The Bones of David Robinson

Somewhere in the lush countryside above Cayuga Lake lie the bones of a Revolutionary New_York_In_The_Revolution_2nd_ed_1898 David Robinson_Page_1Way soldier, David Robinson (1740-1823) my paternal 5x great grandfather and his wife, Polly Raynor (1751-1824). They came to Lansing, Tompkins County from Suffolk County (Long Island) around 1790. With them they brought their children including my 4x great grandmother, Jerusha.

Within a few months, Jerusha had met young widower John Bowker who had migrated from Ulster County with his brothers Noah and Joseph and settled in Lansing.   John and Jerusha married and had twelve children – all who survived to adulthood and provided them with many children and grandchildren. At the time of their deaths they had 140 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren which included their son Jonathan, my 3x great grandfather.

Like Jerusha’s parents, there are no records of her burial nor John’s, but the lots of the Robinson and Bowker land ownership are well documented and as tradition has it, they are most likely buried on their own property.   Subsequent generations are buried in Miller Cemetery on Breed Road and others in Groton Rural Cemetery in Groton

When I was asked *where* my Revolutionary War ancestor David Robinson and his wife Polly may be buried, I could only reply that I had found no recorded burials. That said, their daughters Juliana and Elizabeth are recorded as being buried in the ‘inactive’ Lane or Ostrander Farm Cemetery in North Lansing with their husbands, Henry Carter and Daniel Lane.  The supposed site is located on property previously owned by Orry Ostrander that most likely bordered the West Groton/Locke Roads and Breed Road in North Lansing.

Here are interesting notes that historians made that may explain why no Robinson burials have been recorded.

“From the notes of Dorothy Ostrander, past Town of Groton Historian, the first two headstones in this record “…are the only two stones found in what used to be a large cemetery on the present Orry Ostrander farm. They say the cemetery once covered 7 acres. Many stones were removed and used as the foundation in part of the barn. Also, when Orry Ostrander decided to move his sidewalk one day, he found the stones to be gravestones too. All that remains of the cemetery itself is a brushy area with a couple trees approximately 12′ by 25′ and the two stones above although there may be more stones buried under the rubble that has been dumped there (stones off the plowed field) over the years. Headstones have been recorded as read to include misspelling.”
The next 8 headstone inscriptions in this record are from the stones that were used as the sidewalk at the Orry Ostrander farm.

Four of those eight stones belong to the Robinson’s two daughters, Elizabeth and Juliana and their husbands, Henry Carter and Daniel Lane.

From the notes of Isabelle Parish, past Town of Lansing Historian, “People removed all the stones from this cemetery and they were standing beside a garage by one of the houses on the road. The cemetery itself is in one of the fields; unsure which one.
Written August 18, 1953 by S. Haring and I. Parish: Back of the house now owned by Orrie Ostrander on Locke Road, just east of where the new road to Locke turns north-east. We were told there were no stones left where the cemetery was. Mr. Ostrander found many in the barn wall when he moved there some twenty years ago. There were perhaps 25 gravestones.”
Taken from the local history book, North Lansing’s Remembrance of Things Past, “The Lane Cemetery: Two acres surrounded by a large iron fence about one half mile back from Breed Road constitutes the Lane Cemetery. Many of the headstones from the cemetery were used in the foundation of the barn which is still standing on the Orry Ostrander farm. Most of the rest of them were used in a sidewalk which leads from the front porch to the edge of the driveway, then from the other side on the lawn to an old well. In 1960, there were only two head stones still standing. They are in a field at the top of the hill standing under a large old hickory nut tree. It is said that Mr. Lane was the first person who owned the land. Then John Buckley bought the farm from Lane. The government then bought the land from Mr. Buckley. Mr. Orry Ostrander who still owns the farm, bought it from the government in 1938.”

Chances are that David and Polly Raynor Robinson’s headstones are part of the foundation of a barn or were part of the pile of rubble mentioned in 1953 by Haring and Parish.

Time for a field trip with the assist of the Lansing historian and perhaps an archaeological dig.

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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Beyond the Black and White Image

I was talking with some genealogical researchers today and we were discussing physical traits of our grandparents East Gallery Walland great grandparents. Because I was born late in my parents’ lives, I did not know my grandparents and my kids barely knew theirs. There are records that give physical descriptions…mostly for men as they are military…that state height, hair color, eye color and ‘build’. On occasion there is a traveler who gets a passport that gives us our female ancestor description. Kids, you have seen my heritage portrait wall of black and white photos, but that doesn’t specify the details or the histories and I realized that I am your link to know about those facts.

