Aubrey Robinson (Hawaii)

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Aubrey Robinson
Aubrey Robinson (vol. 2, 1921).jpg
Born (1853-10-17)October 17, 1853
Canterbury, New Zealand
Died July 7, 1936(1936-07-07)
Makaweli, Kauaʻi
Occupation Planter, Rancher

Aubrey Robinson (1853–1936) was an owner of a sugarcane plantation and a ranch consisting of an entire island in the Hawaiian Islands.


Aubrey Robinson was born in Canterbury, New Zealand on October 17, 1853. His father was Charles Barrington Robinson and mother was Helen Sinclair. His grandmother, Elizabeth McHutchison (1800–1892), also spelled McHutcheson, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, married Francis Sinclair in 1824 and moved to New Zealand in 1840 with their six children. In 1846 her husband and eldest son died at sea.[1] With her remaining children and grandchildren, she left New Zealand heading for Canada. When they arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in September 1863, King Kamehameha IV suggested they stay and purchase some land. Although the King soon died, the family purchased the entire island of Niʻihau from King Kamehameha V for US$10,000 on January 23, 1864.[2] In 1865, Eliza Sinclair purchased the ahupuaʻa of Makaweli (21,844 ac.) from Victoria Kamāmalu Ka‘ahumanu for $15,000.[3]

Robinson was educated at home and attended the Boston University School of Law and was admitted to the bar in eastern courts.[4] He spent a number of years traveling in Europe and Asia, and, on his return to Hawaii, managed the family estates after the death of his uncle Francis Sinclair with his cousin (also brother-in-law), Francis Gay, under the firm name of Gay & Robinson. Other partners were Elizabeth Sinclair, Jane Sinclair Gay and Helen Sinclair Robinson. Their island of Niʻihau was used exclusively by Gay & Robinson for grazing cattle, as was much of their Makaweli estate. Robinson raised pure-bred sheep and cattle, and imported strains of Merino sheep and shorthorn cattle from the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[5]

Robinson developed the Makaweli sugar plantation on Kauaʻi, on which the Hawaiian Sugar Company leased about 6,000 acres (24 km2). Besides this land, the firm of Gay & Robinson had a sugar plantation of more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) on the same estate. In 1884, Robinson imported purebred Arabian horses.[5] Robinson took an active interest in church and missionary work both in Hawaii and abroad.[5]

Family and legacy[edit]

Aubrey Robinson in 1901

His aunt Anne Sinclair married Kauaʻi sugar planter Valdemar Knudsen (1819–1898) in 1867.[6] Robinson married his first cousin Alice Gay in 1885, daughter of Captain Thomas Gay and Jane (Sinclair) Gay. They had four sons: Sinclair Robinson (May 1, 1886 - 1964), Aylmer Francis Robinson (May 6, 1888 – 1967), Selwyn Aubrey Robinson (August 14, 1892 - 1984), and Lester Beauclerk Robinson (1901–October 1969) and one daughter, Eleanor (1898 - 1986).[5] Robinson died on his estate in 1936, and the Kauai estate passed to his wife and their five children and Niihau going to Aylmer and Lester.[7] His descendants have kept the tradition of treating Niʻihau as private, earning it the name "Forbidden Island".[8] Niʻihau was owned by Lester's wife Helen Matthew Robinson (1910–2002)[9] and then as of 2008, her sons Bruce and Keith Robinson.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rosemary Novitz. "Sinclair, Elizabeth 1800 - 1892: Homemaker, farmer, plantation owner". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ John R. K. Clark (1990). Beaches of Kaua'i and Ni'ihau. University of Hawaii Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-8248-1260-7. 
  3. ^ Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i Job Code: KAUAI LANDFILL, Pu‘u o Pāpa‘i, Makaweli Ahupua‘a, Pg. 9.
  4. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. XI. J. T. White company. 1901. p. 284. 
  5. ^ a b c d John William Siddall, ed. (1921). Men of Hawaii: being a biographical reference library, complete and authentic, of the men of note and substantial achievement in the Hawaiian Islands. Honolulu Star-Bulletin. p. 341. 
  6. ^ "The Sinclair Family". official web page. Eric A. Knudsen Trust. Archived from the original on February 17, 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  7. ^ Robert Hobart Davis, George Thomas Armitage, Hawaii, U.S.A. (1941), p. 34.
  8. ^ Treena Shapiro (October 29, 1999). "'Forbidden Island' kept in family". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  9. ^ Douglas Martin (August 7, 2002). "Helen Robinson, Island Matriarch, Dies at 91; Preserved Native Culture on Niihau in Hawaii". New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  10. ^ Hank Soboleski (May 16, 2008). "Island History : Lester Robinson". The Garden Island. Retrieved October 12, 2010.