is now no saw milling done in the town except by one small mill on section 1, by Robinson & Henshaw. There was a portable mill owned by Mr. Griggs, of Grand Rapids, but it has been removed.

The greatest bush fire was in 1871, the same year as the great Chicago and Holland City fires, when the southeast of the town was burned over.

The first railroad was a horse tramway run for ten years by Messrs Gilbert, built in 1852, was five miles long, running from the head of Stearus’ Bayou back into the south of the town. To show the cheapness of logs in the old times we may mention that the Gilberts in 1852 bought 1,700 acres of pine for one dollar per thousand stumpage, and logs were then $2.50 per 1,000 feet.

Politically the township was closely divided between the Republicans and Democrats, the former, however, generally electing the supervisors until the rise of the Greenbackers, who now have the majority.

The Grangers have a strong society in Robinson. The officers for the ensuing year are:

Master, W. M. Walter; Treasurer, J. Sherman; Secretary, H. Ross. They anticipate building a new hall very soon, and have reasons to rejoice at the success so far, of their order.


James S. Aleyn was born in Allentown, Pa., June 13, 1801. When 15 years old he removed with his parents to New York State. At 18 he left home and learned the carpenter trade, and came to Michigan in 1822. After a stay of eighteen months he returned to New York until 1830, when he again returned to Michigan. In 1853 he came to Eaton, coming thence to Grand Haven, where he worked on the first pier and assisted in building the first hotel. On December 15, 1843, he married Fanny Koentz, who was born September 11, 1821, and they have had thirteen children, of whom but three survive; David B., born August 3, 1861; Willie H., born June 9, 1864; and Ora Clara, born August 9, 1852.

Lucas D. Baldus, section boss on C. & W. M. Railway, was born in Schenectady County, N.Y., came to this State when 16 years of age, and settled in Robinson in 1870. He was married November 11, 1873, to Katy Kolehouse, and has seven children: John N., Emma M., Henry W., Ella B., Clara A., Anthony E., and Louisa A.

Joseph Chappel, merchant, was born June 22, 1815, in Onondaga County, N.Y., and has worked his own way since he was 7 years of age. When a boy he worked on a farm for three years, going to school in the winters. In 1872 he came to this State, taking charge of Eastman & Mosely’s store, and May 17, 1876, went into business as a general merchant for himself.

M. C. French, farmer, has 80 acres in section 18, Robinson, and 160 acres in Allendale, in section 7, at the mouth of Bass Creek. Mr. French was born in New Hampshire in 1817, but brought up in Vermont. In 1845 he came to Allendale, and in 1881 to Robinson. In 1846 he married Miss Helen Cross, of Kent County, and has four sons and three daughters. Mr. French is an old settler and prominent citizen.

Isaac N. Hannan, was born May 24, 1832, in Lake, Ashland County, Ohio, and came to Robinson in 1855, working in the lumber woods for most of the time. He has spent two years in the South, and has served his country in gunboat service in the last war, having been one year in the U.S. Service. He has helped to build Robinson village, and is one of the pioneers of the township.

William C. Harper, Supervisor of Robinson, was born in Washtenaw County, Michigan, in 1850. He was the son of Alonzo Harper, a farmer of that county, and was brought up on the farm, starting out life for himself at nineteen years of age. After a term of four years at the State Agricultural College, he graduated in November, 1873. Then devoted seven years to the profession of teaching in which he was quite successful, teaching one year at Eastmanville, one term at Berlin, and five terms at Robinson. He went into business in Robinson January 1, 1876, starting a general store. He filled acceptably the office of Superintendent of Schools, Township Clerk (1880), and Supervisor (1881). In 1880 he ran on the Democrat ticket against Cornelius Van Loo for the State Legislature, and had 107 majority in his own township, Mr. Van Loo defeated him by but 54 votes, while Garfield’s majority was 800.

He married, September 1, 1875, Miss Nellie G. Eastman, who was born at Youngstown, N.Y., January 3, 1856, and has two sons, Eastman and William C.

Milo O. Hatch was born in 1836, on Sand Creek, Kent County, Michigan, and in September 1862 enlisted in the army, serving three years and three months. Being disabled by wounds in battle he receives a pension. In 1863, at Detroit, he married Miss Mathilda Martin, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., They have three sons and three daughters.

John C. Holcomb was born November 1, 1856, in Canandaigua, Michigan, and resided there until eleven years of age. In 1867 he came to Eastmanville, and there finished his education. After acting as operator at Watervliet one year, on March 22d, 1879, he became station master at Robinson, remaining until the road was discontinued at the close of 1881. On March 9, 1880, he married Julia King, who was born in Ohio, October 7, 1860, and they have one child, born January 1, 1881.

L. E. Holcomb, section master for the C. & W. M. Railway at Robinson Station, was born August 26, 1857, at Lapeer, Michigan. On May 17, 1880, he married Lavina E. Beckett, born March 22, 1857, in Monch County, Ontario. They have one son, named William.

James W. Knight is a prominent and active public man in Robinson, who has filled the offices of Justice of the Peace, Commissioner of Highways, Supervisor, etc. He was born in Erie County, N.Y., in 1826, came to Wisconsin in 1843, to Grand Haven in 1867, and since 1877 has resided in Robinson. He has been traveling agent for the Chamberlain Manufacturing Company, of New York, selling stump machines and agricultural implements. He was married August 23, 1851, to Miss Caroline C. Harford, who was born in Rochester, Monroe County, N.Y., in 1831. They have three children: Ella, born January 13, 1853; Lilly E., June 29, 1858, and James A., July 13, 1861.

Alfred Robinson, son of John and Eliza (Fowler) Robinson, was born in Franklin County, N.Y., in 1823, and came to Ottawa County in 1834, settling in Robinson township, which was named from the distinguished family who were brothers of Rix Robinson, the pioneer.

Hiram Robinson is one of the first pioneers, and son of the pioneer family of the Robinson, brothers of Rix Robinson, who settled in Robinson township in 1835, Hiram then being but one year old. His father, Rodney Robinson, settled on what is now Section 6, Allendale. In 1860 Hiram settled in Robinson, first following lumbering, but for many years he has been active and successful farmer. He married, December 28, 1856, Miss Elizabeth Boggs, who was born in Warren County, Indiana, October 15, 1838. They have six children, of whom four survive: Edwin F., born September 28, 1857, Mary F., October 19, 1859, Franklin L., September 2, 1862, Frederick W., July 29, 1865, Ida M., April 2, 1868, Sula L., February 28, 1874, The eldest and youngest are dead.

Matthias Thomas, born in Prussia, April 3, 1835, whence he came with his parents to Lorain County, Ohio, in 1844. When twenty-one years of age he came to Spring Lake, working for the Barber estate mill, then under the charge of J. H. Newcomb. In 1861 he settled on his farm, in Section 5, in Robinson. He married, October 6, 1860, Miss Martha Jane Hunt. They have four daughters: Mary, born in 1871, Hattie, in 1873, Mattie, in 1875, and Amelia, in 1877.

Mr. Thomas was drafted into the army in November, 1864, and served bravely under General Grant, and was in the hot engagements before Petersburg and Richmond. At the close hostilities he obtained an honorable discharge

Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 12 June 2010