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HARVARD COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 



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THE BEQUEST OF 

EVERT JANSEN WENDELL 

(CLASS OF 1882) 
OF NEW YORK 



1918 



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THOMAS ROBBINS, D.D, 



fl OBiogtavi^ical ^6et(l^ 



Reprinted from Volume III. of the Memorial Biographies of the 
New England Historic Genealogical Society 



BY 

INCREASE N. TARBOX, D.D. 



to which is added 



THE FUNERAL ADDRESS 

BY THE 

HON. HENRY BARNARD, LL.D. 



CAMBRIDGE 
JOHN WILSON AND SON 
^nibersfts Press 
1884 



I- 



^ >H^ ^C 1 ."2 



HARVARD COLLCQE LIBRARY 

FROM 

THE REQUEST QF 

KVERT JAN8EN WENDIkk 






THOMAS BOBBINS 



Thomas Bobbins was born in the town of Norfolk, 
Litchfield County, Connecticut, August 11, 1777. 

This township lies in the northwestern portion of the 
State, touching Massachusetts on its northern line, and 
separated from New York only by the towns of Canaan 
and Salisbury. For more than a hundred years after the 
. first English settlements in Connecticut, this section of 
the State remained comparatively unoccupied. The whole 
region is elevated and rough, partaking in this respect 
of the character of the Eastern Berkshire towns in Massa- 
chusetts. But the soil has a good natural strength, and is 
especially fitted for grazing. Norfolk was not incorpo- 
rated as a town until 1758. The Congregational Church 
was organized in 1760, and in 1761 the Rev. Ammi Ruha- 
mah Robbins, the father of Thomas, was ordained as the 
first minister of the town. He remained in this office for 
fifty- two years, until his death. He was twenty-one years 
old at his settlement, and there were at that time about 
sixty scattered families that had planted themselves on 
the hills and in the valleys of this large township. 

The young minister, thus introduced to his life-work, 
was himself the son of a minister, and he was prepared 
for his sacred office by good native abilities, by choice and 
careful culture, and by a special urbanity and refinement 
of manners. He had been graduated the year before at 
Yale College, and meanwhile had studied theology in the 



4 THOMAS ROBBINS 

family of the famous Dr. Joseph Bellamy, of Bethlem, Con- 
necticut. The year after his settlement he was united 
in marriage to Elizabeth Le Baron, of Plymouth, Massa- 
chusetts, she being then in her seventeenth year. The 
acquaintance was formed while he was teaching school in 
Plymouth, where his brother Chandler had just been set- 
tled in the ministry. When he brought his young wife 
to Norfolk, in the autumn of 1762, over the rough roads of 
that half-primitive region, he established a household 
which, in its immediate as well as in its remoter influ- 
ences, was destined to be one of great importance to that 
town and to all the region round about. A civilizing and 
refining power was at once to go from it into those 
scattered dwellings among the hills, and by various and 
successive links of connection was to reach on into the 
generations to come. The young pastor was indebted 
for the singular name he bore to the intensely Biblical 
character of the age in which he was bom. The ground- 
work of this name may be found in the book of the 
prophet Hosea, second chapter and first verse : " Say ye 
unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Euha- 
mah ; " these two proper names meaning, " Thy people 
have obtained mercy." 

Into this household were bom thirteen children, five of 
whom died in infancy, and eight — six sons and two 
daughters — lived to mature life, and some of them to 
a ripe old age. 

Going back now to the earlier generations and briefly 
tracing the family lines meeting in Thomas Bobbins, we 
find them as follows. On the paternal side the earliest 
ancestor in this country was Richard Bobbins, who had 
his home in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1639. He 
and his wife Rebecca were admitted to the Charlestown 
church. May 24. 1640, and on the following Sunday, May 
31, their son John was baptized. The family soon re- 
moved to Cambridge. We have the record of a son 



THOMAS ROBBINS 

Samuel, who was born in Cambridge, May 22, 1643. Two 
other children, Nathaniel and Eebecca, were baptized at 
Cambridge, though the dates of their baptism are lost. 
But we know by the records that thi^ son Nathaniel died 
in 1719, at the age of seventy, so that the year of his 
birth seems to have been 1649. The family made Cam- 
bridge its home for generations. Richard Bobbins shared 
in the division of the church lands in 1652, receiving as 
his portion eighty acres. In 1678 Richard gave deeds 
of land to his sons, — to Samuel thirty-six acres, to Na- 
thaniel thirty-four acres, and a year or two later to Re- 
becca and her husband, John Woodward, thirty acres. 
The names of the family through the early generations 
are found in Harris's Cambridge Epitaphs. 

