HENRIETTA ROBINS (MACK) ELIOT
Nicholas Robbins Family
HENRIETTA ROBINS (MACK) ELIOT (Biographical notes abstracted from family records, an obituary and eulogy appearing in Portland, Oregon newspapers at the time of her death and a biography of her husband, Thomas Lamb Eliot by Earl Morse Wilbur, Greenleaf Press, Portland, Oregon, 1937) Re: The Nicholas Robbins Family No. 7.167.2
Henrietta Robins Mack, daughter of Samuel E. Mack and Rebecca A. Robins, was born on June 12, 1845 in the "Emily Dickinson House" in Amherst, Massachusetts, then owned by her grandfather. Her Mack ancestors migrated from Scotland to New England in the 1660s, settling first at Salisbury, Massachusetts and in later years at Lyme and Hartford, Connecticut. Her father began his career as an agent in the property insurance business at Hartford, progressing from there to Amherst, then to Cincinnati, and finally to St. Louis when Henrietta was in her early teens. It was in St. Louis that Henrietta met Thomas Eliot, then a student at Washington University. They became engaged in June, 1863, and were married in November, 1865, following Eliot's completion of his training as a Unitarian minister. Following pastorates in St. Louis and New Orleans, Eliot accepted a call as minister to the newly formed First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. The couple arrived in Portland on Christmas Eve, 1867, and thereafter devoted themselves to the religious and moral development of their congregation and to the betterment of the community at large.
Thomas and Henrietta Eliot had eight children and all save the eldest, William G. Eliot, who accompanied his parents to Oregon from St. Louis, were born in Portland. They were:
1. William Greenleaf Eliot, born 13 Oct 1866, married Minna Charlotte Sessinghaus; like his father, a Unitarian minister and pastor of the Unitarian Church of Our Father in Portland;
2. Mary Ely Eliot, born 22 Nov 1868, also known as "Mamie", who died in Portland during her tenth year, 21 Apr 1878;
3. Dorothea Dix Eliot, born 14 Feb 1871, married Earl Morse Wilbur in 1898 and removed to Berkeley, California, where she was residing at the time of her mother's death in 1940;
4. Ellen Smith Eliot, born 20 Feb 1873, married Fred Alban Weil in 1905 and removed to Santa Rosa, California, where she was residing at the time of her mother's death in 1940
5. Grace Cranch Eliot, born 13 Sep 1875, married Richard Gordon Scott and removed to Los Angeles, California, where she was residing at the time of her mother's death in 1940;
6. Henrietta Mack Eliot, born 17 Dec 1879, never married; Portland teacher, preservationist and patron on the arts, who died in Portland in her 99th year, on 10 Dec 1978;
7. Samuel Ely Eliot, born 22 May 1882, married Elsa Von Manderscheid. A career Social Worker, Samuel was working among the poor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1940;
8. Thomas Dawes Eliot, born 19 Jun 1889, married Sigrid Victoria Wijnbladh in 1914; Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University at the time of his mother's death in 1940.
Thomas Lamb Eliot died in Portland on April 26, 1936. Henrietta was to survive him by about four years. Her obituary indicates that despite declining health, Henrietta continued with her church and community activities until shortly before her death on January 13, 1940 at the family home on Southwest Park Avenue.
A few remarks have been abstracted from a tribute to Henrietta Robins Eliot, which appeared on the Editorial Page of the Oregon Journal a few days after her passing:
"Leaving the East with all its advantages and attractions, Henrietta and her husband, the late Thomas Lamb Eliot, found the field of their life work in a little trading town of 7000 inhabitants, barely twenty years old, on the banks of the Willamette River…For seventy years they together championed religious character, moral standards, civic life, educational institutions, philanthropies and everything else that had to do with the higher life, from the vantage ground of the Christian ministry in Portland…While Mrs. Eliot majored in keeping the household running smoothly and helping with church activities, her native brilliance of mind could easily have won her fame in literature. Her poems and short stories in current periodicals and newspapers and her juvenile books and translations were all well received in their day…While Thomas Lamb Eliot was often hailed as the most representative citizen in Oregon, it was Henrietta Robins Eliot who companioned him to the heights of rational social advancement and altruistic service."
Submitted by Lawrence G. Robbins, July, 2008. Note: Mr. Robbins gratefully acknowledges the research on this family previously supplied by his daughter, Valerie Robbins Vickers, in conjunction with the family profile published as part of The Nicholas Robbins Family.