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The Rev. Phinehas Robinson
Chester G. Osborne 1969

    Phinehas Robinson, poet, teacher, classical scholar and Presbyterian minister was born in Manorville, Long Island on December 24, 1798, the seventh and youngest son of Reverend Jonathan and Hannah (Wells) Robinson.
    Reverend Jonathan was born in Mt. Sinai, or Old Mans, and is said to have come to Manorville from Wading River after trading farms with a certain Jonah Hulse. He died in Moriches, October 16, 1848, at the age of 94 years, 3 months and 12 days, and church records note that "the national independence was declared on the day he was 22 years of age." The name "Jonathan Robinson" is in Mather's "Refugees" as one of those who refused to sign the "Association" in Suffolk County in 1775.
    Jonathan sometimes called "Priest Robinson", had not been educated to the pulpit; but he presided over religious services in his home, the largest dwelling in the sparsely populated area, and not far from the crossroads where his congregation would one day build a church. Aware of his responsibilities, he applied to the Presbytery of the county and his ministry was approved. In 1807 he was ordained.
    In the meantime, the congregation grew slowly; services were held in a new barn, a public school, and finally, in 1837, an edifice was constructed. Incorporation came in 1840 as "The Presbyterian Church of Brookfield". The latter word was the old name for that part of Manorville.
    The diary of Cynthia Hutchinson bears this entry for Sept. 30, 1809: "Jeffrey Randall's wife died. At the funeral there were so many in attendance that the services were held in the edge of the woods instead of the meeting house. Mr. Robinson preached." An article by Mrs. John Freese in "The Moriches Tribune", October, 1959, states that Reverend Jonathan "pursued his ministry with great usefulness and honor for many years."
    As for Phinehas, though he was once a widely known figure throughout the State, accurate information has been difficult to collect. The Robinson family tree, like that of the "Bull" Smiths, has so many branches that some are obscured.
    We do not know all the antecedents of his father and mother; his birthdate is given as 1778 in one source; spellings of his name vary: Phinehas, Phineas, Phinias. The first is correct, though the second is more common in print.   There were four men named Phineas in the family.
    He attended Hamilton College in Clinton, N. Y., and graduated in the (c1ass of 1821. Three years later he received an M.A. degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and went on to some "fifty years of active life quite evenly divided between teaching and preaching. His longest engagements in the ministry were at Washingtonvile, Orange Co.; Jefferson, Schoharie Co., and Jeffersonyule, Sullivan Co.," according to Hamilton records.
    In 1825 he married Eliza Day of Clinton, N. Y.; the place name suggests that he may have met Eliza during his college years. He had twelve children, seven sons and five daughters.
    His father, Jonathan had, in the meantime, become the fifteenth pastor of the church at Orient (Oysterponds) and served there from 1824 to 1828. Phinehas followed him and was the pastor until 1833. He came to that village on Wednesday, October 15, 1828, with his family. However, he may not immediately have succeeded his father: He is listed as Congregational Minister No. 17 in one source. A child, Sidney Breese, was baptized there on June 7, 1829.
    A very helpful letter from the late Ann Hallock Currie Bell quotes a diary of Caroline Terry of Oysterponds: Caroline went to church meetings to hear the Robinsons preach; one of them "inspired her greatly but the other bored her. - . "  In 1825 (the date is open to question) Phinehas gave a funeral sermon for Benjamin Hobart. A month later, Caroline writes, "This is the last Sabbath Mr. Robinson expects to preach here." In 1828, "Uncle Robinson preached for the first time this winter and I most wish, the last."
    In 1829. Phinehas founded the Temperance Society at Ovsterponds. In the lR:~is he became the third Principal of Beilport Academy and preacher at the local church. Around 1834 he taught at the academy at Franklinville, now Laurel. A letter from a student, George W. Tuthill to his brother, says that "Mr. Robinson does not have no assistnnt teacher but I & one or two more help some.
    From 1845 to 1855 he was associated with Chester Academy. near Washingtonville in Orange County. In 1846 he published his book "Immortality", ten long cantos in what has been called Spenserian verse, dedicated to "the Friends of Hamilton College as a Testimonial of fond regard for his Alma Mater, strong Confidence in her elevated character as a Literary Institution, and lively interest in her prosperity and usefulness. ."
    An autograph album found in the Tangier Smith Papers at the Manor of St. George shows a signature, "P. Robinson, Chester Academy, March 30th, 1855." The same album, "Flowers of Loveliness", includes "Eugenie. Chester, March 3rd, 1855". Perhaps Miss Eugeme Annie Tangier Smith, founder of the Museum at the Manor, was named for that Eugenie; in any event, this is the first appearance of the name so far noticed in the Smith line. The name "Annie" (and "Anna") occurs several times, and refers to the original owner of the album, Annie (Robinson) Smith, Miss Smith's mother.
    Other signers were "Doctor McDonald" "Kate--July 2nd, 1858"; "Leander, May 8th, 1854"; Cousin Fannie"; "Mary, July 28th, 1854-- Chester"; "Wm. M. Saxton, Patchogue, March 3rd, 1855 (cousin)", and an anonymous "B.G." who drew a florid sketch of a swan.
    Annie (1832 -1875), a daughter of Capt. Joseph Robinson and Abigail (Wells) (Tuthill) Robinson of Patchogue was a great favorite with Reverend Phinehas, her uncle (or cousin) and it is due to that close relationship that the letters printed below were written and then saved through the years.
    A photograph of Phinehas taken in 1865 shows a man of somber expression and small stature. He had a long, gaunt face, thick eyebrows, a high forehead with hair receding but not grey despite his sixty-seven years, a wide mouth, and big hands and feet.
    Annie was still a child as her "uncle" approached middle age (he was forty-four years older) and she must have seemed quite different in temperament; lively, friendly, with a sunny disposition which endeared her to her friends and relatives. Letters to her are warm in tone, even if one discounts the flowery etiquette of the times. They begin, "My very dear Cousin. . . "or "My darling precious Annie.. . "or "My dear, dear Annie. - and from their content it seems as though she was a confidant of nearly everyone she knew.
    In the autograph album there are a number of verses, but the one which is the most fluent and articulate is that written by her beloved uncle:

