Biographical and Historical Memoires of Louisiana, (vol. 2), p. 498.
Published by the Goodspeed Publishing Company, Chicago, 1892.
Hon. William Robson, state senator from the Twentieth district, is one of
the oldest and best known settlers of Caddo parish, La., and an example of
what energy, industry and perseverance, when intelligently applied, have
accomplished for those of foreign birth who have seen fit to locate within the
borders of this parish. His home farm, "Long Branch," fourteen miles below
Shreveport, comprises 1,400 acres and is one of the most valuable on Red
river, embracing over 1,000 acres in cultivation. He is also the owner of
land in Red River parish and in Texas.
He was born in Scotland in 1828, but at the age of fourteen years ran away from school and apprenticed himself to
the blacksmith's trade, which he followed with success for many years. May 17, 1848, he married Miss Eliza, daughter of David Viltue, a celebrated
engineer and bridge builder of Scotland, who reared to manhood several sons,
all of whom became fatuous contractors and builders in their native country.
Five days after his marriage Captain Robson (as he is called) set sail, with
his wife, for the United States, and as the vessel in which he sailed was well filled with passengers, the sanitary condition of the same became
very poor, and he was requested by the captain of the boat to draft a code of
rules by which the passengers should be governed during the trip. This he
did, and on their adoption he was made captain, although at that time a young
man. Under his management affairs were much improved, and the vessel completed the journey with all her passengers in good condition.
His first year in the new world was spent in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he
learned the higher and more scientific branches of his trade, also engineering, and in 1849 he came to Shreveport, La., where he acted
as engineer of a boat for some time, but gave this up to found a blacksmith, wagon, harness and saddlery establishment, which he conducted with
marked success until the opening of the war, his fortune at that time amounting to $100,000.
In 1858 and later he represented Caddo parish
in the legislature, and while a member of that body left the legislative
halls to join the Third Louisiana infantry, of which he was made captain, his
service being most of the time in northwestern Arkansas. After the battle of
Oak Hill, he returned borne, organized Company A and joined the Twenty-fifth
Louisiana infantry and reached the field of Shiloh in time to engage, in the
second day's fight there. After that he went to Perryville, Ky., where he was
made major of the Twenty-fifth Louisiana, and was soon after ordered by the
war department to Texas to engage in the manufacture of iron. In seven months' time he had constructed the Davis Company Iron works, and was ready to
begin operations. He continued at this work until the close of the war, then
returned to Shreveport and for a short time was again engaged in boating
on Red river.
The two following years were spent in the mercantile and
real estate business, but since that he has been a resident of his plantation.
Soon after the war he was nominated for the state legislature, and although he
declined to run for the office he was elected to the state senate in 1883, and
has since been a member of that body and has become a prominent legislator an well as a social favorite with the members and has served as
chairman on several important committees. He was one of the original members
of the water-ways convention, which was organized at Cincinnati, Ohio, and at
the last meeting he was chairman of the committee on credentials and was made
vice-president of the convention. In April, 1890, he attended a meeting of
that body in Washington, D. C.., where he made a speech on "rivers and harbors," in which he gave his experience of forty years on Red river.
Partially as a result of his speech congress appropriated $20,000 for the
improvement of that river.
He has always taken a deep interest in secret
organizations, and was formerly noble grand of Neath lodge, No. 21, of the
I.0. 0. F. He has held the highest positions in the gift of this order, and is at present grand representative of Nova Scotia, Arkansas and
Louisiana. In an early day he was a member of the city council of Shreveport
for a number of years, also street commissioner, the last two days of the week
being devoted to the interests of the city for which he received no compensation.
To himself and wife a family of three sons was born, only
one of whom is living, William V., who was educated principally in Scotland
and is now a man of fine intellect and good business ability. After finishing
his education he spent some time in traveling in Germany and other countries
of Europe, and now has full charge of his father's business, besides being an
extensive levee contractor and builder. Captain Robson is a model American citizen and is of the stuff of which great people are made, with a
moral and personal integrity and a clear, well-balanced, active intelligence
that adorn the private station and make and keep the public service pure.