By Helen Nichols Murphy Battleson
This is the story of how family history and genealogy took me from my hometown of Coronado back east where my maternal ancestors came on the second supply ship to Jamestown, Virginia. I became interested in genealogy and family roots in August 1967 after reading an article in Readers Digest about tracing your roots. Both of my parents grew up without much family history knowledge at all since my father had been adopted at the age of 12 days, and my mother’s mother had died during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 when she had just turned two years old.
Since 1967, I have worked on and off on my pedigree charts and through the years have amassed huge amounts of information on both sides of my family.
I joined the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution under my ancestor, William Dishman, Sr. of Virginia in 1970; and I was the last Regent of the local Oliver Wetherbee Chapter of the NSDAR in Coronado. I became a member of the Crown Colony Chapter of the National Society of Colonial Dames XVII Century in August of 1989 under Colonel Richard Dudley of Virginia; and became a member of the Americans of Royal Descent in May 1990.
So far to date, I have found well over 1,000 direct ancestors in my direct line and have participated in several DNA projects, of which I am a huge advocate. It was due to my interest in genealogy and history that in 1989 when my two youngest girls, Rachel and Regina, were small that I purchased “Hewick” the home built by their ancestor the Honorable Christopher Robinson, Esq. of England and Virginia. Hewick was built in 1678 in Middlesex County, Virginia. This is the 66-acre plantation that Rachel and Regina were raised on back east. We were living history everyday in that home which I restored. The amazing thing was my ancestors also lived in Middlesex County, Virginia in the same time period. It is unbelievable how many people still living in this small county on the Rappahannock River are descendants of the original settlers.
The Robinsons were a prominent family in England; and after the death of the father, John, they began to go their separate ways. Christopher, as a young attorney, left for the Colony of Virginia in 1666. His younger brother, John Robinson, remained in England and later became the Bishop of London. As such, he was the head of the Anglican Church in both England and America.
Bishop of London, John Robinson
John Robinson (7 November 1650 – 11 April 1723) was an English diplomat and prelate. John was born at Cleasby, North Yorkshire near Darlington, a son of John Robinson, who died in 1651. (Special Note: John Robinson was my daughters’ Rachel and Regina’s, ninth great grandfather. ) Educated at Brasenose College in Oxford, he became a fellow of Oriel College; and in 1680, he became chaplain to the British embassy to Stockholm, Sweden where he remained for nearly thirty years. During the absence of the minister, Philip Warwick, Robinson acted as resident and envoy extraordinaire. Thus, he was in Sweden during a very interesting and important period in which he performed diplomatic duties at a time when the affairs of Northern Europe were attracting an unusual amount of attention.
Among his adventures not the least noteworthy was his journey to Narva with Charles XII in 1700. In 1709, Robinson returned to England and was appointed Dean of Windsor and Wolverhampton. In 1710, he was elected Bishop of Bristol; and among other ecclesiastical positions he held was that of Dean of the Chapel Royal. In August 1711, he became Lord Privy Seal. This being says Lord Stanhope, “The last time that a bishop has been called upon to fill a political office.” Echoing his Scandinavian connections, the motto on his coat of arms is written in runic characters.
In 1712, the bishop represented Great Britain at the important Congress of Utrecht; and as first plenipotentiary, he signed the Treaty of Utrecht in April 1713, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. Just after his return to England, John Robinson was chosen as Bishop of London in succession to Henry Compton. John Robinson, D.D., Bishop of London was at the bedside holding the hand of Queen Anne when she died in 1713.
