Friday, March 16, 2007

Happy Birthday - March 16

Happy Birthday to:
  • Emeline C. ROBBINS, born on this day in 1846 in either Cattaraugus Co., New York or Liberty Township, McKean Co., Pennsylvania to my 4th-great-grandparents, Joseph Josiah and Marinda (ROBBINS) ROBBINS. She was their second child and first daughter, and was named for Joseph's first wife, Emeline C. [--?--], which was a rather common occurrence in those days. Emeline's older brother was my ancestor, Charles. Younger siblings were Benson, Lee, Evaline, Frank and Willie. Emeline was apparently what we now call "developmentally impaired" or "developmentally disabled." In those days, people with mental retardation were called "mentally incompetent," or, as she was labeled on the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, "idiotic." Between 1865 and 1870, the family removed to Newfield Township, Oceana County, Michigan, near the village of Hesperia. Emeline remained at home, and of course, never married or had children. When her father died in 1905, her brother Frank and his wife Helen cared for their mother and for Emeline in their home. Frank and Helen had also helped to care for Joseph in his final years of blindness caused by sunstroke during his Civil War service and senility. It was a very difficult time, causing much stress on the family, and was described in Marinda's application for a Civil War veteran's widow's pension. Marinda died in 1912 at the age of 84. Frank died in 1916 (he hung himself). Emeline died the following year at Traverse City State Hospital, Grand Traverse Co., Michigan at the age of 71. Such tragedy. I would love to flesh out more to this story.


Jennifer said...


I also had a 1st cousin 4 times removed who was at the state hospital in Traverse City! She was there in 1920 and 1930 for the census. She married and had a child prior to 1920, so I'm assuming she must have had something like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. I also know that her two younger brothers were both killed in WWI in 1918 and 1919. Maybe that had some tragic effect on her mental capabilities. I've got it on my to-do list to order her death record from the Grand Traverse County Clerk. Maybe that will provide clues as to her mental state. Tragically, her only child died when he was only 28 in a car accident in 1938. She was not mentioned in the obit, and her husband was listed as divorced in the 1930 census. It really seems there must be a sad story there.

Miriam Robbins said...

Jennifer, your cousin may have become mentally disabled from the effects of either the Spanish Influenza (1918) or Encephalitis Lethargica (1919) pandemics. We believe my great-grandmother Agnes (TUINSTRA) VALK had encephalitis lethargica, as the story passed down in the family was that the "Influenza had gone to her head." She was, like Emeline ROBBINS, institutionalized, only at Kalamazoo State Hospital and later Cutlerville Psychiatric Hospital. You can read more about the details here and here.