Are you trying to find an ancestor in the census but can’t find their record? There is more than one way to resolve this issue and find your ancestor. Interested? Continue reading “Where was Newton Roberts in the 1860s and 1870s? Or, When Census Records Wont’ Tell Us What We Want to Know”
Regrets are often written in the words, if I had only known. It’s doubtful my great-grandfather John Anderson Roberts ever saw the end coming.
John Anderson Roberts was my great-grandfather. I never knew him.
I stood beside his grave on a warm Texas summer day and wondered, would he have done anything differently? I don’t know. Maybe? Probably. After all, he was dead and his much younger wife was accused of murder! His life was over. It remains for me to tell his story. Continue reading “The Tragic End to the life of John Anderson Roberts”
When does the common become uncommon?
It’s unlikely you’ve ever hear of John Baker Dickson or his brother-in-law Lemuel W. Lassiter. I doubt very many ever have or ever will. Is it because they were too common? Is it because we’re inattentive, uninformed or disinterested? I fear it is the latter rather than the former.
I came across Dickson and Lassiter while working on my John Anderson Roberts research. I’m going to write a short blog here on these men in case this lead proves helpful to another researcher one day.
John Anderson and Lavina Jane Roberts’ daughter Cornelia Ann married J.B. Lassiter in Calloway County, KY in 1870. John Baker Dickson and his wife Emily Jane Lassiter Dickson were J.B. Lassiter’s aunt and uncle. They were in Red River County, Texas well ahead of the Roberts. Were they the Roberts family connection and encouragement to come to Texas? (This and of course land) Lemuel Lassiter would arrive later across the Red River.
Clues to follow Lemuel Washington Lassiter
Mary Bigelow added a photo to Find a Grave in 2012. The picture is of a headstone in the Bogota Cemetery in Red River County, Texas. Thanks Mary.
Lemuel Lassiter appears in the 1920 Federal Census in Justice Precinct 3, Red River, Texas. He is a 73-year-old merchant/druggist born in about 1847 in Kentucky. He’s married to Willie Lassiter and they appear to have six children living in their household. His father’s birthplace is recorded as Virginian and his mother’s as England.
Lew Lassiter appears in the 1910 Federal Census in Justice Precinct 3, Red River, Texas. He is a 63-year-old male retail merchant owning a grocery store in Bogota, Texas. He was born in about 1847 in Kentucky. His father and mother were born in Kentucky. He is married to Willie Lassiter and they appear to have six children living at home.
Lemuel Lassiter appears in the 1900 Federal Census in Justice Precinct 3, Red River, Texas. He is a 54-year-old male born in Kentucky about 1847. His father and mother were born in North Carolina. He is married to Willie M. Lassiter and they appear to have three children living at home.
L.W. Lassiter appears in the 1880 Federal Census in Precinct 2, Red River. He is a single age male of about 34 years of age teaching school. His father and mother were born in North Carolina.
I do not find a clue for Lemuel Lassiter in the 1870 census nor can I locate the John Anderson Roberts family in the 1870 census. Curious?
L.W. Lassiter, age about 14, appears in the 1860 Federal Census for Murray, Calloway County, KY in 1860. He is living in the household of Parmelia Elliott, age 39. There are Elliotts age 19 and 14 and another Lassiter age 18. There is also a Jno. B. Crabtree.
L.W. Lassiter, age about 4, appears in the 1850 Federal Census living in District 2 of Calloway County, KY. He is living in the home of a farmer named Little B. Lassiter, age about 25, whose father was born in North Carolina. There are three other Lassiters living in this household including Emily Lassiter, age 15. She and the other Lassiters in the household other than Little B. say their father was born in Kentucky. There appears to be no father or mother in this home.
It appears, from what little time I’ve looked, L.W. Lassiter became an orphan with the death of his father in 1849. Before his 16th birthday he’ll enlist in Company C of the Tennessee 33rd Infantry Regiment in Haywood County, TN. He rose to the rank of 1st Sergeant. His wife Willie Lassiter would file for and receive a pension for his service.
