August 11, 2013: Reverend David Rascoe, pastor of St. Elmo Baptist Missionary Church in Windsor, invited me to take part in the Founder’s Day program. This was my second worship service there. I prepared a short biography of Augustus Robbins who acquired the land for St. Elmo at its founding in 1887. I was delightfully surprised to see that the church had cleaned the markers of the Robbins family in time for church service.
Robbins was born in 1842 in the Chowanoke community in Gates County. By 1860, he was living with his better-known brother Parker and Parker’s wife, Elizabeth Collins Robbins. In January of 1864, the Robbins brothers enlisted in the 2nd Cavalry, United States Colored Troops at Fort Monroe, Hampton Virginia. Both were promoted to sergeant by the month’s end. Their regiment participated in over ten battles from Suffolk to Richmond. When driving along Interstate 95 around Petersburg and Richmond, one will see many signs that direct to these battles. The Robbins brothers’ service ended February 1866 in Brazos de Santiago, having patrolled Texas at the time of “Juneteenth.”
A week after enlisting, Augustus and Leah Cooper married. After the war, they reunited and moved back to Bertie County. Their son, John, graduated from Shaw University’s Leonard School of Medicine around 1891, becoming one of North Carolina’s first physicians of color.
After the war, Augustus Robbins became a store owner, and as a community leader served a term in the North Carolina General Assembly. He died in 1928 and is buried alongside with Leah and John in the front cemetery yard of St. Elmo’s. In 2011, the NC General Assembly passed a resolution honoring Augustus Robbins for his deeds.
– Marvin T. Jones