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Ancestor of the Month

November 2009 

 

Christopher Robinson, I

1645-1693

 

The Robinsons were an illustrious family who played major roles in the early days of Virginia.  Our Christopher was part of that family, and as such his fate seemed preordained.  He was destined to become an important figure in colonial life, and he fulfilled that destiny.

 

Family Background

 

Christopher Robinson was born in Cleasby Parish, York, England in 1645, probably on the family owned estate called “Hewich.”  He was the third son of John (1614-1651) and Elizabeth Potter Robinson (1619-1688).  Elizabeth was the daughter of Christopher Potter, Sr. (1586-1642) and Isabel Unknown (no dates).  The information concerning John and Elizabeth’s family varies from source to source with the number of children ranging from 1-20.  This variation may be because of the confusion over the number of Robinson families and the number of children with similar names.  The list below is suspect and comes in part(s) from several sources.

 

  • John Robinson (1641-1650) died at age 9; named for his father
  • Thomas Robinson  (1642-1654) died at age 12 while at school in      Scotland
  • Christopher Robinson (1645-1693) our ancestor
  • John Robinson (1650-1723) named for his deceased brother
  • Elizabeth Robinson  (1652-?)
  • Mary Robinson  (1654-?)
  • Frances Robinson (1656-?)
  • Clara Robinson (1658-Bef 1712)
  • William Anthony Robinson (1661-1727)

 

According to Mary Pollard Clark, writing in the William and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine (2nd Series, Vol. I, 1921, p. 134), Christopher “received every advantage of education, wealth, and family connection.”  On the other hand, a letter written by Causton H. Robinson, a Robinson historian, states that the Robinson family in Cleasby Parish was not considered wealthy, but their father valued education.  The children were taught and tutored at home, and the boys were sent away to Scotland for schooling.  Christopher was educated in business and law.  (The most academically inclined child in the family was Christopher’s younger brother John who was eventually to become Lord Bishop of London.  He also served as Envoy Extraordinary to Charles XII of Sweden and to August II of Poland, was Bishop of Bristol, and was British Plenipotentiary at the Treaty of Utrecht.  Tradition says that he was holding Queen Anne’s hand when she died.)

 

The Move to Virginia Colony

 

Whatever their financial standing, the family was undoubtedly influential and had important friends.  Around 1660 Christopher moved to Virginia as secretary to Sir William Berkeley, Governor of the colony.  This assignment was to be the first of many political appointments and positions.

 

Once in Virginia Christopher quickly established himself and settled on land along the Rappahannock River near Urbanna. The family estate he began was originally called “The Grange.”   Additions and renovations occurred over the years, and when Christopher’s grandson inherited the plantation, he changed its name to “Hewick” after the family home in England.  (Hewick plantation in VA was owned by members of the Robinson family until 2004 when it was sold to a non-Robinson descendant for the first time.  In the years just before its sale it had been a bed and breakfast, but after the 2004 sale Hewick again became a private home.  It was renovated in 2006 and is currently for sale again for $1,600,000.)

 

 Christopher’s land dealings concerned large areas of land.  On 20 January 1688/9 he purchased 2500 acres in (Old) Rappahannock County, Virginia, from John Curtis of Northumberland County, Virginia.  On 29 April 1692 he received a patent for 959 acres in (Old) Rappahannock County from Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson.  On 2 April 1707 Christopher II sold 300 acres in Middlesex County to John Hay of Middlesex County.  (These 300 acres were probably part of the Robinson land in (Old) Rappahannock County which was later part of Middlesex County.)  Even after selling that 300 acres, Christopher’s land holdings would still have been over 3000 acres. 

 

Christopher’s First Marriage

 

In c1679 our Christopher married Agatha Obert (1652-c1684) daughter of Col. Bertram Obert (Hobert).  Col. Obert was originally from France.  In 1656 Obert patented 773 acres of prime land on the Rappahanock, adjacent to land that would later be patented by Christopher.