I share one more clue to uncover the life of L.W. Lassiter. His daughter (I believe her name is Ida Lassiter Hooker.) may have published her life memories in a book form. This could be a rich source of information though I’m not sure even she would have been able to uncover the fullness of this life.
Clues to follow John Baker Dickson
John Dickson was born in about 1827 in Tennessee. I wonder if he was related to any of the Dicksons in Williamson County, TN? He marries Emily Jane Lassiter in Stewart County, Tennessee in 1851. Stewart County is just across the Tennessee River from Calloway County where Emily was living in 1850 with Little B. Lassiter (see above). John and Emily Dickson will appear in the Red River County, Texas Federal Censuses for 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900. He believes his father was born in North Carolina. There is a rich and full story needing to be told but I’ll leave you with one more clue.
In March of 1862 John rode out of Clarksville, Texas into history. He was a member of the 27th Texas Calvary for the Confederate States of America. He left his family behind. He enlisted for twelve months and they would be memorable. His service began with battles and skirmishes across Mississippi including Corinth and Jackson. Nearing the end of his enlistment he was thrown into the battle of Thompson Station in Williamson County, TN on March 5, 1863 within miles of John Anderson Roberts’ birthplace and within 5 days of the end of his enlistment. He would witness over 3,000 combined casualties that one day. I’m not sure how close he came to dying that day, dismounted and fighting from the heights overlooking the Pike, but I know he saw much death and destruction. By now John had received two promotions to the rank of 3rd Sergeant. Sgt. Dickson’s unit fought into the summer including the battle and siege at Vicksburg on the Mississippi River. When the battle ended with the surrender of the Confederate forces on July 4, 1863, John was now four months overdue to go home.
The document on the left reports he was absent without leave in July and August. A note added later says he deserted on July 22, 1863.
There were other Dicksons (George, Joseph, William) who rode and marched out of Clarksville, Texas in 1861 and 1862. There may have been more than one John Dickson fighting out of Texas. Were they related? How? What became of them?
So little known. So little told.
Thanks for reading my ramblings. Okay, I have one more clue.
My 5 x great-grandfather John Neelly (that’s how he signed his name) built a wonderful home in Williamson County, Tennessee over 200 years ago.
(The quote below was taken from a National Park Service document confirming the addition to the National Register of Historic Places dated March 3, 1988)
“The John Neely House is a two-story brick, hall-parlor plan residence constructed ca.1810. On the main (south) facade is the main entrance with a ca.1900 frame and glass door. Over the door is a wood linteL The windows are ca.1960 six-over-six sash with added brick sills and original wood lintels. The main facade of the house is of Flemish bond construction with the other facades of five and six-course common bond. The house has a gable roof, stone foundation, and exterior end brick chimneys…
…The John Neely House is a notable example of a hall-parlor brick residence from the early 19th century. Hall-parlor floor plans are rare in the county and only three intact examples are included in the nomination. Despite the removal of 19th century porches and door and window alterations, the original floor plan and appearance of the house are evident.
John Neely moved to Williamson County from Virginia in 1806 and purchased lots in Franklin during those years. In 1808 he purchased land south of Franklin and began construction of a two-story brick residence. Neely lived at his residence until he died in 1818. The house was then purchased by John
Fitzgerald, and his family occupied the residence for many years. Fitzgerald was listed as owning 15 slaves in 1820 and owned property valued at $30,000 in 1850. John Fitzgerald Sr. died in 1858, and his home was then occupied by his son, John Jr., until his death in 1884. The house remained in the Fitzgerald family until 1926 when it was purchased by William Sedberry. Alterations to the house occurred primarily around 1900 when new glass and frame doors were added. Added 19th century porches have been removed and new windows added in recent years. Despite these changes the house displays its original form and notable hall-parlor pflan.”
