Andrew B. Robbins

Most of the suburbs in the Minneapolis area are named after the landscape. We have a Richfield, a Golden Valley, and an Eden Prairie. Robbinsdale is named for a man. The little village founded on April 19, 1893, was named for Andrew B. Robbins. A civil war veteran, entrepreneur, state senator and former Mayor of Willmar, Minnesota. Robbins purchased 90 acres of beautiful land for development in the late 1880’s. The areas lakes were already popular with duck hunters and the village quickly became the first suburb of Minneapolis.


Here’s an excerpt from “History of Minneapolis, Gateway to the Northwest” published in 1923

Andrew Bonney Robbins, becoming chief accountant, ticket agent and telegraph
operator, all in one, at St. Anthony in the days of the pioneer development of
Minne­apolis, was thereafter for many years closely associated with the growth
and develop­ment of the city, in which ultimately he came to prominence as a
most successful grain merchant. This, however, constituted but one phase of his
activities and his labors were a forceful element in beautifying and improving
the city along civic lines and in upholding the legal and moral status of the
state. There are many who pay tribute to his splendid character and his kindly,
helpful service toward his fellowmen.
His life story is as follows and may well constitute an example for others: He
was born in Phillips, Maine, April 27, 1845, his parents being Daniel and Mary
(Shaw) Robbins, the latter a granddaughter of Captain Abraham Shaw, who was a
soldier of the Revolutionary war and a descendant of John Howland, one of the
Pilgrims who came to the new world on the Mayflower. Mrs. Robbins was a lady of
beautiful char­acter and innate refinement. The father was a representative
business man of Phillips, Maine, possessing a considerable estate and making his
home in New England until 1855, when he brought his family to what was then the
far west, settling at Anoka, in the territory of Minnesota.

Andrew Bonney Robbins

Andrew B. Robbins was at that time a lad of but eight years, so that he was
partly reared amid the scenes and environment of pioneer life. He was a youth of
but seventeen when in 1862 he joined the “Boys in Blue,” enlisting in the Eighth
Regiment of Minnesota Volunteers, with which he served until the close of the
Civil war. His company was on active duty in connection with the suppression of
the Indian uprising under General Sully, going to the relief of Captain Fisk and
later was sent south, where it was attached to General Schofield, Twenty-third
Army Corps, participating in the second battle of Murfreesboro, and also in the
battle of Franklin, Tennessee. Afterward the command was joined to General
Sherman’s forces and thus Mr. Robbins saw active duty on some of the most hotly
contested battle fields of the south, going through all of those experiences
which so rapidly converted this boy into the man.
With his return from the war Mr. Robbins became chief accountant, ticket agent
and telegraph operator in St. Anthony, with what is now the Great Northern
Railway Company, and following the extension of the line to Willmar, he took the
first train to that place and became manager of the terminal. With the
upbuilding of that city he was associated. He began dealing there in lumber,
farm machinery and grain, developing a business of considerable proportions
along all those lines and also found­ing the Bank of Willmar. Nor was he
neglectful of the higher, holier duties of life, nor of his responsibilities in
citizenship. He became a charter member of the First Presbyterian church at
Willmar and at the age of thirty years he was elected to the state senate, where
he served two terms, being made chairman of several important committees,
although the youngest member of the senate. At the time when the grasshopper
scourge brought depression, if not ruin, throughout the agricultural dis­trict
of the county in which he lived and of adjoining counties, he framed and
pro­moted the first seed grain law to relieve the situation and safeguard the
farmers of that district. To combat the invasion of the pests which were so
rapidly destroying crops, he devised the sheet iron “hopperdozer,” which was
very practical and is still in use. Mr. Robbins and his brother-in-law, T. B.
Walker, drove through the country where not a green leaf remained, the insects
having destroyed every vestige of growing plants. They distributed quantities of
seed free to the farmers for replanting and were thus of the greatest possible
service to the district. With the passing years Mr. Robbins became interested at
Willmar in the grain and elevator business, and continu­ing in this line he
removed to Merriam Park, organizing the Northwestern Elevator Company of
Minneapolis, successfully managing its business interests for fourteen years and
also becoming a leading member of the Chamber of Commerce. He afterward founded
the Minnesota & Dakota Elevator Company and became a prominent figure in grain
trade circles in the state. While promoting his individual interests he was at
all times mindful of his duties in other connections and in many ways he
con­tributed to the progress, improvement and upbuilding of the state. In 1890
he pur­chased large tracts of land north of Minneapolis and founded the town of
Robbinsdale, where he planted thousands of trees, which are an increasing joy to
the people and a fitting memorial to one of Minnesota’s noblest and best loved
citizens. He was also one of the builders of the street railway to the town and
he made many other exten­sive improvements, contributing to the growth and
prosperity of the region. Upon his own estate he laid out a drive bordered by
elm trees, which is considered one of the finest in Minnesota.
Mr. Robbins continued his political and religious activities in the various
regions in which he resided. While at Robbinsdale he was elected to the state
legislature and was particularly helpful in his attitude toward the University
of Minnesota, securing generous support to the institution. He was afterward
made state surveyor gen­eral of logs and lumber and he kept in close touch with
many of the most vital problems of the state concerning the utilization and
development of its natural resources. As the years passed on he concentrated his
efforts and attention largely upon real estate building, for he had acquired
extensive holdings. He was one of the trustees of Macalester College, remained
an active worker in the Presbyterian church and was instrumental in founding the
church at Merriam Park. Fraternally he. was a thirty-second degree Mason and was
also an active and valued member of the Grand Army of the Republic, serving as
commander of his post. He was also elected to the di­rectorate of the
Minneapolis Business Men’s Union and his counsel and opinions were considered
most valuable along all those lines which engaged his attention.

