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Ellison Robbins, son of Ephraim and Elizabeth (Howland) Robbins, was born at Unadilla, Otsego County, New York on October 8, 1820. He prepared for a teaching career at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York. In March, 1850 he removed to California where he established a private school in Santa Clara. In 1854 he returned to the East and married Eliza P. Russell. Eliza was the youngest daughter of John and Elizabeth Russell, born November 29, 1825 at Unadilla. She attended local schools prior to formal training as a teacher at Madam Willard's Female Seminary at Troy, New York. Following graduation she served as a teacher at seminaries in Virginia and Louisiana. Eliza and Ellison were married at Emmanuel Church in Plaquemine, Louisiana on June 25, 1854.


Following their marriage and after a visit to their old home in Unadilla, the couple sailed to California via the isthmus at Panama. They taught together at Mr. Robbins's school in Santa Clara until early 1858, when they removed to San Bernardino and took charge of the only public school in that locale. The school consisted of two rooms, the Washington and Jefferson Rooms, Mr. Robbins teaching the upper grades in one while Mrs. Robbins conducted the primary department in the other. In 1859 Mr. Robbins was named as the first San Bernardino County School Superintendent, a position he retained until his death in 1864.


The Robbins were active in the affairs of the community and in the local Congregational Church. They began the first "Sunday School" in the area, which included a music program under Eliza's direction and featured a melodeon which Eliza had shipped around the Horn when they first came to California. It was unique to the area and she was the only one who could play it. In addition to Church and Sunday School activities, Eliza also played it at the Good Templars Lodge which the Robbins founded in 1862.



Nicholas Robbins Family

The Robbins had two children, Eugene Ambrose Robbins, who died at San Bernardino on January 18, 1859 at age 3 years, 8 months, and Rosa Belle Robbins, who later became Mrs. Canterbury and resided at Redlands. Ellison was actively engaged in school work when he died unexpectedly on March 2, 1864. He was buried with his son at Pioneer Memorial Cemetery in San Bernardino. In 1865 Eliza married Myron H. Crafts, a prominent area rancher. The Crafts took a deep interest in the Indians who lived in the vicinity of their ranch and were actively engaged in their welfare and education. After Mr. Crafts death in 1886, Eliza went to live with her daughter in Redlands. She was still living in November, 1904, when she was honored for her pioneering work in the County. The present-day community of Crafton is located on the old Crafts ranch east of Redlands.


Submitted by Lawrence G. Robbins, January, 2007.

Mr. Robbins may be contacted by email at

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