Biographical Sketch of Joseph Robinson (1748-1807)

by Phil Norfleet

Joseph Robinson (also spelled Robertson in some documents) supported the Tory Cause throughout the Revolutionary War.  Joseph was apparently was born in Virginia in about 1748; however, his parents names are unknown.  He removed to the South Carolina (SC) Backcountry in about 1769.  Whig sources have asserted that in Virginia, Robinson had been studying for the Presbyterian Ministry but became involved in a scandal and was forced to flee to South Carolina.

At the beginning of the Revolution, in 1775, Robinson was a justice of the peace, a deputy surveyor for the SC Colony and held the rank of Major in the Royal SC Militia.  He resided on the east bank of Broad River in the Camden Judicial District (now Chester County).  His main plantation was located near the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Fish Dam Ford.  In fact, Robinson owned the so-called "Fish Dam," which was a stone fishery originally constructed by the Cherokee Indians, located at the point where the modern road SC 72 crosses the Broad River.

In July 1775, at the request of Colonel Thomas Fletchall, he wrote the "Counter Association" - a document setting forth the Loyalists opposition to the "Continental Association" legislation that had recently been adopted by the Whig Provincial Congress in Charleston. Subsequently, Robinson commanded the Loyalist force which successfully besieged and, on 22 November 1775, obtained the surrender of the Whig Militia holding the fort at Ninety Six;  Robinson drafted and was a signatory to the surrender document entitled "Agreement for  a Cessation of Arms."

Unfortunately for the Loyalists, the Whigs failed to adhere to the Agreement.  In December 1775, after having been reinforced by militia from North Carolina, a large Whig force commanded by Colonel Richard Richardson  surprised and defeated a Tory force commanded by Patrick Cunningham at a place called the Great Cane Break.  During the month of December, Richardson was able to capture a total of 136 Loyalists including Thomas Fletchall, John Mayfield and many other Loyalist leaders.  Major Robinson, Patrick Cunningham and a few others were able to elude capture, but many of their homes and plantations, including Robinson's, were plundered and burnt by the Rebels.

Robinson fled to East Florida where he was commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel of the South Carolina Royalist Regiment.  He subsequently fought in several battles with the Whigs in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  In December 1782, he and his family were among those Tories evacuated by the British from Charlestown, South Carolina.  He first went to East Florida and then to Jamaica.  In 1786, he and his family removed to New Brunswick, Canada and finally, three years later, removed to St. Johns, now called Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Robinson continued to reside in Prince Edward Island until his death in 1807;  his wife, Lilley Robinson, died in 1823.

Although I have not seen his name on any of the published lists of confiscated estates, Robinson's real property was seized by the SC State Government and sold at public auction.  The following Charleston, South Carolina deed abstracts document these sales:

01 Nov 1786:  Isaac DaCosta to Peter Bocquet & James Mitchell, Commissioners of the Treasury of South Carolina, by bond dated 01 Nov 1786 in the penal sum of  £51 s6 d10 sterling, mortgage of tract, late the property of Joseph Robertson, 101 acres on a branch of Broad River near Smiths ford, adjacent land of John Moore, Samuel Denton. Isaac DaCosta (LS), Wit: Robert Dewar, Joseph Salvador. Proved by the oath of Robert Dewar, 19 Jan 1787 before Wm Scott, Junior, J.P., Recorded 7 Feb 1787.  [See Charleston SC Deed Book T-5, pages 455-457.]

01 Nov 1786:  John Vanderhorst to Peter Bocquet & James Mitchell, Commissioners of the Treasury of South Carolina, by bond in the penal sum of £473 s3 d9 sterling, mortgage of tract, late the property of Joseph Robertson in Camden District, 125 acres on Broad River, also tract of 242 acres late the property of Moses Kirkland in Ninety Six District on Turkey and Little Stephens Creek adj. Heters line, Freemans line. John Vanderhorst (LS), Wit: Robert Dewar, David Snetgar. Proved by the oath of Robert Dewar, 8 Feb 1787 before Dl. Mazyck,. J.P., Recorded 16 Feb 1787.  [See Charleston SC Deed Book W-5, pages 369-371.]

The above deeds account for about 226 acres of land; however, in his official claim, Robinson indicates that he possessed two tracts of land, one tract of 300 acres in Camden District and one tract of 100 acres in Ninety-Six District, for a total of 400 acres in all.  I am unable to account for this discrepancy.

