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ROBINSON, RICHARD P. (1817–1855). Richard P. Robinson, known as Richard Parmalee, a prominent Nacogdoches public servant and businessman, son of Richard and Cynthia Robinson, was born on April 9, 1817, in Durham, Connecticut. The years of his early adulthood were darkened by his involvement in one of the most notorious murder trials of the time. While living in New York City, Robinson became involved with a woman described by some as a prostitute, Ellen or Helen Jewett. In April 1836 trouble arose between the two, and when the woman was found in her burning lodging-house room dead from hatchet blows to the head, Robinson was arrested and accused of her murder. The New York Herald closely followed the events relating to the murder investigation and the subsequent sensational trial. On June 9, 1836, in a front-page story, the Herald reported that after deliberating for only eight minutes, the jury found Robinson not guilty. Six days later the same paper speculated that Robinson would change his name and leave for the west or Texas. By August 1836 Robinson, now calling himself Parmalee, was in Nacogdoches, where he appeared as a witness to the signing of a deed. In an affidavit filed in 1875 in Nacogdoches County, prominent citizen Bennett Blake identified Parmalee several times as Richard P. Robinson, alias Richard Parmalee.

Parmalee was initiated as a member of Milam Masonic Lodge No. 2 in February 1839, shortly before his twenty-second birthday. He was secretary of the lodge from 1841 to 1845, and the lodge sometimes met in his home. He served as deputy clerk of the county court of Nacogdoches in 1838–39 and as clerk of the district court from the fall of 1839 until 1850. When Vice President Mirabeau B. Lamar was scheduled to visit Nacogdoches in 1841, Parmalee acted as secretary of a committee for a dinner in his honor. In 1843 Parmalee's fellow citizens elected him secretary of the Corporation of Nacogdoches. In 1845, in support of early attempts to provide educational opportunities for Nacogdoches citizens, Parmalee subscribed ten dollars for rent on a house to be used by Nacogdoches University. Almost a year later he donated 640 acres to the school. In 1851 he and his brother-in-law were operating a stagecoach line. At the time of his death Parmalee owned passenger coaches and horse teams that were used on stage lines to Sabine Town, San Augustine, Melrose, and Nacogdoches. He also owned a town lot, stable, and blacksmith shop in Nacogdoches. On September 9, 1845, Parmalee and Mrs. Atala A. Hotchkiss Phillips, the widow of Benjamin Phillips, were married. Although he left no children of his own, Catherine Phillips, his wife's daughter, was willed one-third of his estate. Parmalee died on August 8, 1855, at Louisville, Kentucky, while on a trip. Milam Lodge No. 2 met on December 10, 1855, four months after his death, to plan the funeral service. Two days later the lodge formed a procession to Grace Church and from there proceeded to Oak Grove Cemetery, where Richard Parmalee was laid to rest with the last rites of master Masons.

Archie P. McDonald, By Early Candlelight: The Story of Old Milam (Fort Worth: Masonic Home Press, 1967). Archie P. McDonald, ed., Hurrah for Texas: The Diary of Adolphus Sterne (Waco: Texian Press, 1969; rpt., Austin: Eakin Press, 1986).
Linda Cheves Nicklas

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Linda Cheves Nicklas, "Robinson, Richard P.," accessed November 22, 2017,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.