Nathaniel, the son of Richard, married, August 4, 1669, 
Mary Brazier, and had eight children, of whom one bore 
his father s name. 

This second Nathaniel, born February 28, 1677-8, mar- 
ried, first, Hannah Chandler, probably in 1695, and upon 
her death, in 1718, he married Mrs. Mary Prentice. Han- 
nah Chandler was the mother of his nine children, unless 
the youngest daughter, Sarah, be an exception. The date 
of her birth is not given. He died January 26, 1761-2. 

Among his sons was Philemon, born September 19, 
1709. He was graduated at Harvard College in 1729, and 
afterwards studied theology with Dr. Nathaniel Appleton, 
of Cambridge. On the 7th of February, 1732, he was 
ordained pastor at Branford, Connecticut, where he con- 
tinued in the ministry forty-nine years, till his death, 
August 13, 1781. Of his nine children three were sons, 
all of whom were set upon a course of public education. 
One of them died while in college, and the other two 
were the Rev. Dr. Chandler Robbins of Plymouth, Massa- 
chusetts, and the Rev. Ammi Ruhamah, the Norfolk pas- 
tor, already spoken of. 

On the maternal side Dr. Robbins was descended from 



\ 



6 THOMAS BOBBINS 

the illustrious William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth 
Colony, by his second wife, Mrs. Alice Southworth, whose 
maiden name was Carpenter. 

Their son, William Bradford, was born June 17th, 
1624. He was three times married, his last wife being 
Mrs. Mary Holmes, widow of the Rev. John Holmes, min- 
ister of Duxbury. Her maiden name was Atwood. 

David Bradford, their son, was born when his father 
was well advanced in life, making the interval longer be- 
tween the birth of the father and the son than is usual. 
He was the fourteenth child in the family. He married, 
in 1714, Elizabeth Finney. 

Lydia Bradford, daughter of David and Elizabeth, was 
born December 23, 1719. She was first married, in 1740, 
to Elkanah Cushman, who soon died. In 1743 she was 
again married to Dr. Lazarus Le Baron, of Plymouth. 
He was the son of Francis Le Baron, a surgeon on board 
a French privateer, which was wrecked in Buzzard's Bay. 
Thrown thus upon a strange , shore, he settled as a physi- 
cian in Plymouth in 1696. 

Elizabeth, daughter of Lazarus and Lydia Le Baron, 
was born December 21, 1745, and became the wife of 
the Norfolk minister, as already mentioned. 

Thus we find Dr. Bobbins, alike on the paternal and 
maternal lines of descent, in the sixth generation from 
the first settlers in this country. 

He was born in the time of the Revolutionary struggle. 
In 1776, the year before his birth, his father went as 
chaplain in the Northern army to Canada. He was with 
this army when the small-pox made such ravages in it. 

As years passed on, the boy Thomas was fitted for col- 
lege in his father's house, having for his companions in 
study other young scholars, who came to the parsonage 
at Norfolk for their college preparation. This house was 
like a little academy for that northwestern portion of 
Connecticut. In the tribute which the son, in later years, 



THOMAS ROBBINS 7 

prepared for Sprague's Annals, he says of his father : 
"With his ministerial labors he connected those of a 
teacher, having almost always a greater or less number 
of students with him fitting for college." At the age of 
fifteen, in 1792, he entered the Freshman class in Yale 
College, and was there during the last years of President 
Stiles's administration. At the end of his Junior year he 
left Yale and entered the Senior class at Williams Col- 
lege, where he was graduated w^ith honor in 1796. Wil- 
liams College was then in its very infancy. Only one 
class had been graduated at the time Mr. Robbins entered 
the institution. This new College was so located as natu- 
rally to attract the interest and sympathy of Northwest- 
em Connecticut. It was not, therefore, from any dissatis- 
faction with Yale, or from any trouble which arose there, 
that young Robbins went thence to Williams, but rather 
to testify, on the part of himself and family, an interest 
in the new enterprise. His father had already become 
one of the Trustees of the institution, elected in 1794. 
There were but six members in his class at Williams 
His graduating day was September 7, 1796. The com- 
mencement at Yale was one week later, September 14. 
After finishing his course at Williams, and receiving his 
diploma, he went back to New Haven, and was also gradu- 
ated with his class at that institution. His name stands 
on the Triennial Catalogues both of Yale and Williams for 
the year 1796. His class at Yale numbered thirty-four, 
and was the first class graduated under President D wight, 
who had been inaugurated at the Commencement the 
year before. Some of the more conspicuous of Mr. Rob- 
bins's classmates at Yale were Professor Benjamin Silliman, 
LL. D., the Rev, Henry Davis, D. D., President of Hamilton 
College, and Professor Bancroft Fowler, of Bangor Theo- 
logical Seminary. One member of his class, noted for 
his longevity, was the venerable Timothy Bishop of New 
Haven, who died in 1873, seventy-seven years after his 
graduation. 



