The Tragic End to the Life of John Anderson Roberts: Final Chapter

And now the end has come.

John Anderson RobertsJohn Anderson’s downward spiral began with the tragic death of his wife Lavina.  He eventually dies in his own bed, but it wasn’t a pleasant passing.  Some claim it was suicide.  Twelve of his neighbors decide it’s murder and assess blame.  A judge determines the penalty.   Lives are forever changed.  So horrific was the tale, one journalist remembers and writes about it over thirty years later.  Family members still speak of it in hushed tones.

John Anderson Roberts was born, reared and farmed in Williamson County, Tennessee until about 1855.  He farmed the next twenty years in Calloway County, Kentucky where his extended family has lived since the 1850s.  By the mid to late 1870s he and his family are in Red River County, Texas.  His last stop will be one county to the west.  They buried his body on the Emberson Prairie of Lamar County, Texas.  He was my great-grandfather.

His family and neighbors near Maxey knew him as “Jack” or “Uncle Jackie”.  The second one may have come from something like, “There goes old Jack A”.  I’ve seen the name “Jack” used for him as far back as his Calloway County days but suspect he had the nickname all of his life.  He’s referred to as “the old man” in a letter between a nephew and his son-in-law J.B. Lassiter.[i]  He appears to have been financially comfortable[ii] and well respected.  He attended the Little Vine Primitive Baptist Church less than 2.5 miles north of his Lamar, County home.  He was a charter member of the Masonic Pearl Lodge #686 of AF & AM.[iii]   He farmed and raised stock on rich land with his children and son-in-law.  Their resources were intertwined.[iv]  His son Wallis lived with his parents and never married.  His daughter Cornelia and her family lived less than ¼ of mile to the north toward today’s Sumner, Texas.

These were economic boom times in Lamar County created by the arrival of the railroad, good cotton land and cheap black labor.  Lamar County doubled in population from 1870 – 1890[v].  The Roberts and Lassiters were part of this boom.  Brandon Jett chronicles this tumultuous time in an article for the East Texas Historical Journal entitled, “Paris is Burning:  Lynching and Racial Violence in Lamar County, 1890-1920”[vi].   The Roberts and Lassiters entered the county by 1890.

John A. Roberts white horse and black carriageOn a May spring day in 1895 Lavina Jane Roberts was gored to death by a cow.[vii]  For the first time in forty-three years John was deprived of her companionship.  His heart was heavy as he rode in his all black carriage pulled by his all white horse up the Garretts-Bluff road toward Little Vine Cemetery.  He grieved his loss.  Lavina’s death was devastating to the entire family.  John’s life would never be the same.  Soon it would be over.  The “tragedy” begins.

My great-grandmother’s name was Mary.  I can’t even tell you with certainty her age in 1895.[viii]  I know so little about her.  What I do know provides a very incomplete picture of her life.  Her father was David Laningham born 1815 Georgia.  He was a blacksmith[ix] and owned a small farm in Blount County, Alabama.[x]  Her mother was Mary “Polly” Latham born 1824 in Alabama.  They were married July 14, 1844 in Blount County by Justice of the Peace Walker Brown[xi].  They welcomed their firstborn child Wiley on July 12, 1845.  Mary was the Laningham’s last born, perhaps as many as 20 years after her brother Wiley[xii].  She grew up on her dad’s small farm in Blount County.

Union and Confederate flagsThe Civil War erupted April 12, 1861.  Mary’s father David Laningham enlisted in the Confederate cause in Blountsville, Alabama on August 12, 1861 and was mustered into a new outfit designated the 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment.  He was part of Company K, known as the “Blount Guards”, and served under Capt. J.H. Skinner.  His length of enlistment was three years.[xiii]  His regiment served with great distinction throughout the war.[xiv]  He apparently returned home in 1864 after his three-year tour was completed.  His service would include some of the fiercest fighting of the war.  Very few original members made it home.  Mary’s brother Wiley waited until after his 16th birthday to join the South’s cause.  He enlisted into a cavalry unit in Blountsville on July 20, 1862.  Recruited by Capt. T.H. Lewis he was part of Company B, Lewis’ Squadron, Partisan Rangers serving under Capt. Harrell.[xv]  His unit fought across Alabama and Georgia during the fall and summer of 1864.  Major Lewis was killed in action at Lafayette, Georgia June 24, 1864.[xvi]  Wiley made it home and migrated to Texas before 1880 as part of the boom in Lamar County.[xvii]19th Alabama bugle patch

