rothers Elbert A. and John William Robbins formed a partnership and founded a small retail business in Rose Bud, Arkansas, in January 1883. With little formal education, but with hard work and clever business heads, the two men became quite successful in their business endeavor. The store grew rapidly to become the “largest inland store in Arkansas.”
O.B. Robbins was an attorney, schoolteacher and member of the Arkansas General Assembly in 1916-17, representing White County. The eldest son of Will and Susan, he married Minnie Lee Jones of Mt. Vernon, Arkansas, in 1917 and they moved to Heber Springs in 1919. While in Heber he became involved in the construction business and later became president of the Cleburne County Bank. He held this position until his death in 1946.
Second son Louis Elbert “Eb” Robbins was born in 1890 in Rose Bud. He married Dotte Era Martin in 1911, and they had five children: Doris Evelyn, William Elbert “Bill,” Thomas James “Tom,” Joe Nevin and Bruce Martin. Tom would be the only MD; the other boys all became dentists. “Eb” moved his family to Heber Springs, where he practiced dentistry. Through the years he acquired around 2,500 acres of land east of Heber. In 1917 he purchased the Ford Motor Company in Heber Springs. His brother Oscar Bryan “O.B.” later became owner of the Motor Company. Sometime after the death of O.B., L.E. acquired the Cleburne County Bank. L.E.’s daughter Evelyn married Albert Elmo “Shim” Barnett of Heber Springs in 1932. When they married, L.E. gave them some land, and Shim tried farming. The one bale of cotton he made wasn’t enough, so he and Evelyn moved to town. He went into business with family and together they started Barnett & Son Store. Evelyn and Shim’s marriage ended with her untimely death in 1940, and he and his two young sons moved into the home of Evelyn’s parents, L.E. and Dotte, where they lived for seven years.
Son Bill, who was born in 1915 in Rose Bud, married Ina Spencer. Bill became a dentist, and he and Ina had two children, Dorothy Ann and James William. L.E.’s son Tom, the MD, married Martha Rose Harness of Heber Springs in 1934. It was while Martha Rose was in Little Rock with some friends that she received the news of her husband’s death. He was in the military and was killed in Normandy, France, in June 1944. Son Joe, also a dentist, was the first of L.E.’s children to be born in Heber Springs. In 1942 he married Wanda Mae Brown of Harrisburg, Arkansas. They had four children: Nevin, Evelyn (who lives in Heber with her husband Mike Irwin) and twins Jon and Jim. Bruce, the youngest child, was born in Heber Springs in 1926. Also a dentist, he married Jeanne Vance of Paducah, Kentucky. Their three children are Tom, Ken and Mark.
Another of Will’s sons was John William Jr. who married twice – first to Blanche Pearson of Rose Bud, and then to Lillian Baker of Heber Springs. He and Lillian had one child, Patsy Joy, who is married to Samuel Bingham Rector of Heber Springs. Virgie Estella, the second daughter and fourth child of Will, was born in Rose Bud in 1893. She married John Edgar Webb, and they had two children, Vivian Robbins and John Edgar. Wiley Hail, the last son of Will, was born in 1897 in Rose Bud. For years he traveled for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. He returned to Heber Springs where he lived in L.E.’s home for a number of years. He worked in the Cleburne County Bank and ran a wholesale parts store that was located behind Alexander’s Restaurant. Wiley never married. Will’s last child was Mary Ella. She married Joel Stanford Gifford of Rose Bud. Their two children are Joel Jr. and Julia Minette.
Although the Robbins family didn’t arrive in Cleburne County until 1916, once they settled in, they became active in the community. They’ve farmed and ranched and practiced dentistry. They’ve been owner, president and officers in the Cleburne County Bank. They’ve owned an automobile agency and parts store and been teachers, attorneys and doctors. They helped start the special education program in the Heber Springs schools, helped industry to locate to Cleburne County, and been on the local school board. They ran a restaurant and started an egg hatchery. They’ve been active in federated men’s and women’s clubs and in their churches. This family, in less than 100 years, has truly made its mark on Cleburne County.
(For additional information on the Robbins family, see the 1976 and 1979 White County Heritage.)