17 October 2016

I Finally Got One - A Black Sheep Ancestor!

For years I have been reading genealogy blogs and shared in the excitement when the author discovered a famous or infamous ancestor.  For years I have had a bad case of ancestor envy.  Well last night I was cured when I discovered the reason for the early death of my 2nd great grandmother's brother.

My 2nd great grandmother is Laura Cordelia Robinson, the daughter of David Robinson and Margaret Dilks.  David and Margaret had met and were married in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  After the birth of Laura, the Robinson's moved to Dodgeville, Franklin Township, Des Moines County, Iowa.  David was a blacksmith and established his own business soon after they arrived.  The Robinson family grew to include 9 children  by 1882.

This story is about the 5th child, the exact middle child - George Robinson.  George was born 19 January 1871.  What prompted my interest in this sibling of my 2nd great grandmother was the fact that he had married in April 1907 and died in September the same year at the age of 36.

In small communities when a person dies before their time it usually makes the newspapers.  I started hoping for an explanation.
At the age of 24 George's father David Robinson died.   It is just a few years after that George starts to go astray:

April 1896 - The post office in Dodgeville is robbed of $50 in stamps.  The postmaster is John Beckman.  Under suspicion is George Robinson who lived with his family less than a mile away.  Because the business was a post office, a reward of $100 was offered by the federal government for any information about the incident.

29 April 1898 - After a long investigation by officials,  an indictment by the federal grand jury was brought against George Robinson for the 1896 post office robbery.  George Robinson cannot be found.

25 June 1898 - John T. Beckman of Dodgeville was beaten and robbed of $50 and his pocket watch just as he was closing his business for the evening. Beckman gives a description of the suspects.

19 November 1898 - E.W. Johnson of West Burlington noticed a stranger loafing around the place at 6:30 pm.  Upon closer inspection, Mr. Johnson recognized the man as George Robinson and knew of his reputation and assumed that he was up to no good.  Mr. Johnson called the police who stopped and searched George Robinson because they had a tip that he was one of the men who had beaten and robbed John Beckman in Dodgeville last June.  They knew that Robinson's family lived in Dodgeville and that he had disappeared right after the assault on Beckman.  Brought in for questioning about the Beckman robbery, George was searched and a the list of items found with him are:
Colt 38 caliber revolver
1/4 pint of nitro-glycerine
box of dynamite caps
1/4 pint black powder
soap, candles & rosin
5 drills
skeleton keys
key nippers

In order to keep George in custody until Mr. Beckman could arrive to identify the suspect and further investigations made, George was charged with vagrancy and given 30 days in jail.

10 January 1899 -  George Robinson is taken from the Burlington jail in Des Moines County and brought to Keokuk in Mills County and held to the federal court.  Bail was set at $500 and friends of George Robinson paid the bond and he was released the same day. The next day a man named Jud Minard, who was a very important witness in the case against George Robinson, was found dead - a victim of poisoning.

11 January 1899 - In Hastings, Mills County, Iowa Mr. & Mrs. Clark and their farm hand were victims of a home invasion by four men.  The robbers got $4.30 in cash and a silver pocket watch that belonged to Mr. Clark.  Mrs. Clark had purchased it only a month before as a Christmas present.  After the robbers tied up the residents of the house, they went to the kitchen and made themselves at home cooking a meal.  About 1:00 am the robbers hopped a train.  They were seen by freight men who recognized the robbers from wanted posters.  George Robinson was captured when the train made the next stop.  A silver pocket watch was found on him that matched the number and description of the watch on the books of the jeweler who sold the watch to Mrs. Clark.

9 March 1899 -  George Robinson is sentenced to 17 years at the penitentiary at Fort Madison.  His cohorts also received the same sentence.  The judge said that the men were the worst desperados ever captured in the county and he was making an example of them by handing out the maximum sentence.  Of Robinson, the judge said he was "a bad man whose petty thieving and desperate character made him a terror to law abiding citizens."

1907 - September - After serving only half of his sentence, George Robinson was released from prison for time served and good behaviour.  On Labor Day evening in Burlington a safe in a saloon was blown open and $150 in cash taken.  A few days later the Miller Meat Market was robbed.  A week later the Middletown Bank was broke into.  Robbers attempted to blow the safe but were unsuccessful.  Police are almost certain it is the work of the gang that George Robinson is a part of

14 September 1907  - Three men were discovered in the act of blowing the safe in the office of the Leisy Brewing Company Burlington, Iowa.  All four got away but not before one of them was shot by police. The next day a doctor was called to a house to tend to a man who had been seriously hurt.  Seeing it was a gunshot wound, the man was brought to the hospital and the doctor immediately reported it to the police.  The injured man was George Robinson and the police knew him well.  Surgery was performed and the bullet removed which matched the calibre of bullet fired from the police officer's gun.  George Robinson died a few hours after surgery.

17 December 1907 - The other two members of the gang - Eddie Stoops aka Teddy O'Brian and Jack Nolan are captured in Ottumwa, Wapello County, Iowa.

24 June 1908 - Eddie Stoops and Jack Nolan had warrants out for their arrest before the safe blowing in September 1907.  In Greenville, Texas the two had broken out of jail, held up a farmer and nearly killed a deputy sheriff.  After being arrested in December 1907 in Ottumwa, Iowa they were transported back to Texas.  It was there that the two men received money from friends in California.  With this money they hired a leading criminal attorney named Adams who forced an early trial before authorities could secure the presence of the farmer and the deputy sheriff.  The two witnesses disappeared shortly after Stoops and Nolan received the large amount of money.  So Stoops and Nolan each got 3 months in the county jail instead of a life sentence in prison.

4 September 1908 - Almost year since the shooting death of George Robinson and one of his brothers - Frank Robinson - is found dead in the park apparently he committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid.  In one of his pockets was a scribbled note:  "My wife says there were others better than me."  The newspaper commented: "Its a rather queer coincidence that the brother should end his life do near the anniversary of his brother's violent end."

Ingesting carbolic acid, an antiseptic, was a common method for suicide in the early 1900s.