Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN


September 20, 2012

Smith: Oregon Trail tales

Greensburg — This is a story of the trip the Nathaniel Robbins Family took from Sandcreek Township to Oregon on the Oregon Trail in 1851.

It's titled "Good-bye Indiana," written by Kate Sharp Jones, granddaughter of Nathaniel and Nancy Robbins and daughter of Zobeda Robbins who married William Sharp, a driver on the wagon train.

Sharp, uncle of Bill Beard's grandmother and probably brother of Simeon Sharp, was one of the founders of Westport. Beard, subject of last week's column, helped build the bridge over the Weser River in World War II, not Rhine, as stated.

The Robbins family began the trip five years after the ill-fated Donner Party. With communications then, you must wonder if they knew about that tragic trip. Kate wrote the story in 1918 or 1920 and gave it to Margaret Davis in 1968.

 She is an excellent writer but because the story is lengthy, I'll share only what it took for families to join the great Westward Emigration that was slowly winding its way over the mountains, plains and deserts toward the land of great promise: The Oregon Country. It must have been a huge decision to pack up and leave, especially if your family had a good life here.

Nathaniel Robbins was 58-years-old when the trip began. Born in Kentucky, he and younger brothers William and John Robbins came to Decatur County in 1821. In his History of Westport, George Cann states, "É settled east of Westport, on SandcreekÉA little farther to the north, but still in Sandcreek Township, Nathaniel Robbins and John Robbins settled in 1821."

Nathaniel had studied to be a doctor but gave away most of his books intending to retire when reaching Oregon. Soon after he came here in 1821, he became one of the first superintendents for school sections, in charge of trying to get people to give land to build schools in his section. In the first election he was elected Justice of the Peace of Sandcreek Township (nine votes were cast). He was on the first grand jury of the county.

The family's trip west began early one morning in October 1851 with the Dr. Nathaniel Robbins family having their last breakfast of griddle cakes with buck-wheat, honey fresh from the hive, sweet potatoes and homemade sausage in the comfortable big kitchen in Sandcreek Township. They were headed to the Oregon Country, hoping to make the lives for their families even better than the ones they were leaving.

Nathaniel and Nancy had 13 children Harriet, William Franklin, Absolem, John Dow, Amanda Minerva, Bethia Emmaline, James Anderson, Mary Jane, Mahala, Nathaniel Norval, Zobeda, Nancy and Angeline. I don't know how many went west but several of the Robbins family died before reaching Oregon.

Can you imagine the excitement when everybody was getting packed up, but their thoughts must have also been about if they would ever see their friends and family members again.  Kate Sharp Jones wrote that was noise and hubbub in the front of the home that morning. Ox yokes clanging, the cattle bawling at one another, as they were driven in their places in front of the great covered wagons. The drivers shouting and bantering with one another and the family dog named "Old Watch" running in circles, barking and behaving like a pup in the excitement. Neighbors and relatives not going west started gathering, riding up on their horses, or in wagons, or surreys to say good-bye and wish them God-speed.

While her daughters cleaned up the breakfast dishes and packed them, Nancy went to her room to finish packing. She couldn't load down the wagons with the massive four poster bed or heavy walnut furniture. She took quilts, feather mattresses and pillows. All of their children, except the oldest, had been born in this room.

They left the fields of corn, groves of black walnut, and sugar maples, and the sugar camp. Nancy may have been thinking of the sugar, syrup, and molasses they had made at home. They were leaving the geese that Nancy had raised and the stacks of feathers. They left the old loom house with its big comfortable fireplace where they had woven all their coverlets, bed spreads, table cloths and toweling, besides yards and yards of cloth, heavy and durable, for their everyday work clothes. It was there they had spun all the yarn for knitting the socks and stockings for the family.

Twenty-two white covered wagons stood waiting in line. The cattle, sleek, young, full of life were mooing and getting restless. The ones that survived would reach the end of the long journey, tired, weary, with drooping heads, and feet worn out and bleeding.

Text Only
  • nei-gb082014-linda kennett column pic A collecting bonus? It's in the cards Remember the packs of sports trading cards from the 1970s and 80s? I recently stumbled across several boxes of them that I thought my son had taken when he bought his first home 15 years ago. But there they were, still in the closet and mixed among t

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • nei-gb082014-homemakers column file photo Summer has flown by It seems summer is nearly gone. The State Fair is over, the Power of the Past is gone for another year, and the children are back in school. It may be time to think about getting involved in making and donating some items for Riley Hospital. We alw

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pat Smith: Goofy golf raises breast cancer awareness Last week I stopped in to ask Susan Doerflinger Burkhart to please interpret a letter I received from an insurance company I had two or more years ago. As usual, she was able to ease my mind. While there she asked if I was going to play in the all-fe

    August 20, 2014

  • Craft brewers, vintners bring spirits to State Fair Brad Hawkins felt right at home hawking his beer at the Indiana State Fairgrounds last week.When Hawkins opened his Salt Creek Brewery in a converted filling station in tiny Needmore three years ago, some tee-totaling neighbors protested he was putti

    August 19, 2014

  • Back to the classroom These days, it seems like the summers are going by even faster than they did when I was a student! Just yesterday, the temperatures were beginning to warm up and children were hanging up their backpacks. Now, many of them are already back in the clas

    August 19, 2014

  • Our children and their children Let’s ponder “our children” and “their children.”First, Gov. Mike Pence made a wise call this past week when he ordered the Department of Child Services to begin reimbursing families who had adopted special needs children.A class action lawsuit filed

    August 19, 2014

  • Remember the joy Williams gave Ball State’s Wes Gehring, the author of dozens of books on Hollywood stars, says the apparent suicide of Robin Williams will not tarnish the comedian’s legendary achievements.Williams was found dead Monday in his California home. He was 63.“As the li

    August 16, 2014

  • Why government fails Whatever our political stripe, we all want government to fail less often. Citizens and the media need to pressure elected officials to spend more time digging into the nitty-gritty of fixing bureaucracies.As election season approaches, I’ve been pond

    August 14, 2014

  • Giving young people a second chance How many of you know what the Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy is? More basically, how many of you know where it is? I had a vague notion of where it is, but I would have been hard-pressed to tell you much about what it is.The Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe

    August 14, 2014

  • Camping for kicks and giggles (The chances of pitching your tent on a hill of fire ants are directly proportional to the distance from the nearest hospital.)Camping, most notably primitive style, can be a rewarding and fun experience, especially if the site is on the bank of a ho

    August 14, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Raw: Deadly Landslides in Japan Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Arrests Witnessed in Ferguson Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape Texas Gov. Perry: Indictment 'a Political Act' US Officials: Video Shows American's Beheading Video Shows Ferguson Cop Months Before Shooting Heavy Rains Flood Arizona Roads US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing FBI Director Addresses Ferguson Shooting in Utah Raw: Police at Scene of St. Louis Shooting Police: 2 Calif. Boys Planned School Shooting NOLA Police Chief Retires Amid Violent Crimes
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.