The

Nicholas Robbins Family

RAYMOND ROBINS

RAYMOND ROBINS (A biographical summary compiled from family records, the book Reform & Revolution: The Life and Times of Raymond Robins by Neil V. Salzman and an obituary in the New York Times) Re: The Nicholas Robbins Family, No. 7.170.8

 

Raymond Robins, son of Charles E. Robins and Hannah M. Crow, was born September 17, 1873 at Richmond on Staten Island, New York. Uneven family finances and his mother's precarious mental health resulted in Raymond and his six siblings being raised by various relatives in Ohio, Kentucky and Florida. Although he showed great promise as a student, education was sporadic and in his teens, Raymond turned to work as a cowboy in Florida and later as a miner in Tennessee and Colorado. By age twenty he had secured a position as manager of a phosphate company in Florida and with savings from that work and profits from some real estate investments, he returned to school at Columbian University (now George Washington University), where he graduated with a law degree in 1896. Soon after he moved to San Francisco, where he was admitted to the bar and dabbled in local politics for about eight months before joining an older brother in the Klondike Gold Rush.

 

Alaska was something of a turning point in Raymond's life. While he did not find his fortune, he did embrace Christianity, particularly the gospel of social reform. Soon after he took up work as a lay minister among distressed miners in Nome, combining his legal skills with his religious convictions to effect positive changes. In 1900, at the behest of his eldest sister Elizabeth, Raymond returned to the States and settled in Chicago. He soon became involved in social reform there as well, this time in the settlement house movement. It was during this period that he met and married Margaret Dreier, also a social reformer and a leader in the women's trade union movement. They were married in Chicago on 21 Jun 1905. They had no children. Both pursued full careers as nationally recognized social reformers and activists. 

 

In 1912 Raymond joined the newly founded Progressive Party and took part in Theodore Roosevelt's presidential campaign. Two years later he ran unsuccessfully as the Progressive Party's candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.  In 1916 Raymond served as keynote

speaker of the Progressive Party's National Convention. During that speech, the first mention of Theodore Roosevelt's name as a potential candidate resulted in ninety-three minutes of uninterrupted cheering. However, in the long run Roosevelt declined to run again and without his leadership, the Progressive Party went into decline. Through Roosevelt's influence, Raymond was appointed as an emissary on a Red Cross relief mission to Russia in 1917 in the midst of their revolution. While there he became acquainted with various revolutionary leaders and became an acknowledged expert in Russian-American relations, expertise that would later bear fruit when the U.S. sought to reestablish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1933.

 

In 1905 Raymond had purchased a 180 acre former plantation in Hernando County, Florida, for use as a retreat from the hectic urban lifestyle of Chicago. He named the abandoned plantation house "Chinsegut", an Innuit Eskimo word meaning "Road House". Over the years after its purchase, Chinsegut became equated with rest and recuperation and in the Fall of 1924, Raymond and Margaret decided to close out their Chicago activities and move there permanently. By the time of the move, Raymond had become a political consultant to various politicians in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, particularly on matters concerning World peace, disarmament and normalization of relations with the Soviet Union. In the Spring of 1933, shortly after Franklin Roosevelt took office, Raymond made a visit to Moscow to reestablish acquaintances made during his 1917 Red Cross mission. His discussions and the resulting briefings he supplied to Roosevelt's staff are credited with laying the groundwork for an exchange of ambassadors and the resumption of relations. 

 

In September, 1935, Raymond fell from a ladder and broke several vertebrae in his back. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. Despite the physical limitations imposed by the accident, he continued as an active correspondent and a gracious host to visitors at his beloved Chinsegut. Margaret died there on 21 Feb 1945 after a long bout with heart disease. Her obituary in the New York Times noted her as "an international leader in the movement to improve the condition of women and children in industry". Raymond died at Chinsegut on 26 Sep 1954. They are buried together under the "Altar Oak" on their estate. In accordance with a long-standing arrangement, Chinsegut was deeded to the government for use as a sanctuary for wildlife and agricultural study.

 

Submitted by Lawrence G. Robbins, July, 2008. Mr. Robbins may be contacted by email at boprobbins@yahoo.com.