In 1786, Robinson submitted a claim to the British Government for losses sustained during the Revolution in the amount of £1618 (see below); he was ultimately allowed an amount of £521 on his claim.

Additional records pertaining to the life of Joseph Robinson, including a transcript of the official claim he submitted to the British Government, are presented below.


 Transcript of the Official Claim Submitted by Joseph Robinson

The following record was produced from a microfilm copy reviewed at the South Carolina State Archives in Columbia SC, entitled American Loyalists Transcripts, Volume 26, pages 402-410.

An Estimate of Real and Personal Property belonging to Joseph Robinson, Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment of South Carolina Royalists which were taken from him, and now used and possessed by the People of South Carolina Province, and that in consequence of his Loyalty and Attachment to the British Government in America:

1.  A Tract of 300 Acres of Land of the best quality on Broad River in Camden District in the Province of South Carolina, on which were a dwelling House, Barn, Stable, Dairy, etc. with a Peach Orchard and a valuable Fishery constructed on said River, of said Tract about 40 Acres are cultivated.



2.  Also another Tract of Land in Ninety Six District of the Province of South Carolina containing 100 Acres on which were a House and Barn with about 20 Acres Cultivated.


3.  A Valuable Library of Books consisting of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Mathematics, Divinity, a Considerable Number of the Laws of England, etc.


4.  Livestock, viz. Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Hogs and Poultry.


5.  Household Furniture, viz. Beds, Tables, Chairs, etc.


6.  Clothing, a handsome Small Sword, a fowling Piece with Mathematical Instruments for Surveying, etc.


7.  A large Valuable Boat.


8.  Profession of Deputy Surveyor in South Carolina from November when the Rebels of the Fort at Ninety Six surrendered to the Troops under his Command Anno Domine 1775 to 26th May 1778.


9.  Wheat, Corn, Oats, Flax and Hemp burnt by the Enemy.


10. A Negro Wench, very Valuable and a Child.


Total in £ Sterling


St. John, 16th November 1786, Evidence on the Claim of Joseph Robinson, Lieutenant Colonel of South Carolina Royalists & late of South Carolina:

Claimant appears and being Sworn.

Says he is a Native of America, resided on Broad River, South Carolina, took a very early part in favor of British Government, had a command under lord William Campbell in 1775 as Major of Militia.  About November of that year was concerned in the first Engagement at Ninety Six - had 2400 Men under his Command.  In this Engagement Claimant was Successful, but his men dispersed afterwards and on the second assembly of them under Patrick Cunningham they proved unfortunate.  Claimant went into the Cherokee Nation during which time his Settlement was plundered, his House burnt and his Family driven from home.

Claimant went through the Creek Nation to Pensacola, thence went to St. Augustine, joined the Regiment of South Carolina Royalists under Colonel Innes at St Johns River in East Florida 1778.

Had a Commission in May 1778 as Lieutenant Colonel of that Regiment.  Had almost the Sole Command as Colonel Innes did not often attend.  Had been acting before he received his Commission in the capacity of Lieutenant Colonel.

Continued to serve during the War.  On the Evacuation of Charlestown went to East Florida where he stayed about a twelve month.  After the Peace, went thence to Jamaica and stayed about a twelve month there and then came to this Province.  Is now settled on Kennebekacies and has Half Pay.

Claimant was possessed of a Tract of Land on Broad River.  Consisted of 300 Acres purchased some years before the War.  There was some little Cultivation.  It was purchased partly for Money, partly on Exchange of Cattle of one Boneau, a Frenchman in Charlestown.  Had a Deed which was destroyed  when his house was burnt.  He built a dwelling House, Barn and Stables after he made the Purchase, there was about 30 Acres cleared.  Claimant lived upon it. It was very good land.  It was valued by two Gentlemen on Oath at £3 Sterling per Acre.  This Appraisement was sent with his Papers to England.  Claimant thinks this Valuation rather too high.

He had a very good Fishery upon it which had been made by the Indians.  Thinks he could have sold it for £500.

Claimant saw his Name amongst the Persons whose Estates were forfeited. The Estate being early seized, he believes it was shared out amongst any Plunderers who could get Possession.  They were not regular in keeping the Accounts of Estates which were seized at that time, nor returned any regular Account of the Sales.

When last he heard, one John Moore was in Possession, he was a Neighbor and Claimant imagined he had purchased it.

