TOWN OF WARREN - The Robinson Cemetery in the Town of Warren is one of
the few cemeteries in Herkimer County that is not visible from a public
roadway. It is situated on a private estate that was once the summer retreat
of the Robinson family, last owned by the famous Russian cellist Mstislav
Rostropovich and his wife Galina Vishnevskaya.
driving down a long woodland path, here you find the location of the burial
site set in a picturesque setting with not only a black wrought iron fence
to protect it, but, it appeared, a natural barrier of thorn trees that
had grown up over the years.
stones were laid in perfect symmetry around a main one which was much
bigger and topped by a large cross. Here lay the first family members
to be buried on the site: Douglas Robinson and his wife Fanny Monroe Robinson.
is a legacy to the love the Robinson family had for their summer retreat,
best known as Henderson House or Gelston Castle. The property had been
in the family since the early 1700's when Dr. James Henderson of Scotland
had received a patent in upstate New York from Queen and King of England.
It wasn't until the 1780s, however, that his granddaughter, Margaret Douglas,
a native of New York City, made her way to the family patent and erected
the first family homestead on the property. Her daughter, Harriet Douglas
Cruger (1790-1872), was the one to build an additional structure begun
ca. 1832-1834, the famous Gelston Castle, named and fashioned after a
castle in Scotland owned by her uncle.
quite a lady in her own right and a book was written about her titled
"Miss Douglas of New York" by Angus Davidson (1953). She can
be described as an independent and eccentric woman, who is known to have
had her marriage bed sawed in half to make a sofa when she divorced her
husband, Henry Nicholas Cruger. She loved her family and her summer home
at Henderson and in the book it states, "every summer, as long as
her health lasted, the tyrannical old woman - a mixture of Scottish chieftain,
English duchess and American pioneer - lorded it over the surrounding
died in 1872, the house and estate of Henderson fell to the share of her
niece, Fanny Robinson, whom she thought of as a daughter. Harriet wished
to be buried at Henderson; however, the family buried her instead in the
family plot in a New York City churchyard.
of the Robinson Cemetery, therefore, begins with Fanny and Douglas. Fanny
was born in New York City on April 14, 1824 to Elizabeth Mary Douglas
(Harriet's sister) and James Monroe, nephew of President James Monroe.
Fanny's second cousin Douglas Robinson was born in Orchardton, Kirkcudbrightshire,
Scotland on March 24, 1824 to William Rose and Mary (Douglas) Robinson.
Fanny's mother Elizabeth (Betsy) and Douglas' mother Mary were first cousins.
He was educated in Edinburgh Unviersity and in 1841 came to this country
and engaged in business in New York City. The pair fell in love. Douglas
did not have much money and the older generation deemed it an unsuitable
match adn sent Fanny away to visit relatives in Scotland. However, Fanny
showed the true female spirit inherent in her family and married Douglas
when she came back in 1850.
"Miss Douglas..." reads: "A large wedding reception was
given at Fanwood, the house the Monroes had built at Fort Washington,
then as a secluded suburb to the north of New York City. The young couple
went to live, temporarily, at 55 Broadway, lent to them, together with
a carriage and horses, by their fairy godmother Aunt Harriet." And
later, in the book, we read: "Douglas and Fanny would visit with
their children, Douglas and little Harriet, from their home in New Jersey
to visit the formidable old lady in the big hosue in Fourteenth Street
in New York City. Amongst the playfellows invited to meet them there was
a little boy of almost exactly their own age whose name was Theodore Roosevelt
and with him his sister Corinne who later married the young Douglas Robinson."
at her summer home Henderson House on Aug. 22, 1906. Her husband Douglas
had died Nov. 30, 1893, and were both buried on the family estate in Herkimer
Douglas Robinson and his wife Corinne were the next to inherit Henderson
House and Gelston Castle. They are buried in Robinson Cemetery as well.