Below I quote a paper edited by my “not yet met” cousin, Ronald L Neeley. He writes, “A special ‘Thanks’ to Juanita Naron & Mary Ann Thorton who provided much of the historical facts on the Neeley lineage.” Here’s some of what he reports about the John Neely House and family in Williamson County.
“…although much altered from its original appearance; this fine old brick house has been a landmark in the Thompson Station area for over a century and a half. Williamson County was still in its infancy when John Neely, along with his family and his three brothers and their families, cut a trail from Virginia over the mountains to Tennessee. John Neely was the son of James Neely, originally from Philadelphia and later of Botetourt County, Virginia, and Jane Grymes Neely of Northampton, Burlington County, New Jersey. He married Susanna Evans, the daughter of Daniel and Rhoda Griffith Evans, sometime after 1770. By 1791 he owned almost 2000 acres “on the north side of the Roanoke (River)” in Virginia where apparently all of his children were born.
They arrived in Williamson County early in 1806 since John Neely bought town lots 85 and 95 in February of that year. In 1808, he made a permanent settlement on land bought from James Robertson in the West Harpeth where he built this brick house on a rise overlooking the rich meadows and forests spread out below. His children were James, Rhoda, Jane, John H, William, Sophia, and Charles Lynch who married into the Sanders, Drake, Neely, Woldridge, Priest, and Welles families and are the progenitors of numerous descendants in Williamson County today.” (bold added by me)
So, if you or your ancestors are from Williamson County, TN, check your family tree, we may be related. Oh, and by the way, I’m also related to the Roberts, Sammons, Haley, Tatum, Wallace Nichols, Blackwell, Giles and Smithson families of Williamson County from other lines on my tree.
I recently “met” a wonderful cousin, Janice ____ (last name withheld intentionally because I didn’t ask her permission to publish it?!). She still lives in the county (lucky girl). I asked Janice if she had ever seen the house and she ran out and snapped a picture of it! Aren’t cousins wonderful! Thanks Janice! I’ll be by to see the house in the fall.
While researching my files for a series of posts on J.A. Roberts, I came across this in his father’s file. In 1838 John R. Roberts and his younger brother Newton bought a tract of land on Rutherford Creek in Williamson County, Tennessee. W.O. Smithson and Paschal Giles serve as the the two witnesses to this transaction. Giles was the brother of John R. Roberts’ wife Rebecca Anne Giles. Smithson was the brother of John R.’s first wife Sarah B. Smithson (She died perhaps giving birth to their second child). William Overton Smithson was born, as was John R. in Lunenburg County, Virginia. Now, here’s the interesting connection. (I know, you thought I had already shared it.) W.O. Smithson had a son named W.O. Smithson. He was born in Williamson County in 1831 and died in Montague County, Texas in 1900. The surprise: He married Mary Jane Nichols, the sister of my 2 x great-grandfather Frederick Shaffer Nichols. Both were born in Williamson County. And this reminder from a previous post, My father’s father Gus Roberts, grandson of John R. Roberts, married the granddaughter of Frederick S. Nichols and Sarah Elizabeth Neely. Her name was Emma Lee Ingram and they had to meet in a Children’s Home in Fort Worth to make it happen! I’m certain my grandparents Gus and Emma knew nothing of these earlier relationships in Lunenburg, Williamson or Montague Counties, but now we do!
My dad was born in the small Texas Hill Country town named after his grandfather, a grandfather he never knew. He knew neither of his grandfathers. His father knew neither of his grandfathers. His grandfather John Anderson Roberts knew only one of his grandfathers, his mother’s father. I assume he knew him because they lived in the same part of Williamson County, Tennessee for the first fourteen years of my great-grandfather’s life and the last fourteen years of my 3 x great grandfather William Giles’ life. He died in 1844. There weren’t many models for parenting and grand parenting in our Roberts line.
