Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ellen Ruth Roberts, 1919-2009

Ellen Ruth Taylor Roberts, wife of Roy Gilbert Roberts, daughter of William Daniel Taylor and Dona Westerfield, passed away on Monday, September 28, 2009. Ruth, as she was known, was among other talents a wonderful mother, grandmother, and storyteller. Her stories of her family inspired me to get back into genealogy research. I thought I would try and share a few of those stories with you to help celebrate her life. Apologies to her family if I do not quite remember every detail correctly.

Ruth was born in Arkansas on October 31, 1919. Her family moved between Oklahoma and Arkansas several times during her childhood. More than once she told the story of how her family traveled to Oklahoma in a covered wagon (yes, such events did happen in the 20th century, at least in Oklahoma). At one point she was afraid the wagon would fall into the river when they traveled over a particularly gap-filled wooden bridge, so she got out of the wagon and crawled across the bridge on her hands and knees.

When she was 14, she moved to Owensboro, KY to live with her older sister Rose, to whom she was very close throughout her life. She and her sister got jobs at the local GE factory. She told the story of how they stood in line with hundreds of people to apply for a job at the factory, and were somehow noticed by a manager at the factory who pulled them out of line and gave them jobs. I guess he thought they were pretty! Ruth was fiercely proud of her independent nature and worked hard to support herself. By the time she was 16, she had saved enough to buy a full bedroom set for herself (a set which, as a sensible child of the depression, she used to this day).

On August 24, 1940, Ruth married Roy Gilbert Roberts, son of Joseph Lawrence and Agnes Maude Roberts. Even after she was married, Ruth continued to work. She worked as a beautician for the most part, operating a shop out of the back of her home. She also held various other jobs, including for a time postmaster, general store proprietor for the town of Adair, Kentucky, a small town that was little more than a mail stop of the railroad on the way out of Owensboro. She told of how it was her job to put the mail on the mailhook for the train to pick up. When the Roberts family eventually moved back to Owensboro, the mail service in Adair stopped and the town ceased to exist.

Ruth and Roy had five children, and by saving and sacrificing, they were able to send all five to college. Roy died in 1987, but Ruth continued to live on her own until suffering a stroke in 2006. In her later years, Ruth was always full of love and advice and wisdom for her grandchildren. She was fond of proscribing home remedies, such as soaking a sore elbow in epsom salts or giving beer to a colicky baby.

Ruth Roberts' obituary can be found here. Her funeral service is 10am on Friday, October 2 at Sts Joseph & Paul Catholic Church in Owensboro, KY.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Roberts Family

A few weeks ago I attended the Roberts family reunion in Owensboro, Kentucky. This reunion brought together the descendants of Joseph Lawrence Roberts, my wife's great-grandfather. Joseph Lawrence had 11 children, 8 that lived to adulthood. All 8 of those children have now died, the last, Paul, passing in April of this year. However, the Roberts family is still very much thriving. We had dozens of Roberts cousins attend. Four spouses of the Roberts children are still alive and three of them attended the reunion. The oldest Roberts there was Catherine Roberts, age 93, widow of Manuel Roberts. She is in excellent health and I think she may even have driven herself to the reunion! Here are some pictures from the reunion.

At the reunion, Roy Roberts, son of Roy Gilbert Roberts and Ruth Taylor Roberts, presented each family with a book of the family's genealogy. Roy's book contains a lot of interesting stories about the family and paints a portrait of what life was like for a rural Kentucky family in the early 20th century. I contributed a bit to the book, mostly by referring Roy to other Roberts researchers who had far better and more detailed information than me. Since the Roberts family already has this detailed information on their family, I am merely going to post a summary of my findings on the Roberts family instead of my usual posting that includes source documents:

The earliest confirmed ancestor of the Roberts family is a John Roberts who died in 1724 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Family tradition is that this John Roberts was from Wales, but like most early Virginia settlers, it is impossible to tell where he was from as few colonial documents recorded this information.

John Roberts and his wife Elizabeth Trammell had at least five children. One son, John Jr., lived to be about 100 years old. We do not have exact dates for his life, but we know that he was born prior to 1703, and he is mentioned in an 1802 letter as being "one of the oldest residents in the county." He may have been over 100 when he died. He and his wife Elizabeth Russell had at least four children.

John Jr.'s son Benjamin was born in about 1741. He served as a Sergeant in the General George Rogers Clark's Illinois Regiment in the Revolutionary War from 1779 to 1782. This was the group that headed west to defend settlers on the frontier from Indian allies of the British.

It appears that Sgt. Benjamin signed up with Gen. Clark with the intention to permanently move to Kentucky. Three days after enlisting, he sold his land in Culpeper county, Virginia, and his family likely followed the army west.

Once in Kentucky, Sgt. Benjamin was part of the expedition that established a fort at the Falls of the Ohio, which was the founding of the city of Louisville. Also present in the expedition were several of Sgt. Benjamin's cousins, including the confusingly similar Captain Benjamin Roberts, son of George Roberts. Many researchers (including myself) have mistaken these two, as they were about the same age, from the same county, and both married to women named Anne (hence the reason I refer to him as "Sgt. Benjamin").

The Falls of the Ohio at Louisville, Kentucky, circa 1912, before dams largely removed the falls as an obstacle to boat travel.

During his service, Sgt. Benjamin filed for a land grant for land in Jefferson County, Virginia that eventually became a part of Henry county, Kentucky. His wife, Anne Duncan, died shortly after arriving in Kentucky in 1780. Sgt. Benjamin remained on his land in Henry county for the rest of his life, and died after 1810. Sgt. Benjamin and Ann had 8 children.

Sgt. Benjamin's son James was born in 1766 in Culpeper county, Virginia. He moved to Henry county, Kentucky with his parents in 1780 and then on to Daviess county, Kentucky around the time his father died after 1810. James was married twice in Henry county. James and his first wife, whose name is unknown, had three sons, James, Merry, and Benjamin. His second wife, Elizabeth, had two sons, Willis and Henry. All five sons moved with their father to Daviess county to the village of Yelvington. James died there in 1822.

James's son Benjamin was born about 1793 in Henry county. Moved to Yelvington in Daviess county prior to 1820. In 1821, he married Rebecca Frazier, daughter of James and Nancy Frazier. The had seven children, and lived in Yelvington their entire lives.

Marion Franklin Roberts and Relly Ann Bowlds Roberts

One of Benjamin's sons, Marion Franklin, known as Frank, was a bricklayer in the Knottsville area in Hancock county, Kentucky, who helped build one of the first Catholic schools in that area. On May 9, 1917, at age 80, Frank converted to Catholocism. He died at age 88 in 1924 and is buried at St. Lawrence Catholic Cemetery in Maceo, Kentucky along with his wife, Arilia Ann (Relly Ann) Bowlds, daughter of William N. Bowlds and Sarah Pickerell. Frank and Relly Ann had six sons and five daughters. Their son Joseph Lawrence, born July 6, 1881, married Anges Maud Hartley on January 2, 1909. It is the descendants of their children that attended the Roberts family reunion. Most of their descendants still live in Daviess and Hancock counties, Kentucky.