HENSON ROBINSON - Henson Robinson, deceased, was for more than forty years a resident of Springfield, where he became known as a leading representative of business interests, an active factor in community affairs and a valued representative of fraternal interests. It was not these alone that entitled him to special distinction or won for him the great love which was extended him by those with whom he was associated. It was his kindliness of heart, his geniality, his deep sympathy and his abiding tenderness. He was all that is meant by the term a manly man, strong and vigorous in intellect, reliable in judgment, forceful and purposeful and yet possessing the deep and tender sympathy of a woman. His memory is cherished in the hearts of all who knew him and no death in Springfield in many years occasioned such deep or general sorrow as that of Henson Robinson.
Mr. Robinson was born in Xenia, Greene county, Ohio, March 14, 1839. His parents were John and Mary A. (Rayburn) Robinson, the former a native of Ohio and the latter of Virginia. The father made his home on a farm in Greene county, Ohio, for many years or until 1838, when he came to the west thinking that he might have better opportunities for providing for his family in this new and rapidly developing section of the country. He purchased land in Sangamon county with the intention of locating here and returned to Ohio for his wife and children. He was taken ill, however, soon afterward and there died in 1842. His widow also passed away in that state. Only one of their children is now living, Margaret, who is the widow of James Colvin, who was a farmer near Wilmington, Ohio, and died there. Mrs. Colvin now makes her home with her niece, Miss Margaret Robinson, in Springfield.
In the schools of his native county Henson Robinson acquired his education. He was not surrounded by any of the advantages of wealth nor did he receive assistance from influential friends in his boyhood days, but he received in his home and from his parents training in habits of industry, economy and honesty and these proved an excellent foundation upon which to build both character and fortune. From the age of twelve years he earned his own living and learned the tinner's trade. When his term of apprenticeship expired he felt like a caged animal that had been set free and deciding to leave his native state he came to Springfield, Illinois, in July, 1858, to visit his uncle James Rayburn, a well known tailor. Finding himself in need of money he sought work at his trade and was in the employ of Eli Kreigh. At the end of three years he embarked in business for himself in partnership with George Bauman and under the firm name of Robinson & Bauman they opened their establishment in March, 1861, in a part of the building which their successors still occupy at 112-114 North Fifth street. The new enterprise prospered from the beginning and as the trade increased and brought to the partners greater capital Mr. Robinson made arrangements whereby he purchased Mr. Bauman's interest and became sole owner of the business, dealing in stoves, furnaces and tin work. He conducted the business under his own name until 1890, when a stock company was formed under the name of the Henson Robinson Company, business being still conducted under this corporate title. Mr. Robinson continued at the head of the enterprise until his demise and was long recognized as a leading and enterprising merchant of the city. He conducted all trade transactions along lines that would bear the closest investigation and scrutiny. Few men have so closely followed the golden rule in business life and none have enjoyed in a greater degree the confidence and trust of those with whom they have had trade relations. He developed his enterprise along modern lines of progressiveness and found in each transition stage of his business career opportunities for greater development, activity and advancement. He was always most considerate in his treatment of his employees, who entertained for him warm personal friendship because of his kindly sympathy for them and his justice in all his dealings. At one time Mr. Robinson was associated with many commercial and industrial enterprises of Springfield and in this way contributed largely to the material advancement and upbuilding of the city. He was an earnest worker in the interest of affairs started for its betterment and was a prominent promoter of the Citizens Street Railway, buying much of its right of way and serving as its first treasurer for several years. He was also treasurer of the County Fair Association for some years and worked hard in getting the street car line to the fair ground. In later years he confined himself more closely to his business, being a very successful contractor in roofing and sheet metal work, taking contracts in many cities throughout Illinois. For several years he served with credit as a director of a fraternal insurance society.
Any movement which had for its object the benefit of the community along lines of material improvement or social, moral or intellectual progress received Mr. Robinson's endorsement and hearty co-operation. For a few years he was president of the board of education of Springfield. His activity and far-sighted efforts in this direction were manifested in effective labor for the improvement of the schools and to this day the system of public education in Springfield benefits by the active aid and sound judgment which he manifested as a member of the board. In early life he gave his political allegiance to the Democracy. At one time he accepted the Democratic nomination for mayor but being a strong temperance man and a church member he was opposed by the saloon men, many of whom told him they were his friends in business but being afraid that he would enforce the law would not vote for him. He came within one hundred and twenty-one votes of being elected although the city usually had a large Republican majority.
Mr. Robinson was a member of Springfield Lodge, No. 4, A.F. & A.M., and served as its treasurer twenty-six years and master two years. He also belonged to Springfield Chapter, No. 1, R.A.M.; Springfield Council, No. 2, R. & A.M.; Elwood Commandery, No. 6, K.T.; and Consistory, S.P.R.S. Early inducted into the masteries of Masonry, he followed the tenets of the craft and was honored by elections to offices of trust and responsibility. The rules of Templarism received his special attention and for many years he attended the convocations regularly. In his daily life he exemplified his belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man and put into practice the teachings of the craft concerning mutual helpfulness, kindliness and brotherly love. He was also a charter member of the Modern Woodmen Camp at Springfield and other fraternal organizations of the city, including the Knights of the Maccabees. At the age of sixteen years, while still a resident of Ohio, he became a member of the Methodist Episcopal church and remained one of its faithful and devoted followers to the end of his life. He held membership in the First Methodist Episcopal church of Springfield, to which his wife and children also belonged, and in the work of the church he was ever deeply interested, taking an active part in its activities and contributing generously to its support. He followed closely in the steps of Him who came not to be ministered unto but to minister and the life of Mr. Robinson was a continual outgiving to others. The poor and needy found in him a friend and the distressed and desolate made claim upon his ready and generous sympathy.