Another Tract in Ninety Six District of 100 Acres purchased of Jacob Garner about six years before the War in Consideration of £30 Proclamation.  Cleared about 15 Acres and built a house.  Values it at near £100 Proclamation.  Claimant imagines Moore is also in Possession of this Tract.

Lost a Negro Wench and Child at Ninety Six.  When Claimant went to the Cherokee Nation the Rebels came and plundered him, took his Wife Prisoner, took the Negro and Child.  They kept the Negro and Child.

On Claimant going away, they went down and plundered his Settlement and burnt his House.  They took 5 Horses, 26 Cattle, 10 Sheep, Household furniture to amount of £60 Sterling, Clothing, Arms, Wheat, Corn, Hemp, etc. in the Barn to the Value of £100.

He had a very valuable Library which he had purchased himself.  Law books and Books in different Languages, had 60 volumes of Law Books:  Value £100.

He had the Place of Deputy Surveyor in South Carolina, the rate of Surveying was 30s Proclamation for 100 Acres.  He cannot estimate the Annual Value of it.

Witness Moses Wheatly Sworn:

Knew Claimant before the Troubles began.  He was settled on Broad River.  From the beginning he took a decisive part in favor of Government.  He had the Command of the Militia at Ninety Six against the Americans in 1775.

He had an Engagement with them.  He commanded, it is said 2000 men and was Successful.  He afterwards dispersed the Men.  He went to the Cherokee Nation, after which they came and burnt his House.

Witness said his House and all his goods burnt that they could get at.

Remembered his having the Command of the South Carolina Royalists.  He was Lieutenant Colonel.  Was very active in joining that Regiment and served during the War.

Knew [Item] No. 1 - Remember his purchasing it and building upon it.  A good deal was clear, thirty Acres or more.  There was a Shed Fishery which was valuable.

It was valuable Land on that River at 20s per Acre, taking the whole together.  He bought above 300 Acres, there were some Acres clear.

Knew [Item] No. 2 - It consisted of 100 Acres.  Remembers Claimant in possession, he purchased it of Jacob Garner.

When his House was burnt, his stock was plundered.  Thinks more than five Horses, reckons about 20 Cattle.  Saw furniture and books burnt - a great many things burnt.

Remembers he had a Negro Woman and Child who was taken away and kept by the Rebels.

Witness has heard the Landed Estate was sold.  Has heard Claimants Name was on the Confiscation List in the Carolina Newspapers.


Extract from the Memoirs of Major Joseph McJunkin

The following narrative, pertaining to Joseph Robinson, has been taken from the pamphlet entitled Memoirs of Major Joseph McJunkin – Revolutionary Patriot by Reverend James Hodge Saye, first published in 1847, pages 4-5.  Rev. Saye based his work on a manuscript written by Major Joseph McJunkin (1755-1846), a Revolutionary War veteran, who served under Whig Colonel James Brandon and Whig General Thomas Sumter.

I have seen it stated that at the commencement of the Revolutionary War a majority of the people residing between the Broad and Saluda Rivers were Loyalists. The reason was not given by the writer, but from the statements of Major McJunkin I am of the opinion that it was owing mainly to the influence of Col. Fletchall, who resided on Fairforest at the place now known as McBeth's Mills. This Fletchall held a Colonel's commission under the Royal Government prior to the suspension of that Government in the Province of South Carolina. He was a man of influence among the people, had many friends, and when a commission was tendered him by the Republican Party in the State he refused it and exerted his influence among the people to induce them to continue their allegiance to the crown. At this period Samuel McJunkin [father of Major Joseph McJunkin], his relatives and friends, were prominent in the Liberty Party.

Tennant and Drayton in the Piedmont

Accordingly, in the summer of 1775, when the Rev. William Tennant of the Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Oliver Hart of the Baptist Church, and Mr. Drayton, who had been re­quested by the Provincial Council to travel through the State and explain to the people the grounds of the con­troversy with the mother country, were passing through the District of Ninety-Six they were accompanied by Joseph McJunkin through that part of the country now known as Laurens, Spartanburg, Union and Chester. He served them as a pilot and was doubtless one of their most attentive hearers. He stated that they called public meetings and addressed the people on the following topics:

  1. The Constitution of a Roman Catholic Colony in Canada.

  2. The Tax on Tea.

  3. The Stamp Act.

  4. The Imposition of Church Rates by the British Government Without Allowing the Right of Representation in the British Parliament.

