top of page

Robinson Cemetery lineage rich in Marion County history

This is the original plat map of Robinson Cemetery, drawn in 1921.


When Moses Gentry was about 27 years old circa 1825, he came to Missouri from Virginia, settling in Marion County’s South River Township. There he held a land grant for 85 acres located in Township 59 West, Range 6 West, Section 23.

In order to transform the virgin land into profitable agricultural acreage, he likely brought along slaves from Virginia – the custom of the day. Thus the Virginia transplant and the slaves he owned, became pioneer Missouri settlers.

Moses Gentry married Nancy Vanlandingham on March 1, 1831 in Marion County. By the time the census taker came to call in 1840, his household consisted of 16 individuals, including 9 slaves.

Nancy would predecease her husband, and by 1850, he was married to Ann P. Gentry.

His children included James N. Gentry, born in 1831; Fanny Gentry, born about 1834; Lewis H. Gentry, born around 1835; Sarah E. Gentry, birth date around 1838; and Ann E. Gentry, born circa 1841. (Annie married P.B. Foreman. She died in November 1921)

Also living with the Gentry family in 1850 was Moses Gentry’s mother, Elizabeth Gentry, 89.

Moses Gentry continued to accumulate land until his holdings were considered by some to be a plantation of sorts.

Child born

into slavery

It was on that plantation that Martha Tate was born into slavery. She told the story of her birth to her children, who repeated the story in their mother’s death notice, which was published in the July 2, 1921 edition of the Quincy Daily Herald: “Mrs. Tate was one of the last colored women in this part of the country who was born in slavery. She was born in Marion County, Missouri, near West Ely, on the plantation of Mose Gentry.”

She was married to Isaac Tate in 1863, who - according to his Civil War registration record - was also born into slavery. He was owned by Wm. Caldwell, of South River Township.

Mr. Caldwell, Kentucky-born in 1826, married Mary Ann Sites in October 1848 in Marion County, Mo., and Mary A. Church in 1853. Between his two marriages, he fathered some 14 children, according to reports accessed through In 1860, William Caldwell lived in South River Township, and owned nine slaves.

Lasting marriage

The marriage of Martha and Isaac (born about 1835) was both fruitful and long-lasting.

Their 11 children included Eliza, born about 1860; Nancy, born about 1862; Laura Tate, born about 1864; Mary J., born about 1867; Bebe Tate, born about 1868; Charity Tate, born 1873; Joseph Tate, born 1874; Martha Tate, born 1875; Lucy Tate, born in 1877, and William Tate, born 1878. In 1900, they reported to the census taker that seven of their children were still living.

While neither Isaac or Martha could read or write, they made sure that their own children attended school. By 1900, Isaac and Martha owned a farm in South River Township, free and clear. Living with them in 1900 was their son, William, working as a farm hand, and two granddaughters, Nettie and Elsie Webb. They reported that they had lived in the same house throughout their 37-year marriage.

Their union ended upon the death of Isaac, circa 1908. By April 1910, Martha Tate was living with her son William and his family, presumably in the house where she raised her family.

While that situation worked well for William, in 1910 he was but one of Martha’s five surviving adult children.

Family lawsuit

In 1913, daughter Laura Tate Robinson filed a partition suit, in order to force her father’s farm to be sold and the proceeds divided equally among his heirs.

Daughter’s role

Laura was 42 years old in 1906 when she married Arthur Lee Robinson, a year her senior. She brought to the marriage a son, Louis Washington, about age 15 at the time of his mother’s marriage. In 1910, the new, blended family was living at 418 Spruce St., Hannibal. Arthur (who went by his middle name, Lee) was a railroad shop laborer.

She named her mother, her siblings and other heirs in the partition suit, asking for the sale of her father’s property, described:

“The north half of the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 28 and the east half of the southwest quarter of said section 28, all in township fifty seven of range six west, except the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of said tract.”

The land was located to the south west of the town of West Ely, in the South River Township of Marion County, Mo.

Following a favorable ruling by the court, the 90-acre farm was sold at the courthouse steps in February 1914 to Dudley Hutcherson and W.P. Johnson, for $2,300.

In 1920, Lee and Laura Robinson were living at 2516 Hope St., owned their own home and Lee was working as a coach cleaner for the railroad. Laura’s mother, Martha was living with the Robinsons. The following year, Martha died while visiting another daughter, Mrs. Josie Johnson of Keokuk, Iowa. Yet another surviving daughter, in addition to Laura Robinson, was Mrs. Mary Young of Quincy, Ill.

A new cemetery

The next year following her mother’s death, Lee and Laura Robinson made a bold move. They purchased land previously owned by Elisha W. and Melissa Capp, and had the land surveyed and platted for the development of Robinson Cemetery. Some cemeteries of the day forbid the burial of people of Negro descent, thus Robinson Cemetery was created to serve people of color.

The property was located just to the east of the Elzea addition, bordered to the north by Clark Street, and to the south by Robinson Street. The eastern edge of the Elzea addition and the western edge of the cemetery property was the border of the city limits; thus the cemetery is located outside of the city limits.

Plot owners listed on the original cemetery plat are: George Bell, William Webester, Nelson Query, Mrs. Lottie Johnson, Misses Elizabeth and Rosalie Jones, Jesse Letcher, W.R. Herrington, John Hueston, Mrs. Warren Clay, Nathan Holman, Mabel Sanders, Chas Settles, James Johnson, John Miles, Robert Tayler, Dr. O.C. Queen, James Starks, Sylvester Robinson, A.L. Robinson, Emma Jackson, Mrs. Maggie Nickens, Howard Williams, Artemas McFadden, James Henderson, Nelson Crow, Laura Hughs, Tom Allen, Andrew Tyler, Benjamin Morrison, Mrs. Henry McElroy, Sonnie Britts, Mrs. Lizzie Newberry and Arthur Morrison.

Death calls

Laura (Tate) Robinson died Sept. 3, 1945, at the age of 71. She and her husband were living on Clark Street at the time of her death.

Albert Lee Robinson, Laura’s husband, and the son of Edward Robinson and Clara Moore Robinson, died Feb. 11, 1949. He was in the cemetery business at the time of his death. A notation on his death certificate says he burned to death, and it was likely that his clothes caught on fire. The accident occurred at his home. He was 84 years of age. Both Laura and Albert Lee Robinson are buried at Robinson Cemetery.

The graves of Lee and Laura Robinson, cemetery founders, are on the north side of the main road, several stones behind the Queen family plot, shown at left. PHOTO / MARY LOU MONTGOMERY

 Recent Posts 
bottom of page