top of page


Nicholas Robbins Family


RUFUS ROBBINS (A biographical sketch by Lawrence G. Robbins abstracted from Robbins family records in the Family History Library, Salt Lake City with a review and commentary on his son's Civil War correspondence, collected and published in book form as Through Ordinary Eyes, edited by Ella Jane Bruen and Brian M. Fitzgibbons and published by University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2005) Re: The Nicholas Robbins Family, No. 7.58.1


Rufus Robbins was the eldest son of Rufus Robbins and Margaret Howard, born on November 4, 1804 at Plymouth, Massachusetts. His youth was spent in Plymouth, his father being a sea captain and trader of that place. In 1827 he married Alice Soule of Duxbury, Massachusetts, settled there and took up farming and shoemaking. By 1850 the Robbins and their four children had resettled at Abington, Massachusetts, where they owned a small farm on High Street. The eldest son, also Rufus Robbins, and his younger brothers, Henry and Edwin, followed their father into farming and shoemaking. Daughter Ruth married and moved to Maine.


The introductory section of Through Ordinary Eyes supplies an interesting overview of the shoemaking

industry in southeastern Massachusetts in the 1850s, a period of transition between hand-making and machine sewing. 


The mechanization of shoe assembly at Abington and its neighboring communities and their supply of boots to the Union Army during the Civil War was to provide the Union with an important advantage over the less industrialized South. Several of the letters exchanged between the junior Rufus and his parents and brothers while he was on the front lines, discuss the changes in shoemaking and the effect of those changes on the Robbins family and their livelihood.


Through Ordinary Eyes has received much critical acclaim since its original publication in 2000. It supplies considerable insight into the realities of the Civil War, the living conditions of the troops on the front line and the effects of the war on family members back home. The junior Rufus enlisted in the war at age thirty-one and served as a member of the 7th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the defense of Washington D.C. and in several battles in Virginia during the Peninsula Campaign. He was ill for several months with dysentery before being relieved from duty and hospitalized at Carver Hospital in Washington D.C. in mid-November, 1862. The following month he was transferred to General Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he died on January 7, 1863.


Submitted by Lawrence G. Robbins, November, 2007. Mr. Robbins may be contacted by email at

bottom of page