Wiley’s presence in Lamar County explains Mary’s.  Back on Wiley’s 15th birthday in Alabama his grandmother Elizabeth Laningham was living with his family,[xviii] a common practice for aged parents.  I believe Wiley’s mother Mary later came to live with him after his father’s death.  His baby sister Mary, my great-grandmother, apparently accompanied her to Lamar County.  I can’t prove it, but I believe she later married a Thompson family neighbor, possibly one now buried near Wiley in the Forest Chapel Cemetery in north Lamar County and related to the Thompsons living near the Roberts in the 1900 census.[xix]  I actually can’t prove she married.  I can’t find the record.  I only know she was going by Mrs. Mary Thompson by 1896, the year after Lavina’s death.

John A. Roberts and Mrs. Mary Thompson marriage record
John A. Roberts and Mrs. Mary Thompson marriage record

John A. Roberts and Mrs. Mary Thompson[xx] were married on the first of December 1896.[xxi]  Primitive Baptist pastor J.W. Cavnar performed their rites.  John was sixty-six years old.  Mary was perhaps thirty-one.  There’s testimony she and her mother were working for John before their marriage.[xxii]  They may have lived in the cabin on the twenty acres of timber.  After their marriage Mary and her mother are in the J.A. Roberts household.  John’s son Wallis is not.[xxiii]   Remember, he never married.  He’s listed in the 1900 census as a “boarder” in the household of his brother-in-law James B. Lassiter just north of the Roberts’ residence.  Can you imagine the turmoil this marriage brought to the family?  Their past was intertwined.  Their present is intertwined.  Their future is in question.

Clip from 1900 Federal Census for Lamar County, TX
Clip from 1900 Federal Census for Lamar County, TX

Did Willis move out when Mary moved into the main house at the end of 1896?  Was it voluntary?  Or, did he move out when Gus Roberts was born[xxiv] August 24, 1898?  Did they “need the room”?  Living in the residence in time for the 1900 census was John A. Roberts, Mary Roberts, Gussie Roberts and Mary Landingham.[xxv]  What can we learn from this record?

Gus Roberts certificate of birth
Gus Roberts certificate of birth
  • Mary appears to be the source of this information. She correctly identifies the birth state locations for herself, her father and her mother.  She identifies the other female in the household as “Mother”.  This can only be a reference to her mother and not John’s.
  • She does not know the state in which John or his parents were born. Had John been the source of the information, he certainly would have been able to answer the question.
  • She gives her birth date as August 1862. Was this correct?  I doubt it.  If so, her father was away fighting in the Civil War nine months prior to this date.  I’ll write about her birth date in a later blog.
  • She’s been married four years to John, has birthed only one child in her lifetime and that child is alive.
  • She answers her only child is a male named “Gussie” Roberts. This is probably the one and only time this name is used in a record for my grandfather – except for the family tree builders who found this census record.

By early fall 1901 John “Jack” Roberts is seventy-one and not well.  He always needs extra help at cotton harvest time, this year he needs a lot of help.  John Killian was hired to help.  He was a thirty-three-year-old immigrant born in Germany in 1868.  He was approximately 5’ 10” with a fair complexion and deep blue eyes under dark brown hair.  The letters JAK with a wreath around them were tattooed on his right arm.[xxvi]   Killian labored on the Roberts’ and perhaps Lassiter farms.  The farms were all inter-related.  He may have worked the cotton harvest that year.  He may have been cutting firewood for the coming winter and perhaps even living in the cabin on that land.  He was in fact a woodworker, a skilled cabinet maker.  He may have been working on the Roberts’ houses.

The characters are in place.  The stage is set.  Like a Greek play, the tragedy is ready to unfold.

John Anderson Roberts is dead on the morning of September 21, 1901.  Of this there is no doubt.  Two people are convicted of his murder.  This is a fact.  Tracking down the details and being certain of our own conclusions may not be so simple.   The great fire of March 1916[xxvii] will see to this.  It burned for over twelve hours and destroyed much of downtown Paris, Texas including the courthouse and newspaper offices.  All official records and local reports on the subsequent trial of John Roberts’ accused killers were destroyed that day.  The editor of the newspaper, Alexander White Neville, recognized the extreme loss to the county and eventually begins writing a regular column in the Paris News called “Backward Glances” in order to “recover” some record of history.  In one of his backward glances about John’s murder written over thirty-one years later he includes this phrase, “…but my recollection of the affair as to details is rather hazy.”[xxviii]   Keep this in mind as you examine the tragedy as reported in the two backward glances.

Backward Glances column from The Paris News dated February 3, 1933[xxix]

“The murder of the aged woman, Mrs. Reed, near Tigertown some days ago recalled to my mind another murder in the section more than thirty years ago, which was solved to the extent of sending two people to the penitentiary. They missed hanging, it was generally believed, because of one being a woman and the man being only an accessory.

“Uncle Jackie” Roberts, as he was known in the neighborhood, was an aged man who had married a second time, some years after the death of his first wife. To his second marriage was born a boy, who at the time of the father’s death was, as I recall now, about five or six years old.  Mr. Roberts had a farm on which he lived and working for him was a hired man named John Killian, a foreigner from one of the central European countries. The household comprised the four — three adults and the child.

One morning the neighborhood was aroused by information that Uncle Jackie had been found dead in bed, from a wound in his throat.  Officers went to the place and began investigation. There was no evidence tending to show suicide and after some of the neighbors had been questioned and had told of actions of the wife and the hired man that had caused some comment and head-shaking the two were arrested and brought to Paris and put in jail charged with murder.

The child, too young to know what it was all about, gave the officers a piece of evidence when he said that his mamma had cut his papa with a “shaver” which was his word for a razor, and it appeared that the gush in the old man’s throat must have been made with an instrument at least as sharp as a razor. I do not think the boy was put on the stand at the trial, for he was too young to understand the nature of an oath or the penalty for telling an untruth, but my recollection of the affair as to details is rather hazy. At any rate, the trials resulted in convictions for both, as it was apparent from the evidence given that the hired man and the wife, much younger than her aged husband, were more intimate than was warranted by their relationship of employer and servant. I do not recall how long were their sentences but both were eventually pardoned and the wife was seen in the neighborhood of her former home for a while afterwards, but I do not know what became of her or the hired man.

An unusual incident in connection with the trial – and I recalled this some time ago is one of these stories – was that when the venire to try the woman was being examined a man named Roberts was on the list. When he answered the call of the court clerk he was asked if he was a relative of the dead man, as he had the same name. He replied that he was. Then being asked the relationship, he replied, “I am his son.” That of course excused him. He was a son of the first marriage of Mr. Roberts and having been listed as a juror for one week of the term his name had happened to be drawn when the special venire was drawn from the entire list of jurors, as the required.”

Backward Glances column from The Paris News dated Thursday, August 26, 1954[xxx]

“When the officers investigating the death of Uncle Jack Roberts near Tigertown in September, 1901 had reached the belief that it was murder they brought Mrs. Roberts, her mother, Mrs. Laningham and the hired man, John Killian, to jail in Paris. Before the women were put in the cells a Paris News reporter talked to Mrs. Roberts. She told a different story from what she told the officers later.