So. Because my kids never knew him…their grandfather (my dad) was barely 5′ 3″ and though I know he was pretty slim, I don’t know his specific weight. Look at my brother, their Uncle David Martin…that is pretty much our dad. I do know that my father had straight, reddish blonde hair with a receding hairline and that he had (my) blue eyes. Oh…and though this is not genetic…he smelled wonderful of Old Spice and starch and just a whiff of lemon drops. He had his brilliant white shirts done at (pardon the politically incorrect language) the Chinese laundry and to hide his road tipple of whiskey, he sucked on lemon drops in an attempt to hide it from my mother. It never worked, but that is another story.

Al loses finger in accident at Beacon Mill AccidentAt the age of seventeen my father lost his right pointer finger and half of his index finger when his hand was caught in a piece of machinery when he worked at Beacon Milling in Cayuga (now part of Cargill). I held his hand without a hesitation when we tromped through the high grasses along Cayuga Lake while we looked for walnuts and butter nuts…and a handful of Tiger Lillies and Bittersweet for my mom. When he would pose for pictures, he hid his hand. Mostly in his suit coat pocket. Dad was nearsighted and had gold-rimmed spectacles that he would habitually remove and clean and replace in the same fashion. Left ear…nose…right ear…in such a familiar gesture that I can still see him doing it some 50 years later. His pockets were always filled with NECCO wafers or LifeSavers and he would share them with me while I sat on his lap.  I spun the sweet candy idly around my mouth, dreamily listening as he spun odd tales in a ritual we called “The Big Lie”. It was mostly a deliberately garbled rendition of various fairy tales spiced with his inventive imagination and twist and turns that left us breathless laughing.  Those were the good times.

A E Martin 5yrsHe was a complicated man arisen from a 5 year old boy who witnessed his father committing suicide by swallowing carbolic acid. Dad was brilliant and entrepreneurial and could take anything mechanical apart and put it together again without one ounce of doubt. On occasion when he hit a snag, he might utter a ‘dammitall”, but he was persistent and by golly, it never failed to run. It was kind of a magical genius.

Human beings were another thing.

I was four when Dad was first committed to Willard State Hospital for alcoholism. I have a letter from his doctor that my mother tucked in the pages of the family bible. It spoke of a man who doubted his faith in being loved. He was in his late forties and to everyone else he was a successful self-made man.  Dad had thrived during the Great Depression and WWII. He owned an airplane and a valuable piece of Ithaca real estate on State Street in the 1940’s that has since ‘disappeared’ into urban renewal. He also had a mistress…one Harriet “Hattie” Daniels.  Mom always knew about Hattie.  I can’t imagine what it was like for her.  Dad would take the plane and fly down to D.C. on the weekends to see Hattie.  The affair lasted for decades until I was born.  You can imagine that Hattie lost it and told him to take a hike.  Then my father’s unraveling truly began and we lost everything. Our home. Everything.  While Dad was hospitalized, his business manager cleaned out the assets.  When my mother and father came back to the business, it was an empty building.  The inventory was gone and the office equipment including my little pink wicker chair that played nursery rhymes when I sat on it.  The bank accounts were almost empty.  Just enough was left to keep the accounts open.  And the business manager had fled the country.  The authorities including the FBI bumbled around and called the trail to South America ‘cold’.    Years after my father’s death, my mother shared the story with me so I knew what happened to our Ithaca life and I suppose so she could mourn the loss with a sympathetic child.

To say that ‘Daddy” – I call him that to this day- had a difficult and complicated history is an understatement. But when I attempt to describe him with ‘my blue eyes’ and a slight build…it overly simplifies it all.

I have come to the conclusion that you cannot create a biographical profile in a sterile box and with just a physical description. That said, “what did my grandfather look like” is the question. We family historians cannot resist to fill in with the other senses and emotions.

Still and all, he was my ‘Daddy’ and that means something to my child self.

When my brother, Rich died this year, we sat by his grave…next to my father’s in Lake View Cemetery in the little village of Cayuga, NY…and I allowed myself to grieve for them both.  I will return next summer and place flowers like I always do and choose to remember “The Big Lie”.

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh
Author, Writer and Genealogical Researcher
© Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.