top of page


Nicholas Robbins Family


JOSEPH RASSETTE ROBBINS (Biographical data supplied through the courtesy of Nancy Pisco from her Robbins family records) Re: The Nicholas Robbins Family, No. 7.47.5


Joseph Rassette Robbins, son of Benjamin T. Robbins and Abigail M. Smith, was born March 14, 1854 at Brooklyn, NY. At the age of ten, he moved with his family to East Northport on Long Island. While still in his teens, Joseph began work as a printer at the Suffolk County Journal. He remained in the newspaper business the rest of his life. In 1887 he began publication of the Messenger, first at Moriches, Long Island and later moved to Smithtown.


On May 10, 1877 Joseph married Alwena Marie Burke at Centerpoint, Long Island. Alwena was born in Stondland, Switzerland on December 1, 1856. She came to America as a child and, following the death of her father, she went to live with Matilda and Eva Selleck of East Northport, with whom she resided until marriage. The children of Joseph and Alwena (Burke) Robbins included:


Joseph and Alwena Robbins, Smithtown, New York, around 1900 


1. Abigail Adella Robbins, born February 27, 1878 at Northport, NY; married Seymour Simmons on September 22, 1895 at Manorville, NY; resided at Port Jefferson, NY, where Seymour worked as a boatman. Ten Children. Abigail died on April 29, 1983 at age 105;


2. Caroline Elizabeth Robbins, born July 4, 1879 at Northport, NY; married William E. Stillman; resided at

Riverhead, NY; Children: Lester R., born 1906; Edna M., born 1912; and Irving D., born 1915.


3. Sarah Loretta Robbins, born December 16, 1880 at East Moriches, NY; married William Tobin; resided at Woodhaven, NY;


4. Alwena M. Robbins, born December 24, 1887 at Center Moriches, NY; unmarried; Alwena died on August 8, 1984 at Port Jefferson, NY;


5. Theresa Josephine Robbins, born May 11, 1893 at Center Moriches, NY; died in infancy there on April 8, 1894


Around 1910 Joseph was profiled in a series of articles on "the men who mold public opinion through the newspapers of Suffolk, Nassau and Queens Counties". His profile read in part: "Editor Joseph R. Robbins of the Messenger, published at Smithtown, is one of the intensely practical men of the Fourth Estate on Long Island…Practically born a printer, he has from early adult life been in the atmosphere of the print shop…He has been thirty-eight years a printer and for twenty-four years he has been a newspaper owner. He is a Democrat, has been an active worker and is now one of the County leaders…In the preparation of the Messenger, Editor Robbins has the help of Mrs. Robbins and they two alone produce the weekly issues which are eagerly read by appreciative readers…As to local development, Editor Robbins argues that on account of its nearness to New York City and the beautiful character of the country, Smithtown is the ideal homesite for commuters…"


In 1920 Joseph sold his publishing business in Smithtown and retired. He died of pneumonia at the South Side Hospital in Bay Shore, Long Island on March 9, 1932. Alwena died at the family home in Smithtown on May 14, 1939.


Submitted by Nancy Pisco, a great-granddaughter of Joseph Rassette Robbins. Ms. Pisco may be contacted by email at 

bottom of page