“Hewick,” Home to the Robinson Family of Virginia was one of the most significant manors in Virginia. It was constructed in 1678 by Christopher Robinson (1645-1692/3). He served the colony in the House of Burgesses from 1685-1692 and was a member of the Governor’s Council in 1691, which is equivalent to elevation to the House of Lords in England. Christopher served as Secretary of State to the colony from 1691-1692 and was a member of the Board of Trustees at the founding of the College of William and Mary in 1693. He also served as senior vestryman and warden of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex County. One of the best known residents of the colony, his home was the gathering place for many of the important families of Virginia who helped shape the colony into the state it eventually became. Christopher was appointed Councilor and Secretary of Foreign Plantations by King William III of England in 1692. As such, he would have been the head of the colony, but unfortunately he died before taking this office.
Christopher Robinson’s son, also John Robinson, became acting governor on the departure of Sir William Gooch for England on June 20, 1749. His grandfather was John Robinson of Cleasby, Yorkshire, England, who married Elizabeth Potter, daughter of Christopher Potter of Cleasby. His uncle was Dr. John Robinson, Bishop of Bristol and London. His father was Christopher John Robinson, who married Judith, daughter of Colonel Christopher Wormeley.
Robinson was born in 1683 in Middlesex County, Virginia, at “Hewick,” his father’s residence on the Rappahannock River. He occupied many important positions in the colony. He was a member of the House of Burgesses and became president of the Council in 1720. He married Katherine, daughter of Robert Beverley, author of the first written history of Virginia, and their son John was speaker of the House of Burgesses and treasurer of the colony. The John Robinson estate scandal was a major financial scandal in Colonial Virginia. After the 1766 death of John Robinson, the prestigious Virginia legislator who served as both Speaker of the House of Burgesses and colonial treasurer, Robinson’s protégé, Edmund Pendleton, was shocked to discover that Robinson’s estate had debts of fifty thousand pounds. Pendleton then placed a notice in the Virginia Gazette that all people in debt to Robinson should “make immediate payment.” Although he died a pauper, it was later learned that he had saved the estates of many of the most important land owners in Virginia.
Records from the colonial treasury revealed that Robinson had been using the paper money he was supposed to destroy (in his role as treasurer) and lending it to others or using it to pay his personal debts. In December 1766, a staggering report came to the House of Burgesses indicating that Robinson’s estate owed the colony over one hundred thousand pounds. After the “Robinson affair”, the roles of speaker and treasurer were separated.
I have pictures of when I purchased Hewick, when it was in a sad state, and pictures of it now in 2011. In 1933, the WPA came to Hewick to include it in the H.A.B.S. survey #540. It is included in the Historic American Buildings Survey, built in 1678.
The College of William and Mary conducted an archaeological dig at Hewick for a number of years. They found thousands of items in the dig of which I have a nice display .The others are housed at the college in Williamsburg. This collection includes correspondence, research journals, travel journals, publications, slides, artifacts, and other material pertaining to Dr. Theodore R. Reinhart’s research and teaching career in the Department of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary and his participation in the Council of Virginia Archaeologists and the Department of Historical Resources. In 1921, Mary Pollard Clarke published an article entitled, “Christopher Robinson, One of the First Trustees of William and Mary College, His Home: Hewick on the Rappahannock” in “The William and Mary Quarterly, Volume One – Series Two” (beginning on page 134).
HEWICK in 1989 (When I bought and insured it while still living in Coronado)
Hewick was sold out of the Robinson family is 2005, but I am still contacted from interested descendants and people from all over the world who have an interest in it. I published the Robinson Family Journal for many years, and eleven of the past issues are indexed on the Internet. (Vol. 1, No. #1 began in November 1991, ROBINSON FAMILY JOURNAL Index Vol. 6, No.1 ISSN #1077-5358 January 1997 Issue #11 was the last issue.) I host the Robinson Family Mailing List on Rootsweb. I am the Administrator of the following lists as well: Higginbotham, Lumbley (Lumley), and Uxley (Huxley). I am very interested in the use of DNA for family genealogy research.
“Why waste your time and money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you!” – Mark Twain
The Robinson Cookbook I published in 1991
Hewick, Home of the Robinsons since 1678 is on Facebook. The following links are also available for more information on Hewick and our genealogy: