Richland Co., Ohio
The Robinson Castle
source: Semi-Weekly News: 30 November 1897, Vol. 13, No. 96
This Robinson castle was a real structure and it actually stood within eight miles of the city of Mansfield and was seen and visited by dozens of people who are living today. This castle not only attracted attention and elicited comments at the time of its construction, which were augmented by its subsequent disaster and final fate, but is now looked back to with mingled interest and awe, for as time advances the tales that are told of the castle and its ruins become more numerous and seem to have been multiplied with the years that have intervened until it is rather difficult to discern where the truth ends and fiction begins.
Thomas ROBINSON, the builder of that castle, came from England and settled on the Big Hill [Weller Twp.] in about the year 1820, when he entered a quarter section of land and later bought 60 acres that adjoined it. He was a man of wealth and his views and ideas differed widely from those held by the average pioneer. He was imperious in his style and lordly in his manner, with no confidant and but few associates. He adhered to the old style of dress -- wore knee breeches and was called "King Tom". Although peculiar, he was a benefactor in his way, for he gave employment to many people and always paid them cash for their work, which was a great consideration. In those days when money was so scarce that the settlers often did not know how else to get means to pay their taxes than to go and "dig out stumps for Robinson" for his notoriety had spread far and wide and men went to him for work from different parts of the county and employment was given to all who applied, and the number of men in his employ would average, it is said, a dozen the year through. Robinson had not the patience, like the other settlers, to wait for stumps to rot out, but he hired men to dig them out, entailing great expense in clearing his land, causing fabulous stories to be told of his immense wealth.
Robinson was a widower when he came to America, but after getting his farm cleared, he returned to England, as he stated, for a wife. He was absent seven years, returning here just after his marriage, bringing his wife with him. He never gave any explanation about the delay and no one dared to question him. His wife, it is said, was a good looking woman of domestic taste, who stayed at home to serve her "lord and master", as was the custom with English women in those days. She lived about eight years after she came to America and her remains were interred in the Milton Cemetery. In 1843, Robinson returned to England, where he died within a year.
1836, Robinson built a large brick building for a residence. The bricks were of large size and on account of the size and style of the building and the aristocratic style of the building and the aristocratic habits of the owner it was called "The Castle". It stood upon the most commanding site of the summit of the hill. Beneath it were cellars, arched with stonework, intended, I opine, for wine cellars, and not as sepulchers for the dead. Within two years after it was built, a wing of the castle was blown down by a storm and Samuel Robinson, then a lad 7 years old, who was in the wreck, was taken out of the debris. He now lives on the Olivesburg road, where he has recently built - not a castle - but one of the finest country residences in the county.
Within a few years after the wing of the castle was wrecked, the arched foundations began to give away, and the building in time fell in a mass of ruins, remnants of which can be seen today.
Parties frequently visit the ruins of the old castle and sometimes tourists stop over trains to see with their own eyes the locality of which they have read and heard so much. Boy guides are usually employed at the station (Pavonia) to conduct the party to the hill. As one of these parties stood gazing at the ruins, a man remarked: "Down in that vaulted cellar is where old Bluebeard buried his 400 wives." "No", said the guide who had an eye to business, "no one is buried there: 'King Tom' cremated his wives and if you give me 25 cents extra I'll show you the exact spot where their bodies were burned into ashes." They paid the extra quarter and the boy took them to a ravine on the east and finding a place where some stone quarrymen had had a fire a year o two before, pointed to it as the place where the bodies had been cremated and exclaimed: "there are some of the ashes of their remains."
After they returned to the station, boarded the cars and the train had sped onward to the coast, the boy told how he had "worked" the men for an extra quarter and ever since that occurrence other guides have "worked" other parties in a like manner, each telling such tales as his imagination could invent. And thus many of the "Bluebeard" and other stories about "King Tom" originated.
Hiram R. SMITH, of this city, remembers "King Tom" quite well as also does his wife, who was Miss WARD, and whose father's farm joined ROBINSON's on the east. At that time Mr. SMITH was in McFALL's store, at the corner of Third and Main Streets, and had charge of the post office. Mr. ROBINSON came to town once or twice a week for his mail and to post letters to England, frequently mailing three or four letters at a time. The postage which had to be prepaid was 27 cents -- 25 to New York, and 2 from there to London. ROBINSON rode a white mare which he called "Kit" and when riding had his aristocratic stockings encased in leather leggings. He always carried a whip and seemed to be born, not only to command, but to be obeyed.
