Franklin S. Robbins was born on May 5, 1843, Potter County, Pennsylvania, the son of James G. (1818-1902) and Olive E. (Slade, b. 1820).
Both New York natives James and Olive were married, in New York in 1841, but soon settled in Pennsylvania. By 1850 James and his family were living in Ulysses, Potter County, Pennsylvania where Frank attended school with his siblings. James eventually left Pennsylvania with his family and by February of 1855 had settled in Osceola County, Michigan. In fact, James was one of the first settlers in Osceola County. By 1860 he and his wife had settled their family in Greene, Osceola County; two farms away lived Benjamin Gooch who would also join the Third Michigan.
According to one report, Franklin “obtained little education save the practical variety that comes from early acquaintance with labor and effort, and he passed his youth in farming and lumbering.
Franklin stood 5’9”with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was a 19-year-old farmer possibly living in Mecosta County when he enlisted in Company E on March 1, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Mecosta, and was mustered April 30. He was absent sick in the hospital from August through November, and allegedly deserted and was dropped from the company rolls on December 20, 1862, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia. In fact, he was returned from desertion on March 7, 1863, at Camp Pitcher, and for some time served as a Hospital Steward (or nurse) at West’s Building Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He was absent sick in the hospital until he was discharged for consumption on April 21, 1863, at West’s Building Hospital.
After he was discharged from the army Franklin became a sutler’s clerk for William H. Gomersall and remained in his employ until the end of the war. “He accompanied his employer in a similar capacity to Fort Ringgold, Texas, an after a year of service there former a partnership with him in [the] mercantile business.” According to one source,
After being mustered out Mr. ROBBINS, then 23 years old, returned to the army as a clerk in the Commissary Department. Shortly before the close of the war he accompanied General WETZEL'S command to the Rio Grande country, where he remained for two years subsequently, getting acquainted with the country and having his experience of frontier life. he accompanied the first train load of goods to Ringgold, which however was not a steam-propelled train running on rails, but a wagon train drawn by Mexican oxen. For a part of the way he rode horseback, being mounted on his own horse until the animal was stolen from him by a Mexican, who in this act proved true to his facial heritage and traditions.
While living in Texas, Franklin married (West) Virginia native Emma B. Raymond (b. 1848) on June 14, 1866, in Rio Grande, Texas, and they had at least three children: Howard G. (b. 1868), Hattie L. (b. 1870) and Minnie M. (b. 1871).
In about 1868 Franklin “disposed of his interest by sale and returned to Osceola County, with the intention of giving his attention exclusively to agriculture.” Upon arriving in Osceola County he purchased 80 acres of land in Richmond Township where he built a home, and by 1870 he was working as a farmer and living with his wife and son in Richmond. (His father and mother were living in Richmond, Osceola in 1870.) It was reported that
After spending two years in the south Mr. ROBBINS returned to Michigan, locating in the town of Richmond, Osceola County. A small village was started, of which he was made postmaster, and which he named Crapo, after Governor CRAPO of Michigan, who was a close friend of his. He operated a farm in the summer and logged in the winter, gradually extending the latter business until he became one of the largest log operators in that part of the country. All the logs went to the Muskegon Mills in Muskegon, which place was then the largest lumbering city in the world.
Sometime around 1870 or 1871 Frank opened his home to accommodate travelers and it became known as the Osceola House. It was about this same time that he also commenced lumbering and followed that trade for many years. He continued to operate the hotel for some seven years and in 1876 rented it. Franklin handled a considerable amount of real estate in various parts of the County and by the mid-1880s owned some 320 acres within its limits and another 80 acres n Mecosta County.
His own home was on 240 acres and, according to one contemporary, “in an advanced state of cultivation. . . His stock includes 31 head of cattle, 18 horses and 50 hogs and his farm is supplied with all the best modern agricultural implements. . . His farm products for 1884 included 714 bushels of wheat, 1,277 bushels of oats, and 2,500 bushels of corn. His cut of hay amounted approximately to 80 tons.” He also owned “valuable” property in Grand Rapids.
Franklin was living in Crapo (presumably somewhere in Osceola County), by 1869 when he secured a post office station for the village, naming it after the state’s governor. In fact he was the first postmaster, a position he held for many years. By 1880 Frank was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Richmond, Osceola County; also living with them were a servant and two hired men. And next door lived his parents. (He was reportedly living in Crapo in 1881 and 1885).
