James W. Robinson
James W. Robinson was a politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 in what became the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

s of Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 and California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...


Early years

J. W. Robinson was born in what is now Hamilton County, Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 in c. 1791. He was a lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 and partnered with William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States , an American military officer and politician, and the first president to die in office. He was 68 years, 23 days old when elected, the oldest president elected until Ronald Reagan in 1980, and last President to be born before the...

. He married Mary Isdell in 1820, but abandoned his first wife and five children when he left for Arkansas in 1828. His wife later obtained a divorce.

Robinson moved with Sarah K. Snyder or Snider to Kentucky in 1828, and they later moved to in Arkansas around 1830 where they were married. She was born c. 1810. They had one son, William N. born c. 1840

Texas Republic

Robinson moved to Nacogdoches, Texas
Nacogdoches, Texas
Nacogdoches is a city in Nacogdoches County, Texas, in the United States. The 2010 census recorded the city's population to be 32,996. It is the county seat of Nacogdoches County and is situated in East Texas. Nacogdoches is a sister city of Natchitoches, Louisiana.Nacogdoches is the home of...

 in 1833 and received a land grant
Land grant
A land grant is a gift of real estate – land or its privileges – made by a government or other authority as a reward for services to an individual, especially in return for military service...

 for a league of land. Robinson was elected Lieutenant Governor
Lieutenant governor
A lieutenant governor or lieutenant-governor is a high officer of state, whose precise role and rank vary by jurisdiction, but is often the deputy or lieutenant to or ranking under a governor — a "second-in-command"...

 of the provisional Texas government in 1835.
Robinson was provisional Governor of Texas in 1836 after Governor Henry Smith
Henry Smith (Texas Governor)
Henry Smith was first American-born Governor of the Mexican territory of Texas and briefly presided over the revolution there.-Early life:...

 was deposed, but Smith claimed it was invalid as there was no quorum present.

Robinson served in the Texas Army during the Texas War of Independence in 1836 and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto
Battle of San Jacinto
The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen...

. In 1835, he served as a delegate to the Texas 1835 Consultation of 1835 as a representative of the District of Nacogdoches. In 1836 he was elected District Judge, which automatically made him a Judge of the Texas Supreme Court, and served until 1840.

In 1842 he was captured and carried to Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, but arranged his release from Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

 in 1843.


Robinson moved to San Diego
San Diego, California
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round...

 in the Spring of 1850 and was one of the few lawyers there, and was fluent in Spanish, so specialized in land law.
Robinson expressed frustration at the Byzantine Spanish and Mexican land grant system, and the large size of the land grants. Robinson was one of the few Americans to speak out against U.S. recognition of Mexican land grants in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is the peace treaty, largely dictated by the United States to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico City, that ended the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848...

. He said:
These acts of national robbery, desperate like a vampire, draining the last dollar from the impoverished inhabitants of our State, without law and contrary to law."

The land grants were huge and given to a few favored people by local Mexican officials. Contrary to Mexican law, they were often not approved by the central Mexican government, and other procedures weren't followed (such as a land survey).

Robinson was City Treasurer in 1851, School Commissioner in 1854, and District Attorney in 1852–1855, President of the Board of Trustees for San Diego during 1853–1855.
Robinson helped establish the Democratic Party in San Diego, and was its early leader.

Robinson built an adobe
Adobe is a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, and some kind of fibrous or organic material , which the builders shape into bricks using frames and dry in the sun. Adobe buildings are similar to cob and mudbrick buildings. Adobe structures are extremely durable, and account for...

 house in Old Town San Diego. The first floor was leased out as a store. At various times, The adobe also served as a schoolroom, office building, Railroad Building, at times. In 1856, Robinson built porches around the first and second floors, causing the local newspaper to call it "the most pleasant in the City." This adobe has been reconstructed and serves as Old Town State Historic Park headquarters, and is open to the public.

Robinson realized that transportation would be important to San Diego. With his associate Louis Rose
Louis Rose
Louis Rose was a pioneer developer of San Diego, California. The neighborhood of Roseville in Point Loma is named for him, as are Rose Creek and Rose Canyon.-History:...

, Robinson founded the San Diego and Gila Railroad and was elected its president in 1855. The railroad was never built.

Around 1855 Robinson begin to have serious health problems.
Robinson Died 1857 in San Diego, California. His obituary in the San Diego Herald said that he was:
"the most prominent man during the last six years, in every enterprise which relate to our prosperity and advancement."

Robinson's estate wasn't settled until 1903, after all his children died. By that time he had several descendants.

External links and sources

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