^ 



8 THOMAS BOBBINS 

For several years after leaving college, Mr. Robbins 
was chiefly employed as a teacher, at the same time pur- 
suing theological studies. He went in June, 1797, to 
reside in the family of Dr. Stephen West, of Stockbridge, 
Massachusetts. He was licensed to preach by the Litch- 
field North Association, September 25, 1798. He still 
continued to teach and also to supply vacant pulpits. He 
had charge of the academy at Danbury, Connecticut, 
from 1799 to 1802. Meanwhile he had declined invita- 
tions from several parishes. In 1803, he accepted an 
appointment from the Missionary Society of Connecticut 
to labor among the new settlements in Ohio. That so- 
ciety, organized in 1798, was supporting some twelve or 
fifteen missionaries among the new settlements, in Ver- 
mont, New York, Michigan, and Ohio. From the report 
of this society for the year 1803 we take the following 
item. 

" Mr. Thomas Robbins, of Norfolk, was appointed a mission- 
ary, in May last, to supply the place of Mr. Chapman in New 
Connecticut. On the 20th of July following, he was ordained 
by the North Consociation of Litchfield County, as preparatory 
to his entering upon his mission. He set out from Norfolk for 
New Connecticut on the 25th of August. A letter h,as been 
received from him dated Carlisle (Penn.), October 10th, about 
forty days from the time he left Norfolk, in which he writes, 
*Rode 470 miles, — preached 39 times, — attended two confer- 
ences, administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper once, 
— visited sick persons, — catechised children, and endeavored 
to give much instruction.' 

" Mr. Robbins will labor in concert with Mr. Badger, and with 
a third missionary who is soon to be sent there. " 

• 

He labored in this field three years, and in co-operation 
with his fellow-workers organized several of the early 
churches of Ohio. It was while here that he preached 
the ordination sermon of his cousin, the Rev. Samuel Prince 
Robbins, son of Dr. Chandler Robbins of Plymouth. A 



THOMAS BOBBINS 9 

brief notice of this service is found in the sixth volume of 
the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine, as follows : — 

*' Ordained on Wednesday, the 8th day of January last (1805), 
over the first religious Congregational Society in Marietta, Ohio, 
the Rev. Samuel Prince Robbins. The pubUc services of the 
occasion were performed in a solemn and impressive manner. 
The Rev. Jacob Lindslymade the introductory prayer. The 
Rev. Thomas Robbins, of Connecticut, preached the sermon." 

He returned from this missionary life in 1806, with his 
health considerably impaired, by reason of the hardships 
and exposures of such a work. Preaching for three years 
in various places, in 1809 he accepted a call from the First 
Ecclesiastical Parish in East Windsor. This was the par- 
ish where Timothy Edwards commenced preaching as the 
first minister, in 1694, continuing sixty-four years, till his 
death in 1758. Here the celebrated Jonathan Edwards 
was bom, in 1703, and was fitted for college in his father's 
house, as were also a large number of young riien from the 
surrounding towns. The memories of the past clustered 
about the parish at the time Mr. Robbins began his labors. 
Here Roger Wolcott had lived, one of the distinguished 
Colonial Governors of Connecticut, and from his family 
men were raised up from generation to generation for 
distinguished public service in state affairs and in national 
affairs, as well as in the Church of Christ. 

The writer, bom in East Windsor, in the North (or Sec- 
ond) Parish, where the Rev. Shubael Bartlett was minister 
for fifty years, well remembers Dr. Robbins, as he used to 
appear in the pulpit from 1820 to 1827. At that time, 
his brother, the Rev. Francis L. Robbins, was the pastor in 
the adjoining town of Enfield, on the north, so that these 
two brothers were more convenient for exchanges than 
almost any other of the neighboring ministers. They 
were both very frequently in Mr. Bartlett's pulpit. One 
sermon preached by the Rev. Thomas Robbins, about the 



X 



< \ 



10 THOMAS BOBBINS 

year 1825, from Romans ii. 4, for some reason, made a 
peculiar impression upon the childish mind. There was 
a tenderness in the train of thought and in the manner 
of the preacher that awakened the emotions and drew a 
half tearful attention to the sermon. 

