The Robinsons of Miller's Place

This information originally appeared in "History of Miller's Place," by Margaret Davis Gass Copyright Spring 1971 revised Fall 1987

    Of all the early inhabitants of Miller's Place, the least is known about the Robinsons, who were at one time among the largest landholders here, but no personal records and very few public ones have survived to tell their story.  John Robinson (sometimes called Robertson) and his wife Jane (or Jean) of Success in the Town of Hempstead owned all that huge tract of land just east of Mt. Sinai harbor, but when or from whom they bought it is not known.  Their first appearance in official records was March 2, 1712/13 when they divided it between their two sons.  John Jr received one hundred ten acres from Pipe Stave Hollow east to Miller's Hay Path, while Robert was given one hundred seventy-three acres east of he hollow along the cliffs.  No mention is made of a house, but there would seen to have been one for there is reference to an orchard and to the spring where John "now fetcheth water at."  In the same year Thomas Robinson bought sixty acres along the Sound from Richard Floyd and two years later he added twenty acres south of North Country Road and east of Pipe Stave Hollow.  All three Robinson men continued to add to their acreage by purchase or by allotment from the Town.  In 1741 Thomas bought from a Thomas Greene, who had in turn bought from Joseph Brown, the land, house and barn and orchard which had been the homestead of Andrew Miller I, it being bounded then on both east and north by land he already owned and containing eighty acres.  He sold this land in 1758 to Solomon Davis. By then the family owned large parts of both Shoreham and Wading River and had apparently moved east.

    John Robinson Jr. had disposed of his land sometime before 1758, for in that year David Edows sold Fifty acres of it, with the house, barn, orchard and fences to Samuel Hopkins, a carpenter who had come from Shelter Island.  Hopkin's son Samuel married, on December 28, 1772, Elizabeth, the daughter of John Robinson and their descendants continued to hold the property until quite recently, and some of them still live here.  The Hopkins family eventually acquired som of Robert's land also.  The Robinsons had two houses, one at the north end which was torn down to be replaced by he larger and more elegant "Point Place" about 1816, and one house to the south near the corner of North Country Road and Pipe Stave Hollow Road.  Only a small hollow and a few rocks from the foundation of the latter house survived until the latter part of the nineteenth century.  There was an orchard there and also a burial gound, still theoretically reserved, but vandals have destroyed the stones and apparently neither Robinsons nor Hopkins were buried there.  One stone, still legible early in this century, was that of Richard Greene who had owned the land to the south and died in 1747 at the age of 65.  When Samuel Hopkins bought in 1758 the old house is referred to as "Capt. Robinson's".

    Just who the Robinsons were, why they came here or what became of them are matters on which the historian can only speculate from bits of circumstantial evidence, as there are no wills, gravestones, or old letters known and very few deeds.  Most clear is that they were unbelieveably wealthy for their time.  John Robinson had bought a ketch in 1682, a very large vessel for one man to own at that time.   Various members of the family witnessed wills or left other indications of close association with several wealthy merchants and shipowners of Manhattan and the west end of the Island.  George Robinson, whoever he may have been, was co-witness with William Sell to a will and Sell later owned all the land now known as Shoreham, adjacent to the Robinsons there.  Sell was Sheriff of Suffolk County and Land and Tide Waiter (customes officer) from the Port of New York and Long Island.  Solomon Davis, to whom Thomas Robinson sold, was a wealthy privateer, while another close friend, William Aspinwall of Flushing, was a very rich merchant with an underground tunnel from his house to the shore, leading most historians to agree that he was a very successful smuggler.  One of the most esteemed historians of Long Island, the late Wayland Jefferson, claimed to have documentary proof that Wading River at that time was a smuggler's port of no small repute.  One cannot help but wonder, therefore, whether the Robinsons chose to live adjacent to Mt. Sinai Harbor for the purpose of having a secure and private landing place and that as the village grew around them they moved to a less populated spot to the east on another small harbor.