By Thomas K. Robbins
The publication of Ida Tarbell’s “In the Footsteps of the Lincolns” in 1924 generated renewed interest in the Robbins Burial Ground in Upper Freehold Township and in Deborah Lincoln, who was President Abraham Lincoln’s great-grand aunt.
This may have been the reason for Dr. Edward McCue Bodine to declare he owned it.
Bodine published a notice in the Allentown Messenger in 1924 that read “… from this
date no interments can be made in the cemetery lot known as the ‘Copperhill’ on the
Shrewsbury Road below Coxes corner without permission from the owner, Dr. Edward
M. Bodine, Piqua, Ohio. Dated September 15, 1924.”
Charles Percy Hutchinson, a trustee for the burial ground, wrote to Bodine on
Oct. 20, 1924, asking if he meant the Robbins Burial Ground instead.
” … Mr. George B. Robbins and myself are the trustees of this burying ground known as the Robbins Burying Ground, and hold title thereto by virtue of a series of conveyances beginning with a deed from Daniel Robbins for the same, dated December 12, 1762, and followed by a series of deeds dated March 3, 1796, September 16, 1847, January 1, 1884, and May 17, 1923. I should be glad to have you advise me for greater certainty, if your
notice in fact refers to the tract of which I am one of the Trustees…”
Copperhill never existed on Shrewsbury Road and Dr. Bodine probably meant
Covell Hill, which the Robbins Burial Ground was also known as.
In fact, Bodine later admits his mistake in a response to Hutchinson on Oct. 22, 1924, declaring he is the owner: “… the plot I have referenced is known as Covell Hill cemetery not Copperfield as [the] advertisement wrote by mistake.
“It adjoins the Irons’ Farm (Covell Hill) and was part of the property originally belonging to my great grandfather and was to be used only for burial purposes for old soldiers of the Revolutionary War and subject to the family’s discretion afterward
” … my mother told me some years before her death for me to look after this place and not let anyone make interments there … as this property is supposed to be mine as given by my mother. Perhaps you refer to the little church burial ground in the same road between Cox’s corner and this place … ”
What right did Bodine have to the burial ground? He never lived near the burial
ground. However, he was the grandson of Andrew McCue who, in 1822, purchased the
6.15-acre tract next to Covell Hill from Joseph Hughes.
Dr. Bodine’s mother grew up on the farm and Bodine would return to the area to visit relatives living in the area on different occasions.
What is interesting is that Bodine’s mother directs him to care for the cemetery
where “… old soldiers of the Revolutionary War … ” are buried.
In my research of the burial ground, I have never encountered any Revolutionary War veterans buried there. There are veterans from the Civil War, but no Revolutionary War veterans.
I found a Daughters of the American Revolution citation that Randal Robbins, who is buried
there, was a veteran, but could not find any official records backing up his service in the
Whether Hutchinson followed up with Bodine remains a mystery since there were
no additional letters to review.
But the deed for the burial ground was transferred to new trustees in 1943, which included the West, Flock, Rue and Field families, continuing the succession of trustees from 1762.
The deeds are currently held by Mrs. Beverly Kennedy, granddaughter of Neil West, a trustee on the 1943 deed.
Thomas K. Robbins is a resident of Havre de Grace, Md., and a descendant of the Robbins family of the Allentown-Upper Freehold Township area.