To Annie
Friendship's Best Wish

Could kindest wishes banish sadness,
And free the mind from every care;
Thy years would flow in waves of gladness,-- Thou wouldst be happy, maiden fair!
For, many a heart to thine united
By warm affections silken tie,
On Fancy's pinions soars delighted,
Thy brightening future to descry.
A father's generous love attends thee,
To smooth life's rough and thorny road;
A mother's tenderness befriends thee,
To lighten grief's oppressive load.
For thee the tide of strong affection Flows in the hearts of kindred dear;
And were thy lot of their selection, What coming sorrow couldst thou fear?
None, none! Thy path would then be lighted
By hope's bright star, and all thy hours,
Like friends with gentle deeds delighted,
Would strew thy path with fadeless flowers.
Still, though fond hearts the hope may cherish,
That purest joys thy life may crown;
Such hope, alas! we know may perish,
Scathed by misfortune's withering frown.
0! Then, may warmer love befriend thee,
Than human hearts can ever know! May Heaven's undying love attend thee,
Through all thy journey here below!
And when the hand of Death shall sever
The dearest of all earthly ties, May perfect bliss be thine forever Thy friends the just--thy home the skies!

P. Robinson
Chester Academy
March 30th 1855

    On June 2, 1858, Annie married Egbert Tangier Smith in a ceremony held on Smith's ancestral estate, the Manor of St. George. He had been a member of the State legislature in the early 1850's, and had inherited position and money; a picture of him suggests an even more somber bearing than that of Annie's uncle, however, and the isolated farmstead at Smith's Point to which he brought his bride must have seemed a remote place. A letter from Phinehas some three months after the marriage suggests that Annie had written to invite the Robinsons to the Manor for a visit:

Jefferson, Schoharie Co. N.Y.
Oct. 18th 1858

My Dear Neice,
    Yours of the 27th of Sept. was duly received. For the $5 Bill which it enclosed accept my hearty thanks. Excuse my delay in not writing to you before. I have had some extra services to perform since the receipt of your letter. I have lately had to preach two funeral sermons and deliver an address at a Sabbath School Picnic. These extra services have been a pretty severe tax upon my time and strength.
    We are all in the enjoyment of comfortable health. Your aunt Eliza is much better than I ever expected she would be, and we are endulging the hope that she will soon be entirely restored. She seems quite pleased with her new home. For your kind invitation to visit you next summer, we feel truly thankful, but very much fear we shall not be permitted to enjoy that pleasure. You may be sure that, if we do not, it will not be owing to any want of a disposition on our part. All the members of my family now present with me, send their best respects, and kindest wishes, to yourself and Mr. Smith.
    With fervent prayers that a kind Providence may ever befriend and bless you and your partner in life, I remain