They also showed to the people that they of right ought to possess the power of self-government; that as British subjects this power was secured by law and that they never should surrender their birthright. This consideration was enforced by touching allusions to the privations and sufferings of the first settlers in this country for the sake of civil and religious liberty. These topics were discussed in a calm, persuasive and Christian-like manner and had the effect of arousing many of the people to a proper appreciation of the rights of man.  Finally these gentlemen entered into a treaty or stipulation with that part of the population not disposed to resist the measures of the crown by force of arms that they should remain peaceably at home.

Fletchall for the King

To counteract the influence of those gentlemen and, it possible, to obliterate the impressions made by them, Col. Fletchall engaged the services of a man by the name of Robinson. This Robinson was a young man of classical education and respectable talents. He had been educated in Virginia for the ministry in the Presbyterian Church, but rendered himself peculiarly odious to that denomination by an attempt to obtain orders in the established church in the Province by fraud for one Cotton, an illiterate and abandoned wretch. The nature of the transaction was reported to the proper authority and Cotton and Robinson fled from the country.

Robinson was sent by Fletchall to Charlotte to confer with Lord William Campbell, the Royal Governor, as to the best means of keeping the people in a quiet and loyal state. Campbell sent a parcel of pamphlets, called cutters, to Fletchall for distribution among the people. The scope of these pamphlets was to show the sin of resisting the laws and policy of the Lord's anointed, the evils which would result, and to offer encourage­ment to support the measures of the British crown.  On his return Fletchall called public meetings in different parts and put up Robinson to address the people in support of those measures which he wished to see triumphant.

The Dining Creek Meeting

One of these took place at the Dining Creek meeting house. The assemblage was larger than could be accommodated in the building. Robinson therefore took his stand upon a rock in the woods, read one of the cutters and was commenting upon its contents. He alluded to the case of Saul and David to show the miseries which result from rebellion. He heaped abusive epithets upon the Con­tinental Congress, George Washington, and the principles they advocated. He stated that when the rascals had involved the people in inextricable difficulties they would run away to the Indians, Spaniards and islands. When this last sentence was uttered Samuel McJunkin [Major Joseph McJunkin’s father] remarked: “I wonder where Preachers Joe Robinson and Cotton will then be?”

At this remark Robinson was overwhelmed with shame, descended abruptly from his rostrum and went off. As he was going he was heard to say:  "I would have carried my point If it had not been for that old Irish Presbyterian, but he has defeated me."

Biographical Sketch of Joseph Robinson by E. Alfred Jones of London, England

An excellent biographical sketch of Joseph Robinson was published in The Ohio State University Bulletin, Volume XXVI, Number 4, October 30, 1921, pages 74-76, entitled The Journal of Alexander Chesney, a South Carolina Loyalist in the Revolution and After, Edited by E. Alfred Jones of London England, with an Introduction by Professor Wilbur H. Siebert.  Professor Wilbur Henry Siebert describes Mr. Jones in the following words:

It is scarcely necessary to speak of the special qualifications of Mr. E. Alfred Jones for the task of editing The Journal of Alexander Chesney, since the admirable results of his labors are manifest in this volume. The present writer can not, however, deny himself the pleasure of saying that Mr. Jones has long been familiar with the abundant materials relating to the American loyalists that are to be found in the Public Record Office, the British Museum, and other collections in London. Nor can he forbear to add that the Editor has greatly increased the value of this volume by his copious annotations, many of which contain information not easily available and some, information not accessible at all in print. Mr. Jones found Chesney's Journal in the British Museum (Additional MSS., 32627).

Sketch of Joseph Robinson

Joseph Robinson, a Virginian by birth, was settled on a plantation on Broad river in South Carolina, where he was deputy surveyor.

In 1775 he was appointed major of militia and, 18 November of that year, he was in command of 2400 loyalists at Ninety-Six when he surrounded an American force under Majors Andrew William-son and James Mayson. This inglorious affair ended by the offer by Robinson of a cessation of hostilities for twenty days--an offer which was joyfully accepted by Williamson and Mayson, whose force had nearly expended their ammunition. A party to this treaty was Lieutenant-Colonel Evan McLaurin.

Colonel Robinson's men were afterwards allowed to return home, while he himself went among the friendly Cherokee Indians. In his absence his plantation was plundered, his house and buildings burnt, and his family driven from home by the Americans. Among his possessions destroyed was his valuable library, which included 60 books on law, the destruction being witnessed by Moses Whealley, a loyalist.