From early life Dr. Robbins was a lover of books. As 
a young man, he discovered an antiquarian taste far 
more rare in his generation than at the present time. 
He was in some sense a pioneer in a class of studies and 
researches now shared by many persons. It was about the 
time of his settlement at East Windsor that the plan of 
forming a large and carefully selected library began to 
take a practical shape in his mind. It was this turn of his 
life that led Mr. Bartlett, his brother minister in the North 
Parish, to say, with his Christian gentleness and patri- 
archal simplicity, " Brother Robbins thought he could have 
either a wife or a library, and he very unwisely chose 
the latter, — very unwisely'' The Hon. Henry Barnard 
was President of the Connecticut Historical Society at the 
time of Dr. Robbins's death. The obituary notice which he 
prepared, and which was published in the eighth number 
of the third volume of the American Journal of Educa- 
tion, gives a brief history of the growth of this library, 

" He commenced his collection while in college, by preserv- 
ing his text-books, and in 1809 made a formal beginning of a 
permanent library, by making a catalogue of his entire stock, 
consisting of one hundred and thirty volumes, with a determina- 
tion that he would add at least one hundred volumes a year as 
long as he should live. He consecrated his design by invoking 

the blessing of God upon it From this small and pious 

beginning, in 1809, by denying himself all superfluities out of a 
modest income, Dr. Robbins persevered, adding year by year at 
least one hundred volumes to his collection, till, instead of a few 
shelves in a single case, we now see this spacious hall filled 
with many thousands of choice and valuable books." 

Mr. Robbins was, at his own request, in 1827, dis- 



THOMAS BOBBINS H 

missed from his parish in East Windsor. After three 
years of miscellaneous preaching, he was installed pastor 
of the First Church in Stratford, Connecticut, in 1830. 
He remained here but one year. In 1831, he accepted a 
call from the Congregational Church at Mattapoisett, a 
pansh in the town of Rochester, Massachusetts, where he 
remained thirteen years. 

It was in 1844 that the process began by which his 
valuable collection of books and pamphlets eventually 
became the property of the Connecticut Historical So- 
ciety at Hartford. Some movement had been made in 
the Rhode Island Legislature toward the purchase of the 
collection as a foundation for a StatQ Library. Mr. Bar- 
nard, from whom we have quoted, was at that time Com- 
missioner of the Public Schools of Rhode Island. He 
was thoroughly in the plan for purchasing the Ubrary for 
that State, and wrought earnestly to bring about that re- 
sult. But the scheme proving unsuccessful before the 
Legislature, he, being a native of Hartford, and interested 
in its public institutions, now felt himself at liberty to try 
and secure the treasure for the Connecticut Historical 
Society. We quote from a note appended to the obituary 
notice to which we have already made reference. 

" On the same day Mr. Barnard drove over to Mattapoisett, 
and after an interview of an hour, finding that Dr. Robbins's 
health required a cessation of pastoral duties, gave his personal 
obligation for a salary for five years, equal to that which he was 
then receiving as pastor, if he would remove to Hartford with 
his library, and become librarian of the Connecticut Historical 
Society. In the course of the week following, he visited Hart- 
ford, raised among the members of the Society and the personal 
friends of Dr. Robbins the sum required, and presented the 
matter to the sanction of the Society, which was promptly and 
cordially given. The annual payment for five yeara was sub- 
sequently converted into an annuity, in consideration of which 
Dr. Robbins, of his own accord, transferred his library to the 
Society." 



12 



THOMAS BOBBINS 



It may be added, that he also gave the Society the sum 
of $3,000, to aid in the care of the books and enlarge- 
ment of the resources of the institution. This library is 
rich in old and choice pamphlets, in a large collection of 
Bibles, and in many fine editions of the works of the early 
Christian Fathers. 

He greatly enjoyed the new life upon which he had 
now entered. His library was deposited in the Wads- 
worth Atheneum, at Hartford. He was already sixty- 
seven years old, and it was a great pleasure thus to find 
a secure home and resting-place in his old age. He Uved 
with his books, which for so many years he had been 
laboriously gathering, and which had now been pro- 
moted to a place of honor and dignity. He took delight 
in the society of students and scholars, and nothing gave 
him greater satisfaction than to unfold to them the choice 
riches of his collection. Dr. Barnard says of him, in this 
connection : " Here, for ten years, with gradually failing 
strength, he might be seen at our monthly meetings, and 
day by day welcoming, with courteous attentions, the citi- 
zen and stranger to these rooms, and explaining, with 
almost the personal interest of an eyewitness to the reality, 
these memorials of a past age, — himself an object of no 
less interest to the visitor.'* 

Dr. Robbins inherited from his father and mother an 
uncommon gentleness and courtesy of manner. He was 
patient and free from all irritability, so that the stranger 
was at once at ease in his presence. 