Their cemetery stones read that Douglas was born Jan. 3, 1855, and Corinne
on Sept. 27, 1861. It is romantic and appropriate that they should meet
as children at Aunt Harriet's and make their home during the summers at
the estate she dearly loved.
the daughter of Theodore Sr. and Martha Bulloch Roosevelt. She was the
youngest of four children and the sister of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., president
of the United States. She traveled extensively with her family in her
younger years - Europe and the Middle East. She wrote poetry and had several
volumes published. She had her debut in society in 1880 attended by people
with names such as Astor and Vanderbilt. Two years later in April of 1882,
Corinne was given in marriage by her brother Theodore to Douglas Robinson.
Douglas were very community-oriented. They were one of the major donors
for the construction of the Jordanville Library, whose dedication was
given in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. An old newspaper recounts
Corinne was named head of the women's branch of the Herkimer County Defense
had house guests including Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt
and his wife Elinor. Elinor was Corinne's and Theodre's niece. Grandchildren
of the Robinson's recall a house party at which Teddy Roosevelt and Elinor
Roosevelt were in attendance at Henderson, causing some tension during
charades because of their rivaling political parties and beliefs.
Douglas Robinson had four children, of which three sons, Theodore, Monroe
and Stewart, are buried at Robinson Cemetery. Daughter Corinne married
Joseph Alsop and later Francis Cole and msot likely was buried with her
died on Sept. 12, 1918, and Corinne died Feb. 17, 1933, in New York City.
On her gravestone it reads "For She Loved Much." In her will,
Corinne gave the portrait of Harriet Douglas by the English artist, Sir
William beechey, to her eldest grandson Douglas Robinson. She also left
one thousand dollars to the Jordanville Library to be kept in a trust
fund in memory of her son Stewart Douglas Robinson.
Douglas Robinson, the eldest son of Douglas and Corinne, was born April
28, 1883. He continued the tradition of keeping the Roosevelt name in
the family when he married Helen Roosevelt, a niece of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
She was born Sept. 26, 1881, to James and Helen Astor Roosevelt. Theodore
and Helen continued to live at Henderson House in his parent's tradition.
He was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Coolidge and
devoted 14 years to the service of Herkimer County, first as State Assemblyman
and then as State Senator. They had four children. Of them, a baby girl
named Martha Douglas Robinson was born on Feb. 4, 1912, and sadly died
a month later on March 5. She is buried next to her parents in the Robinson
Cemetery. Theodore died on April 10, 1934. Helen died July 8, 1962, and
was the last of the family line to live in the mansion.
Robinson, second son of Douglas and Corinne, was born Dec. 19, 1887 and
died Dec. 7, 1944. According to Monroe's obituary, he attended St. Paul's
School, Concord, N.H. and Harrow-on-the-Hill, Harrow, England. He graduated
from Harvard University. In World War I, he was a captain in the 77th
division and served overseas. He married Dorothy Curtis Jordan whom he
later divorced and they had one daughter. Monroe was a frequent visitor
at Henderson House.
son, Stewart Douglas Robinson, was born March 19, 1889 and died tragically
at the age of 19 on Feb. 21, 1909 by falling from a sixth story window
while at college.
stone in the Robinson Cemetery seemed a little strange as it had a different
name than the others and a later date: Paul E. Therriault, born April
2, 1940, and died Oct. 30, 1991. We discovered that he was the caretaker
of the estate and permission was received from the Robinson family to
bury him there.
Roosevelt Robinson had died, the property passed to her son Douglas Robinson
Jr. who sold it to Mrs. Jan Blair of New Jersey who wanted to operate
a retirement home on the property.
It was the
end of a bygone era and the days where Gelston Castle and Henderson House
were the summer getaway for a family of wealth and notoriety from New
York City. A very special place that Margaret and her daughter Harriet
had built that would be shared by future generations with fond memories.
* The Legacy
articles will be updated monthly on the website *
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