In her petition of October 1, 1816, to Viscount Palmerston, secretary of state for war, his wife, Lilley Robinson (whom he had married in 1760 in Virginia) states that while a prisoner in the hands of the Americans in 1776, she was promised restoration to her husband on condition that he consented to be neutral in the war. Her answer is not recorded, but she was released in a few days. Lilley Robinson proceeded, not to join her husband, but to start on a painful journey of 800 miles, accompanied by her two small children, to her father's family in Virginia, traveling mostly by night to escape the vigilance of American scouting parties and enduring indescribable sufferings. ( W. O. 42/R8).

In May, 1778, Colonel Robinson was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the South Carolina Royalists, and in July it was decided that this corps should consist of eight companies of 50 rank and file each. With this regiment he was present at the battle of Stono, 12 June, 1779.

Mrs. Lilley Robinson, who had returned to South Carolina from Virginia, accompanied her husband on the evacuation of Charleston by the British, to East Florida, where they intended to settle, only to find shortly after their arrival that the Colony had been ceded to Spain and that they would be included in the 10,000 loyalists in that Province who suffered privations in consequence of its cession. (Hist. MSS. Comm., Report on the American MSS. in the Royal Institution, Vol. IV, p. 848.) The harassed Robinson family, in common with many others from the Southern Colonies, now sought refugee in the West Indies, but once again they were dogged by misfortune, their ship having been wrecked off the coast of Florida. Eventually, however, Colonel Joseph Robinson and his family reached Jamaica, but after a year's sojourn there, they were compelled by the unhealthiness of the climate to seek a home in a northern clime. With this object in view, they now set sail for that asylum of so many American loyalists, New Brunswick, where they lived for three years until 1789, when Colonel Robinson was invited to settle at Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island by his friend, Colonel Edmund Fanning, lieutenant-governor of that island and formerly commanding officer of the loyalist corps, the King's American regiment.

Meanwhile, Colonel Robinson had been put on the list of seconded Provincial officers and received the half-pay of a lieutenant-colonel.  He was also relieved of anxiety by the grant of £521 from his claim of £1,618. 10s for the loss of his property in South Carolina and by his appointment as surrogate and judge of probate at Charlottetown. This South Carolina loyalist died in that city, 24 August, 1807, leaving a will (dated 19, July 1807, and proved 10 November 1807) by which he bequeathed property to his widow, Lilley, and his three daughters. Lilley Robinson, widow of Colonel Joseph Robinson, died at Charlottetown, 11 July, 1823. Elizabeth, the eldest daughter born in New Brunswick in 1788, died unmarried. One daughter, Rebecca, married Robert Hodgson, lieutenant in the Prince Edward Island Fencibles (reduced in 1802), member of the Legislature and speaker until his death, 5 January, 1811, when he left four sons and one daughter. Rebecca Hodgson died, 12 May, 1825, aged 54. Robert Hodgson, the eldest son of Robert and Rebecca Hodgson, became judge of probate, chief justice, and lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island, and died a knight at the age of 82, on 16 September, 1880. The names of the other children of Robert and Rebecca Hodgson were: Joseph, Daniel, Christopher, and Jane Deborah.

Matilda, third daughter of Colonel and Lilley Robinson, married Ralph Brecken in Prince Edward Island. A daughter of Ralph and Matilda Brecken married Donald Macdonald, president of the Legislative Council of Prince Edward Island, and a son of this marriage was Sir William Christopher Macdonald of Montreal, whose munificent gifts to McGill University and Macdonald College remain as monuments to his memory. (A. O. 18/92; A. O. 13/188; A. O. 12/109; Ind. 5605; Hist. MSS. Comm., Report on the American MSS. in the Royal Institution, Vol. II, pp. 274, 276, 871; Second Report of the Bureau of Archives, Province of Ontario, 1905, pp. 791-801; The Royal Commission on Loyalist Claims, 1785-1785, ed. by H. E. Egerton; Roxburghe Club, 1915, pp. 272-3; notes from Judge Aeneas Macdonald of Charlottetown.)


Letter Written in 1780 by Joseph Robinson

The following document, graciously provided by Anna Lee Hogan of Prince Edward Island, Canada, is a letter written by Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph ROBINSON, to his Friends, on the Frontiers of the Province of South Carolina.  [Source:  Public Record Office, London, Headquarters Papers of the British Army in America, PRO 30/55/2842.]


