"Good Morning Earlington:
Irish Immigrant Changes History"
A more intensive look into our past often appears to make our world seem smaller connecting each of us more closely. Take for example the story of George Robinson, who immigrated as a teenager from the Isle of Mann in the Irish Sea to the US. Perhaps the reason was the potato famine when many in his homeland were starving. Nevertheless, George landed in Chicago and soon enlisted in the Union Army. As a corporal in the light artillery division in the Battle of Shiloh, he felt the war was over none too soon. He mustered out 24 July ’65 in Alabama at the age of 29 and was told to "go home." Knowing he would have a long trek home to Illinois, he decided to walk rather than ride the over-crowded boat heading north. Although this decision was fortunate for George, it was fatal for most of the 5,000 men crammed into the boat. George walked until one day he could go no further. He fell ill soon after crossing the Tennessee line into Pulaski County. As luck would have it, he was taken in by a farm family, the Daniels. For almost a year he was nursed by them until he was well enough to continue his journey.
As it happened, George wed the daughter of the house, 18 year old Elzie (Elsie) Daniels. Traveling across Tennessee into Kentucky, the couple arrived in Hopkins County-- Earlington to be exact-- where George was offered a job in a mines. George might have worked for Cook Mines, the first mines operating in the county in 1837. Nevertheless, here with other Irish immigrants the two settled and reared four children.
Their first born Benjamin arrived the following year. The next two children--Georgiana (two years later) and Josephine (four years after Georgiana)--were born In Illinois. When last child Edgar was born two years later in ’74, the couple again resided in Earlington. At one time Mrs. Elzie and her family lived on E. Main Street. (That was at 203, the same house where I was reared and my family has owned since the early 50s.)
Tragically, the Robinsons could not know that a short 12 years later in 1886 George would die in a mining accident, a roof fall (possibly at St. Bernard). Elzie would live another 35 years, passing away in 1921 when she was laid to rest for eternity beside George at Oakwood Cemetery under a large tree.
In October 28, 1886, the year of George’s death, another event occurred which would change both the Robinson family’s as well as Earlington’s history. George and Elzie’s elder daughter Georgiana at the age of 20 married Dan M. Evans, cashier and manager of the Earlington Coke Works (1903), future mayor of the city, member of the Board of Health (1908) and trustee of the first school board (1903). In 1927 he and Georgie would donate the Evans’ homeplace on the corner of E. Main and Day to the city for the erection of a new high school which would be known until 1964 as Earlington High School.
Georgie’s younger sister Josie (Josephine Eleanor) would become one of Earlington’s first teachers and later marry Frank B. Arnold October 11, 1891. Frank was cashier for St. Bernard and later for Earlington Bank before becoming trust officer at Madisonville’s KY Bank. An interesting fact of Earlington history is that Frank and Josie bought an acre from St. Bernard a year after their marriage and built a home on the corner of W. Main and McEuen. It was here that their son Edgar F. Arnold (later known as Edgar Sr. and owner of The Messenger) was born in 1895. Years later their house would be known as the King home and is now owned by Marcia Hibbs.
The two sons of Georgie and Josie (cousins Ben Evans and George Arnold) became close sharing a love for aviation. Together they learned to successfully construct gliders and, using bicycle tires, rolled them across Pasture Hill and any other rise high enough from which to soar over the area. This childhood fascination would spur George to graduate as an engineer from UK and to work in China for Curtiss-Wright in the ‘30s (narrowly escaping Japanese raids on his plant in China by driving across her backroads). In ’41 George would begin the first of several of his own plants making aircraft parts used in WW II. (Following the war, his plants would convert to manufacturing aluminum building supplies.)
Little is known about the Robinson’s oldest child Ben. However, he and his wife (along with Elzie and daughters Josie Arnold and Georgia Evans) were listed as members of the 1st Christian Church 1890 roll. It was Benjamin and J.W. Day who comprised the church’s first building committee.
Younger son Edgar Franklin Robinson would work for the L&N Railroad. Edgar’s son John R. Robinson currently resides in Scarsdale, NY. The art of tying together all of these stories is through the courtesy of George Robinson’s descendents--John (grandson) and Edgar Arnold, Jr. (Madisonville, great-grandson). George Robinson—Who would have known that this Irish immigrant’s descendents would change history… that of Earlington, Hopkins County, and America. How strange that the more we learn the smaller our world becomes!
Ann Gipson 12-07-01