He received his title of D. D. from Harvard College in 
1838. He was, from 1842 to 1853, one of the Trustees of 
Williams College. 

He was in some sense, perhaps, the originator of the 
Connecticut Historical Society, as he seems to have made 
the first suggestion of such an institution in an address 
given at Hartford, in 1822. Three years later the Society 
was formed, and he was among the first incorporators, 



X 



THOMAS BOBBINS 13 

with such men as John TrumbuQ and the Hon. Thomas 
Day as associates. He was also a member of the Ameri- 
can Antiquarian Society of Worcester, and of the New 
England Historic Genealogical Society of Boston, to which 
he was admitted a corresponding member, February 18, 
1847. He was deeply interested in the charitable insti- 
tutions of Hartford, — the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, 
and the Retreat for the Insane, and others. 

Dr. Robbins was not known as a public writer, to any 
large extent, but in the course of his long life he fur- 
nished much miscellaneous matter for the press. The fol- 
lowing may not be a complete list of his publications, 
though it is as nearly so as we have been able to make it, 
and embraces certainly the chief of his works. 

1. An Oration occasioned by the Death of General Washing- 
ton, delivered at Danbury, Connecticut, Jan. 2, 1800, with a 
Sketch of his Life. Danbury. pp. 16. 

Two or three editions were published. This was four years 
after leaving college, and while he was Principal of the Dan- 
bury Academy, 

2. A Century Sermon, 1801. Danbury. 

3. Fast Sermon. Middletown, 1815. pp. 21. 

4. Sermon at the Interment of the Rev. Nehemiah Prudden. 
Hartford, 1816. pp. 19. 

6. Sermons on the Divinity of Christ. Preached at East 
Windsor. Hartford, 1820. 

6. Sermon at Installation of the Rev. E. L. Clark, 1820. 

7. Sermon to the Military at Hartford, 1822. 

8. Sermon on the Death of E. B. Cook, 1823. 

9. View of all Religions. 3d edition, 1824. 12mo. 

10. The Dying Believer committing his Soul to Christ. Ser- 
mon on the Death of Mrs. Cynthia Fairchild. Hartford, 1824. 

11. Sermon at Installation of the Rev. E. Burt, 1825. 

12. Sermon at the Funeral of the Rev. Lemuel Le Baron. 
New Bedford, 1837. pp. 20. 

13. Historical View of the First Planters of New England. 
Hartford, 1st edition, 1816 ; 2d edition, 1843, pp. 300. 

This work was first published in twenty successive numbers 



14 



THOMAS ROBBINS 




of the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine. They were written 
at the suggestion of Dr. Nathan Strong, of Hartford, the editor of 
the Magazine, and were commenced in the eleventh volume of 
that work. 

14. Dr. Robbins was also the editor of the first (1820) and 
second (1853) American editions of Mather's Magnalia. He 
wrote the prefaces and explanatory notes. Before the Ameri- 
can edition of 1820 was published, we had no copy of this work 
except the large English edition of 1702, which was becoming 
rare and costly. 

15. He furnished the articles upon his father, Ammi Ruha- 
mah, and his grandfather, Philemon Robbins, in Dr. Sprague's 
Annals of the American Pulpit. In addition, he assisted Dr. 
Sprague, by original letters, in illustrating the lives of the Rev. 
Cotton Mather Smith, Dr. Chandler Eobbins, Eev. Nathaniel 
Taylor, Dr. David McClure, and Dr. Nathan Strong. 

16. He also revised and continued Tytler's Elements of 
General History, 1815. 

With regard to published writings illustrating his life, 
we know of nothing so complete as the obituary article of 
Dr. Barnard, already freely referred to. The Connecticut 
Evangelical Magazine contains frequent references to him, 
as well as articles from his pen. There are many para- 
graphs to be found there illustrating his earlier public 
services. 