After a long Series of Fatigues, after many personal sufferings, I am so happy as to return to South Carolina, once more; it gives me real pleasure to find, that notwithstanding all the Vicissitudes, all the exertions of Cruelty, and all the institutions jesuitically calculated to alienate the minds of the people from their Duty to their Sovereign, so many good men are still to be found in this Province.

Your handsome Appearance in favor of Government, altho at a time, when nothing more than an appearance was in your power, does you very great honor.

As to the Regiment of South Carolina Royalists with whom I had the honor to share the fatigues of Service, no men could possibly behave with greater Courage or more steady perseverance; moreover, they are unlearned to retreat; what engagement, what Attack were they ever in, that they left the ground, or had not the honor to bury the Enemy’s Dead?

For me to expatiate upon the calamities of this unhappy War; for me to point out the particulars of your suffering and the rascality's of some assuming individuals, at this moment would avail us nothing, it would only revive unpleasant remembrance and challenge disagreeable Sensations!

I beg leave to congratulate you upon the pleasing prospect of a reestablishment of civil Government, with the full enjoyment of all those Rights and Privileges which formerly so much conduced to your happiness & prosperity; Gentlemen, that you are now fully able from experience, to discriminate the great difference between a regular system of Government, & that of a rebellious anarchy, does not cost me a moments hesitation.

Go on, proceed, be steady in your principles, the time is at hand when Peace, Prosperity, and tranquility will amply crown your virtuous behavior: When the horrid Alarms of War will be no more; when you will cultivate your Lands, and sit with rural pleasure under the Shade of your own Vine, nor be afraid of being dragged out to arms and ravished from all your darling family cares, by the sanguine Youth, who delights in the Plume & Cockade; whose mouth is filled with a set of broken borrowed Arguments touching British Cruelty, Slavery, being born in the Country, fighting until death &c &c.

I am rationally to suppose, that the Body of the people will never sacrifice their own Judgment and Happiness, to satisfy a few illegitimate leaders of insatiable Ambition, who by no means every consulted the happiness or Welfare of the People at large.

Gentlemen, I rejoice to have the Opportunity of returning you my cordial thanks for the honor you did me, on a former Occasion, which I hope you will be pleased to accept: And wish that everything salutary & prosperous may await you.

/S/  Joseph ROBINSON

Charles Town  June 27, 1780


Extract from a Book re the Loyalists Who Settled in Prince Edward Island, Canada

The following is an extract from a book entitled An Island Refuge: Loyalists and Disbanded Troops on the Island of Saint John, edited by Orlo Jones and Doris Haslam, pages 247-250.   The Robinson section in the book was prepared by Mrs. Alice Peake Bissett.  This extract was graciously provided to me by Anna Lee Hogan of Prince Edward Island, Canada; she has added a few explanatory comments to the extract, which are enclosed within brackets.


On Wednesday, September 23, 1789 a schooner arrived at Charlottetown from St. John’s River [New Brunswick] laden with Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Robinson's baggage, and on Sunday, 4th October, 1789 another schooner arrived with Colonel Robinson and his family from Bay Vert.  Shortly after his arrival Colonel Robinson requested a town and pasture lot in Georgetown [capital of King’s County, Prince Edward Island] as he wished to develop there. This request was granted and a warrant of survey was issued on 12th October 1789.   However, when the census of 1798 was taken, Colonel Robinson and his wife Leila were living on Lot 34 [Georgetown is in Lot 54; the Island is divided into 63 lots].   Colonel Robinson’s home had been in South Carolina before the War of Independence, and during that time he had met Colonel Edmund Fanning there.  When Colonel Fanning became Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island, he persuaded Colonel Robinson to settle in this Province.

In 1798, at the request of the Right Honorable William Wyndham, Secretary of War for Great Britain, Colonel Robinson wrote the following account of his experiences in the American Revolution:

At the commencement of the American Rebellion I was an inhabitant of the Province of South Carolina and was a Major in a regiment of the King’s Militia in Camden District.

The insurgents formed a camp in Ninety-Six District and were recruiting men, declaring that as soon as they had forces sufficient for their purpose they would burn and destroy the houses and property of all persons who refused to join them in opposing the King and the authority of Great Britain.

I then waited upon Lord William Campbell, the Governor of the Province and received written orders from his Lordship to levy forces and march against the rebels.  In consequence of which I advanced with  about 2000 men and found them fortified at Ninety-Six Court House.  We defeated them and destroyed their fortifications.