On the 8th of May, 1861, Mr. Robinson was united in marriage to Miss Henrietta Maria Keyes, who was born in Springfield on the 29th of July, 1839, a daughter of James W. Keyes, who was among the first settlers of this city. The family history is given at length in connection with the sketch of Hon. J. Keyes on another page of this work. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson entered upon what proved an ideal married relation and as the years advanced their mutual love and confidence increased, the ties that bound them being strengthened as they met together the joys and sorrows, the adversity and prosperity of life. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were born five children, of whom the eldest, Lydia Maria, died August 11, 1895, Margaret Henrietta, who always lived with her parents, now owns the family home on South Eighth street, where she is living with her aunt, Mrs. Margaret Colvin. Charles Henson, who is the president of the Henson Robinson Company and now has charge of the business, has fully sustained in his control of its interests the excellent reputation made by his father. The store is located at No. 112 and 114 South Fifth street and the company deals in warm air furnaces, hardware, stoves and ranges. They also carry a large line of bicycles and are manufacturers of galvanized iron cornices and likewise do an extensive and profitable business as roofers. Charles H. Robinson was married to Miss Adeline Langdon, a daughter of Dr. W. O. Langdon, and they have four children: Langdon, Henson, Henrietta and Stuart. They reside near the old family home on South Eighth street. Mary Ann is the fourth member of the family and she died in infancy and one child died unnamed.
In 1900 Mr. Robinson was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who passed away on the 19th of February of that year. Her death was to him a blow from which he never recovered, although he made strenuous effort to hide his grief and to live for his children. In an obituary notice in the Daily Register appeared the following:
"Those who mourn the loved one whose life sun has just set forever; whose cares and trials have ended, whom God's finger touched and she 'sleeps the sleep that knows no waking,' mourn for one who was in every sense a modest, unpretentious mother, wife and woman, possessed of those winning courtesies of life which made her home a heaven to her household, and in which she was companion, counselor and friend. Her mission in life has healed many a wounded heart. She moved in life like the noiseless angel of sympathy, laden with cordials for drooping spirits, bread for the hungry, robes for the naked and good cheer for the sorrowing. She went as a staff to the weak limbed, as a balm to the wounded; as a sweet smile in the midst of pain. She never murmured, never found fault with fate, and was always ready with thanks that her lines had fallen 'by the green pastures and still waters' of pleasantness bordering her path of peace. Those who loved her as a wife and mother, will never have a regret for undischarged duty; no goading conscience for lack of love, for depth of interest in her consuming ailments, neglect of comforts, spared expense, or failure in slightest detail to gratify any expressed or anticipated wish or want. She was the center of kindest thought, as she was the center of most happy of homes.
"She was a devoted Christian and member of the First Methodist Episcopal church, a member of the Willing Circle of the King's Daughters and also fo the Foreign Missionary Society. She was a mother endowed with a Madonna-like love for her children and grandchildren; a wife whose companionship with her husband was as the dew of heaven blessing, inspiring and helpful, a neighbor and friend who never betrayed a confidence reposed, who never refused a crust, palled a sad heart with a frown or saddened a troubled heart with a lack of sympathy. In all the relations of life she was guided by a 'conscience void of offense and convictions' which ever directed her footsteps, guarded her words, directed her actions and in social requisites made her a model of her sex. Kindness graced the years of her life and the fountain of her joys never failed as years added garlands to her ripening for the grave."
Just two months after the death of his wife, on the 17th of April, 1900, Mr. Robinson, while talking to a friends in the lobby of the Leland Hotel, was taken ill and died very suddenly. His death was undoubtedly hastened by his great grief for the loss of her with whom he had traveled life's journey so happily. Perhaps an estimate of his character can best be given in the editorial comment of one of the Springfield journals, which said: "The life of Henson Robinson - both public and private - was pure and stainless. His fellow citizens never engaged in a holier mission than when honoring his form, casketed for the grave, and revering the memory of their fellow citizen who had climbed the rough and rugged hills of toil from boyhood years, passing through all toils, trials and tribulation of a busy world, and had triumphed. He was as true to every trust reposed in him - whether great or small - as ever the needle has proven itself to the pole. The end of his loyalty to the right,
to his loved ones and his brethren, to the distressed and those in need, only ended with his life. It may be true that Henson Robinson held decided opinions of his own, but he had the courage of his convictions to express them freely, frankly and fearlessly, which, when said truly, is the grandest eulogy that ever can be pronounced on an American citizen." Strong and manly was his life in all its relations and most beautiful and tender was it in the home circles. His deepest interest centered there and no personal sacrifice on his part was considered too great if it would promote the welfare of his wife and children. Having nearly reached the bounds of man's appointed years, at last life's blessings all enjoyed, life's labor done, serenely to his final rest he passed, while the soft memory of his virtues yet linger like twilight, when the sun has set.