Burton Lee Roberts was born in Ingram, Texas on February 24, 1919. It was a Monday. I doubt Dad ever knew that. I wonder if it surprised Dad to discover he wasn’t given a name on the day he was born? My grandfather had to apply for the following amended certificate in 1977. My Dad’s original name? — Roberts. No given name.
That’s one reason I’ve titled these most recent posts using Dad’s full given name. His
name was Burton Lee Roberts. He was, to the best of my detective work, named after his mother’s sister BG Chessman’s husband and his mother Emma Lee Ingram Roberts. I suspect his naming was delayed because my grandfather Gus was not in attendance at Dad’s birth and probably not even in town.
Ingram is a small town in western Kerr County located about 83 miles northwest of San Antonio, Texas. My great-grandfather J.C.W. Ingram located his store and post office on the original wagon road from San Antonio to San Angelo in 1883. The historical markers all say he bought the land from the Morriss family in 1879 but the recorded deed is clear, it was 1883. The six acres were part of the original Francisco Trevino land grant. The Ingrams could not have been there in 1879 because they didn’t leave California for Texas until December of 1881. I’ve documented and written more about that in an earlier post.
In the times in which Dad was born, it was common for expectant mothers to temporarily move in with or very near their mother or other female relative who would assist with the birth and/or after-care. My widowed great-grandmother’s name was Sarah Alice “Sally” Ingram. She was the offspring of a Nichols/Neely union from Williamson County before their families migrated to Texas. She would later accompany her pharmacist/preacher husband to Carrizo Springs, Texas where my grandmother Emma was born in 1898. She returned to her home in Kerr County after J.C.W.’s death. Great Grandmother Sally’s presence was no doubt the reason Grandmother Emma Lee was in Ingram the day my dad arrived. So, where was his father Gus? I suspect he was 83 miles away, a two or three-day journey, in San Antonio, Texas. It’s all supposition on my part. Gus Roberts registered for the World War I draft in September of 1918. The war would end two months later and another two months later my dad arrived. Gus and Emma were newlyweds living in San Antonio according to his registration. They lived at 2118 Nebraska St. He worked for Otis Elevator Company and was probably at work the Monday morning his firstborn child arrived – OR, he joined the service and was away. There are some unknowns here I have yet to uncover – a matter of an early photo of a young granddad Gus in a military looking uniform. (???) I love a good mystery!
My Dad answered to several names. According to Veteran Affairs records (Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011) he was Burton Roberts. According to the Social Security Administration record “Nov 1938: Name listed as BURTON LEE ROBERTS; 11 Mar 1988: Name listed as BURTON L ROBERTS”. (Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.) Thus the S.S. Death Index list him as Burton L. Roberts. (Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011.) He often signed his name B.L. Roberts. Therefore, when I wrote or spoke of him through the years I’ve referred to him as “B.L.” or “Old B.L.” His friends and family of his generation called him “Bob”. My children call him “PawPaw”. These were some of the names of Burton Lee Roberts.
My dad had one more name I’ll mention. It was a name few called him. In fact, I’m the only one I remember ever calling him by this name. In my precocious teen years, I began calling my dad “Pop”. I doubt many even noticed, but he did. We talked about in one day. I brought it up. I asked him if it was okay with him. His response, “I don’t care what you call me.” But I think he liked it. I know I did.
The idea came from the old Charlie Chan mystery movies. Actor Keye Luke played Lee Chan in the majority of those old black and whites. He was the oldest son of the main character, detective Charlie Chan. In the series he called his father “Pop”. He was the first one I remember using the term and the only one of the Chan children (ten or eleven I believe) who called their father by this name. It could have been seen as insolent in their culture (or mine for that matter); but it felt endearing to me. It must have felt that way to the writers of the series because Charlie never corrects his son. Dad never corrected me.
