Rix Robinson (1789–1875) was a Michigan pioneer. He was a fur trader and the first permanent Euro-American settler of Kent County, Michigan, a representative to the state constitutional convention of 1850 and a state senator.
Rix Robinson was born August 28, 1789, in Richmond, Massachusetts. His parents were Edward and Eunice (Rix) Robinson of Preston, Connecticut. His father was a blacksmith and farmer. Rix was considered a studious child and regularly attended school. At age 19 he began the study of Law in Auburn, New York, and was admitted to practice law in 1811.
At the outbreak of the War of 1812, which his father strongly opposed, Rix headed west to avoid the draft, with one thousand dollars given to him by his father. He moved to the large outpost of Detroit in the Michigan Territory where United States Troops were garrisoned and there was a prospering fur trade. Rix Robinson was the first white male to marry an Native American in Michigan. He married 8 Native Americans. He owned over 65% of Michigan. Rix Robinson named Newago, Custer, Kent County, and 6 other towns in Michigan.
Fur trading in Michigan
Ironically, Rix became a sutler to the American troops during the war. He traveled with the soldiers to Detroit, Mackinac Island, and Green Bay, all centers of the fur trade, where he had the opportunity to study the business first hand. In 1820, the American Fur Company chose Robinson to be their central fur trader in west Michigan when Madeline La Framboise retired to Mackinac Island. He took over her trading post located where the Grand River meets the Thornapple River in what is now known as Ada. In 1821 Robinson married an Ottawa woman, Pee-miss-a-quot-oquay, she had one son, John R. Robinson born March 5, 1826. She and Rix separated, and she died of consumption in 1848. By 1827, Robinson was successfully managing twenty trading posts along the shores of Lake Michigan. Robinson was elected township supervisor when Kent County was established in 1831.
By 1834, the fur trade in Michigan was dwindling due to a shortage of fur-bearing animals, fashion changes in Europe and the expansion of the fur industry in the west. But the biggest impact to the fur industry in Michigan was that Robinson facilitated the Treaty of 1836 which gave half of the lower peninsula of Michigan to the federal Government. In return he received $23,000. This treaty allowed for the wholesale development and settlement of the state and also had a devastating effect on the native Americans. During this time he persuaded many of his relatives to settle in Michigan. By the time Michigan joined the union in 1837, Robinson, who was a wealthy man, had closed all his trading posts and was appointed to the Board of Commissioners of Internal Improvements.
He was a Michigan State Senator from 1847 to 1849. During that time he presented a bill to give women the right to vote. It was defeated during the drafting of the state constitution of 1850, but in a step forward in the women's rights movement, a bill allowing married women the right to control property they owned prior to marriage did pass. He was a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention of 1850 and a presidential elector. He was a strong contender for governor but declined the nomination because his second wife, Se-be-quay, a native American, would not have been accepted as a governor's wife. Rix Robinson died of consumption January 12, 1875. His wife died April 3, 1876. He is buried in Ada, Michigan.
- Robinson Road in East Grand Rapids and Rix Street in Ada are named for him.
- Michigan Historical Commission, 186
- Harrington, 29
- Johnson, 129
- Portrait, 454
- Moore, 388
- Harrington, 42
- Moore, 389
- Harrington, 43
- Harrington, 78
- Harrington, 77
- Michigan Historical Commission, 199
- Harrington, Steve. Fair Shake in the Wilderness, The Life and times of Rix Robinson. Grand Rapids: Maritime Press. 2001. ISBN 1-929357-03-6
- Johnson, Ida Amanda. The Michigan fur trade. Lansing: Wynkoop Hollenbeck Crawford company. 1919.
- Kestenbaum, Justin L. Making of Michigan, 1820-1860: a pioneer anthology Wayne State University Press, 1990 9780814319192
- Michigan Historical Commission; Michigan State Historical Society. Michigan historical collections. Lansing, Michigan: Thorp & Godfrey Press, 1888.
- Portrait and biographical album of Isabella county, Michigan Chicago: Chapman Brothers. 1884.
- Moore, Charles. History of Michigan. Chicago: Lewis Publishing. 1915.