With his library at Hartford may be found a set of 
interleaved almanacs, now bound in twelve handsome vol- 
umes, in which he kept a record of his life for fifty-eight 
years. This work was begun just as he was ready to 
graduate from Williams College. The first entry is Sep- 
tember 1, 1796, and is as follows : " Engaged in commit- 
ting my pieces for Commencement. " The last entry was 
March 6, 1854, when, at the age of seventy-six, the infir- 
mities of years were fast settling upon him. The record 
is as follows: "Received a dividend from the Phoenix 
Bank of |60. I have been a member of that body from 
its beginning. They do poorly at Congress, favoring sla- 



THOMAS ROBBINS 15 

very. The South generally prevail." For a minute study 
of his life there is nothing, of course, which can compare 
with this diary. Moreover, the record will be found ex- 
ceedingly useful for any historian who is threading his 
way through the events of the first half of the present 
century. 

There are two pictures of Dr. Robbins at the rooms 
of the Connecticut Historical Society j one, of moderate 
merit, taken in his early manhood ; the bther, a superb 
painting, which the. Society had taken while he was in a 
vigorous old age. 

We have already had glimpses of his tastes and pecu- 
liarities. In addition, a few sentences from a letter, 
written by one of his nieces, will suffice. She says : — 

" My Uncle Thomas always dressed in the old-time black- 
satin tights, silk stockings, knee and shoe buckles, or with white- 
topped boots. These he always wished to have brushed with 
particular care, lest the white leather should become soiled. 
His courtesy of manner, prompted by the kindness of his nature, 
was such, that all who came in contact with him took great 
pleasure in serving him. Those who had personal relations with 
him could not fail to love him He watched the educa- 
tional progress of his nephews and nieces with great interest." 

It has been implied throughout this article, though not 
perhaps definitely stated, that Dr. Robbins was never 
married. Whether wisely or unwisely, he deliberately 
gave up the pleasures of domestic life, that he might fol- 
low out his favorite scheme of a great library. He well 
knew that the small salary of a country minister would not 
suffice to cover the expenses of both, and he chose the 
library. 

But in this connection it is proper to say, that a de- 
lightful home in his native town was always ready for 
him until the day of his death. Whatever his outward 
fortunes might be, he was sure of a hearty welcome from 






^ 



r^ 



16 THOMAS ROBBll^S 

his kindred. His sister Sarah, two years younger than 
himself, had married early in life Joseph Battell, Esq., of 
Norfolk, and in this home of wealth and culture, where 
nephews and nieces abounded, a generous hospitality was 
ever extended to him. One of the nieces became the wife 
of the Rev. Joseph Eldridge, D.D., another life-long min- 
ister of Norfolk, (1832-1874,) and the cheerful parsonage- 
house of Norfolk stood invitingly open. Had he been 
more of a stranger and outcast in the earth, he would 
doubtless have suffered more from the absence of domes- 
tic joys, for his nature was one craving sympathy and 
companionship. 

He faded away, at last, in a cahn and serene old age. 
There was no sharp crisis of disease. For four or five 
years, the powers of his mind and body gradually weak- 
ened and decayed. He died in the town of Colebrook, 
adjoining Norfolk, at the house of his niece, Mrs. Eliza- 
beth Robbins Allen, September 13, 1856, at the age of 
seventy-nine. 



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HON. HENEY BARNARD'S ADDRESS 



The funeral of Dr. Robbins took place at the Centre Church, 
Hartford, Connecticut, at 5 o'clock p.m., Sept. 16, 1856. The 
venerable Rev. Joel Hawbs, D.D., officiated. A half hour 
before the funeral, the members of the Connecticut Historical 
Society assembled at their library, preparatory to going in a 
body to attend the funeral services ; and there the President of 
the Society, Hon. Henry Barnard, made the following just 
and fitting address : — 

Gentlemen, — We have assembled on this occasion, 
by special summons, to join in an appropriate expres- 
sion of our grateful remembrance of the Rev. Thomas 
Robbins, D.D., — one of the earliest and best friends of 
the Society, — whose decease and funeral have been 
almost simultaneously announced to us. The departure 
of this venerable Christian pastor, whose ministrations for 
a half century have been familiar to the pulpits of this city 
and State, and whose life, presence, and teachings have 
seemed a connecting link between the present generation 
and the Puritan period of New England history, would at 
any time have arrested the sorrowing attention of all 
who seek in the past the roots of our present prosperity. 
But in this venerable Christian pastor we, brethren, recog- 
nize a pioneer in historical and antiquarian research in 
this State, — one of the founders of this Society ; one 
named in the act of its incorporation ; one of its earli- 
est office-bearers ; and one whose valuable collection of 






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18 THOMAS BOBBINS 

books, pamphlets, and historical memorials constitute the 
treasure and attraction of our library and museum. 

