Benaiah Robinson was one of the more influential County Surveyors of Madison County
in its development.  He held this position longer than any other person.  He was appointed
to the position from 1820 to 1825 and was elected from 1835 to 1853.  In addition to this
post, he was elected as a delegate to the 2nd Constitutional Convention to the State of
Illinois in 1847.  Always one who believed strongly in education, he was one of the
founders of the Edwardsville Public Library, the first public library in the newly formed
State of Illinois.

His Life

Benaiah Robinson was born on March 11, 1796 in Lincoln County, North Carolina at a
location around 10 miles Southeast of the Battle of King’s Mountain.  He was the son of
Mary and John Robinson.  John, it is believed, was a veteran of the North Carolina
Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  He had an older brother also named
John and two younger brothers named James and Gedion.  Based upon probate
information, it appears he also had two sisters named Margaret and Eliza.

The family moved to Illinois in the early 1800’s, arriving first at Kaskaskia and later
settling in what would become Edwardsville in 1809.  By 1812, Benaiah had learned to
read and write well and decided it was time to learn ‘Figures’ (Mathematics).  He borrowed
books from other local settlers and since plank wood was scarce at the time, he procured a
piece of plank wood from a Walnut tree, blackened it, and used it as a blackboard to
practice.  In 1814, John Robinson (Sr.) had purchased over 480 acres of land from the
Federal Government.

By 1817, Benaiah had taught himself mathematics up to and including trigonometry and
applied as a deputy surveyor under Ashael Enloe who was commissioned as the County
Surveyor.  By the end of 1817, John Sawyer had become appointed as County Surveyor
and he hired Benaiah as his assistant.  Since Mr. Sawyer had an eye deficiency, he
appointed Benaiah to perform the work in exchange for half of the pay of the County
Surveyor.  By February of 1821, Benaiah was appointed by the Legislature as County
Surveyor.  Among his jobs were the marking of the street rights of ways for the Original
Town of Edwardsville.  He helped found the Edwardsville Library Association and in
1823 was listed as one of its officers.  This was the first public library in the State of

In 1825 he left the state, but declines to give a reason.  His father had died in 1821 and
his brother James died in 1825.  Probate records seem to show difficulties in finances in
the handling James’ estate and that may have been a source for his leaving.  It is
unknown as to what he did between 1825 and 1830.  He also had run for state office in
1822 and 1824, but lost.  When he returned in 1830, he taught school and wrote a Farmer’
s Almanac in 1832 and 1833.  He married Jane Hoxey on August 1, 1830.

In 1835, the office of County Surveyor became one elected by the populace of the county,
and he was won the election by defeating Girshom Flagg.  He held the position for four
successive terms and was asked to serve a two-year term afterwards.  He ran as a
delegate to the Second Constitutional Convention of the State of Illinois in 1847 and was
elected with more total votes than that of all of the other candidates combined.

In 1853, he packed up his family and headed over the Oregon Trail with his wife and
four children.  They settled in Benton County, Oregon in October of 1853.  He signed an
Oath of Allegiance to the US in March of 1865.  He died on March 24, 1869.  At the time of
his death, he owned over 750 Acres in Township 11 South, Range 5 West.

Based upon the writings of his from various sources, he appears to be a well educated
man even though he appeared to be mainly self-taught.  He owned or developed the
majority of the area that is now within the City of Edwardsville and was a business
partner with major politicians of the day such as Ninian Edwards and Benjamin
Stephenson.  He had a repertoire as a Surveyor, Teacher, Author, Farmer, Businessman,
Philanthropist, Politician, and Developer.  He may have been one of the most influential
people in the early development of Madison County, Illinois.
Benaiah Robinson
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