"History of Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas Counties Wisconsin"

Compiled by George O.Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others. Printed in 1924 by H.C.Cooper. Jr. & Co., Minneapoli-Winona MN. ill. 787 pages. The first two hundred pages are history of the three counties, the remainder of the book is biographies.


Robbins, F. S., who for many years was one of the leading figures in the lumbering industry of nothern Wisconsin, having headquarters at Rhinelander, where he is now living retired, was born in Potter County, Pennsylvania, in 1842, of Scotch and English descent. There he living on a farm until he was 13 years old, at which time the family moved to Newaygo County, Michigan. After residing there a year they moved in 1856 to Osceola County. When the Civil War broke out young ROBBINS answered the call of his country, volunteering as a private in Company F, Third Michigan Infantry in April, 1862. Sent to Washington, the next day he found himself fighting at Williamsburg, Va. He went through many months of warfare in McClellan's Army of the Potomac and was in the battle of Fair Oaks, the siege of Richmond and McClellan's seven days fight. Later he was taken ill and when the momentous battle of Gettysberg was being fought out between LEE and MEADE, he was lying in a hospital in Washington. After being mustered out Mr. ROBBINS, then 23 years old, returned to the army as a clerk in the Commissary Department. Shortly before the close of the war he accompanied General WETZEL'S command to the Rio Grande country, where he remained for two years subsequently, getting acquainted with the country and having his experience of frontier life. he accompanied the first train load of goods to Ringold, which however was not a steam-propelled train running on rails, but a wagon train drawn by Mexican oxen. For a part of the way he rode horseback, being mounted on his own horse until the animal was stolen from him by a Mexican, who in this act proved true to his facial heritage and traditions. After spending two years in the south Mr. ROBBINS returned to Michigan, locating in the town of Richmond, Osceola County. A small village was started, of which he was made postmaster, and which he named Grapo, after Governor GRAPO of Michican, who was a close friend of his. He operated a farm in the summer and logged in the winter, gradually extending the latter business until he became one of the largest log operators in that part of the country. All the logs went to the Muskegon Mills in Muskegon, which place was then the largest lumbering city in the world. Mr. ROBBINS found time, however, to look after his farm, and when he left there in 1886 to go to Duluth he had 200 acres cleared, which in those days was a farm of great size. In Duluth he entered into a saw mill and lumber business with two other parties under the firm name of Graff, Murray & Robbins. He remained there but two years, however, and then in 1886 came to Rhinelander, which was to prove his place of permanent abode. Here only a few years after the town had been laid out, a company was formed under the name of Baird & Robbins and a mill constructed on the site of the present C. C. Collins Lumber Co.'s plant. This mill was completed in the summer of 1887 and had a capacity of 40,000,000 feet, and soon it was working full time. In 1893 the concern built the narrow-guage railroad known as the Robbins Railroad, which ran from Rhinelander north and east through Oneida County and into Forest County, having a total length of 45 miles. After a while a change in the partnership occurred, Mr. BAIRD retiring from the firm and Mr. ROBBINS becoming associated instead with W. H. BROWN. The new firm was known as Brown & Robbins, and as such it was incorporated Dec. 3, 1894. Another change occurred on Feb. 1, 1901, when the concern became the Robbins Lumber Co., with Mr. ROBBINS as president and treasurer; R. D. CALDWELL became vice president and hattie MCINDOE secretary. The name of the Robbins company stood out prominently in the lumbering news of those days, and through it all it was F. S. ROBBINS who was the leading spirit among those who were from time to time associated with him. A mill was built at Robbins, Mich., a post office and village established, and in 1898 the concern had five miles of narrow-guage railroad running through its timber holdings there. Mr. ROBBINS also put up the Johnson mill in Rhinelander known as Mill No. 2, and at that time operated two saw mills, two planing-mills and a flooring factory. In one year he logged, sawed and put in 33,000,000 feet of lumber, the work being all done by the company, no jobbers or teams being hired. All the logs came in over the narrow-guage railroad. When his mills burned down he erected new ones. A writer describing the Robbins business when it was at its height, said: "The company owns and operates a very complete system of narrow-guage railroad. . .running from Rhinelander to Sugar Camp north, and within six miles of Eagle River. Another branch runs from Pine Lake to Eagle Chain of Lakes and into Forest County. The general equipment of this railroad comprises 100 log cars, five box cars, one passenger coach, four locomotives, two moguls, one consolidated and one single-top, four-wheeler engines. During the winter season in the woods the company enploys 300 men and keep about 130 in the woods during the season. Some 150 hands are employed in the saw mills and planing-mills. At Rhinelander is located a large mill and planing-mill and also a factory for hardwood flooring." Mr. ROBBINS continued to push his business along these various lines until 1915, when he sold his saw mill and planing-mill to the C. C. Collins Lumber Company, retaining, however, his timber and railroad holdings. In 1917 he built a new mill, which he operated for two years, when he sold it and all timber holdings and railroad to the Thunder Lake Lumber Co., still retaining his interest, however in the Robbins Flooring Factory, of which concern he was treasurer. While entitled to be proud of his industrial achievements, he has also a record worthy of mention along agricultural lines. He cleared 200 acres at Camp 4, on the road between Rhinelander and Sugar Camp. At Camp 6 he put 175 acres under cultivation, and at Camp 5, 40 were cleared. The Camp 5 farm, moreover, has about 2,000 fenced in for cattle grazing. All these farms Mr. ROBBINS now operates and has brought them into a highly advanced condition. Among his other interests that should be mentioned, he was the vice president of the Rhinelander Paper Co. and at one time an officer in the Rhinelander Refrigerator Co., in 1916 he built the Thunder Lake Lumber Co.'s mills. In short he has been a leader in advancing the general business interests of the city and as such a widely recognized. In 1886 Mr. ROBBINS was married to Emma B. HAYMOND of Carmargo, Mexico, but who was born and reared in Fairmont, West Virginia, which at that time, however, was in old Virginia. Three children are the issue of this union, namely: Howard G., now engaged in the timber business in Spokane, Wash.; Minnie R., widow of Charles S. CHAPMAN, and Hattie L. Mr. ROBBINS is an interested member of the local lodge of Elks.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 214-216 (with picture), History of Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties Wisconsin; Compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others 1924, H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.

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