William Roberts Family of Grayson County, Virginia

Jonathan Roberts Family

Jonathan ROBERTS (William ROBERTS1) was born 13 May 1807 in Elk Creek, Grayson County, Virginia, USA, and died 6 Dec 1870 in Grayson County, Virginia, USA. He married Matilda M PERKINS 24 Jun 1828 in Grayson County, Virginia, USA, daughter of Arad PERKINS and Mary Polly PENNINGTON. She was born 13 Aug 1808 in Grayson County, Virginia USA, and died 10 Jul 1894 in Grayson County, Virginia, USA.

Descendants of Jonathan Roberts

1 Jonathan Roberts b: 13 May 1807 d: 6 December 1870
....+Matilda M Perkins b: 13 August 1808 m: 24 June 1828 d: 10 July 1894
2 Daniel Freeland Roberts b: 25 October 1829 d: 15 June 1900
.......+Gincy Jane Cornett b: 1 December 1823 m: 6 October 1852 d: 7 June 1913
2 Arad F Roberts b: 29 April 1832 d: 24 April 1916
.......+Frances Delp b: 15 June 1841 m: 23 August 1857 d: 15 June 1902
2 William Elbert M Roberts b: 1834 d: Abt 1863
.......+Julia F Stamper b: 1835
2 David Fielding Roberts b: 10 August 1836 d: 8 August 1903
.......+Thursa Ann Perkins b: 12 July 1836 m: 24 January 1861 d: 23 May 1914
2 Marinda Rindy Roberts b: 11 August 1838 d: 11 July 1839
2 Wiley Winton Roberts b: 17 January 1841 d: 8 September 1937
.......+Narcissis Americus Orr b: 15 October 1846 m: 12 December 1867 d: 25 April 1898
*2nd Wife of Wiley Winton Roberts:
.......+Frances D Scott b: Abt 1859 m: Aft 1898
2 Byrom Roberts b: 1842 d: Abt 1863
2 Celia Elvira Roberts b: 17 May 1846 d: 7 November 1862
2 Jarvis Crooks Roberts b: 4 May 1849 d: 7 October 1929
.......+Orleana M Perkins b: 24 February 1850 m: 18 September 1869 d: 26 March 1917
2 Lucy Ann Roberts b: 16 May 1854 d: 11 October 1937
.......+Fielden Reece Delp b: 27 March 1850 m: 19 April 1872 d: 7 July 1934
*2nd Husband of Lucy Ann Roberts:
.......+William Stroup m: 19 January 1876

Notes on Jonathan Roberts

Jonathan was a farmer and married in 1828. He established his home at one of the best springs along Middle Fox Creek, between Newlands Ridge and Bald Rock Ridge in an area now called Roberts Cove. He built a log home there which stood until the 1920's. He and Matilda had 10 children. Of the girls, Lucy was the only one to survive to adulthood. Five of his sons served in the Civil War in the Union Army. He was arrested on 9/29/1863 and charged with harboring Confederate deserters.

1850 Federal Census for Grayson County, VA at New River Notes

32 598 598 Roberts Jonathan 43 M . . . . . Farmer 1,900 VA . . . . .
33 598 598 Roberts Matilda 39 F . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VA . . . . .
34 598 598 Roberts Daniel 20 M . . . . . Laborer . . . . . VA . . . . .
35 598 598 Roberts Arad 18 M . . . . . .Laborer . . . . . .VA . . . . .
36 598 598 Roberts Elber 16 M . . . . . .Laborer . . . . . .VA . . . . .
37 598 598 Roberts Fielding 14 M . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..VA . . . . .
38 598 598 Roberts Wiley W. 10 M . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VA . . . . .
39 598 598 Roberts Byrom 8 M . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VA . . . . .
40 598 598 Roberts Celia E. 4 F . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .VA . . . . .
41 598 598 Roberts James C. 2/12 M . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .VA . . . . . Actually Jarvis C.