SHE SAID Mr. Roberts had not been well and stayed in bed late. That while she was preparing breakfast he asked to see their little boy and she took the child to the bed. The father talked to him, telling him to be a good boy and help his mother and try to take care of himself because “I will not be here long.” She said that after that she was in an adjoining room, making up a bed, when she heard Mr. Roberts moving about in his bed, that she ran to the door and saw he had his hand at his throat. She called to him to stop, then saw blood spurting from his throat, then she ran into the yard and gave the alarm. She said Killian was then in the cotton patch near the house.

THE OFFICERS questioned Mrs. Roberts’ mother closely and were convinced she knew nothing of the murder before it was done, nor of how it was done or who did it.  She was about 70 years old and feeble and the neighbors thought she was weak-minded.  She was released and no charges were filed against her.

When it became certain that the old man had been murdered instead of being a suicide the neighbors were talking of not waiting for the law to punish the hired man and the wife, and the officers hurried them to Paris and put them in jail.  The next day Mr. Roberts son, Wallace, and his son-in-law, J.B. Lassiter, were in Paris and said they wanted the law to take its course. On their way back home they told every friend they met of their desire and urged them to let the law officers handle the affair.”

The Honey Grove Signal dated Friday, September 27, 1901Six days after the event.[xxxi]

“Jackie Roberts, an old and highly respected citizen who living near Maxey, Lamar county, was found dead on his bed last Saturday morning with his throat cut from ear to ear.  His wife reported that he had committed suicide but the case looked suspicious and Mrs. Roberts and a hired hand named Killain were placed under arrest.  Later the woman confessed that Killain had murdered her husband in her presence, an agreement having been reached that they would be married a few months later.  Roberts had considerable money, which was stolen by Killain a few days before.” 

The first article quoted above from 1933 apparently jogged the memory of a reader and prompted them to “dig out” an old clipping of The Paris Weekly News from September 27, 1901.  Editor Neville apparently uses this narrative and conversation with the Lassiter’s neighbor J.E. Bunch to write the following three successive “Backward Glances“. (What follows is from a copy of those three articles obtained by Lawrence and Juanita Uhl in 1985 and given to me.)

“Wife Tells How Man Was Killed

One of the readers of Backward glances has brought me a copy of “The Paris Weekly News”, dated December 27, 1901, in which is a detailed account of the murder of Jack Roberts, an old man who lived on the Tigertown road about ten miles from Paris, which was recalled by J.E. Bunch, as I have told.

The story tells of Sheriff George Martin and his deputy, Mack James, going to the place and investigating. James was an observant officer, and he noted some details that convinced him and others that it was murder instead of suicide as Mrs. Roberts, the old man’s wife, and the hired man, John Killian, had claimed.

THE CUT in Roberts’ throat was so deep that his head was nearly severed. The barlow knife with which it was claimed he had cut himself was laying open by his side in a pool of blood but had little blood on it, the groove by which the blade was opened being clean. It was lying on the man’s left side and in his right hand, slightly grasped, were two silver dollars that had been given him that morning by a neighbor who owed him. It was known that Mr. Roberts was not left-handed and would not have held a knife in his left hand to cut his throat.

The razor, which belonged to Killian, was found wrapped in a woman’s apron and buried in a shallow hole in the edge of a cane patch, as told by Mr. Bunch.

IN A STATEMENT to Bob Lattimore, assistant county attorney, Mrs. Roberts denied taking part in the actual murder, but said she stood in the door to the bedroom and saw Killian cut her husband’s throat.  That he then came to her, wrapped the bloody razor in her apron, took it off her and told her to go and bury it in the cane, which she did.  She saw Killian reach in Roberts’ pants pocket and take out the knife and open it.  While she was burying the razor Killian left the house and went to picking cotton and when she got back she gave the alarm.

Child’s Story Told of Murder

J.E. Bunch tells me that the story of the small boy’s evidence given in a trial in Federal Court recalls to his mind a murder in Lamar County near sixty years ago. He says:

Uncle Jackey Roberts owned a quarter section of land five miles north of Brookston. My old home where I was reared was a mile north of his home, both on the old Brookston and Garretts-Bluff road and his home also on the old Paris and Tigertown road.

Mr. ROBERTS, an elderly man, reared two children, Mrs. J.B. Lassiter and Wallace Roberts. The son never married, and had lived with his parents. Uncle Jackey also owned a small farm in the timber four or five miles northwest of his home.  After the death of his wife he allowed an aged woman and her elderly daughter to live in the house on this small farm.  Soon afterwards he and the daughter married and later a son was born to them.

They were living in the home on the larger farm and Uncle Jackey hired a middle-aged man, John Killian, to work on the place.  The hired man and Mrs. Roberts became rather intimate and Killian began telling the neighbors that Uncle Jackey was talking of killing himself, and that he was frequently sharpening his pocket knife.  In the fall, 1901, Mr. Roberts’ health failed and he spent most of his time in bed.

MY UNCLE, D.M. Calvin, lived a short distance from the Roberts home.  One Saturday morning the Calvins heard Killian yelling that Uncle Jackey was killing himself.  My uncle and one of his daughters ran to the Roberts home.  They found Mr. Roberts laying on his bed with his throat cut so deep that his head was almost off and he had his pocket knife in his hand.  It looked like a suicide but the neighbors were doubtful and officers were notified and came to investigate.

Mr. Bunch’s recollection of the affair will be concluded in another story.

Boy Saw Father Cut With Razor

Concluding his recollection of the murder of Uncle Jacky Roberts near Tigertown years ago, J. E. Bunch said that a large number of people were soon at the place including officers who had been summoned.  They arrested the hired man, John Killian, after some inquiry, and then continued investigating.

One of Uncle Jacky’s grandsons came in and told the officers he was in a cotton wagon not far from the house and looking toward the cane patch near the house he saw Killian go into the cane and presently come out.  The officer and the youth then went to the cane patch, saw and followed a man’s tracks a short distance, and found the ground had been disturbed.  The officer poked with his fingers into the loose earth and a few inches down found a bloody razor.

THAT WAS plenty of evidence, so Killian and Mrs. Roberts were taken to Paris and put in jail. The little Roberts boy at the time was between two and three years old, so Mr. Bunch’s aunt took him to care for him.  After a while he got so he would talk and she asked him who killed his daddy and he said Mammy did it – she cut him with a shaver.  The child said that he was under a table in the room when this was done.  When the man and woman were tried the jury gave her 10 years and sentenced Killian for life.  After sometime a man came to Paris and offered $500 to any lawyer who could get a pardon for them.  A cousin of mine, son of the uncle who was the first man to get to the Roberts house, was a lawyer, and he and his partner, Bub Birmingham, somehow managed to get them pardoned.  The grandson who furnished the real evidence is J. __ Lassiter.

I WILL add to Mr. Bunch’s story that when the trial began the official venire men were questioned.  One said his name was Roberts and the lawyer asked him casually if he was related to Uncle Jacky.  He replied, “He was my father.”  He was Wallace Roberts.”

The Shiner Gazette dated November 20, 1901.[xxxii] Two months after the event.

John Killian, charged with being implicated in the murder of Uncle Jackie Roberts near Maxey, Lamar county, was tried at Paris, declared guilty by the jury and his punishment at imprisonment for life.”

The Honey Grove Signal dated May 9, 1902.[xxxiii] Eight months after the event.

Mrs. Roberts, the woman who became infatuated with a hired hand and assisted in the murder of her husband near Paris last year, was sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of seven years by Judge Denton at Paris last Friday.  The hired hand, who cut the old man’s throat while the latter was sleeping, was sentenced for life several months since.”

And so it’s ends – or does it?

What do you think?  I’ve debated it in my mind and discussed it with my wife.  Wouldn’t you if your great-grandmother were sitting in the seat of the accused?  Obviously murderSounds like it.  Possibly suicide with a “rush to judgement”, a little “Texas judgement”, “get the foreigner” or “punish the adulterer”?  Is it possible John Anderson took his own life?  Is there evidence of depression? Has anyone ever committed suicide by slitting his own throat? Is it possible Mary was coerced into making a false confession?  Was the evidence manipulated?  We know John Killian pleads not guilty but of course his life was on the line.  Is it possible these were wrongful convictions?  It doesn’t really sound like it. 