Mr. ROBINSON had a younger brother, Francis ROBINSON, and when Francis was making arrangements to join his brother in America, "King Tom" wrote to him to stop in Philadelphia and hunt up "Aunt Jane" Dixon and bring her back to keep house for them. Frank did as requested, but they got married at Pittsburg and when they arrived at the Big Hill, "Aunt Jane" was installed as the mistress of the ROBINSON home. "Aunt Jane" was the sister of Mrs. WARD and came to America with that family in 1819, but becoming tired of life in the New World, had started to return to England and was visiting for a short time in Philadelphia, when Mr. ROBINSON called upon and persuaded her to return with him to Ohio. To this couple two sons were born -- William ROBINSON, who now owns the ROBINSON farm on the Big Hill and lives in a house that stands within a few feet of where the cabin stood in which he was born. The other son was the late Gen. James S. ROBINSON, who helped to organize the 82nd. Regiment of Ohio Infantry, became its colonel and afterwards the star of a brigadier took the place of the eagle of a colonel on his epaulettes. And his regiment, what of it? Of the 2,800 men enlisted during its term of service, there were but 65 let to answer roll call the morning after the battle of Gettysburg. Maimed in the service, discharged for disability, died in hospitals, killed in battle.
What a record! Volumes might be written, but the result which can be told in one sentence expresses it all, and let us stand uncovered when the names of such heroes are mentioned, to attest our appreciation of their services for our common country and flag.
Gen. ROBINSON was himself, wounded but lived until a few years ago and made his home at Kenton. He served several times as a member of congress and also as secretary of state and was held in the highest esteem, not only by his own party, but by his political opponents as well.
In 1819, Joseph WARD, with his wife and nine children came from England to America and settled on the east side of the Big Hill and the land he there entered and cleared is in the possession of the WARD family today.
There is a romance connected with the voyage of the WARD family to America -- a love story, with happy results. Among the passengers on board the ship were two brothers named PALMER -- John E. and Charles. They were good looking young men and had ample means to get a good start in the New World where they had decided to make their home.
The first Sunday of the voyage, Mr. WARD, as had been his custom at home, held family worship, a short service of prayer and praise. The Wards were a family of singers. Joseph's grandfather, who was a bugler in the army, often sang Scotch war songs at the head of the battalion by request of the Duke of Marlboro, to cheer the troops on their weary marches.
As the PALMER brothers were walking the deck that Sunday morning looking at the sea, they heard sweet voices singing:"God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps on he sea And rides upon the storm"
The brothers stopped and listened, then sought the little group of singers and joined in the worship. At the close of the service they introduced themselves and the acquaintance there began ripened into love between the Palmers and two of the Misses Ward and resulted in Charles marrying Anne and John marrying Elizabeth. The offspring of these happy unions are prominent people in our county today.
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This article is historical, but not history -- only fragmentary mentions of a few of the first settlers and some of the incidents connected with their lives. Among those of that period deserving notice was Mrs. Lillis RAITT, who was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1773. She married David RAITT and some years later came to America, stopping while in Virginia, then came to Belmont County, this state, and in 1818 moved in a one-horse cart to Richland County and entered land in what is now the northwest corner of Mifflin Township, south of the Big Hill, where Freeman OSBUN now lives.
To show how difficult it was to get money at that time, it is stated that farmers hauled wheat from the Hill and even from greater distances to the STEWART (now WICKERT's) mills, four miles south of Mansfield and sold it for 25 cents a bushel and were glad to get even that low price, cash.
Mr. RAITT, who was a weaver, had to take trade largely for his work and how to raise $15 the annual payment on their land, was for a time a perplexing question in that household. Finally, Mrs. RAITT solved the problems and saved the homestead for her family.
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Mrs. RAITT was fairly educated and entered upon the practice of tocology and at 50 cents a case had the $15 to meet the payment when it was due. Her fame in this line of practice spread abroad and as doctors were "scarce and far between" it was no unusual thing for her to receive calls taking her from 10 to 15 miles from home. People rode on horseback in those days, as vehicles were few and the roads were mostly but paths cut through the wilderness and streams had to be forded. She had frequently to ride skittish and fractious horses, was often thrown and several times had bones broken, but her indomitable will and energy caused her to persevere, impelled by the love she had for her family and her desire to provide for their comfort and education.
Mr. & Mrs. RAITT died in 1855, within six months of each other, the latter at 82 and the former a few years older. They had lived 37 years within a mile of the Hill, and now their remains repose in the Bosdock cemetery.
Of their five children -- two sons and five daughters -- David died in his young manhood. James, who resided for years on Walnut Street, a short distance north of the News office, died a few years since at a ripe old age.
Margaret married William THOMPSON and J.V. and I.N., of Monroe Township, are their sons. Jane married Adam THOMPSON, a brother of William. Margery married James SHORT. Barbara married William HALL, who lived east of the Hill. Nancy Willison married John FRANCIS, father of Dr. D.R. FRANCIS, of this city.
The RAITTS were Reformed Presbyterians and the most of their descendants adhere to the faith of their ancestors.
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Our party drove over the Hill Sunday afternoon, the weather being pleasant and the roads in good condition.
How changed the appearance of things since our last visit! The beautiful flowers which then bloomed so profusely and perfumed the warm air so fragrantly have cast off their pistils at the approach of winter, only that they may burst forth in the frondescence of another season, and the birds have flown away, only to be welcomed and cheer us anew with the melody of their songs when the Hill becomes vernal and gentle spring with its ethereal mildness shall come again.
-- A.J. Baughman.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008