In 1884 Franklin spent some time traveling out west, and visited Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington. By 1888 he was living in Reed City, Osceola County. Franklin was living in Rhinelander, Oneida County, Wisconsin in 1890 and probably around 1900.
Mr. ROBBINS found time, however, to look after his farm, and when he left there in 1886 to go to Duluth he had 200 acres cleared, which in those days was a farm of great size. In Duluth he entered into a sawmill and lumber business with two other parties under the firm name of Graff, Murray & Robbins. He remained there but two years, however, and then in 1886 came to Rhinelander, which was to prove his place of permanent abode. Here only a few years after the town had been laid out, a company was formed under the name of Baird & Robbins and a mill constructed on the site of the present C. C. Collins Lumber Co.'s plant. This mill was completed in the summer of 1887 and had a capacity of 40,000,000 feet, and soon it was working full time. In 1893 the concern built the narrow-gauge railroad known as the Robbins Railroad, which ran from Rhinelander north and east through Oneida County and into Forest County, having a total length of 45 miles. After a while a change in the partnership occurred, Mr. BAIRD retiring from the firm and Mr. ROBBINS becoming associated instead with W. H. BROWN. The new firm was known as Brown & Robbins, and as such it was incorporated Dec. 3, 1894. Another change occurred on Feb. 1, 1901, when the concern became the Robbins Lumber Co., with Mr. ROBBINS as president and treasurer; R. D. CALDWELL became vice president and Hattie MCINDOE secretary. The name of the Robbins Company stood out prominently in the lumbering news of those days, and through it all it was F. S. ROBBINS who was the leading spirit among those who were from time to time associated with him. A mill was built at Robbins, Mich., a post office and village established, and in 1898 the concern had five miles of narrow-gauge railroad running through its timber holdings there. Mr. ROBBINS also put up the Johnson mill in Rhinelander known as Mill No. 2, and at that time operated two saw mills, two planning-mills and a flooring factory. In one year he logged, sawed and put in 33,000,000 feet of lumber, the work being all done by the company, no jobbers or teams being hired. All the logs came in over the narrow-gauge railroad. When his mills burned down he erected new ones. A writer describing the Robbins business when it was at its height, said: "The company owns and operates a very complete system of narrow-gauge railroad. . .running from Rhinelander to Sugar Camp north, and within six miles of Eagle River. Another branch runs from Pine Lake to Eagle Chain of Lakes and into Forest County. The general equipment of this railroad comprises 100 log cars, five box cars, one passenger coach, four locomotives, two moguls, one consolidated and one single-top, four-wheeler engines. During the winter season in the woods the company employs 300 men and keep about 130 in the woods during the season. Some 150 hands are employed in the sawmills and planning-mills. At Rhinelander is located a large mill and planning-mill and also a factory for hardwood flooring." Mr. ROBBINS continued to push his business along these various lines until 1915, when he sold his sawmill and mill-mill to the C. C. Collins Lumber Company, retaining, however, his timber and railroad holdings. In 1917 he built a new mill, which he operated for two years, when he sold it and all timber holdings and railroad to the Thunder Lake Lumber Co., still retaining his interest, however in the Robbins Flooring Factory, of which concern he was treasurer. While entitled to be proud of his industrial achievements, he has also a record worthy of mention along agricultural lines. He cleared 200 acres at Camp 4, on the road between Rhinelander and Sugar Camp. At Camp 6 he put 175 acres under cultivation, and at Camp 5, 40 were cleared. The Camp 5 farm, moreover, has about 2,000 fenced in for cattle grazing. All these farms Mr. ROBBINS now operates and has brought them into a highly advanced condition. Among his other interests that should be mentioned, he was the vice president of the Rhinelander Paper Co. and at one time an officer in the Rhinelander Refrigerator Co., in 1916 he built the Thunder Lake Lumber Co.'s mills. In short he has been a leader in advancing the general business interests of the city and as such a widely recognized.
It was also reported that “Mr. ROBBINS is an interested member of the local lodge of Elks.” He was also a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association.
In 1880 he applied for and eventually received a pension (no. 1136183).
He probably eventually moved to California.
One contemporary described Franklin as “a leading citizen of his County and Township [Osceola]. Although popular and possessing to an unusual degree the confidence of the community of which he is a member, he has persistently refused to hold office. He has so managed his business interests as to develop the section where he resides, and is widely honored and respected. His influence is felt and exercised in all laudable enterprises of general importance. . . .” \
Franklin died in December of 1929, in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and is presumably buried there.
In February of 1930 his widow was living in California when she applied for a pension (no. 1660695) but the certificate was never granted.