Robbins House

A Spotlight on African-American History in Concord, MA

The following is a history of Concord’s Robbins House. For more information see our Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) brochures and our website  

The Robbins House, both a nonprofit and an historic house inhabited by African descendants of slavery in Concord, Massachusetts, 1823-1870s. Our mission reveals early African American history of Concord and its regional and national importance. We inspire conversation, expand understanding and foster society. Our goals include unearthing and disseminating the stories of Concord’s earliest African Americans; creating related educational resources, and promoting social justice dialogue.

The House is named for the family’s patriarch, Cesar Robbins, a previously enslaved Revolutionary War Veteran. In 1823, Caesar’s son, Peter, purchased thirteen 13 acres and the 544-square foot house in Concord, on what is sometimes referred to as Caesar’s Woods.  The inhabitants included Peter’s wife, and his sister Susan’s family. Susan was a founding member of the Concord Female Antislavery Society and her husband, Jack Garrison, was a ‘fugitive slave’ from New Jersey. Some family members attended the local school, won top prizes for their scholarship and signed various human rights petitions.  One of their children, Ellen Garrison, was born and raised in the house and went on to become a social activist and teacher. The nonprofit found 100 of Ellen’s letters and school reports written while she taught newly freed people in the south, during Reconstruction. At least three of Elen’s letters document her attempts to legally test the nation’s first Civil Rights Act of 1866.  Though the case had merit, it was dismissed.  

The dismissal of Ellen’s lawsuit, paralleled the dismissal of Reconstruction.  Ellen journeyed across the country from Concord to Maryland, Virginia, Kansas, and finally Pasadena/Altadena, California.  She is buried in an unmarked grave in the Mountain View Cemetery, which is connected to the abolitionist, John Brown.

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