Grandparents don’t always have a say in what their grandchildren eventually call them – but they generally try. The fact is most of us are stuck with the name our first grandchild can pronounce. When my wife Dee (MeMaw) and I were discussing what we wanted our first grandchild to call us, I said I wanted to be called “Pop”. It stuck. It’s my tip of the cap to “Old B.L.”.
Always check the census records first.
Burton Lee Roberts’ military records say he was born in 1917. His amended birth record says 1919. The 1920 census supports his birth record of 1919 as the correct date. Here is part of the census record from Brownwood, Texas and what we learn about my father and his family in 1920.
The household record actually begins on the previous page. It is probably difficult for you to see this page (and you certainly can’t see the previous page because I haven’t included it), so I’ll try to accurately relate the information. This information is available at Ancestry.com and the National Archives.
Gus and Emma L. Roberts are living at 1009 Booker St. in Brownwood City (Today called simply Brownwood), Texas. They are living in the household of Edward and Grace Mohn. Gus is Edward’s brother-in-law. We know from other sources that Grace is Emma’s sister. The Mohn’s have two sons, Edward age 4 and John age 2 1/2. Edward Sr. is working as a machinist in an auto shop.
Gus Roberts is a 21-year-old married white male. He is able to read and write. He was born in Texas. He, or whoever spoke to the census taker that day, gives his father and mother’s birth place as the United States. (I don’t believe Gus, my grandfather, knew the birthplace of his father or mother. Therefore he could not have told his wife or a census taker. He’s able to speak English, works as a machinist helper in an auto shop as a wage earner and is enumerated on the farm schedule at #620.
Emma L. Roberts is a 21-year-old married white female. She is able to read and write. She was born in Texas. She, or whoever spoke to the census taker that day, gives her father’s birthplace as California and her mother’s as Tennessee. (I tend to believe she was the source of this information. What’s interesting is she was wrong about her father and right about her mother. Most “tree builders” online are usually right about her father and wrong about her mother.) Her work is listed as “none” and that makes me laugh.
Burton L. Roberts is enumerated as the only child of Gus and Emma living in the household. He is the nephew of Edward Mohn, the head of the household. He is a ten month old white male who was born in Texas, as were his parents. He could not read, write or speak English. Awww, those were the days. And while he did not work according to the census, I bet he kept his mother busy!
This census record supports Burton Lee Roberts’ birth year as 1919. His amended birth certificate supports this. His Social Security records support this. He told me this was his correct birth year and that he had lied about his birth date to enlist in the Army.
After you interview all of your living relatives, begin your next research with the U.S. Census. Happy backtracking!
My father ran away from home in 1935.
Many of us consider running away from home. We struggle against the milieu of adolescence while facing the hard headwinds of coming adulthood. Some of us just want to run away. Some of us think about it. Some of us plan to do it. Not Dad. He did it! Burton Lee Roberts “ran away from home”! Aided and abetted by his mother he bolted at the age of sixteen.
Here’s the story I “pestered” out of him back when I was just a teenager myself.
My dad thought his father, Gus Roberts, was a hard, stern, difficult man. He told me he never got along with his father. He used to discipline Dad with an old leather strap like the ones used by barbers to hone their razors. His sister Elizabeth shared the same sentiments in my presence on a couple of occasions. She once told my mother their father beat them with sticks. Now, I considered both my dad and aunt to be strong-willed, stubborn people. I understood why they might clash with their father but I could never excuse Grandad’s harshness.
It happened one Sunday. The family returned from church and were sitting at the lunch table-No, I shouldn’t write that-What happened had been building for a long time. On this day it erupted like a volcano. Grandad Gus told Daddy to finish his lunch and go hitch-up the mule to the plow. He was to plow their field in preparation for planting a fall crop. This was apparently a departure from what my grandparents would normally allow to be done on a Sunday. Perhaps Dad was being disciplined. But my dad and some older teenage boys had made plans at church to enjoy the cool waters of the swimming hole after lunch.