Listed in 1850 Miracode Grayson Census at Ancestry.com

Jonathan 43, Matilda 39, Daniel F 20, Arad 18, Elbert 16, Fielding 14, Wiley W 10, Byrom 8, Celia E 4, and Jarvis C 2/12

Listed in the 1860 Federal Census for Grayson County, VA at Ancestry.com
Jonathan 53, farmer; Matilda 50, David F 23, Wiley W 18, By___ 16, _______12, ___vice J? 10 and Lucy 5

1870 Federal Census for Grayson County, VA., annotated, at new river notes

45. Roberts, Jonathan 63 Farmer 2500 134
(Perkins), Matilda 60
Lucy Ann 16
[This was family 857 in the 1860 Grayson Co., VA Census. Jonathan Roberts, s/o William Roberts and
Lydia Lewis Md. Matilda Perkins, 6/24/1828. Lucy Ann Roberts, b. 3/29/1854, Md. (1) Fielding Reese
Delp on 4/19/1872 and md. (2) William Stroup, s/o A. J. & S. Stroup, 1/19/1876.]

1880 Federal Census for Grayson County, VA at LDS Site

Name Relation M Status Gender Race Age Birthplace Occupation Father's BP Mother's BP
Reece DELP Self M Male W 30 VA Farmer VA VA
Lucy A. DELP Wife M Female W 26 VA Keeping House VA VA
Idy E. DELP Dau S Female W 6 VA VA VA
Levi DELP Son S Male W 4 VA VA VA
Wiler DELP Son S Male W 2 VA VA VA
Matilda ROBERTS MotherL W Female W 69 VA VA VA

Source Information:
Census Place Elk Creek, Grayson, Virginia
Family History Library Film 1255368
NA Film Number T9-1368
Page Number 370B

Land acquired Oct 1843 rec'd homestead grant for land on Fox Creek in the Cove, per Cindy Clements

This info by Ginger Ballard in the Grayson County Historical Society Newsletter


Historians tell us that the 1861 vote in Grayson was 1077 to zero in favor of secession. There was at least one Grayson family that defied this trend.

Jonathan Roberts and Matilda Perkins were both natives of Grayson. As a young couple they laid claim to much of the land in the small valley known at Roberts Cove.
They had been more fortunate than many Grayson parents in that of there ten children, only one had died before the War. Their oldest daughter Marinda, had choked on a bean. The four oldest boys were married and in 1861, Jonathan and Matilda were able to count several grandchildren among their family.
Some care must be taken in researching this family. Three of the boys (Freel, Elbert and Fielding went by their middle names, while official records use the first (Daniel, William and David). Northern clerks weren’t familiar with Byrom’s name and often recorded it at :Byron:. In handwritten records, “Daniel F” and “David F” are easily mistaken and some historians have mistaken references to the two brothers.

We may never know all the reasons the family went against their neighbors and relatives in their beliefs. Matilda’s father Arad Perkins, had been born in New Haven, but was a small child when his father moved to North Carolina. Jonathan’s father, William Roberts, was born in North Carolina. Perhaps the biggest clue lies in the name given to one of their children. Wiley Winton was a northern preacher who spent time in Grayson during the latter part of the 1830’s and Jonathan and Matilda respected him enough to name their next son after him. (my note: this is Ginger’s line through Wiley Winton Roberts). The family had to have had mixed feelings on the issue of secession and it cannot have been easy for them to side against their community and state. Family tradition indicates that at least one of the brothers sympathized with the Southern cause and would not speak to another brother for several years. Wiley later said that it wasn’t that he thought one side was right and the other wrong, but rather that both sides were wrong to be fighting each other.

Jarvis was only eight when the War started, but the other six boys were of prime ages for conscription into the Confederate Army. Indeed, if one accepts one piece of evidence, it would appear they supported the Confederacy, for the names of Daniel Freel, Arad, Elbert, David Fielding, and Wiley appear on a surviving list of Grayson Militia in the National Archives in Washington. There is no evidence, however, that these men on this roster ever fought for the Confederacy. Jeff Weaver, a leading Civil War historian for this area, has opined that this roster was one of several for various counties compiled during the period of time when it would appear that a politician wanted a list of all men available for the conscription in the area.