Two twists to this tragic tale I did not see coming.

  1. W.T. Lanham, the Governor of Texas, delivered a gift to Mary in 1908. On December 18, 1908 the Governor signs a full pardon for Mary[xxxiv], returning to her the full rights of citizenship.  It went into effect five days before Christmas.  Did you see that coming!  I didn’t.  Below is a photo of the pardon document I took in the State Archives in 2015.  Click on it if you wish to enlarge it.
  2. After John Killian’s two attempts to obtain his own pardon, Governor O.B. Colquitt signs a full pardon with full citizenship including the rights of “suffrage” on April 13, 1911.[xxxv] Did you see that coming?   Check it out.  Click on it for a larger view.
1905 Pardon granted to Mary Roberts
1905 Pardon granted to Mary Roberts
1911 Full Pardon for John Killian
1911 Full Pardon for John Killian

Below is a transcription of Governor Colquitt’s reason for granting this pardon to John Killian.

“John Killian was convicted on a charge of murder and his punishment assessed at life imprisonment in the State Penitentiary and whereas from statements of fact accompanying application there appears to be very grave doubt as to the guilt of applicant which doubt is shared by the present and former Board of Pardons who have recommended Executive Clemency and whereas applicant has served about ten years of sentence with a good prison record. Pardon is recommended by a number of prominent citizens familiar with the circumstances surrounding conviction.”

(Transcript from John Killian pardon.  Emphasis added by author.)

What did two pardon boards and two Governors of Texas know we don’t know?  I wish I knew.  I searched the governors’ correspondence records in the Texas State Archives and found no answers.  One of the interesting things about Colquitt’s pardon of Killian is when it took place.  He signed it at the beginning of his administration, on his way in and not on his way out.  Significant?

Now you know all I know about the case, the tragic end to the life of John Anderson Roberts.  What do you think?

We wait for the day when all will be revealed.  Rest in peace John Anderson Roberts.

Dee Roberts visits the gravesites of John and Lavina Roberts in the Little Vine Cemetery on a cold February day in 2014 (Sumner, TX)
Dee Roberts visits the gravesites of John and Lavina Roberts in the Little Vine Cemetery on a cold February day in 2014 (Sumner, TX)

*Don’t miss the “Aftermath” of John Anderson Roberts’ life in a future blog post.  Sign up for free updates and notices from Backtracking the Common.   

[i] Photo copy of this letter is in my possession.  Received from Glen Gambill, the great-grandson of Cornelia Lassiter.

[ii] I have copies of family letters where family members are asking for a loan or sending him a payment.  There are implications in these letters John may have been a little “tight” with his money.

[iii] According to a Lodge resolution following his death.

[iv] Based on the probate records following his death.

[v] Jett, Brandon (2013) “Paris is Burning: Lynching and Racial Violence in Lamar County, 1890-1920,” East Texas Historical Journal: Vol. 51: Iss. 2, Article 9.

[vi] See previous note IV.  Though some may describe this article as victimization, Jett has well established the accuracy of these facts.

[vii] Honey Grove Signal. (Honey Grove, Tex.), Vol. 5, No. 12, Ed. 1 Friday, May 10, 1895, Sequence: 5 | The Portal to Texas History.  The article says it occurred on Wednesday but it probably was on Tuesday, May 7, 1895.

[viii] Mary is in the 1866 Alabama State census as one of two females under ten years of age.  She is in the 1880 U.S. Colbert, AL Census as a fifteen-year-old.  She states in the 1900 U.S. Census for Lamar County, TX that she was born in 1862.  I’ll blog about Mary’s age in a later post.

[ix] 1880 U.S. for Camp Smith, Colbert, AL

[x] Census Year: 1860; Census Place: Subdivision 1, Blount, Alabama. Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880.

