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Dugan-Robison manuscript collection

Identifier: MS 3263


This collection contains correspondence and other manuscript materials related to the Dugan and Robison families, circa 1786-1991.The bulk of the collection consists of letters written by Harriet Buchanan Dugan to her daughter Jane Mary Dugan Robison, as well as the papers of John Keeler Robison, an officer in the United States Navy and chief of the Navy's Bureau of Engineering.


  • 1786 - 1991


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

Cumberland Dugan I, the son of George Dugan, was born in Coleraine, Londonderry County, Ireland in 1749. He came to America in 1765 and settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts for two years before relocating to Baltimore in 1767. He was an early member of the Mechanics Company of Baltimore, which was founded in 1763 to organize a militia company for the defense of the town on Baltimore. During the Revolutionary War, Cumberland Dugan, who was by then a prominent merchant, sold bread and flour to the Continental authorities. During the War of 1812, Dugan was a member of the Committee of Vigilance and Safety. He died in 1836, and was buried in Westminster Churchyard in Baltimore. At the time of his death, he was one of the richest men in the city, having a personal estate of $50,000.

With his first wife, Abigail May, Cumberland Dugan had three children: George, Margaret, and Abigail. In 1786, four years after the death of his first wife, Dugan married Margaret Kelso (1762-1852), daughter of James Kelso and his wife, the former Rebecca Hammond, a descendant of Major General John Hammond. This marriage produced at least seven children, three of whom died in infancy. Their surviving children were: Hammond, Rebecca, Cordelia, and Frederick James.

Frederick James Dugan was born on March 31, 1804 and was baptised at the First Presbyterian Church, Baltimore. He read law and was admitted to the bar on April 6, 1827. In June 1827, he married Emily Chatard, daughter of Francois Chatard and his wife Adelaide Boisson, both refugees from Saint Domingo. Athough Frederick Dugan was a Presbyterian, his wife was a fervent Catholic, and brought up all of their children in the Catholic faith. They had five children together: Francis Cumberland II, Hammond, Jane Mary, Josephine, and Pierre Chatard. Frederick Dugan died on March 24, 1858, and was buried with his parents in the Dugan vault of the Westminster Churchyard. Emily died in 1878 and was buried in the Cathedral Cemetery, Baltimore. At the time of the general removal to the New Cathedral Cemetery, her body was re-interred there.

Two of Frederick and Emily Dugan's sons, Pierre Chatard and Hammond, joined Company B, 21st Virginia Infantry, one of the companies of the Maryland Volnteers raised at Richmond, and served with it from May 24, 1861 to May 24, 1862. They saw service under Robert E. Lee in West Virginia in 1861, and under Stonewall Jackson in the Valley in 1862. On the expiration of their year of service, the Dugan boys returned to Baltimore.

Francis Cumberland II, the eldest son of Frederick James Dugan and his wife Emily Chatard, was born at the family residence on Echange Place in Baltimore on July 29, 1830. He never used his given name but was known as Cumberland. He was educated in a parochial school and at Mount Saint Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In early youth, he entered business life and in 1852 began his career as a merchant dealing in hardware and machinist supplies. He entered partnership with his friend Courtney Jenkins, and the firm of Dugan and Jenkins was established at 21 S. Charles Street.

On September 16, 1856, he married Harriet Anderson Buchanan (1832-1909), daughter of Dr. James Anderson Buchanan (1804-1844) and his wife, Anna Maria Nelson (1805-1836). The marriage took place at Dalton, Frederick County, the home of the bride's aunt, Meliora Buchanan Dall. The Dugans first lived at 77 Liberty Street, between Lexington and Fayette. St. Peter's, later the Cathedral, was their parish and the baptisms of their eldest children are recorded in the church records. Cumberland and Harriet Dugan had 14 children together: Emily Chatard (1857-1948), Thomas Buchanan, Brig. Gen., USA (1858-1940), Francis Cumberland (1859-1914), William Kennedy (1860, died in infancy), Ferdinand Chatard (1861-1924), Mary Coale (1862-1953), James Hammond (1864-1922), Harriet Buchanan (1865-1943), Anna Maria Coulter (1866-1936), Jane Mary Robison (1867-1949), Josephine (died in infancy), Frederick (died in infancy), Joseph Mary (1871-1918) and Charles Nelson (1872-1947).

