This might prove challenging to follow the story thread here, and I will readily admit that connecting the dots here is a bit of a stretch. But …
Yesterday, while watching the inauguration of new American President Joseph Biden #potus, the reference to his middle name of “Robinette” caused me to pause and wonder. Could there be a link to Mississauga?
There is a gravestone in Dixie Union Cemetery that lists a Sylvia Robinett who died in 1859. Over the years we had collected information on the Robinett / Robinette family who settled in historic Mississauga. So I thought it might be fun to try and connect the dots – without really knowing if they would connect at all.
First, let’s set the background: Allen Robinett Sr. (1747-1813) came to Canada around 1798, first settling in York (Toronto), and then acquiring land here in Toronto Township (Mississauga). Allen was born c1747 in Adams County, Pennsylvania, to James Robinett and Ann Martin. He was one of nine children, that included Susannah (1740-1815), Samuel (1741-1771), Hannah (174301799), George (1745-1804), Nathan (1747-1773), our Allen, Elizabeth (1752-1792), James (1754-1837) and possibly Henry (1757-1797).
The family was of French Huguenot ancestry who had fled Holland, into France and England, before coming to the New World and settling in Pennsylvania by 1682. At the time of their passage to America they were residing in Cheshire, England. Although there are records of several Robinetts coming to America, the one that connects to our story is that of another Allen Robinett (1632-1694), ancestor of our Allen, who is noted as having 250 acres of land in Upper Providence Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1685 where he operated the Robinett Grist Mill on Ridley Creek. The Robinett family was relatively affluent, as upon arrival the family consisted of Allen, his wife Margaret Symm (1632-1694), three children (Allen Jr., Samuel and Sarah), and three servants.
Allen Sr.’s son, Samuel (1669-1745), inherited much of Allen Sr.’s holdings. Samuel eventually settled in East Nottingham in Chester County. Samuel and his wife Mary Taylor (1674-1747) had eight children. One son, Joseph Robinette (1711-1784), who later settled in Philadelphia, was the ancestor of American President Joseph Robinette Biden. Another son, James (1713-1784), was the father of our Allen who came to Canada c1798.
As for President Biden’s middle name, he was named for his grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Robinette (1894-1943). She was the great-great-great granddaughter of Joseph Robinette
Confused yet? Of note, there are two sets of Allen Sr. & Allen Jr.’s in story. Now back to our Mississauga connection.
As we mentioned, Allen Robinett Sr., son of James, nephew of Joseph, and great grandson of the first Allen Robinett Sr. in our narrative, came to Canada around 1798. Allen was already married by that time, having married Rachel Cooper in 1786 in York Springs, Adams County, Pennsylvania. They would have at least seven children: Allen Jr. (1787-1866), James (1789-?), Thomas (1791-1873), Ann (1792-1864), Rachell (1791-1867), George (1800-1877) and Josiah (1803-1847). The youngest two children were born in Canada.
At first Allen Sr. settled his family in York (Toronto), where he began to accumulate and speculate in land, acquiring several parcels of land in Toronto Township (historic Mississauga). The early family seems to have been quite prosperous, operating a tannery, potash work and pearling industry along the Etobicoke Creek. After Allen Sr.’s death in 1813, the family interests appear to have been taken over by the eldest son, Allen Jr., who used the surname spelling of “Robinette”.
Allen Robinette Jr. and his brother Thomas (who used the spelling “Robinett”) served in the 2nd York Militia during the War of 1812.
They enlisted with Captain Chisholm’s Flank Company on June 4, 1812. Both brothers appear in the muster lists for the Battle of Queenston Heights in October 1812. Thomas was possibly wounded in the battle, as he was listed as being in hospital from October 14 to November 24, 1812 (the possible nature of the wound is not known).
By 1841, Allen Jr. and his family had left this area, and resettled in Ohio, along with most of the rest of the extended Robinett / Robinette family that had come to Canada. Only siblings Thomas and Rachell remained.
Thomas was a surveyor by profession. Thomas married Sylvia Shattuck in 1825 in York (Toronto). They had two children: Angelina (1831-1890) and Josiah (1839-1870). Sylvia passed away in 1859 and was buried at Dixie Union Cemetery here in Mississauga.
Sylvia Robinett’s gravestone remains a visible link to this family on our landscape here in Mississauga. Both of Thomas and Sylvia’s children eventually moved to Detroit, Michigan. Thomas died in Detroit in 1873 while reportedly visiting his daughter.
Sister Rachell Robinette was married to Colonel William Birdsall (1791-1877) and lived in the Streetsville area, where several generations of the Birdsall family lived.
I admit that the link is a tenuous one, but it was a fascinating exploration of a family’s story, linking the surname on a lonely gravestone here in Mississauga to the middle name of the newly inaugurated American president. #potus
Want to explore more of the historic figures in the Dixie Union Cemetery?
Check out our Haunted Virtual Tour where Robinett makes an appearance!
For More Information Please Contact:
Matthew Wilkinson, Historian at Heritage Mississauga
(905) 828-8411 ext.29