For the first two years of the War, the Roberts brothers did manage to avoid involve- ment, but it wasn’t easy. Their sister Celia died 7 Nov 1862 and was buried in the cemetery with her older sister. Numerous family stories have been handed down about those two years. The brothers posted lookouts and when Confederates came into the Cove they headed for Newland or Bald Rock Ridge on either side of the Cove. Freel later wrote that he lived in the woods for two summers and winters. It is said this wife would leave food for the brothers on a stump in the woods, where he would later claim it and that he went without seeing his wife and children for extended periods of time.

Different branches of the family have the hero of another incident being either Jarvis in women’s clothing, or one of his sisters, but the story is consistent. Confederates had come to the family home looking for the boys one morning. At dinner time, the child headed out from the house with a pot of stew for his/her brothers. It wasn’t until the youngster got out away from the house that he/she could see the Confederates sitting under a tree watching the house, so he/she poured the pot of stew in the hog tough and went back to the house and let the older brothers go hungry that day.

It is said some of the Roberts women were tortured in an attempt to get them to reveal the location of the men. Jonathan Roberts refused to tell the Confederates where his sons were and was arrested and held in the unheated Independence jail in the wintertime, where he froze his toes.

By 1863, however, it was clear the brothers could no longer avoid involvement in the War. In April of that year, Elbert and Byrom headed north where they enlisted in the 2nd West Virginia Cavalry, Company I.

Family tradition says that Confederate eventually arrested Wiley and others and started back to their outfit in Dublin and the captives escaped and went through the mountains. According to Freel’s pension application, in late July Freel and Wiley rode off “as if we were going to join the Confederates” (but home folks knew better). They spent eight nights traveling north through West Virginia to Gallipolis, Ohio, where they joined up with the Union Army. The Union Army was somewhat suspicious of these two Virginian who wanted to enlist and sent them south into Kentucky. From there they were sent into Tennessee where they officially enlisted in September 1863, in the 13th Tennessee Cavalry, Company D.

Arad and Fielding did not enlist as soldiers, but family tradition states they served as scouts for the Union Army and were imprisoned in Richmond for their efforts. Arad managed to escape from prison and walked from Richmond to his home in Grayson. While there are no official records to support this claim, other family stories have been verified repeatedly by official records and there is no reason to disbelieve this one. On the other hand, Fielding may have been the brother who condoned the Confederate cause. In the 1870 census, Fielding did not live close to his brothers. This man or may not be an indication of a possible rift within the family

Freel and Wiley managed to survive their service, but both had medical problems for the rest of their lives as a result of it. Wiley and several other soldiers in their unit caught measles and Freel helped nurse them back to health. He then came down with measles himself and spent a cold rainy night in a leaking tent, too sick to go for help or even call for it. He almost died as a result. It took several months for him to recuperate enough to return to his unit and he had lung problems for the rest of his life.

Wiley was injured in the battle at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, when his horse fell against a shot off sapling on a hillside and caught his leg underneath its body. The Union forces then did a forced march through the night so Wiley was unable to seek medical attention for some time during the retreat. He carried a wound on his hip for the remainder of his life and was periodically bedridden when the infections flared up. A neighbor would have to cut open the fistula for him when this happened. Freel was discharged in September 1865 as a private, while Wiley was discharged in the same month as a corporal.

Byrom and Elbert were not as fortunate. Byrom was mustered in at Camp Piatt, (West) Virginia on 20 Apr 1863 and was taken prisoner in the battle at Loop Creek, (West) Virginia on 27 June 1863. After his release he returned to his unit but was left sick in the hospital in Charleston in May 1864. Again he returned to his unit. On 19 Sept 1864 he was killed in the Battle of Winchester. He is buried there in the National Cemetery.

The family has retained knowledge of Byrom’s fate ever since his death, but Elbert’s fate was a bit of a mystery. The family tradition was that Elbert was living as a civilian in Johnson County, Tennessee where he helps people go through the lines and that he was home sick in bed when Confederates came to his house. Supposedly they hauled him out of bed and took him out into the front yard where they leaned him against a tree and shot him in front of his family. More recent family members have gone to Johnson County trying to learn more about his death, but were unable to do so. The official records paint a slightly different picture.