[xi] Alabama, Marriage Collection, 1800-1969 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

[xii] Mary is in the 1866 Alabama State census as one of two females under ten years of age.  She is in the 1880 U.S. Colbert, AL Census as a fifteen-year-old.  She states in the 1900 U.S. Census for Lamar County, TX that she was born in 1862.  I’ll blog about Mary’s age in a later post.

[xiii] Fold 3 accessed May 2016.


[xv] Fold 3 Records online.

[xvi] Lewis’ battalion served in central Alabama and Georgia during the summer and fall of 1864, and until the close of the war. It consisted of five companies under Captains Harrell, Brooks, Morrison, Barnes and May. The gallant Major Lewis was killed while leading the battalion at Lafayette, Ga. He was succeeded in command by Maj. William V. Harrell.

[xvii] Year: 1880; Census Place: Precinct 5, Lamar, Texas; Roll: 1314; Family History Film: 1255314; Page: 180B; Enumeration District: 079.

[xviii] Year: 1860; Census Place: Division 1, Blount, Alabama; Roll: M653_2; Page: 875; Image: 229; Family History Library Film: 803002. Accessed May 2016 on

[xix] According to the 1900 census two families of Thompsons lived in the same 6th Precinct of Lamar County.

[xx] When Gus Roberts obtained a certified birth certificate he reported his mother as “Mary Lanningham” and his father as “Jack A. Roberts”.  A certified copy is in my position.

[xxi] Lamar County courthouse records accessed February 3, 2014.  Copy obtained and in my possession.

[xxii] Newspaper articles after John’s death.  Cited later in this text.

[xxiii] Year: 1900; Census Place: Justice Precinct 6, Lamar, Texas; Roll: 1652; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 0084; FHL microfilm: 1241652.

[xxiv] When Gus Roberts obtained a certified birth certificate he reported his mother as “Mary Lanningham” and his father as “Jack A. Roberts”.  A certified copy is in my position

[xxv] The Laningham family name is often recorded as Lanningham or Landingham.  It may have originally been Van Laningham.

[xxvi] This information about John Killian was obtained from his convict record with the Texas Department of Corrections.  The microfilm is available from the Texas State Archives.


[xxviii] From the book “Backward Glances” by A.W. Neville vol. 3 May 1, 1932 – March 30, 1933.  The Wright Press, Paris, Texas.  Edited by Skipper Steely pp 255,256

[xxix]From the book “Backward Glances” by A.W. Neville vol. 3 May 1, 1932 – March 30, 1933.  The Wright Press, Paris, Texas.  Edited by Skipper Steely pp 255,256


[xxx] Taken from an online photocopy of the Paris News dated Thursday, August 26, 1954.  Genealogy Bank.

[xxxi] Honey Grove Signal (Honey Grove, Tex.), Vol. 11, No.35 Ed. 1 Friday 27, 1901, Sequence 2, The Portal to Texas History.

[xxxii] The Shiner Gazette (Shiner, Tex.), Vol 9 No 25, Ed 1, Wednesday, November 20, 1901, Sequence 3.  The Portal to Texas History

[xxxiii] Honey Grove Signal. (Honey Grove, Tex.), Vol. 12, No. 15, Ed. 1 Friday, May 9, 1902.  The Portal to Texas History.

[xxxiv] A copy of this pardon is available in the State Archives of Texas.  I photographed it in 2015.

[xxxv] A copy of this pardon is available in the State Archives of Texas.  I photographed it in 2015.

6 Replies to “The Tragic End to the Life of John Anderson Roberts: Final Chapter”

  1. What an incredibly tragic story! I can’t believe all of the detail that you have been able to find about his death. It sure doesn’t sound like suicide to me, but like you, wonder what they knew that we don’t when they signed the pardon. I certainly did not see that coming.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on such a long post. We move now to the little boy in the story, Gus Roberts.


  3. Awh. . .we all know the butler did it!! lol Excellent read –I had saved this one to read because of the content, and didn’t want to read the others until I had read this one. Now, I can work on catching up. 🙂


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