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Family wants name restored to area

| Monday, May 14, 2012, 10:34 a.m.

A family with historic ties to the county wants the name of a well-known section of North Huntingdon Township restored to its original moniker.

Babs Tull of Delaware, Ohio, is a descendant of Brintnel and Mary Robbins, who settled in the Robbins and Robbins Station area of North Huntingdon Township in 1791. Tull and more than 100 descendants want the township commissioners to restore the historical name of Robbins to the scenic valley area now known as Turner Valley.

'Honoring our historical roots is important for us individually and collectively,' said Tull. 'The unfolding story of the Robbins family is the history of a significant part of North Huntingdon Township and Westmoreland County.'

When Morrison and Pearl Robbins moved out of Robbins Station into an apartment in West Newton during the 1960s, the family home was rented for a number of years. Upon the death of Morrison and Pearl's oldest son, Richard III, the family farm and its 260 acres was eventually sold to developer Mike Turner.

According to Tull, as Turner developed his new properties, he used his name to designate various sections of the area - Turner Valley, Turner Valley Road, Turner Lane, Mike Road and Turner Valley Memorial Park.

'Mike Turner and his wife are no longer living,' said Tull. 'They had no children, so this (name change) should not be a sensitive issue for descendants.

'If Robbins Valley Memorial Park and Robbins Valley Road, the main artery through the heart of the old Robbins farmland are restored, Mike Turner would still have Mike Road and Turner Lane as tributes to his memory.'

Morrison 'Bud' Robbins, who grew up in Robbins Station and now lives in Pittsburgh, said the name of the valley should revert back to the original name because of the history of the area.

'Mike Turner bought a farm next to our place,' said Robbins. 'The Robbins road comes down through the middle part of what was our family farm. Since the Robbins were here long before Mike Turner, the family thinks it should go back to the name of Robbins.'

The tract of Robbins and Robbins Station was a land grant in 1806.

'It was a railroad stop and had an official post office beginning in the 1860s until well into the 19th century. It was listed on maps as 'Robbins,'' said Tull.

'It was originally called Crawford's Sleepy Hollow, then Robbins Station,' said Robbins. 'The family ran the post office during the Civil War. That post office was in operation until 1912. The railroad station house always had the Robbins Station sign.'

A petition to have the name of the valley changed back to Robbins was sent to the township commissioners in September 1998. Tull said no response was forthcoming by the commissioners. A second petition was organized and sent to the commissioners again in July. Copies of the petition were also sent to the Pennsylvania State and Westmoreland County historical societies and the Westmoreland County commissioners.

Several generations of the Robbins family will attend the Aug. 15 township commissioners' meeting to address the name change.

The history of Robbins and Robbins Station is legendary to Tull and Robbins. It is a history they want to save and cherish.

'Brintnel Robbins came to the area in 1791. He and his brother were in the Revolutionary War. For payment, they got land grants,' said Robbins. 'At that time, settlers were moving westward. The two men came down to Lancaster and went up Braddock's Trail and got to right past West Newton. They arrived there in the fall and built a raft to go down the Yough River.'

Robbins said his ancestor's raft got stuck on a sand bar near Crawford Run. He worked all night to free it, but was unsuccessful. His wife took a common-sense approach and told her husband, ''There's land right here. This is good land. I'm going to stay here.''

'There was a still in back of the house near the springhouse. My grandson in New York wanted to baptize his children and asked for water from the springhouse. I went out and tried to find the spring,' said Robbins. 'I couldn't find it because it was all grown up with weeds. So I got water from the creek and boiled it and sent it to him.'

Many of the Robbins descendants fondly remember 'the farm.'

'It would be tragic to discard the family name for a convenient label of a recent land developer,' said Tull.

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