Orange County
Historical Society

John Robinson of Newburgh:

Member of the Committee of Safety and Observation

by Margaret V. S. Wallace

[Editor's Note: This article appeared in the 1974-1975 Issue of the Journal of the Orange County Historical Society. It is being republished on the website as part of the ongoing activities surrounding the 250th Anniversary of the Revolutionary War. The footnoted version is contained in the 1974-1975 Journal which is available for purchase. JAC]


The grave of John Robinson was found recently in a small, deserted family burying-ground on land a little west of the present Stewart Field runway, and now in the possession of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It is in the Town of Newburgh in the Alexander Baird Patent.

Robinson's name appears early in the American Revolution. In Newburgh, a meeting was held at the house of Martin Weigand, on the 27th of January, 1775, when John Robinson and others were appointed a "Committee of Safety and Observation" (Ruttenber and Clark, History of Orange County, New York, 1881, page 256).

The first duty devolving upon this committee was to attend a convention at New Paltz on the 7th of April, for the purpose of selecting delegates to a provincial convention to be held at New York on the 20th of the same month (Ruttenber, History of the County of Orange, 1875, page 135).

Also in 1775, the association pledge was drawn up, "to observe and maintain the orders and resolutions of both the Continental and Provincial Congresses." John Robinson's name is the seventh on the list of 174 signers living in the Precinct of Newburgh (Ruttenber and Clark, pages 62-64).

Robinson was kept busy, not only as a member of the Committee, but also as an Ensign in the military service, as evidenced by the following record under date of October 27, 1775:

This is to certify that we, the Committee of Safety and Observation for the Precinct of Newburgh, for the apprehension of two persons, viz.: Stephen Wiggins and David Purdy, did request and command Capt. Samuel Logan, of the minute company at New Windsor, to assist with eleven of his men in apprehending the said persons, he having attended and assisted one day and a half, with himself at the head of the following persons, viz.: John Robinson, ensign; David Mandevill and John Schofield, sergeants; one corporal, one clerk, and six privates ... (Ruttenber and Clark, 1881, page 257).

After the Revolutionary War, John Robinson served as a Pathmaster for Newburgh in 1785 (Eager, An Outline History of Orange County, 1846-7, page 95).

In the Census of 1790 for the Town of Newburgh, John Robinson is shown with the following household: Free white males of 16 years and upward, including heads of families, 1; Free white females, 2; Slaves, 7.

Robinson had bought a house and land in Newburgh in 1771, and had added two more purchases in 1773, for a total of 400 acres.

The first purchase was on April 19, 1771, from Samuel Sprague of New Windsor, and Jerusha, his wife, to John Robinson of Brookhaven on Nassau Island (Long Island). Robinson paid 350 pounds for a dwelling house and lot on Baird's Patent, 200 acres, Lot No. 7, beginning at the northeast corner of Lot No. 1 on the east side of a small run of water (Ulster County Deeds, Liber KK, page 93).

The second purchase was on May 13, 1773, from Robert Baity of Newburgh, yeoman, to John Robinson of Brookhaven on Nassau Island. Robinson paid 28 pounds for a piece of swamp called Pigeon Swamp, 6 acres, in Baird's Patent, bordering Lot No. 7 already in Robinson's possession (Ulster County Deeds, Liber KK, page 100).

The third purchase was on November 10, 1773, from Andrew Todd of East Whiteland, County of Chester, Province of Pennsylvania, to John Robinson of Brookhaven on Nassau Island, County of Suffolk. Robinson paid 350 pounds for 194 acres , Lot No. 12 granted to Alexander Baird, in the Precinct of Newburgh, beginning at the south line of the patent at a red-oak tree marked No. 7 on the west side and No. 12 on the east side (Ulster County Deeds, Liber KK, page 96).

John Robinson of the Town of Newburgh made his will on June 17, 1796. To his wife, Elizabeth, he left one third of his real estate. To his brother Richard's son Richard, he left the other two thirds. To his four servants, Toney, Cush, Lue, and Jess, he left all his wearing-apparel. He made provision that his slaves were not to be sold, and all were to be comfortably supported. The executors were Alexander Colden and Robert Burnet, son of James Burnet. The witnesses were Isaac Belknap, Caleb Coffin, and Dirck Amerman. The will was probated on January 18, 1797, before Joseph Gasherie, Ulster County Surrogate (Ulster County Wills, Liber B, page 373).

To go back to John Robinson's grave, where we first found him, his gravestone (well kept and beautifully lettered) lies flat on the ground. A large hole is beside it as if someone had opened his grave, looking for treasure. Another stone has an inscription which cannot be read. And several field-stones (unlettered) evidently mark graves, perhaps the graves of John Robinson's slaves. It would be good if the little burying-ground could be kept without further desecration.

Memory of
who departed this life
December 2nd 1796
Aged 56 Years and 8 Days

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