ALTHEA B. (ROBBINS) LEONARD McNEILL
Nicholas Robbins Family
ALTHEA B. (ROBBINS) LEONARD McNEILL (Biographical data abstracted from family records, local histories, Michigan public records, cemetery records and Federal censuses) Re: The Nicholas Robbins Family No. 7.34.8
Althea Barbara Robbins was born 31 Oct 1856 in Pleasant Lake, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, the fourth child and second daughter of Prince and Isabella (Purdy) Robbins. During her early years in Nova Scotia, her father was at sea much of the time working as a ship captain home-ported in Yarmouth. The management of the home and child rearing fell largely to her mother. As the family grew in size, her mother became more and more anxious about Prince’s long absences and the dangers inherent in the seafaring life. In the late 1860s, she was able to prevail upon him to retire and to follow three of his sisters and their families to central Michigan.
The Robbins family moved to Michigan around 1869. They settled first at Alma in Gratiot County, Michigan, and were farming there at the time of the 1870 Census for that locale (1 Jun 1870). By August of that year they had resettled in nearby Gilmore, Isabella County, and were also listed in the 1870 Census for that place (10 Aug 1870).
A history of Isabella County says Gilmore Township was organized in April, 1870 and that it was a densely wooded district at the time it was originally settled. Althea’s sister Katherine, two years her junior, was later to recall that their nearest neighbor in Gilmore was one and one-half miles distant and that the deep snows in winter made travel so difficult that school could only be held during the summer months. Katherine also noted that despite the privations and rigors of pioneer living, the children had a happy childhood, the daughters being taught good homemaking practices by their mother while being occasionally doted upon by their father. He allowed them two big supper parties a year at their home and the young folk came from miles around.
Althea married, first, William D. Leonard on 12 Mar 1884 at the Congregational Church in Farwell, Clare County, Michigan. William was the son of Merrit and Jane Leonard, born 2 Feb 1852 in Green County, Pennsylvania. He had been married previously to Amanda Ingersoll, who died in 1879. Following their marriage, William and Althea settled on the Leonard farm in Coe, Isabella County, Michigan. They had one child, Homer W. Leonard, born 27 Dec 1884 at Coe, of whom more later. William died at Coe on 7 Feb 1888 and was buried there at the Pleasant Ridge Cemetery.
Althea married, second, William McNeill on 2 Nov 1892 at Farwell, Clare County, Michigan. William was born in Canada in October, 1848. He had also been married previously and had five sons by his previous wife:
Leonard, Lyle, Adelbert, Herbert and Leslie. William was noted in the marriage record as a blacksmith of Nottawa, Isabella County, Michigan. Following marriage, William and Althea and their blended family settled in Gilmore Township near Althea’s childhood home. Sometime after the death of Althea’s younger sister, Mary L. (Robbins) Elliott, in 1897, William and Althea took in Allan Francis Elliott, infant son of Mary and husband, William Elliott. By the time of the 1900 Census, William McNeill’s sons Leonard and Lyle had left home. The household resulting from all these changes was listed as follows in the 1900 Census for Gilmore Township:
Head of Household: William McNeill, born October, 1848 in Canada, age 51, Farmer
Wife: Althea B. McNeill, born October, 1856 in Nova Scotia, age 43
Son: Delby W. McNeill, born May, 1880 in Michigan, age 20, Farm Laborer
Son: Herbert L. McNeill, born February, 1882 in Michigan, age 18, Farm Laborer
Son: Leslie A. McNeill, born May, 1884 in Michigan, age 16, Farm Laborer
Step-Son: Homer Leonard, born December, 1885 in Michigan, age 14, At School
Nephew: Allan Elliott, born September, 1896 in Michigan, age 3, At Home
William and Althea McNeill continued to reside in Gilmore for another decade or so. In the 1910 Census for that place, William was listed as a blacksmith and head of a household consisting of himself, wife Althea and “adopted son” Francis A. McNeill. The census description suggests that Allan Francis Elliott had been formally adopted by the McNeills sometime between the 1900 and 1910 Censuses and that his surname had been changed to McNeill. Also between the censuses, William’s sons from his first marriage and Althea’s son, Homer Leonard, had left home and established households of their own.
Within the decade following the 1910 Census, the McNeills moved from Michigan to Skagit County, Washington. In the 1920 Census for East Hamilton, Skagit County, William McNeill was enumerated as a dairy farmer and head of a household consisting of himself, wife Althea and Allan F. McNeill, a laborer in a logging camp. By the time of the 1930 Census, William had died. Althea, noted as a widow, was enumerated in that Census residing with Allan and his family in Custer, Whatcom County, Washington. Sometime in the early 1930s, Althea returned to live in Isabella County, Michigan. In the 1940 Census for Coe Township, Isabella County, Althea was enumerated as a head of
household, living next door to her son Homer and his family. The census also indicates that Althea had been living in the same house in 1935.
According to Isabella County public records, Althea passed away on 17 Feb 1948 at Coe Township, age 91. Nova Scotian by birth and brought to the wilds of Michigan as a teenager, she had lived a long and benevolent life, employing the homemaking and nurturing skills learned from her mother to raise five boys to manhood, while being widowed twice in the process.