Ade­laide Julia Walker

It was in the year 1869 that Mr. Robbins was united in marriage to Miss
Ade­laide Julia Walker, a sister of Thomas Barlow Walker, mentioned elsewhere in
this work, and whose mother, Anstis Barlow Walker, was descended from a member
of the New York foot troops in the Revolutionary war. In 1862 she became a
vol­unteer nurse in the Tupler General Hospital at Columbus, Ohio, with her
daugh­ters, Helen and Adelaide Julia Walker, who left Baldwin University to
undertake this war work. Mrs. Robbins is a member of the Grand Army Nurses
Corps. It is from their literary grandmother that Edith Robbins, known as a
writer of verse and song for children, and her sister, Amy (Robbins) Ware,
author of “Echoes of France,” received “the priceless gift of a ready pen.” Both
are residents of Robbins­dale. The other children of Mr. and Mrs. Robbins are:
Adelaide, who is now Mrs. Ralph P. Gillette, and is active in the Thursday
Musical, Hennepin Methodist church and other matters of civic interest; while
Ruth, who is now Mrs. F. C. Rodda, has been president of the College Women’s
Club of Minneapolis and of the Hennepin County Medical Association Auxiliary;
and Esther, who is now Mrs. W. W. Scott, has been secretary of the Tourist Club
and prominent in various college and fraternity activi­ties. All of the five
daughters of the family are graduates of the University of Minne­sota and
members of the Pi Beta Phi Sorority and the Association of Collegiate Alumnae.
The death of the husband and father occurred at his home in Robbinsdale, June
16, 1910, when he was sixty-five years of age. His life had been of great
service and benefit to his fellowmen along the lines of material, intellectual,
social, religious and moral progress. The development and upbuilding of the
state has been greatly ad­vanced through his labors and he had been active in
connection with those interests which lift the individual above the more sordid
things of life into that realm where contemplation leads to the development and
adoption of ideals.

1 Comment

  1. According to our centennial compiled history, “A Ball of Butter, a Quest for Light,” A. B. Robbins actually gave up hopes of organizing a Presbyterian Church in Robbinsdale because the Congregationalists were moving ahead with their plans. “And a good sport, Robbins stepped aside. After the First Congregational Church was built, Robbins and his family became members. Moreover, A.B. Robbins taught Sunday School and became Sunday School Superintendent. Andrew and Adelaide and their five daughters, all musically talented, filled the pew each Sunday.”

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