 

Agatha and Christopher had four children:

 

  • Ann Robinson  (? –d. after 1712) married Dr. John Haye (ca. 1677-1709).
  • Christopher Robinson (Colonel)  (1681-1727) married Judith Wormeley, daughter of Colonel Christopher Wormeley.  (Strangely, this Christopher is not known as Christopher II; that designation goes to his cousin, the son of his uncle John Robinson.) 
  • Clara Robinson  (c1684-1698)
  • John Robinson (1683-1749) Our ancestor.  John married Catherine Beverley, his first cousin, who was the daughter of Major Robert Beverley and his first wife Mary.  John became President of His Majesty’s Council and was Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1742 until his death in 1749.  He became acting governor in 1749 when Governor Gooch left for England.  John’s son Christopher II inherited the family estate and renamed it Hewich after the original Robinson family home in England.  (Some say he rather than Christopher I built the home that is there today.)  Another of John’s sons, John, Jr. (1704-1766) was Treasurer of Virginia and Speaker of the House of Burgesses for seven sessions (1738-1765) 

 

Second Marriage

 

Agatha died in 1684, and Christopher remarried.  This time his bride was another lady who was already one of our ancestors, Catherine Armistead Hone Beverley  (See article on Robert Beverley.)  This Catherine was the stepmother of the Catherine Beverley who later married our ancestor John Robinson (above).  After Christopher wed Catherine, she became Catherine Armistead Hone Beverley Robinson.  In addition, she became John’s stepmother as well as Catherine’s.  Christopher’s new wife had had four children with her former husband, Robert Beverley, and probably brought the children from that marriage with her.  She and Christopher had four more children

 

  • Elizabeth Robinson (1688-1695)
  • Clara Robinson (1689-1715)   
  • Theophilius Robinson (1691-1691)  Died at 4 months of age
  • Benjamin Robinson (Colonel) (1689-1761)

 

(Note:  Please remember that almost all of this information comes from conflicting secondary sources; thus names, dates, and other facts are all suspect.  For example, why would there be two Claras when Clara I was still alive?)

 

Public Service

 

Christopher’s life was filled with public service.  He was Clerk of Middlesex County from 1675-1688. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1685 and served until 1692.  He was appointed  to the Governor' Council in 1691 after Governor Francis Nicholson recommended him to the King as a person qualified to fill one of the vacancies on the council.   (The House of Burgesses has been compared to England’s House of Commons and the Governor’s Council has been compared with  England’s House of Lords.)  Christopher was Secretary of State of the Virginia colony from1691-1692 and became a member of the Board of Trustees of the College of William and Mary at its founding in 1693.  Not only were his fellow colonists aware of his abilities, the governor’s recommendation had brought his abilities to the attention of the king.  Christopher was appointed Councillor [sic] and Secretary of Foreign Plantations by King William III of England in 1692.  In religious affairs he served as senior vestryman and warden of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex Co.,VA

 

Christopher and three of his neighbors were called the “Barons of the Rappahannock River."  The group included the owners of Rosegill, Brandon, Buckingham, and Hewick plantations.  I was unable to sort out ownership of the four plantations, but found the following information.  Hewick, of course, was owned by the Robinson family.  Rosegill, which consisted of about 3200 acres, was owned by the Wormeley family.  A Brandon plantation was owned first by John Martin and then was sold in 1700 to the Harrison family who produced signers of the “Declaration of Independence,” a governor or two, and two Presidents of the United States.  (However, our ancestor Elizabeth Smith, who married Capt. Harry Beverley, was born at Brandon, as was her father Robert Smith, Jr. so at some time Brandon, or at least a Brandon was owned by someone related to Elizabeth Wormeley.  [Robert Smith’s mother Elizabeth Wormeley was married to Richard Kemp, a governor of VA, then to Lord Thomas Lunsford, and then to Gen. Robert Smith.  Lunsford and Kemp are both buried on the plantation Kemp originally owned.  Unfortunately for our problem, Kemp’s home was known as “Rich Neck,” not Brandon.  In addition, apparently Robert Smith in his will stipulated that 60 acres of his plantation be laid off for a town {later known as Port Royal, VA.}  This would probably have been land formerly owned by both Kemp and Lunsford.]  There is also reference to an Upper Brandon plantation and a Lower Brandon Plantation)  Buckingham is even more unclear.  There was a Buckingham plantation owned at one time by the Cary family which included Col. Archibald Cary, colonial patriot and capitalist, but that Buckingham plantation, after which Buckingham Co. was named, was more centrally located in VA and was not on the Rappahannock River.  In any event, whoever owned the Buckingham in question was one of the “barons.”  These men were the movers and shakers of the colonial VA of their time.  (This real estate tangle might be added to the list of possible projects for future McCarter/Hatcher family members who are interested in solving such things.  If someone already knows the answer, please let me know.)  Update:  When Elizabeth Wormeley married Maj. Gen. Robert Smith, they sold Rich Neck and built a new plantation--Brandon--"a few miles downstream from Rosegill" on the Rappahannock.