But in the meantime the violence of the insurgents obliged Lord William Campbell to depart his province and our small army of loyal volunteers was left without further orders, money, or Military stores.  Wherefore, with much reluctance, I was under the necessity of desiring the men to return to their respective habitations and by all means not to suffer any false pretenses of the Rebel party to deceive them or to efface their principles of loyalty until we should enjoy a more favorable opportunity.   A reward being then offered for my life, personal safety induced me to retire to the Cherokee Indian Nation and afterwards the Creek Indians; and passing through many dangers and suffering various hardships, I at length arrived on St Augustine in the Province of East Florida in the year 1777.  Soon afterwards a party of about 300 men, being some of those I formerly commanded in South Carolina joined me there.  I formed the Regiment which was styled the South Carolina Royalists of which General Provost appointed me Lieut. Colonel and soon after I received my commission from Sir Henry Clinton, the Commander-in-Chief.  The said Regiment acted in East Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the course of which service I was in several engagements against the enemy.  Viz. at the Alligator Bridge in East Florida, at Dr. Bundstone’s plantation in Georgia, at New Port Meeting house in Georgia, at Stone Ferry in South Carolina and afterwards at the Reduction of Sunbury Fort in the Province of Georgia and the Fortification of Charles Town in South Carolina.

/S/  Joseph Robinson, Lt. Col of the late South Carolina Royalists

This letter was published on November 8, 1842, after the death of Mrs. Matilda Brecken, as it was felt it would be of interest to many people at the time.  Mrs. Brecken was the second daughter of Colonel Robinson; she had married Loyalist Ralph Brecken.

An incident occurred during the American Revolution  that was also recorded:

“Upon one occasion a numerous band of the Rebel Party, during the absence of Col. Robinson, set fire to his house and burned it to the ground, Mrs. Robinson and her children having being rescued from the flames by the devotion of some of their slaves.  An actor “in this diabolical outrage was recognized by Mrs. Robinson in this Island many years afterwards.  He is since dead.”

Colonel Robinson became prominent in Island politics.  He was elected to the Assembly in 1790 and became its Speaker for four years until his appointment to the Legislative Council by Governor Fanning.  He was also named Second Assistant Judge.  When Colonel Robinson moved to the Island he leased 1000 acres of land on Lot 34 from Sir James Montgomery and became very sympathetic with the grievances of the tenants.  With his son-in-law, Robert Hodgson, he championed the cause of the escheat movement [the Tenant League].

Colonel Robinson died on August 24th, 1807, aged fifty-nine.  His wife Leila died on December 31st, 1822, aged 72.

In the Royal Gazette of November 8th, 1842, the following tribute to Colonel Robinson was published: 

Having sacrificed a valuable property in South Carolina to his unshakeable principles of loyalty and attachment to the British Crown, Col. Robinson was possessed of great and versatile talents and made himself eminently useful in this community.  He was a member of council, Assistant Justice of the Supreme Court and Judge of Probate.  He died in 1807 universally regretted and esteemed.


Information Received from Daphne Schober of Victoria, British Columbia

Additional information, concerning the family of Joseph Robinson, has been graciously provided by Daphne Schober (her email address is: of Victoria, British Columbia is presented below.

In June of 1992 Mother [Mrs. Alice Peake Bissett] received a letter from William B. White Jr. of Rock Hill, South Carolina, who is a direct descendent of one of Joseph Robinson’s brothers and has done extensive research on the family of both Joseph Robinson and his wife, Leila Whitley. I entered into correspondence with Billy White and now can take the family history back to an earlier period than Mother was able to.

The first Robinson that we have record of now is James, born about 1675, probably in Northern Ireland although of Scottish descent. He married Ester (maiden name and dates unknown) and moved from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to Virginia about 1740-42. He owned what was later known as “the Big Spring Tract” on the south fork of the Roanoke River above what is known today as Elliston, Virginia. They had eight children. The eldest was John, who was born in 1700 and was killed during turmoil between English settlers and Indians. The second son was William, our ancestor, who was born in 1702, married Margaret Gorrell about 1721, and ‘went to Carolina’ between 1763 and 1766. They had twelve children, the youngest being Joseph, who was born in 1742. Joseph became a major of the New Acquisition Militia in South Carolina before the Revolution.

