The street names in every community run from the mundane (First Street, Second Street, etc…) to the obvious (Main Street), to the ones named after trees (Maple Street, Pine Street, etc…) and U.S. Presidents (Washington Street, Lincoln Street, etc…). Likewise, in every community there are streets named after residents of the area that played a role in shaping the area in one way or another.
In Manistee’s case there are several streets named after local pioneer residents that are fairly well-known to us today (Ramsdell, Engelmann, Filer, etc.) as well as those named after pioneers that are not as well remembered.
One of these lesser-remembered names is George W. Robinson of which Robinson Street (which begins just a little west of West Sixth Street near today’s Kennedy Elementary or old Manistee High School) is named after.
George W. Robinson, at age 29, was voted Manistee’s first mayor when the city became incorporated in 1869. The first charter election of the city was held on March 15, 1869 and resulted in Robinson receiving the majority of votes for mayor with 115 votes.
G.W.’s primary way of making a living was as a lumberman and it was through his partnership with several other lumbermen (including Mark S. Tyson…another lesser-known pioneer lumberman from Manistee’s history) of the late 1860s and early 1870s, that he became well regarded among the people enough to earn those aforementioned 115 votes.
In 1870, Robinson helped organize the Manistee River Improvement Company which was formed to clear jams out of the river in order to give lumber companies a clearer navigation of logs down the Manistee River. With an unobstructed path, the logs had a better way of making it down the river where they would later be manufactured into lumber via one of the area’s sawmills.
Around this same time, Robinson also purchased a tract of land located in and around the area of today’s Robinson Street. The land continues to be known today in titles and abstracts as “G.W. Robinson’s Addition”, thus the street being named after him. He also co-owned a portion of land in the same vicinity with real estate guru George Hart which is referred to as “Hart and Robinson’s Addition”.
After losing nearly $26,000 of property in the Great Fire of 1871, as well as more money in the beginnings of a long economic depression in the nation, Robinson remained in Manistee until he announced his removal to Pensacola, Florida in December of 1872 to engage in the lumber industry.
In mid-August of 1894, Robinson returned to Manistee with the Manistee Advocate publishing a brief mention of his visit:
“George W. Robinson, an old time mill man of this city (and the first mayor of Manistee) was paying his respects to friends at this point last week. George used to own the mills run by Louis Sands, but went down in the crash of the 70s and drifted to the south, where he struck it rich in pine lands and mills near Pensacola, which he later sold to an English syndicate for a million or so and now lives in style at Orange, NJ.”
While it is unknown if Robinson ever visited Manistee again before his death, what is known is that his namesake continues to adorn the street located just a little west of West Sixth Street.