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Sunday, October 12, 2008

THE PURSUIT OF DAVID ROBBINS PT3

Deputy Sheriff Lewis Loomis and Daniel Ellingwood had captured David
Robbins and brought him back to Lancaster, N.H. to stand trial, but
justice was to be delayed for some months. Now, remember that Abner
and Benjamin Hinds had disappeared back in February and it wasn't
until summer that their friends and family had set out in search of the
father son. It was sometime after the failure of their search that the
warrant for David Robbins had been issued. Lapham gives no information
on when he was captured but it seems likely that it was at least late
summer or early fall. Apparently even though it was the county seat at
the time there was no sitting court and so Robbins had to wait until
the following April for his trial. He was kept in the cabin that served
as the Lancaster jail.


Over the next few months Robbins hired a lawyer who let it be known he
would challenge the warrant on the grounds that it had been issued in New
Hampshire and the area the alleged crime had taken place was in Maine.
(I might add that when I first read the story I wondered if the capture might
have been made in Maine as well, where Loomis would have no jurisdiction.)
But the nameless lawyer never had the chance to argue his case, for on the
day of the trial it was discovered that David Robbins had escaped.

Lapham says that the only venue of escape was an opening in the wall 10
inches in diameter. How could Robbins have possibly escaped through that?
I did a Google search for any other sources of information and found "The
History of Coos County, N.H."
by Georgia Drew Merrill (Syracuse, NY,
W.A. Fergusson, 1888) at Internet Archives. The account of the murder and
capture differs on several points. For one thing, it describes the Hinds
murders: Robbins shot Abner and killed Benjamin with a hatchet. The two
bodies were found in a brook near Little Kennebago Lake and when the
arrest warrant was issued, there was a third man with Loomis and Ellingwood
named Hezekiah Parsons who Ms. Merrill credits as being the one who helped
subdue Robbins. Most importantly from a legal standpoint, the search party
made a detour to Farmington, Maine to obtain an indictment and authorization
to arrest Robbins if they captured him in Maine.

She also provides more information on the escape. The window was covered
by a grating and somehow Robbins got or fashioned tools to loosen it. He hid
the work on the window by hanging a blanket over it, using the excuse that there
was a cold draft coming through it. Of course when Robbins escaped, suspicion
immediately fell on the jailer as being an accomplice but no mention is made
by Merrill if charges were ever filed.

As for what became of David Robbins after his escape, both Merrill and Lapham
agree that the man was never seen again, although he left behind a wife and family
who continued to live in the area for many years.

Deputy Sheriff Lewis Loomis died in October, 1869.

Hezekiah Parsons, one of the prominent citizens of Colebrook, NH, died in 1857
and his son married a Sarah Merrill. I do not know if she was related to the author
Georgia Drew Merrill.

I haven't found a record as of yet as to when Daniel G. Ellingwood passed away.
Apparently he and his wife, Catherine Brown, left the area. I've found them, I think
on the 1850 census in York, Livingston County, New York and in Nankin, Wayne
County, Michigan on the 1860 census. The ages and birthplaces match up with
what I know about them.

So by 1888 when Georgia Drew Merrill wrote her book and 1891 when William
Lapham wrote his, the principals were long deceased or had departed the region.
Lapham probably talked with Daniel Ellingwood's nephews or nieces in Maine
while Merrill lived in New Hampshire where she had possibly access to the
Parsons family. Their accounts of the pursuit of David Robbins differ in some
points as to Daniel Ellingwood's participation but they do agree he was there.

Maybe someday we'll learn of the final fate of David Robbins. I wouldn't be
surprised if a genealogist is the one to find out what it was!

6 comments:

Holly Timm said...

What a great ending, perhaps almost an ending, to the story! Did Robbins perish in some wilderness, come to a bad end westwards, continue his violent ways or perhaps as some have done, reform and have a second family, living in peace to the end of his days.

Perhaps the answer to the secret is hidden in some old trunk or journal some where waiting to be discovered! That's a lot more interesting thought to leave in my brain than that he simply has vanished without leaving any further trace.

Bill West said...

Hi Holly!
Lapham mentions a rumor that Robbins was hung sometime later in Canada for other crimes and was supposed to have confessed to the Hinds murders on the gallows,but no record of this has been found, so it probably is just that,a rumor. Merrill mentions "strange rumours floating about" concerning Robbins after the escape but says nothing was ever officially
confirmed.

I think you are right.Robbins
probably did go west or north to
Canada where he continued living
by his own set of rules.

looking4ancestors said...

A very interesting tale! I enjoyed reading it very much.

Judith Richards Shubert said...

I enjoyed this lively tale. It made me think of Maine and New Hampshire in the snow. I felt like I was there!

Bill West said...

Judith and Kathryn,
Glad you enjoyed the story!

Bill

Apple said...

Great series! I hope you find more on Robbins in the future. I can't imagine that he didn't change his name so tracking down what became of him is a long shot but I'd love to know!