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Robinson, James W.  ( 1790  -  1857 Oct )

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ROBINSON, JAMES W. -- Born in 1790 in what is now Hamilton County, Indiana. He was married there in 1820. In 1828 he deserted his wife and children and left for Arkansas with another wife. He came to Texas in 1833 and settled in what is now Nacogdoches County. On October 6, 1835 he received title to a league of land in Vehlein's Colony, situated in San Jacinto County. He did not apply for the labor of land due him from the Republic of Texas.

The following letter from Andrew Scott, dated December 11, 1832 at Scotia Pope County, Arkansas Territory and addressed to Stephen F. Austin is in the Austin Papers, 1922, Vol. 2, Page 90:

"Dr. Sir. My friend and neighbor, Col. James W. Robinson, will hand you this. I had hoped for sometime past to have the pleasure of presenting him to you in person, but unforeseen circumstances has prevented this, -- I shall however be with you between this and March next.

Col. Robinson is a Practitioner of law in our country, in which profession he is well grounded, but Arkansas at present holds out but few inducements to the lawyer, for previous to the entrance of Col. Robinson there were super-numerary numbers of that profession, he therefore visits your Colony with a view of making it his future residence should it hold out to him sufficient inducements, he leaves in my neighborhood his wife and one child for whom he will speedily return should he meet with flattering encouragement in Texas -- Anything you may do to advance Col. Robinson's interest or promote his comfort, you will find him worthy of -- be assured it will afford your old friend much gratification. Mrs. Scott joins me in respects to yourself and your sisters."

Mr. Robinson was a delegate from Nacogdoches Municipality in 1835 and when the Provisional Government was organized he was elected Lieutenant Governor. The Executive Council of the Provisional Government deposed Henry Smith, the Governor, and elected Mr. Robinson as his successor. Governor Smith, claiming that there was no quorum present when he was deposed, refused to relinquish the office, and, as a result, both Smith and Robinson claimed to be governor.

Governor Robinson fought at San Jacinto as a private in Captain William H Smith's Company of Cavalry. On March 21, 1853, he was issued Bounty Certificate No. 1250 for 640 acres of land for having served in the army from March 12 to September 15, 1836. On July 26, 1838, he received Donation Certificate No. 478 for 640 acres for having participated in the Battle.

Governor Robinson was elected by Congress December 16, 1836 as Judge of the Forty Judicial District, which automatically made him a member of the Supreme Court, of which James Collinsworth was Chief Justice. Governor Robinson's home at that time was in Gonzales County.

On March 19, 1840, Governor Robinson was wounded in the "Council House Fight" with Indians at San Antonio. He was in San Antonio on Sept. 12, 1842 when Gen. Adrian Woll surprised and captured the town, and was one of those made prisoner and carried to Mexico. Robinson opened up a clandestine correspondence with Santa Anna and eventually was permitted to visit the president at his home. An agreement was reached whereby Robinson would be released from prison and allowed to return to Texas with terms from Santa Anna for an agreement between Texas and Mexico. He reached Galveston on March 27, 1843 and immediately left for Washington, Texas to confer with President Houston. On April 10th he signed a letter to Santa Anna, dictated by Houston, emphatically rejecting the proposal. It was thought that Robinson offered his services as a mediator to Santa Anna principally to obtain his release if so, he was unsuccessful. The negotiations, however, did result in an armistice of several months between the two nations. In 1850, Governor Robinson moved to San Diego, California, with his wife and son, William N. Robinson. For a number of years, his wife was the only Anglo-American woman in the town, the others being Mexicans. From the first, Robinson took a leading part in public affairs. He was district attorney, 1852-1855 and school commissioner in 1854. He was also one of the promoters of a railroad from El Paso to California. He secured possession of considerable property, which has since been sub-divided into lots and blocks to form a part of Roseville, across the bay from San Diego.

Governor Robinson died at San Diego in October, 1857, requesting in his will that as much of his estate as possible be settled out of court. Nothing was done with it until about 1890, and meanwhile all of the children of both families died, leaving grand-children, however, to participate in the distribution. His wife in Indiana had procured a divorce, and had married again. There were five children in first family and one son in the second. The estate was finally distributed May 23, 1903 in the Superior Court, there being 71 legatees, nearly everyone of whom was born since the will was filed.

His son, William N. was in the Confederate army. He died at Jamul, California, October 30, 1878.

(San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, May 24, 1903.)

"Sari Diego, May 23, -- The estate of James W. Robinson was distributed today in the Superior Court, there being 71 legatees, nearly everyone of whom was born since the will was filed. If there was ever a case which showed the law's delays it is this. Robinson was born in 1790 in Hamilton County, Indiana, where he resided for many years and was one time law partner of William Henry Harrison. He was married there in 1820 but in 1823 ran away from his wife and with another woman settled in Texas, where he was identified with the revolution of Sam Houston. Later, he was in the United States army and for two years a prisoner at Vera Cruz, Mexico. He returned from the Mexican War and later was elected Lieutenant-Governor of Texas.

Meanwhile, his wife in Indiana had procured a divorce, and she married again. There were five children in the first family and one son in the second. Robinson came here in 1854, and secured possession of considerable property, which has since been subdivided into lots and blocks to form a part of the little suburb of Roseville, on the other side of the bay.

He died in 1857, and the will, which asked that as much of his estate as possible be settled out of court, was filed in January, 1853 Nothing was done with it until about 1890, and meanwhile all of the children of both families died, leaving grandchildren, however, to participated in the distribution.

Robinson went to San Diego in 1850 with his wife and son, William N. Robinson. For a number of years his wife was the only Anglo-American woman in the town, the others being Mexican. From the first, Robinson took a leading part in public affairs. He was District Attorney 1852-55; School Commissioner 1554. Died in October 1857.

His son was in the Confederate army. He died at Jamul, Calif., Oct. 30, 1878."



Written by Louis W. Kemp, between 1930 and 1952. Please note that typographical and factual errors have not been corrected from the original sketches. The biographies have been scanned from the original typescripts, a process that sometimes allows for mistakes in the new text. Researchers should verify the accuracy of the texts' contents through other sources before quoting in publications. Additional information on the veteran may be available in the Herzstein Library.


Battle Statistics

  • Died in Battle: No
  • Rank: Private
  • Company: Capt. William H. Smith

Personal Statistics

  • Date of Birth: 1790
  • Birthplace: Indiana, Hamilton County
  • Origin: Arkansas
  • Came to Texas: 1833 Jan
  • Date of Death: 1857 Oct
  • Comments: Divorced; Lieutenant Governor of Texas.
  • Bounty Certificate: 1250
  • Donation Certificate: 478
  • Wife: 1. Mary Isdell; 2. Sarah Snider
  • Children: William N. Robinson; five others


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