Select Tobin Miscellany



Here are some Tobin stories and accounts over the years:


Early Tobins in Kilkenny and Tipperary


In 1204 William de St, Aubyn was one of the early Norman settlers granted lands around Kells in Kilkenny. He was described as the Lord of Stamacharty (or Stonecarthy which is in the barony of Kells).  William also possessed lands in Slieveadagh in Tipperary. 

In Kilkenny his descendants held a half knight fee in Killamery in the 13th century and afterwards. They soon acquired Ballagh near Callan which they renamed Ballytobin. 
A coat of arms was granted to this Tobin family.  It depicted three silver oak leaves on an azure shield, the crest being a red demi-lion rampant holding between the paws an oak branch proper. 

A
bout the same time they became lords of Cumsy (Cumsinagh) in Tipperary where some still exist today. The Tobins became so influential in Tipperary that in mediaeval times the head of the family was known as the Baron of Coursey. 

In 1334, according to the Annals of Ireland, John Tobin the lord of Cumsy was treacherously slain in his own chapel by the sons of Walter Tobin whom he had trusted.  Two years later a duel was arranged between the kinsmen of John and the sons of Walter Tobin.  Both parties pledged themselves to fight.  But the sons of Walter, fearing the issue of their treachery, declined the contest.
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James Tobin and Slavery


Around 1780 James Tobin brought his half-sister, Ann Tobin, to Bristol from Nevis.  Ann was the daughter of a black slave mother.  In 1788 Tobin also brought African servants George Elliot and Pricilla Gould to his home in Berkley Square in Bristol.  They were taken from his sugar plantations in the West Indies.  It was indeed a regular occurrence for planters and other wealthy business people to have black slaves and servants in their British homes.

James Tobin owned the Stoney Grove estate on
 Nevis where he had around 175 slaves.  He was an anti-abolitionist and argued fervently against ending the trade on the grounds that it would wreck havoc with the defence and wealth of the British Empire.  His campaigning against the abolition of slavery included producing several pamphlets, as well as writing severe responses to articles and books by abolitionists.    In 1790 Tobin gave evidence before a select committee in the House of Commons.  He outlined the reasons why the West India Society, of which he was a member, was pro-slavery. 

I
n 1817, on the year of his death, there were 213 enslaved people on the Stoney Grove estate.


John Tobin and Slavery

The Tobins were an important merchant family in Liverpool at a time when the city was rapidly expanding at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. Two Tobin brothers John and Thomas - were master mariners. They built their prosperity on the African trade, especially palm oil and ivory, but also slavery.  They had estates in Africa which employed many black people.

After emancipation in 1833 many of these slaves came to England.  It was not uncommon to see black people in Liverpool who bore a mark identifying them as having once been on the servitude of the Tobins.

John became Mayor of Liverpool in 1819 and was knighted on the ascension of George IV the following year.



Tobins in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia

One Tobin family history began in the 1820s with five Tobin brothers who left Ireland together, either from Tipperary or Cork.  Two settled in Newfoundland when the ship anchored there. The remaining three brothers - Nicholas, Patrick and Thomas - settled in the Sydney area of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Nicholas Tobin, born in Ireland in 1798, married Ann Wilson around 1825.  They raised eleven children.  Nicholas died in Nova Scotia at the age of 89 in 1887.  Their descendants have held family reunions



Margaret Tobin aka the Unsinkable Molly Brown

Margaret Tobin was born in 1867 into the "shanty town" section of Hannibal, Missouri.  After working as a waitress and in a tobacco factory, Margaret moved west to Colorado where she met and married James Brown who had dreams of striking it rich in the gold mines.  His dream was fulfilled and they became fabulously wealthy.

However, wealth did not bring Margaret, or Molly Brown as she was more commonly known, social acceptance among the society women of Denver.  She was snubbed by them.  However she sought consolation in travel.

In 1912, after a trip to Europe, Molly Brown chose to return home on the doomed British ship the Titanic.  When the ship struck an iceberg, she took charge of one of the lifeboats and helped others get through the ordeal by virtue of her indomitable spirit. She sang songs and raised spirits by refusing to give in to fear - the Titanic might be going down, she told the others, but she was unsinkable.

Molly, who was forever thereafter known as "the unsinkable Molly Brown," was hailed as a heroine by fellow survivors and became a celebrity.  She lived onto 1932.



The Tobin House on Nob Hill

The prominent San Francisco lawyer Richard Tobin built one of the earliest mansions on Nob Hill in 1870.  He and his wife Mary erected their Second Empire residence on the southeast corner of California and Taylor Streets two years before David Colton built his wood-frame, Neo-Classical residence nearby in 1872.  Richard died in 1887.  But his wife was still alive, although not there, at the time of the terrible fire of 1895.

The fire was apparently caused by neglectful house painters.  A contemporary account stated:

"The flames were being swept by the high wind through the bedrooms of the second story and along beneath the high mansard roof. The building had been erected thirty years ago and was built in the style of those times, with a total disregard for protection against fire.

The spaces between the outer and inner walls served the fire as so many chimneys and the falling spares dropped down to the first story, where in a short time they set fire to the building in fresh places. For a short time it looked as though the fine old structure was doomed, but the firemen worked hard to save it.  Ladders were run to the roof and several lines of hose were directed against the flames from the top. In fact they fairly flooded the house.

The house presented a sorry appearance when the flames were conquered. The south wall was riddled with large holes from the first story to the roof. At least ten rooms in the second story were gutted. The west side of the building was but little better than the south, but on the north and east sides the structure is not badly injured."

The total loss was estimated to have been in the order of $10-15,000. There was only $5,000 insurance on the house and none on the contents as far as could be ascertained.


Then came the Great Earthquake of 1906 and the Tobin House, as well as other fashionable houses on Nob Hill, were demolished.  The Huntington Hotel now stands in its place
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