Oliver and Mary Robbins were Kate Robbins Adams' parents. Oliver and Mary took an active part in building up the community of Molalla.  Since no structure has been left behind to remember them by, I am remembering them in this story, as a tribute to their foresight and generosity.

Oliver Robbins, was born in Indiana, in 1840.  In 1852, when he was 12 years old, he traversed the Oregon Trail, with his parents, Jacob and Sarah Spillman Robbins.  Most of the way, he rode a horse and helped drive the stock.   The Robbins family was so large that they had their own wagon train.  Oliver's siblings were Harvey, born 1833; Levi, born 1835; Thomas, born 1836; Martin, born 1838; Nancy Jane, born 1842; Theodore, born 1844; Aaron, born 1847; Amanda Minerva, born 1850 and Sara Ellen, born 1857.  Due to the strenuous hardships of the trip, Theodore and Aaron died just before the family arrived at the Barlow House.  Most of the remainder of the family settled in the Molalla area.  In fact, many of their descendants still live here.

In 1865, Oliver married Mary Jane Thompson.  Her parents were Robert and Rachel Harris Thompson from Marquam, Oregon.  Robert Thompson was one of the original donation land claimer’s at Marquam.  In 1872, Oliver and his brother, Martin, drove a herd of cattle from the Willamette Valley to Umatilla, Oregon, and used them to start a butcher shop there.  After two years, Oliver and Mary moved back to Molalla.  Oliver's father, Jacob Robbins, had purchased the 629 acre donation land claim of Charles Sweigle.  Today, this land includes the Coleman Ranch, east of town.  Oliver and Mary helped his father work this farm for many years.  They moved, from the farm, into Molalla City in 1895.  They were known as Uncle "Ol" and "Aunt Mary" to their friends and neighbors.  Oliver was often called the "Father of Molalla".  In 1913, he ran for first mayor of Molalla against W. W. Everhart, but lost to Everhart.  Oliver and Mary always helped with civic improvements.  They were longtime members of the Grange, of which Oliver was a trustee.

 

The WVS

Around 1912, at a critical time during the construction of the Willamette Valley Southern Railroad, they donated $10,000 to the project.  Oliver was also on the Board of Directors for the WVS.  The WVS was an electric train that started service in 1915, and ran from Oregon City to Mount Angel.  In addition to passenger service, it also hauled freight.  Although locals greatly enjoyed riding the train, it only operated for twelve years.

Leonard Long Park

Mary Robbins started the Women's Civic Club of Molalla and was their first president.  Through this group, in 1925, she became the innovator that started the Leonard Long Park; a park we still enjoy today.  At the time, Oliver and Mary lived across the street from the park and donated the land for the park to the Molalla Civic Club.  The Club held fundraisers to raise money to improve the park.  They established the park and donated it to the City of Molalla.  A drinking fountain/bird bath memorial, at the park, was dedicated to Mary Robbins in 1940, by the Club.  The stone used for the fountain was from the first pioneer Clackamas County Courthouse in Oregon City.

Oliver passed away in 1933, at Molalla.  Mary passed away in 1940, also at Molalla.

 

Photos:

Photo #1:  Oliver Robbins

 

Photo #2:  Mary Robbins

 

Photo #3:  “FRESH BEEF – This 1872 photo shows the Brothers Robbins, who drove a herd of cattle from the Willamette Valley to Umatilla and used them to start a butcher shop.  Martin Robbins is on horseback and Oliver holds the reins to the team.  They are pictured in front of their Umatilla shop.”  Oliver stayed in Umatilla for two years and, then returned to Molalla.  The author apologizes for the low quality of the photo but felt this was a fascinating part of the story and couldn’t leave it out.  Photo courtesy of Betty Guild.

 

Photo #4:  The large Robbins family at a reunion in the early 1900s.  This picture may be from an August 1921, Robbins’ family reunion on the Molalla River, attended by over 125 people.  Back row, from left:  Thomas Benson, Historian, Harvey Robbins, Martin Robbins and Levi Robbins.  Front row, from left:  Ella Robbins Benson, Jane Robbins Gilliam, Oliver Robbins, Mary Thompson Robbins and Ediff Barger Robbins.  Photo courtesy of Gena Cline.

 

Photo #5:  The Mary Robbins fountain at Leonard Long Park in Molalla.  The stone used was from the first pioneer Clackamas County Courthouse in Oregon City.  Photo courtesy of Betty Guild.

 

Bibliography:

Betty Guild, Unrecorded interview with the author, April, 2019

"Oliver Robbins", An Illustrated History of the State of Oregon, Hines, H. K. 1893, Page 1281

“Robbins’ Family Reunion”, Oregon City Enterprise, August 5, 1921

“Trustees Elected for Molalla Grange”, Oregon City Enterprise, December 8, 1905

“Two Men Up For Every Job”, Morning Enterprise, September 21, 1913

“WVS Railway”, Oregon City Enterprise, March 24, 1916

 

@ 2019 Gail J. McCormick

 

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