In 1875, Cumberland and Harriet Dugan brough suit to attain possession of "The Wilderness" in Baltimore County, which Harriet Dugan claimed under the will of her grandmother, Mrs. Isabella Nelson. From 1877 until 1947, "The Wilderness" was the Dugan family home.

From 1852 almost until the day of his death, Cumberland Dugan was active in the business life of Baltimore. The firm of Dugan and Jenkins continued until 1857, when it was dissolved and Cumberland Dugan established the firm of Cumberland Dugan and Company Hardware Merchant. He was a director of St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum, a director of the Metropolitan Savings Bank, and one of the incorporators of St. Mary's Industrial School. In politics, he was a staunch Democrat, loyal to his party but never seeked office. During the Civil War, he did considerable business with the agents of the Confederacy.

During their later years, Cumberland and Harriet Dugan spent their winters in Baltimore at their house at 124 West Lanvale Street, and their summers at "The Wilderness". Harriet Dugan died there on October 16, 1909, followed by Cumberland on December 12, 1914.

Cumberland and Harriet's tenth child, Jane Mary, was married to John Keeler Robison on September 16, 1893. Born on November 30, 1870, he was the son of George Francis Robison and Mary Eleanor Keeler, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. John K. Robison entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1887 at the age of 17. He graduated with honors as head of the naval engineering division in 1891. After two years at sea as a cadet on the USS Chicago, he was commissioned by President Cleveland for a post-graduate course in engineering at l'Ecole d'Application Polytechnique in Paris. After his return from Paris, he wrote a paper entitled, "Tubulous Boilers in the French Navy," which attracted worldwide attention. It was published in the Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineering in May 1895. While in the navy, Robison served the full range of deck and engineering grades from junior midshipman to rear admiral until his retirement from active naval service in 1926.

During the Spanish-American War, Robison served on the U.S.S. "Minneapolis." As navigator of the U.S.S. "Kentucky" he was with the American fleet when it was sent on a trip around the world by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907-1908. During 1904-1917, Robison had charge of the torpedo station in Newport, Road Island. After the United States entered the first World War, he commanded the cruiser "Huntington" on convey duty. In September 1918, he became chief of staff at the United States naval base at Cardiff, Wales. After the armistice, he was an aid on the staff of Admiral William S. Sims in London, senior member of the commission created to receive the German merchant vessels turned over to the allies under the Treaty of Versailles, represented the food commission and the U.S. shipping board in Germany, and organized the relief food supply for Czechoslavakia. In May 1919, he commanded the German ship, "Imperator" returning U.S. troops from Europe.

On October 21, 1921, Robison was appointed chief of the Navy's Bureau of Engineering by President Harding. In this capacity he designed and constructed the naval base at Pearl Harbor, which more than doubled the oceanic area controlled by the United States in the Pacific. After his retirement from active naval service, he established himself in New York City as a consultant engineer.

At the time of his death, Robison held the rank of Captain, although he had been a temporary Rear Admiral for four years during his term as chief of the Navy's Bureau of Engineering. A Congressional inquiry in 1924 produced testimony that he had approved transfer of oil reserves that figured in the Teapot Dome scandal. Although a navy selection board recommended his promotion in 1924, President Coolidge refrained from sending Robison's nomination for rear admiral to the Senate, where opposition was threatened. Shortly before Robison's death, Congress approved legislation permitting the President to restore the rank of retired officers who held it for more than two and one-half years or more as a bureau chief. John K. Robison died on July 15, 1938 at his home in New York City at the age of 68. He was awarded the Navy cross by Congress and received a special letter of commendation from the War Department for distinguished service in escorting troops through waters infested with submarines during the first World War. His wife, Jane Dugan, died on June 30, 1949 at the age of 81. The couple are both buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


0.83 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



There are four series in this collection: Dugan family, Robison family, Related families, and Miscellaneous. All of the folders within each series are arranged chronologically. Folders with date ranges are ordered according to the earliest date in the date range.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Anne Dugan, February 2013.

