Sunday, April 12, 2009

Willis Eugene Robison

Willis E Robison was born in Crete, Illinois on March 1st, 1854. Shortly thereafter, his parents, Benjamin Hancock Robison and Lillis Alvira Andree sold their home and made their way to Utah to join the Saints. His family settled in the old fort at Filmore. In 1874 he married Sarah Ann Ellett and moved to Scipio, Utah. He was called to serve a mission in the Southern States in October 1882. While on his mission his father passed away.

For some time he served as the companion of Elder John H. Gibbs at Cane Creek and the surrounding area. In August 1884 he was in Centreville Hickman County, where he heard rumors of what would come to be known as the Cane Creek Massacre. Realizing that none of the information he was getting was reliable, Elder Robison decided to go the Cane Creek himself to determine exactly what happened.

He felt the need to disguise himself; choosing the identity of an itinerant cotton picker on his way to Wayne County on the far side of Cane Creek. As a precaution he removed his temple garments, religiously symbolic clothing worn underneath street clothes, that would identify him as a Mormon missionary to anyone who searched him.

As expected he was stopped on the road into Lewis County, searched for temple garments (which they did not find) and offered chewing tobacco. Robison had a tobacco habit prior to his mission and was able to convincingly accept their offer.

Robison made it to the Conder home and returned to meet the other missionaries and report on conditions in Lewis County. Afterwards, he was designated to accompany the bodies of Gibbs and Berry back to Utah.

After returning from his mission, Robison became active in politics, serving in two legislatures and on the Utah State Constitutional Convention.

On May 11th 1889 his wife, Sarah, gave birth to twin boys. In an obvious tribute to the two missionaries who died at the Cane Creek Massacre they were name Gibbs Robison and Berry Robison. Altogether Robison had 14 children; 12 with his first wife and 2 with his second wife Emma Elizabeth Reeve. He later married two other women with whom he had no children.

He was called as President of the Wayne County Stake, and later ordained a Patriarch.

Robison died at the age of 83 on 28 June 1937 in his home in Hinkley, Utah. After his death, his granddaughter, Margaret Robison Swensen, published a 170 page book of his poems written around the turn of the century.
As Life Passes, Selected Poetry of America's Western Frontier. a collection of poems written at the turn of the century by Willis Eugene Robison, is a must-have, remarkable keepsake. An assembly of his finest poems, As Life Passes, shows that the values of Willis' time are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Willis' wit, wisdom, and insight is as fresh as today, yet it gives the reader a vivid picture of the frontier in the late 1800s. Willis' poems were popular with friends and family while he yet lived. His poem, Lou Ketchum was required reading in the local school. Students were challenged to memorize it for its moral values. As Life Passes becomes a more important work as our life passes into new areas of morality, religious awareness, and family values of this generation. Talented in the art of symbolizing emotion, ideals, and experience, Willis makes you cry and laugh, as well as live the life and episodes of this man of the plains, legislature, father, missionary, and church leader.

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