A few additional notes on sons Homer Leonard and Allan F. McNeill and their families follow:
Homer W. Leonard, son of William D. Leonard and Althea B. Robbins, was born 27 Dec 1884 in Isabella County, Michigan. He married Maud P. Sullivan around 1909 in Michigan. Maud was born 14 Mar 1888 in Michigan, the daughter of William Sullivan and Annetta K. (“Kate”) Pontine. Homer and Maud settled in Coe, Isabella County, Michigan after marriage and resided there most of their married life. In the 1910 Census for Coe, Homer’s occupation was listed as grocer. In the 1920 Census he was listed as a farmer, the occupation he was to follow the rest of his life. Maud died on 27 Feb 1958 and Homer died on 16 Jul 1966. They are buried together at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery in Coe. The children of Homer and Maud (Sullivan) Leonard included:
1. Virginia Belle Leonard, b. 21 Aug 1910 at Coe, Michigan, married first, Freeman Lyle Nelson in 1926 and second, Kenneth Robert Fea in 1945. Resided in Michigan and Ohio.
2. Kathleen J. Leonard, b. 31 May 1912 at Coe, Michigan, married first, A. I. Ferrier and second, Merle Swan in 1943. Resided in Michigan.
3. Pauline R. Leonard, b. 31 Jan 1914 at Coe, Michigan, married William Mills in 1934. Resided in Michigan.
4. William S. Leonard, b. 12 Dec 1915 at Coe, Michigan, married Lenora E. Stahl in 1941. Resided in Michigan.
5. Howard L. Leonard, born around 1918 at Coe, Michigan, likely died young, after the 1920 Census but before the 1930 Census.
6. Donna Leonard, born 1 Dec 1919 at Coe, Michigan, married Charles P. Johnson in 1936. Resided in Michigan.
7. Betty Marie Leonard, born 4 Nov 1921 in Michigan, married Ray Malinosky after 1940 Census.
8. Nellie M. Leonard, born 12 Oct 1923 in Michigan, married Oliver Engler in 1941. Resided in Michigan.
9. Lyle H. Leonard, born 16 Jun 1925 in Michigan, married Ramona Lou _________. Resided in Michigan.
10. Eleanor E. Leonard, born 23 Nov 1931 in Michigan, married Maynard E. O’Boyle in 1949. Resided in Michigan.
Allan Francis McNeill, named Allan Francis Elliott at birth, son of William Elliott and Mary Letitia Robbins, was born on 28 Sep 1896 in Gilmore, Michigan. Following his mother’s death in 1897 he was taken in and later adopted by his mother’s sister, Althea, and her husband, William McNeill, taking the McNeill surname in the process. His early years were spent in Isabella County, Michigan. Around 1912 the McNeill family moved to Skagit County, Washington. After the United States entered World War I, Allan enlisted in the U. S. Army and served as a Private in Battery “F”, 54th Artillery, C. A. C. at Oisemont, France from October, 1918 to March, 1919. He was mustered out at Camp Lewis (now Fort Lewis), Washington on 28 Mar 1919. By the time of the 1920 Census he was again living with his parents in East Hamilton, Skagit County, Washington, and working as a laborer in a logging camp.
Allan married Luella Mae _________ around 1922 and at the time of the 1930 Census, he and Luella (b. 1901 in Minnesota), their children Edward (b. 1923 in Washington) and Edna (b. 1928 in Washington) and his mother, Althea, were residing at Custer, Whatcom County, Washington. Allan’s occupation in that census was listed as logger. By 1940 Allan and his family had moved to Delta, also in Whatcom County, where Allan’s occupation was listed as tractor operator in a logging camp. Luella died in 1960 and Allan followed in 1965. They are buried together in Hillsdale Cemetery near Birch Bay, Washington.
Submitted by Lawrence G. Robbins, August, 2013. Note: Mr. Robbins gratefully acknowledges the family history data supplied to him by Dawn (Robbins) Mayerson from the records of her father, Clarence Robbins. Clarence Robbins provided invaluable assistance to Virginia (Leonard) Nelson Fea during her research on the Robbins families of Nova Scotia and Michigan. Virginia was the eldest daughter of Homer Leonard and a granddaughter of Althea B. (Robbins) Leonard McNeill, the subject of this biographical sketch. Other sources of information utilized in this biographical sketch and noted in the text included the birth, marriage and death records of Isabella County and Clare County, Michigan; U. S. Census records; Album of Isabella County, Michigan, compiled and published by Chapman Brothers, Chicago, Illinois, 1884; Recollections of Katherine (Robbins) Long in the Pioneer Collection, Tillamook County Museum, Tillamook, Oregon; Skagit County, Washington World War I Servicemen, an on-line list at ; and various gravestone inscriptions and cemetery records at . Queries, comments and additional information pertaining to Althea B. (Robbins) Leonard McNeill and her family are welcomed and may be addressed to Lawrence G. Robbins at