There was another branch of the Robinsons, which were cousins and came to America at about the same time. They had three of the first land grants in Virginia. William White has carefully sorted out the two branches of the family. ...

 ... In the book MacDonald College of McGill University, a History from 1904 -1955,  by John Ferguson Snell, BA,  PhD, the following is told about Sir William Christopher MacDonald’s Robinson ancestors:

"Meantime, the revolutionists had burned the buildings on the Robinson estate, including the dwelling, from which Mrs. Robinson barely escaped with her two infant daughters. After several hundred miles of travel through the forest on horseback accompanied by a Negro slave, she joined her husband in Florida.

At the conclusion of the war the family set sail for Jamaica. They were shipwrecked and lost the small residue of their belongings but eventually arrived in Jamaica. After a time they immigrated to New Brunswick and ultimately to the Island of St. John. A slave who accompanied them to the Island and lived to the age of 103, delighted to tell how he saved the lives of Mrs. Robinson and the children when sharks upset a boat in which they were being taken ashore in the West Indies."

Joseph Robinson and his family arrived on the Island of St. John on Oct. 4 1789. Their third daughter was born in this year, but we don’t know if before or after their arrival. It is thought that they came to the Island because of their friendship with Col. Fanning whom they had known in South Carolina before the Revolution and who had been appointed Governor of the Colony of St. John. Col. Robinson requested and was granted a Town and Pasture Lot in Georgetown but by the census of 1798 was living in Lot 34 where he leased 1000 acres of land from Sir James Montgomery. He became very sympathetic to the grievances of tenants.

In 1790 Robinson became Speaker of the Assembly and remained so for five years. Later he was Assistant Justice of the Supreme Court and a member of the executive Council. He died on the 24th of August 1807.

Leila and Joseph had three daughters. Rebecca was born Sept 27, 1770 and married Robert Hodgson June 17, 1797. Her son was Sir Robert Hodgson. Matilda was born November 5, 1777 and married Ralph Brecken. She was the mother of Barbara Leila Alice Brecken who married James Ellis Peake. She was also the Grandmother of Sir William Christopher Macdonald. Their family is followed under the Brecken name. Eliza, the youngest died unmarried in April 1836.

Together with the draft of Col. Robinson’s experiences is the following hand-written note:

"Lieutenant - Colonel Robinson and his wife (maiden name Leila Whitley) originally emigrated from Virginia [near James River] to South Carolina, in the latter Province. At the commencement of hostilities he owned a large and valuable property, real and personal, which was confiscated by the successful party at the termination of the war. Mrs. Robinson’s family was from the north of Ireland originally; her ancestor was shut up in Londonderry during the memorable siege of that city by James II’s forces. Colonel Robinson’s family, originally Scottish, claimed to be a scion of the Robertsons of Strown"

The History of the family of Leila Robinson is also of interest.

She was the daughter of Jonathan Whitley and Rebecca Bowen and had two sisters, Agnes (known as Nancy) and Rebecca, and one brother Moses. Mention of her father first appears on the Forks of the James section of Virginia on the 21st of August 1750, when he received 200 acres of land from Paul Whitney and his wife Sarah. He continued to acquire land and in 1758 there is record of him selling flour to the army. He had also acquired a large tract of land in Washington County, Virginia that may have been part of his wife Rebecca’s inheritance. She was the daughter of John Bowen Sr. and his wife Lilly who died in Washington County, Virginia. Rebecca was the mother of all Jonathan’s children but after her death he married twice more. His second wife divorced him for mental cruelty.

Both Jonathan and Paul Whitley’s lands in Augusta and Rockbridge County were confiscated during the American Revolution and Jonathan was brought to court and charged with being a Tory. This was not surprising as not only was his daughter married to an officer on the British side, but his only son Moses was an officer too, under Robinson’s command. Whitley was released immediately however, on swearing not to aid the British. It appears that he was concerned with further confiscation as he took his moveable property to Lincoln County, North Carolina. Later he moved to the banks of the Broad River in York County, South Carolina. His daughter Nancy and her husband John Mitchell Jr. made the move with him. After the Revolution was over he built a house on the property where Joseph and Leila Robinson’s house had stood. Whitley lived there until his death, when it became the property of the Mitchell’s.

Moses Whitley came to the Island of St. John with his sister and brother-in-law and their family, but stayed only a short time. In the 1797 note, it is written that he returned to the United States and it was presumed that he went to Virginia or South Carolina. However, American sources say that he married a British woman and lived in England.

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