Elbert mustered into the 2nd West Virginia Cavalry on the same day as Byrom and served through the summer with him. In September 1863, the colonel of the unit sent a detachment of thirty men including Elbert to Smyth County, Virginia with orders to burn the railroad bridge at Marion. This was extremely dangerous territory for Elbert because if he were captured, he could very well be recognized this close to his home, and if recognized he would be executed immediately as a traitor to Virginia. Although they left their horses behind and traveled on foot at night and rested during the day. Confederate forces saw them and captured most of the thirty. The captives were sent to prison, some to Richmond and some to Andersonville. Several men of the unit died in the two prisons. rueben Cornett and Elbert managed to avoid capture. Unable to return to their unit over two hundred miles away in West Virginia, they hid and made their way at night into Johnson County, Tennessee, where the father of Reuben Cornett lived.

William Cornett was concerned about the dangers of harboring Union soldiers but was unwilling to turn his son away. He said later that he feared for the lives of everyone in the home.

Because he was unable to communicate with his unit, Elberts was officially listed as absent without leave on 17 October. It was not too far from this time that he went to the headquarters of the recruiting officer for the 13th Tennessee Cavalry, the unit his brothers Freel and Wiley had joined the previous month, and told the officer of his plight. The officer suggested that since he could not return to his own unit, he could assist in the recruiting and gave Elbert papers authorizing him to do so. Elbert returned to the William Cornett home where his host became even more worried, when Elbert signed up recruits in the home.

Later in the fall, Elbert because seriously ill. In December he was still too sick to get out of bed when Confederates came to the house and arrested him. They took Elbert into Taylorsville (now Mountain City) and locked him in the jail there. A short time later they took him outside and shot him.

After the War had ended, one of Elbert’s brothers went to the Cornett home to retrieve his recruiting papers. Mr Cornett took them to the spot in the woods where he had buried the papers under a rock, but time and snow and rain had taken their toll and the papers had rotted.

Shortly after the end of the War, Elbert’s widow, Julia, applied for a pension but it appears her application was rejected because of the listing of absence without leave. It took several years and depositions from several different people but eventually the records were revised to show that Elbert was killed on 18 December 1863 and Julia’s and Elbert’s daughter Laura finally received a pension. These depositions included ones by Reuben and William Cornett; by Dr James Donnelly who inspected Elbert’s body after the execution and testified about the bullet holes in the blue uniform and where he buried the body; and by P. M. Kiser the undertaker who made the casket.
Jonathan Roberts never recovered from the financial hardships created by being the father of Union soldiers in the Confederacy and died in 1870 with so few assets that he left no will. After his death, Matilda applied for and received a pension based on Byrom’s service. Wiley applied for a pension in 1879 on the basis of injuries received in battle, but was originally turned down because all medical records of the 13th Tennessee had been destroyed. Again it took many years and many depositions before he eventually received his pension. Freel applied for pension in 1890 on the basis of his continuing health problems and again the process of approval took several years.

Because Federal employees were reluctant to grant pensions to these men of Virginia, we have an amazing amount of information in the Roberts' pension files. They being Robertses, did not give up when their applications were rejected but fought the government. Wiley’s pension application is especially generous as it contains records from the time he first applied for a pension in 1879 until after his widow died in 1950 and is well over a hundred pages long. After the War was over, all the surviving brothers returned to Grayson County where they participated in community affairs. Wiley, Jarvis and Lucy married and joined their brothers in raising their families. Wiley served on the Board of Supervisors during the period when the 1908 Courthouse was built. In 1911, when local citizens decided they wanted to build a monument honoring Confederate Soldiers of Grayson, Wiley was one of the first to make a donation to honor his former foes.

On Final note, Wiley and Freel both used the term “War of the Rebellion” when writing or talking about the War. Wiley refused to use the term “Civil War” because he said that there was absolutely nothing civil about it.

Ginger Ballard
July 2003
Jonathan and Matilda are buried in the Roberts Cemetery in Roberts Cove, Grayson County, VA

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April 2008