Carroll County IL Biography


Prominent among the business men of Savanna, who are in various ways promoting its highest interests and advancing its growth, is the subject of this sketch. He carries on an extensive and lucrative ice and coal trade. He is a native of Illinois; Elizabeth Township, Jo Daviess County, being the place of his birth, and Jan. 13, 1841, the date thereof. His father, William Johnson Robinson, was born in County Donegal, Ireland, which was the birthplace of his father, John Robinson. The latter was a farmer and resided in his native land until 1827, when, accompanied by a part of his family, he emigrated to this country and settled in Philadelphia. He had learned the trade of weaver, and was employed in that calling while a resident of the Quaker City. In 1835, he came to Illinois, and became a pioneer of Jo Daviess County, locating first in Galena, and later in Hanover Township, where he entered a tract of Government land, and improving a fine farm on which he continued to live until his death. He was one of the early settlers of that township and his memory is held in respect for the part he took in its development. He was twice married. The maiden name of his first wife, grandmother of our subject, was Eliza Johnston. She was a native of County Donegal, Ireland, as himself, and there spent her entire life. She was the mother of five children, namely: Jane; Ellen, wife of Daniel Golden; Catherine, wife of James Robinson; the father of our subject; and Archie. By his second marriage the grandfather of our subject had six children, as follows: David, Eve, Mary (wife of Robert Dawson), John (who married Mrs. Miller), George (who married Margaret Funston), Ann – all of the family coming to America.

The father of our subject learned the trade of weaver in his native land, and in 1825, in the early years of manhood, came to the United States, and for ten years thereafter was a resident of Philadelphia. He then came to Illinois, traveling by canal to the foot of the Alleghany Mountains in Pennsylvania, and thence a part of the way to Pittsburg by rail, and from that city by the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to Galena. Casting in his lot with the pioneers, he settled in that city, and while a resident of that place was the greater part of the time employed at the smelting furnace. At that time all the land in Northern Illinois belonged to the Government, and in 1839 he entered a claim in Elizabeth Township, and as soon as the land came into market entered it at the land office at Dixon, paying $1.25 per acre for it. He first erected a log house for temporary shelter, but early in 1841 built a substantial frame house. The mines furnished a good market for all kinds of produce, and Mr. Robinson found it very profitable cultivating his land, which he improved into a good farm. In 1852 he sold his property in that township and took up his residence in Hanover village, where, in 1857, he established himself in the mercantile business. In 1861 he disposed of his stock, etc., and lived retired until 1868, his death occurring June 22, that year. He was one of the pioneers of Jo Daviess County and did his share in extending its agricultural and commercial interests, and as he was upright and honorable in his dealings, and of a genial, kind nature, he was both respected and warmly liked by his fellow-men.

He was married in Galena in 1839, to Miss Sarah Ann Oliver, a native of Mt. Washington, now a part of Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father, grandfather of our subject, was born very close to Mt. Vernon, Va., and he was a soldier in the War of 1812, serving under Gen. Hull at the time of his surrender of Detroit to the British, but fortunately he escaped capture. It will be remembered that Gen. Hull, in his terms of capitulation, surrendered all the troops within a radius of 100 miles of Detroit, for which act of cowardice Gen. Hull was subsequently cashiered, and dismissed in disgrace. He was an early settler of Hamilton County, Ohio, and subsequently removing to Quincy, Ill. – in the same year in which Gov. John Wood went there – he became a pioneer of that city. He took up a tract of wild land, on which he resided until 1835. He then removed to Galena, making the journey with teams. He resided there five years, and then, returning to Quincy, spent the remainder of his life there, dying in 1854. The maiden name of his wife was Ross. She was born on the Atlantic ocean while her parents, who were English, were in transit to this country, and she died near Quincy in 1852. The mother of our subject is now an honored inmate of his household, and is aged seventy-two years. There were five children born of her married life – our subject, William, Archie, George, (the latter three dying young) and Jennie, who lives with our subject.

John R. Robinson was reared in his native county, and in her public schools received the basis of a solid education, which was still further advanced by a year’s attendance at the Dixon Collegiate Institute, and he was subsequently graduated from Bell’s Commercial College, in Chicago, where he had pursued a thorough business course that admirably fitted him for his after career. As soon as large enough he began to assist in his father’s store, and in 1861 he formed a partnership and bought his father out, and carried on the business until April, 1862, when they removed a part of the stock to Savanna, and in July of the same year dissolved partnership; our subject continuing the business along until March, 1864. In that month he sold out in order to take part in the great Civil War then raging. He enlisted in April of that year, becoming a member of Company E, 134th Illinois Infantry, joining his regiment at Chicago. It was dispatched to the South, and did duty in Kentucky and Missouri. Our subject and his comrades enlisted for 100 days; but when that time had expired they were needed in Missouri, were sent there, and did gallant service, and in October were honorably discharged. After his experience of active military life Mr. Robinson engaged as clerk in the commissary department, and continued to serve the Government in that capacity until December, 1865; he then returned to Savanna and obtained employment of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, retaining his position until 1869; and then for thirteen seasons was clerk on a Mississippi River steamer, running between St. Louis and St. Paul. He retired from the river in 1881, and then once more engaged in the employ of the St. Paul Railway Company, in the capacity of clerk. Three years later he established himself in the ice and fuel business, which he has been carrying on quite extensively ever since. He has three coal-houses on Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway and one on the Chicago, Burlington & Northern Railroad. The large ice-house from which he supplies the city holds 1,000 tons.

The marriage of Mr. Robinson with Miss Louisa Stedman occurred in October, 1868. She is like himself a native of Illinois, she having been born in Stephenson County. She is a daughter of Albert and Jane (Buchanan) Stedman. (For parental history see sketch of Frank Stedman on another page of this volume). Mr. and Mrs. Robinson are members in good standing of the Episcopal Church, and their daily lives show that their religion is not mere lip-service. Mr. Robinson is highly regarded in business circles in this city, not only as a man of enterprise and genuine ability, but as an honorable man in all his dealings; one whose word is as good as a bond. He is public-spirited and his hand is seen in every good work for the promotion of the moral, social, or material status of the city. He is identified with the A. F. & A. M., was formerly a member of Hanover Lodge No. 300, was a charter member of Mississippi Lodge No. 385, was exalted as a member of Freeport Chapter in December, 1863, and in 1867 he joined the Freeport Commandery. In politics he is a stanch Republican.

Contributed by Carol Parrish - Portraits & Biographical Pg 959

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