Family history

All about Ben

By Ben Robinson

My sister gave me a book last weekend to add to my reading rotation. It’s a biography of former President Ronald Reagan, written by his son, also named Ronald Reagan.

Ben Robinson

Ben Robinson

I’m not sure whether she gave it to me because I used to be a fan of the former President during my college days, or if she knew I have been pretty much ready to read matchbook covers lately. Perhaps she just thought, “Give it to Ben, and I won’t have to keep up with it.” Whatever the case, I am reading it now.

The book so far does not seem to be recounting the political career of Reagan, but the Reagans’ family history. Ron Jr., it seems, wanted to look into his family roots.

I understand that, as several years ago, I looked into my family roots.

On my mother’s side it’s complicated. She was a Melton growing up, and her grandmother was Elizabeth Melton. I remember her, because we used to get comic books from my cousin Mike Moser through grandma. But here’s the catch: Grandma’s maiden name was Melton. One story I heard was that my grandfather came from up north and may have been in some trouble. So when he settled in South Carolina, he took the name Melton, as there were plenty of them around.

Of course, I later found newspaper clippings of his brothers and sisters, also named Melton, so I just figured that two distant sides of the Melton family joined together when Grandma married Grandpa.

But since I never actually knew Grandpa, but everything I had ever heard about him was good, I did not search for more information.

On my father’s side, I knew my great-grandfather was named Tinch Robinson, perhaps born in 1852. Arthur Robinson, his oldest son, was married to my grandmother, Mittie Heaton. There’s too many other characters that could be thrown into the mix here. Arthur and Mittie had nine children, plus Arthur had two children with his first wife, Nancy Neighbors.

So our family is pretty big with just the people I know about.

Tinch’s first wife died at age 34 after bearing her seventh child.

He then married Nancy Gravely, who had two children of her own, Frank and Effie. Both took the Robinson name, and eventually Frank became a policeman in Easley. I remember Uncle Frank coming to our house when I was growing up. He was retired by then, and he love to get my sister Cyndi to play a hymn on the piano while he sang. I promised Uncle Frank I would learn the words to “Amazing Grace” by the next time he visited. I learned the words, but soon after he died when his car was hit by a train.

I still think of Frank when we sing that hymn at church.

Well, there was no “blood kin” between us, but I still gladly claim Frank and Effie as family.

Tinch and Nancy had a few children of their own, I’m not sure how many, because I found the grave of one child who had died as an infant. Perhaps there are more.

Eddie Robinson was one child. He died in his late 80s, and I always enjoyed being around him. I remember at one of his last birthday parties he would check the cards and not bother opening any that did not have a cash gift inside.

Earnest is one I never met. Word is that as a teenager, after leaving a movie at the Colony in Easley he stepped on a downed power line and electrocuted himself.

So one day we will get back to seeking our family history. Maybe there’s a book there, just waiting to be written.