 

Death and Legacy

 

Catherine died 22 Apr 1692 at 50 years of age, and Christopher followed her about ten months later on 13 Apr 1693.  We do not know Christopher’s exact birth date, but he had probably lived 48-50 years.

 

Christopher’s male descendants became influential landholders, tobacco traders, and political leaders in the colony.   His female descendants tended to marry important men.  For example, John Robinson (1704-1766) Christopher’s grandson, was Treasurer of Virginia and Speaker of the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg for seven sessions (1738-1765).  His granddaughter, Judith Robinson (2 Jul 1736-1757) married Carter Braxton (1736-1797).  Braxton was one of the signers of the “Declaration of Independence.” (Judith and Carter married in 1655 when both of them were 19 years old.  They had two daughters, but tragically Judith died just two years after her wedding.)   When the Revolution came, Robinsons were prominently involved on both sides.  In addition to a number of Robinson American patriots, several of Christopher’s descendants were loyalists who moved to Canada after the war.  They had served as officers in the royal army and later became well known Canadian statesmen.

 

Christopher I was a role model for his progeny.  He set a high standard for his descendants to follow and many succeeded in their endeavors.  Though probably none of us can fill his shoes, hopefully some of us may follow in his footsteps.

 

Christopher Robinson was Papaw’s 6 great grandfather.  If you are Eli McCarter’s great great grandchild, Christopher Robinson is your 10 great grandfather.

 

Line of Descent from Christopher Robinson to Rev. Eli McCarter

 

Christopher Robinson (1645-1693) + Agatha Obert (1652-1684)

John Robinson (1683-1749)  + Catherine Beverley (1686-1726)

William Robinson (1709-1792) + Agatha Beverley (1716-bef. 1763))

Agatha Robinson (1737-1812) + Capt. William Sims (1735-1761)

Joanna Sims (1761-1852) + James Ownby (1761-1850)

John Ownby (1781-1857) + Mary Jane Koone (1793-1881)

Mary Ownby (1814-1846) + Thomas McCarter (1811-1888)

Thomas Hill McCarter (1846-1923) + Marriah Reagan (182-1923)

Rev. Eli McCarter (1886-1955) + Mary Elizabeth Hatcher (1889-1969)

 

Sources

 

“Christopher Robinson (The Hon.) of Middlesex Co., Virginia.”  http://www.genealogy.com/genealogy/users/b/a/t/Helen-N-Battleson/index.html

“Christopher Robinson.”  Encyclopedia of VA Biography

http://www.archive.org/stream/encyclopediaofvi01tyleuoft/encyclopediaofvi01tyleuoft_djvu.txt

“Christopher Robinson.”  http://arlisherring.com/tng/getperson.php?personID=I069486&tree=Herring&PHPSESSID=325105d1ee0264da0bf4574dc4a52c8f

“Christopher Robinson.”    http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~robinson999/genealogy/Legacy/687.htm

 

Clarke, Mary P. “Christopher Robinson” in William and Mary Quarterly, 2nd Ser., 1, 1921, p. 134

“Descendants of Christopher Robinson I.” http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/b/a/t/Helen--N-Battleson/ODT0001-0001.html

“Descendants of John Robinson.” http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~deschart/hjr

“Descendants of Roger Armistead of Yorkshire England.”   In “My York Co. VA Project.”  http://hdhdata.org/york.html

Hewick.”  (National Register of Homes  file http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Counties/Middlesex/059-0006_Hewick_1978_Final_Nomination.pdf

“Robertsons Descended from Robinsons.”  Website page from LDS Family Search  http://www.jrshelby.com/rfotw/robinson.txt

Wiggins, Trip.  “The Founding of Port Royal.” The Rappahannock Gazette.  March-April 2000.  www.historicportroyal.com/town_history.htm

Wilson, Leonard.  “Edward Trent Robinson.” 1916.http://files.usgwarchives.org/va/albemarle/bios/robinson55gbs.txt

 

 

 

 

 

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