William J. Robinson

William J. Robinson portrait
(Mr. and Mrs. William J. Robinson)

Lockley, Fred. "History of the Columbia River Valley, From The Dalles to the Sea." Vol. 2. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1928. p. 640.


When one who has been at all familiar with the history of Oregon mentally reviews the past, there arise in his mind pictures of certain individuals men and women who have been active in promoting the early development of the state, in laying the broad foundation upon which has been built the later progress and prosperity of Oregon. They saw the possibilities of the great northwest with its rich valleys, its splendid mountain ranges and its broad rivers, and they builded here in the fullness of time a great empire. Each county had its men who were prominent in that early development, and among the number in Washington county was William J. Robinson, long identified with that district as one of its pioneer agriculturists. He was a man of many sterling traits of character, reliable, enterprising, trustworthy, and because of these qualities he became widely and favorably known. He was born in Mercer county, Pennsylvania, October 12, 1827, and his father was also a native of that state and of Irish extraction. When a young man William J. Robinson went to Indiana and was married in Jefferson county, that state, on the 9th of January, 1848, to Miss Emeline Barnum, a daughter of Daniel Barnum. Mrs. Robinson was born in Jefferson county, September 16, 1829, and was of Scotch lineage in the paternal line. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson established their home in Jennings county, Indiana, and there remained until April, 1851, when they started for Oregon by the overland route, a hazardous undertaking in those early days. By ox team and covered wagon they made the long and arduous journey across the plains and over the narrow mountain passes, spending nearly six months en route, and in September arrived in Clackamas county, where they remained for six weeks. In the following March Mr. Robinson removed to Washington county and filed on a donation claim. Through strenuous effort he cleared the land and brought it under cultivation. He closely studied soil and climatic conditions and demonstrated the value of science and system as factors in productiveness. His fields were divided by well kept fences and his buildings were large and substantial. As the years passed he added many improvements to the place and converted it into a beautiful garden spot. He was one of the earliest settlers in Washington county and hauled the lumber that was used for a building where the first Meier & Frank store now stands at Fifth and Morrison streets in Portland.

Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, namely: Berrilla, who died at the age of sixteen years; Agnes, the wife of James Walker, of Washington county; Viola, who is the widow of Joseph Smith; Florence I., who tenderly cared for her parents in their old age and who resides in the dwelling which her father built in 1874; Raleigh S., who operates a portion of his father's donation claim and also owns property in Portland; and Luona, who died when a child of three.

William J. Robinson remained on the homestead until his demise on the 23rd of May, 1898, when seventy years of age, and was long survived by his wife, who passed away in 1911, when nearly eighty-two years old. In their later years they had the gracious and loving attention of their daughter Florence, who displayed the utmost filial devotion in making the evening of life one of physical comfort and mental content to them. Nothing that she could do to further their welfare or happiness was neglected and hers is the precious memory of close association with honored parents. They evinced a deep and helpful interest in matters touching the welfare and progress of the locality in which they had so long resided and their many good qualities won for them the strong and enduring regard of all who knew them. Thus passed from the scenes of this life two who had been most active in reclaiming this region for the purposes of civilization. They early displayed that neighborly spirit which was expressed in kindliness and helpfulness to other early settlers, and all through life they continued to show forth those qualities which have made the memory of pioneer times a precious heritage to the present.


Submitted to the Oregon Bios. Project in August 2010 by Diana Smith. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.

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