And to add to his claims to our grateful remembrance, 
Dr. Robbins has by his will made the Connecticut Histori- 
cal Society the trustee of his property (a no inconsid- 
erable sum), by which his valuable collection of biblical, 
ecclesiastical, and antiquarian literature will be preserved 
and gradually augmented, — an ever-enduring monu- 
ment of his piety, patriotism, and zeal for learning, and a 
source of ever-widening mstruction and pleasure to gen- 
eration after generation. A brief notice of the library, 
and of his and its connection with the Connecticut His- 
torical Society cannot be considered an inappropriate 
introduction to the resolutions which will be submitted 
to your consideration. 

The books which fill these numerous alcoves and 
shelves, and these interesting memorials of " the piety, 
bravery, and domestic life of the fathers of Connecticut 
and New England," were the gatherings of nearly fifty 
years' explorations of the garrets, chests, and libraries of 
the old families of Connecticut and the " Old Colony," 
as well as the purchases of antiquarian booksellers and 
collectors. Many of these pamphlets are very rare and 
valuable, and are often consulted by scholars interested 
in the literary, ecclesiastical, and civil history of New 
England. 

The books were not purchased at once, out of the 
abundance of a largely inherited fortune, or from year to 
year out of the surplus of a large salary. Nor were they 
collected for the owner's sole or temporary gratification. 
Dr. Kobbins has always been a home missionary, or the 
pastor of a country parish. He began his collection 
while in college, by preserving his tex<>books ; and in 
1809 made a formal beginning of a permanent library, 
by making a catalogue of his entire stock, consisting of 
one hundred and thirty volumes, with the determination 



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THOMAS BOBBINS ' 19 

that he would add at least one hundred volumes a year 
as long as he should live. He consecrated his design by 
invoking the blessing of God upon it, and declared in 
writing on the first leaf of his catalogue the following to 
be his objects : — 

" Fint^ To assist the divinity student in the investigation 
of the Holy Scriptures, in the study of the history of the 
Church of Christ, and in such general services as may enable 
him to become an able and faithful minister of the gospel of 
salvation." 

" Second^ To assist the lover of history in his researches to 
discover the character of the Most High, and of man in the 
various events of Divine Providence. The design is now 
committed to God. I pray for His holy approbation and 
blessing." 

From this small and pious beginning in 1809, by 
denying himself all superfluities, out of a modest in- 
come Dr. Bobbins persevered, adding year by year 
at least one hundred volumes to his collection; till in- 
stead of a few shelves in a single case, we now see this 
spacious hall filled with many thousands of choice and 
valuable books. 

How much purer and higher has been his satisfaction 
from year to year, in adding to the glorious company of 
the great and good coming to him across oceans of space 
and time, — his instructors in the noble themes which 
have occupied his meditation, his pen, and his voice for 
nearly half a century; his resort in hours of solitude, 
his recreation after severe labor, and his solace in pe- 
'^ riods of trial and affliction, — than if he had expended 

his earnings and savings on things that perish with the 
using ! 

It was his intention from the start, that his collection 
should be kept entire after his death, and pass, with such 
conditions as should appear best calculated to secure its 



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20 * THOMAS BOBBINS 

preservation and gradual increase, into the safe keeping 
of some chartered institution; and by arrangement en- 
tered into twelve years ago, his long-cherished purpose 
was consummated by this Society's becoming at first the 
trustee, and afterward the owner, of his valuable collec- 
tions. By this arrangement he had the satisfaction in 
his own lifetime to see his entire library displayed, as it 
had never been before, in one of the noblest rooms of the 
most substantially built edifice in the State, — safe from 
the hazards of fire, and from the vicissitudes which attach 
to the property of individuals, and committed forever to 
the custody of a Society which, under the laws of the 
commonwealth, and in the patriotism of its citizens, is 
destined, we trust, to a permanent existence and an ever- 
widening usefulness. And more than this : he was able 
to retire from his chosen field of labor, when he could 
no longer serve his Master as a Christian pastor from his 
failing strength, and, without any apprehension that the 
evening of his life would be clouded by want or neglect, 
here, in our midst, where he was imiversally respected, 
with those facilities and helps which his zeal and self- 
denial had collected, to give himself up to those his- 
torical and antiquarian studies and pursuits which he 
loved so well, and which he hiad begun so early in his 
career. 

Dr. Robbins was for a long time almost the only col- 
lector in the State of pamphlets and memorials of the 
past; and as far back as 1811, in the Connecticut " Evan- 
gelical Magazine,*' he began a series of papers on the 
divines and statesmen of our early history, which were 
afterward collected and published in a volume entitled, 
" First Planters of New England." In every place where 
he ministered, he devoted himself to the elucidation of 
its local and ecclesiastical history. 

