Historian Greg Shine’s Decatur County roots run deep.

In case you aren’t already excited about next year’s bicentennial, I hope Greg Shine’s experience will get you in the mood.

Shine, a 1989 graduate of GCHS, works in the BLM Office of Communications and helps connect the public with the people, places, events, stories, resources, and recreational opportunities associated with more than 16 million acres of public land in Oregon and Washington – from the San Juan Islands to Steens Mountain and beyond.

He is quite a historian too, and excited about Decatur County’s bicentennial next year.

“We’ve reached the bicentennial of many Euro-American families resettling in Decatur County. Descendants of these families still call Decatur County home, and have for eight generations in the case of the Robbins family to which I’m connected,” Greg said.

He believes more Decatur Countians can claim similar genealogical connection, and perhaps they might be interested in poking around in their family histories to learn more. While doing some Robbins family research he found a reference to William Robbins’ 1821 land claim.

“I learned that 1821 was a watershed year in the resettling of Decatur County. Three years earlier, the Treaty of Saint Mary’s had extinguished native land claims and called for removal of the tribal peoples, including the Lenape, in a large portion of Indiana, including what would become Decatur County. By 1820, teams of surveyors had laid out the “New Purchase” and land sales began through two government land offices. On Oct. 3, 1820, the land office in Brookville issued the first land patent in what we know today as Decatur County.

“The watershed resettlement followed in 1821. According to records, there were at least 132 men who came to resettle in Decatur County that year. Brothers William and Nathaniel Robbins were two of these men.

“William, a native of North Carolina and a Revolutionary War veteran, was living in Henry County, Kentucky, with his family at the time, having relocated there from Virginia. On August 27, 1821, in Brookville, he entered land in what would later become Sand Creek Township.

“According to family accounts recorded over the years, William cleared trees, built a one-room log cabin, a shed with room for carpet weaving, and a log blacksmith shop. Thirteen years after moving to the county, he died in 1834 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

“Three of William’s daughters and three of his sons would eventually live in the county, along with cousins and other relatives. In a short time after this, a biographical excerpt from 1882 exclaims, ‘other relatives of the Robbins family came into the same township and settled, so that, at any of the early gatherings, such as ‘raisings,’ shooting matches, elections and the like, the ‘Robbinses’ were sure to be well represented and sometimes in the majority.’

“Soon to join William was his 24-year-old son, also named William, who purchased his own Sand Creek Township homestead, marred Eleanor Anderson, and raised their family.

“To bring us up to the present, one of their children born there was John E. Robbins, who later purchased the “Locust Grove” farm on 421 that is still in the family today. One of John’s sons was William Hunter Robbins, and his son, known as Hunter (or grandpa to me and my siblings), farmed and lived at the ‘Big House’ his entire life. Hunter’s son is attorney William H. “Bill” Robbins who raised his brood of us out on NE 80, and one of his sons is Bryan Robbins, who continues to live and work in Greensburg. Bryan’s daughter, Dot, living with her parents at the ‘Big House’ on 421, now represents the eighth successive generation of Robbinses who have lived in Decatur County for 200 years.

This is just one example. Descendants of the other 131+ pioneer resettlers of 1821 surely live in Decatur County today and can share in their families’ Decatur County bicentennial this year. “

Decatur County resident Pat Smith may be contacted via this publication at

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