Scope and Contents

The Dugan-Robison manuscript collection consists of four series: Dugan family, Robison family, Related families, and Miscellaneous.

Series I, Dugan family, contains correspondence, land papers, and business papers relating to members of the Dugan family. The bulk of this series consists of correspondence sent by Harriet Buchanan Dugan to her daughter, Jane Dugan Robison, after the latter's 1893 marriage to John K. Robison. Harriet's letters to her daughter inform her of events at home, and inquire about the welfare of Jane and her son-in-law. The series also contains letters sent by Harriet to other family members, as well as letters she received, including two letters from Cumberland Dugan before their marriage in 1856. Two additional folders contain the incoming correspondence of Cumberland Dugan and letters of introduction, and a third folder contains correspondence from Francis Cumberland III to his sister, Jane Dugan Robison.

Six folders in Series I pertain to Daniel Boone Dugan, whose father, Ferdinand Chatard Dugan, was the son of Harriet and Cumberland Dugan. Daniel Dugan's papers consist of incoming correspondence, business papers, and land records relating to the sale of land in Howard County for the purpose of building Columbia. According to notes from the donor, Daniel Dugan served as a "straw man" by purchasing four parcels of land on behalf of the Rouse Company. According to a disclaimer signed by his wife, Anne Sanford Dugan, Daniel Dugan purchased 377 acres of land in Howard County in September 1962. A final folder in this series contains a genealogy of the Dugan, Buchanan, and Chatard families.

Series II, Robison family papers, contains the correspondence of Jane Dugan Robison, her husband, John Keeler Robison, and papers related to his service in the United States Navy. Approximately half of this series contains correspondence from John K. Robison to Jane Dugan, most of which are dated before their marriage. The first letters are dated before Robison's graduation from the Naval Academy, and are written on academy stationary. Robison is very passionate in his declaration of love for Jane, and implores her to love him back in the same manner. Although Jane's responses are not included in the collection, it is clear that she is hesitant to marry due to their difference in religion, her being a Catholic and he being a different denomination. They were married in 1893, after which Robison's letters to Jane are more sporadic, as they spent their time together. The series contains a lengthly letter from Robison in 1908 while aboard the U.S.S. "Kentucky," as well as several letters written between 1918-1919.

The remainder of Series II contains three folders of papers related to John K. Robison's service in the United States Navy. The first of these folders consists of 14 reports conducted between 1916-1920 on Robison's fitness as an officer. Each report has the same sections to fill out with information about the officer and their duties, professional qualifications, and remarks from their reporting senior. On a report for the period October 29-November 7, 1917, while Robison was commander of the U.S.S. "Huntington," Admiral William S. Benson wrote that he was "particularly struck with his close attention to duty, the excellent manner in which he handled his ship, and the very fine spirit that seemed to prevade the personnel on board."

A further folder contains correspondence and reports issued by John K. Robison during his service, the bulk of which date between 1916-1919. The subjects of the reports include aeronautic operations on board the U.S.S. "Huntington" and the inspection of German merchant ships following the armistice. The final folder in Series II contains a congressional record of the 1st section from the 68th Congress, 1924. The folder contains clippings of resolutions to be passed in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal.

Series III, Related families, contains the papers of families related to the Dugans and Robisons. These familly names include: Nelson, Buchanan, Chatard, Coulter, and Boone. This series contains the earliest letter in the collection, a 1786 letter to Thomas Buchanan. Other examples from the series include correspondence to Charlotte Nelson, the sister of Anna Maria Nelson (Harriet Buchanan Dugan's mother), and select correspondence to and from Archibald and Philemon Coulter, the sons of Anna Maria Dugan Coulter.

Series IV, Miscellaneous, contains two folders of various notes, printed ephemera, and newspaper clippings. There is also one photograph of an unidentified family sitting on the front porch steps of a house.

Guide to the Dugan-Robison manuscript collection
Mallory Harwerth
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States