Truly Yours & C
Phinehas Robinson

    The next two letters are more than ten years apart. In the first, Phinehas explains that his "Poem" (the book "Immortality" of four hundred and eleven pages) has been nearly sold out and that a new edition is hoped for.
    The second suggests the difficulties of traveling by train on Long Island a hundred years ago - and gives some family news. Annie's family, to which Phinehas asked to be remembered, included her children Martha, Eugenie, William and Clarence, and her husband Egbert.
    Phinehas was now seventy-one years old, and as the dateline shows, was back in Manorville, his birthplace. Church records state that "he undertook to supply our pulpit, but advanced age and feeble health rendered him unable long to endure the strain."
    On April 30th, 1871, he died in Franklinville, Long Island, the place where he had taught school many years before.
Jefferson, Schoharie Co. N.Y. Dee. 21st, 1858

My Dear Neice,
    It gives me much pleasure to inform you, that your aunt is doing well, and that we are permitted to indulge the hope, that she will ultimately be entirely restored. The remainder of the family are in their usual health, and all send their best wishes to yourself and Mr. Smith.
    You will pardon me for introducing, to your notice, a little item of business which principally concerns myself. I have sold out nearly all the copies, 2000, of the first edition of my Poem, and now have a second, revised edition ready for the press. I wish to make an arrangement with some competent Bookseller for its publication. In order to (do) this, I wish to procure, from professional men and civilians, as many testimonies in its favour as may be convenient. It has occurred to me, that a few lines from your husband, expressing his approbation of the work, might be of material service. His honourable and elevated position in society, give him a commanding influence. Will you please to show him this letter with my respectful request, that if he can, with truth, say anything in favour of the work he would please direct a few lines to me to that effect?

The form might be something like the following:

Dear Sir,
    I am happy to learn that you have, in readiness for the press, a revised edition of your Poem. I have read the first edition with much interest, and feel free to state, that I regard it as a valuable production well adapted to please those who have a cultivated taste and to exert a good influence upon the community.
    I merely offer the above as a general form. It may express too high an estimate of the work; in which case, I wish him to modify it so as to give his own views. The work has been highly commended by many of high standing; but as tastes differ, every one of course has a right to his own opinions. Give my best compliments to your husband, and to his mother. With the highest esteem and good will, I remain,

Truly Yours P. Robinson
Hon. Mrs. Egbert Smith.

Manorville, Suffolk Co.
Long Island, June 9/69

My Dear Neice,
    Your letter, dated June 1st, and directed to Henry, was received by him after I had left New York and come to this place. He inclosed it in a new envelope and directed it to me, and yesterday it came into my hand. I thank you most cordially for your kind invitation to pay you a visit, and most cheerfully shall I endeavour to meet your wishes in that respect. I appreciate very highly your great kindness in transmitting to me the means of journeying to your residence.
    I propose to leave this place for Yaphank on Monday, the 14th of this month in the 3 O,Clock Train, and shall probably arrive, at Yaphank, not far from half after 3 0,Clock in the afternoon. There is no midday Train from the East and the Morning Train would be too early to suit either your convenience or my own. Should Monday prove quite stormy, I will take the first fair afternoon that may occur after Monday. If, however, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week, should all be very stormy, I should be obliged to defer the visit until the following week, as I have promised to occupy the pulpit, in this place, on the Sunday after the next.
    Henry informs me that your Cousin Thomas's wife and children are now in Greenport, boarding with Mrs. Preston, and Thomas is boarding with his brother Henry. I am at present boarding at Deacon Hunt's, the husband of my late sister Phehe's daughter Elizabeth. Please, give my kindest regards to Mr. Smith and the children. With the highest esteem and the warmest wishes for your own personal welfare and that of your family and all your friends, I remain

Yours Truly

P. Robinson
Mrs. Annie M. Smith

    In addition to the sources given in the text, we are indebted to Mr. Ralph W. Hawkins, formerly an officer of the Hawkins Association. His sources state that Reverend Jonathan married a "Hannah R. ----" and that he was a son of Daniel Robinson (1721-1809) and Phebe (Corwin) Robinson. Daniel had another son, Joseph (1758-1850) who m. Elizabeth Clark and had a son, also Joseph (1791-1873) who became the father of "Anna May Smith".
    Reverend Jonathan's children, besides Phinehas, included Phebe, Henry, Daniel, Hannah and Elizabeth. But Anna's cemetery inscription reads "Annie Mary Smith", and other sources say that Jonathan m. Hannah Wells, as reported in this sketch. It would seem from the above that Phinehas and Annie were not really uncle and "neice," but second cousins.
    Other acknowledgments: Mr. Mark Hodges, reference Librarian at Hamilton College, for a copy of the necrology of Phinehas written by Professor Edward North; Melita Hofman, Oysterponds Historical Society, Inc.; Mrs. Adelaide Pultz; Mrs. Marian Terry, Suffolk County Historical Society; Bessie Siegel, Chester, N. Y. Free Library; Mr. Terry Tuthill, Riverhead.

First appearing in the LI Forum 1969 No Copyright Information Data Found