Now few places in America are hotter than North Texas in August. This change in plans brought a strong response from Dad. He told his father he had already made plans and did not want to take a Sunday afternoon, a day of rest, to go plow. They disagreed. It got heated and included the “if a boy is going to put his feet under my table then he’s going to do as I say” speech. The threat of a “whipping like he’d never seen” got my dad out the door and into the field. But he was furious. He took it out on the mule. He pushed that old black mule under the blazing sun at breakneck speed. He was going to show his dad. He would finish the plowing AND go swimming, if it killed him.
Finishing the field with a couple of good hours of daylight remaining, Dad unhitched the mule, put him in the pen, stored the harness gear and rushed by the house on his way to the creek. He was no doubt pleased with himself. But his dad wasn’t. He had watched him and was not happy with his behavior. His voice stopped Dad in this tracks. “Did you water that mule?” Grandad asked. The volcano began to rise once again as Dad made his way to the water well. Back then he would not be able to turn a valve and run water in a trough. He would have to drop a wooden bucket into their deep, cold water well, draw it up, carry it to the lot, and hand fill the trough. It would take several trips to do it right. But of course Dad was in no frame of mind to “do it right”. As he reached the trough the old hard-working mule was waiting in anticipation. In that moment Dad took out his anger toward his father on the poor old mule once again. He told me he took the bucket of water and poured it over the mule’s head. The mule fell dead! Heat exhaustion and a bucket of cold water finished him off. Well, what can I say, that’s the way my dad told the story.
Dad took off and hid from a sure beating. Grandmother negotiated a “peace treaty”. But it was done. Dad said he pulled his feet out from under Gus Roberts’ table and never put them back again. (He exaggerated that last part but that’s another story for another day.) He “ran away” from home at sixteen, aided and abetted by his mother.
My dad continues the story in this fashion. His mother took him to the army recruiter in Fort Worth where he planned to lie about his age and sign up. She would be complicit. The recruiter, anxious to fill his quota, asked Daddy how much he weighed. When he told him his guess (because Daddy had no idea), the recruiter looked concerned. He told Daddy to do exactly what he told him. These were his instructions. Go find a half gallon of buttermilk and a handful of bananas. Eat those bananas and drink that buttermilk in rapid succession. Finish them off as you enter back through the door of this recruiting office. Dad did exactly as he was told. As he cleared the office door threshold the recruiter directed him to the scales. Climbing on the scales, Dad held his breath. He was so full he couldn’t catch his breath any way. He made it, with an ounce or two to spare! He was in!
I probably should add more context to Dad’s story. The U.S. Armed Forces were not in very good shape as the year began in 1935. The decision had been made not to provide military training to the thousands of young men working in the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). They would remain civilian. So, their presence and availability would not add to the country’s military readiness. Meanwhile, many of the enlisted men and officers had begun to cycle out of the military before 1935. Numbers were down when they needed to be going up. By August of 1935 the U.S. Congress accepted the recommendation of General Douglas MacArthur and appropriated much larger amounts of resources to build up the military, especially the air and naval defensive strength. Mom and I talked about this story over the holidays and she added additional context. She said the older dairy boys, older than Dad, also went and signed up for the Army at the same time. Apparently all the boys had been discussing a way off of the farm and “into some money” and independence. The Army’s stepped up recruitment provided them their opportunity. A dead mule lit the fuse! Mom said the dairy boys’ parents were not happy and were eventually able to buy their military obligation off and bring their sons home. Dad was in for the duration.
My dad’s story reminds me of a joke I first heard over twenty-five years ago. There was an eighteen-year-old young man exasperated by his parents. He told them he was leaving. When asked why, he told them he was tired of being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. He wanted his freedom. He felt he was old enough to make his own decisions. He was leaving. They asked him what he was planning to do. He responded, “I’m thinking about joining the Marines”!
Burton Lee Roberts “ran away” from home when his was sixteen. It was 1935. He was in the Army now!
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