In 1822, in an address delivered in this city on. the 
Fourth of July, before a number of military companies. 



THOMAS ROBBINS 21 

he urged the formation of an " Historical Society as a 
depository of ancient books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and 
temporary publications," and that it should be done here, 
^* in this, the oldest town in the State." Whether grow- 
ing out of this suggestion or not, I cannot say ; but three 
years later he had the satisfaction of seeing his name 
among the incorporators of the Connecticut Historical 
Society, and of being associated with the venerable John 
Trumbull and the Hon. Thomas Day among the ofl&cers of 
the institution. Called a few years later out of the State, 
he was not permitted to labor here in behalf of its objects ; 
but he carried his antiquarian taste and labors with him, 
which were recognized by his being elected a member of 
the American Antiquarian Society, at Worcester. 

In 1844, it was my good fortune to consummate on my 
own responsibility an arrangement by which Dr. Bobbins 
became the librarian of our Society, and removed to these 
rooms, as has been before stated, his valuable library, and 
gave to us his entire collection of pamphlets, amounting 
to the number of over five thousand. And here, for ten 
years, with gradually failing strength, he might be seen 
at our monthly meetings, and day by day welcoming, 
with courteous attentions, the citizen and stranger to these 
rooms, and explaining, with almost the personal interest 
of an eye-witness to the reality, these memorials of a past 
age, — himself an object of no less interest to the visitor. 
But by degrees the failing memory, the hesitating step, 
the dim eye, satisfied him, as well as his best friends, 
that his work on earth was finished, and he retired to the 
country, — to the neighborhood where he was born ; and 
there his spirit gradually passed away, like the twilight 
of a long summer-day, into that solemn darkness which 
mortal eye cannot pierce, but which to him, we doubt not, 
is lit up by the radiance of a never-ending noon. 

It would be unjust, even in these brief remarks, not 
to notice his life-long interest in the prosperity of our 



1 



22 THOMAS ROBBINS 

* 

New England colleges, and his constant care of the 
common school in every place where he ministered as 
pastor. He was seldom absent from the Commencement 
exercises of Yale and Williams, and never failed to visit 
once, and generally twice, every district school in his 
parish during each season of schooling. He was a mem- 
ber of the first society formed in this country to improve 
common schools; and, on the nomination of Governor 
Everett, was appointed a member of the Massachusetts 
State Board of Education, on its establishment in 1837. 

Dr. Bobbins took an active part in all the religious and 
benevolent movements of the day, and in the foundation 
of most of the institutions of charity which adorn and 
bless our city. He was particularly active in commend- 
ing the cause of the insane to individual and legislative 
aid, and was invited by Dr. Todd and the Trustees to 
pronounce a discourse on the dedication of the Retreat 
for that class. 

Before we go out hence to pay our last tribute of re- 
spect to our deceased brother and venerable friend, by 
joining in the funeral services and following his body to 
the tomb, let us unite in placing on our records our high 
appreciation of his pure, useful, and Christian life, as 
also our grateful remembrance of his many services to 
the cause of sound learning and intelligent piety, espe- 
cially in opening to the student of history and the Bible 
this valuable and, we trust, ever-increasing library. 

The following resolutions were then adopted : — 

Whereas^ It has pleased Almighty God to call from his earthly 
labors our late librarian, the Rev. Thomas Robbins, Doctor of 
Divinity, — 

Resolved^ That in his death the Connecticut Historical Society 
has lost one of its original projectors, founders, and office- 
bearers, whose antiquarian zeal did much to enlist others in 
the promotion of its objects, and whose reverence for God's 



THOMAS ROBBINS 23 

Word and ways has led to the acquisition of a valuable library, 
and of large historical material, into the possession of which 
this Society has entered, with the raeans bequeathed by him to 
make the same still more valuable " to the student of the Holy 
Scriptures, and the lover of history, in his researches to dis- 
cover the character of the Most High, and of man in the 
various events of Divine Providence." 

Resolved^ That as a Christian pastor we honor his memory as 
at once devoted and exemplary, — firm in his own convictions, 
and candid and liberal towards those who differed from him 
in opinion, and in all transactions with others eminent for his 
Christian courtesy and kindness. 

Mesolved, That as a Society we will proceed hence to the 
Centre Church, to assist in the funeral solemnities, and to 
follow his body to its last resting-place. 



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