ROBERTS FAMILY. It is more than three score and ten years since the founder of this family settled in Randolph county: That honor belongs to James Roberts, the father of William Roberts and grandfather of Harry W. Roberts, and it was in 1839 that he arrived and shortly afterwards located on and received a patent for the east half of the northwest quarter of section 14 in township 6, range 7 west, eighty acres, lying one mile northwest of New Palestine, and now owned by Dr. W. R. MacKenzie of Chester.
James Roberts was born in Newark, New Jersey, August 30, 1787, and was a son of a Revolutionary soldier; his father, also named James Roberts, being one of that noble band of immortal patriots who at the call to arms in 1775 donned the meagre uniform of the Continental army and served faithfully with credit and honor during the six long, weary years of that sanguinary struggle for freedom from oppression, passing through the consequent hardship, privation, suffering and bloodshed which finally culminated in the establishment of this peerless
republic, _a rich heritage acquired for us through the tribulation of these illustrious forefathers. James Roberts, Senior, was honorably discharged at Philadelphia at the close of the Revolution and died shortly thereafter. Patriotism was a virtue in this family, for during the second war with Great Britain (1812-14) James Roberts, Junior enlisted in defense of his country and saw service in and around New York City during that conflict.
About the year 1819 James Roberts was wedded to Margaret Murphy in New York City, she being a native of that city, born there on January 20, 1798. Shortly after their marriage James Roberts began his westward migration, removing from Newark, New Jersey, to Columbus, Ohio, in 1820, where he resided and followed the occupation of a wagon maker for a number of years. He then returned to his old home in New Jersey for a short time but the lure of the west was insistent and he returned to Columbus about 1830, and after a short stay removed with his family to Southern Michigan, locating at the little village of White Pigeon, St. Joseph county, where they resided for seven years. In about 1837 they removed to Washington, Tazewell county, Illinois, and in 1839 the migration closed by settlement on the farm near New Palestine, the coming of James Roberts adding a useful citizen to that section of Randolph county. While scarcely to be numbered among the pioneers, yet there was still some "blazing" to be done in this region of former French dominion and his hand was modestly set to the task. He lived a worthy, industrious and respected life and died esteemed and regretted by the community.
Eleven children, were born to James and Margaret Roberts, four of them dying in infancy, _one in Ohio, one in Michigan and two in Washington, Illinois. Of those who reached maturity their names given in the order of their birth are: Catherine, married to James W. Nixon; Maria, married to James Clark; Sarah Ann; William; Hiram; Eliza, married first to Henry Stipe and after his demise to James Allan; Charlotte, married to Charles Robbins. The surviving members of the family are Hiram Roberts and Mrs. Eliza Allan, both residents of Ellis Grove.
James Roberts was a Master Mason, and was a member of Kaskaskia Lodge, No. 86, A. F. & A. M., at the time of his death, when he was laid to rest with the honors and ceremonials of the burial service of that ancient order. He departed this life on July 20, 1869, and lies in the little cemetery at Ellis Grove, beside his wife, who passed away on August 7, 1857.
William Roberts, the third child of James Roberts, was born at Columbus, Ohio, May 19, 1822, and passed his boyhood days there and with the family in their journeyings until they arrived in Washington, Illinois, where, at the age of fifteen, he was apprenticed by his father to learn the harness and saddlery trade. About the time the family removed to Randolph county he chose to go to St. Louis, where he passed about six years of his early manhood. In 1846 he came to Chester and entered into partnership in business with C. O. Church, this partnership after a short time being dissolved and a new one formed with David Block in groceries, trading and produce. This firm also dissolved subsequently, and he went into the saddlery and harness business with R. H. Richardson as a partner. In 1855 Mr. Richardson died and Mr. Roberts continued the business on his own responsibility, retiring in 1875, after a long and successful mercantile career. After a residence in Chester continuously for a third of a century, he removed to St. Louis with his family in 1879, purchasing a residence at 3322 Morgan street, at that time near the Western limits of the city.
In 1887 the family returned to Chester and for seven years resided in the Matlock (now McAtee) house in the Buena Vista section of the city, removing to their new home on Young avenue in 1894, where Mr. Roberts passed away on October 4, 1896.
On June 13, 1850, William Roberts was married to Susan C. Entler, by Rev. B. F. Spilman, of the Presbyterian church, in the old Wassell residence on Sparta street in Chester, then the home of Charles Wright and now the site of Don E. Detrich's residence. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Roberts went to housekeeping in the brick residence under the hill, where thirty years of their early married life were passed in contentment and happiness, or until the removal of the family to St. Louis, as previously stated. The two decades prior to the Civil war were witnesses of the heyday of prosperity for river towns. Business was booming and money was plentiful in the thriving little city of Chester, then a prominent port along the great transportation highway of the United States. Railroads had not yet come to claim the commerce of the river and drive from its welling bosom the magnificent vessels which ploughed its service and carried to market the great wealth of the Mississippi valley.
William Roberts always took a lively interest in public affairs but was without ambition for public preferment, and only consented to perform a duty incumbent upon all good citizens when he became a member of the Chester city council or sat with other members of the board of education. He had political views in harmony with Democracy as espoused by the founders and fathers of the party. He was acquainted with toil in his earlier life, but his business efforts were sufficiently rewarded and his declining years were passed in comfortable circumstances. He was an exemplary, unostentatious citizen, _ one of the plain people such as give stability and character to the commonwealth and nation, and his passing away was the finality of an honorable life.
Mrs. Susan C. Roberts, the wife of William Roberts, was born at Shepherdstown, Virginia, December 2, 1823, and died at Chester, Illinois, July 11, 1908. Her father and grandfather bore the same name, _Martin Entler, and the former was born April 30, 1786, and died at Shepherdstown, Virginia, February 14, 1825. He was married, November 25, 1808, to Susan Cobbler, who was born June 7, 1789, and who died at Chester, Illinois, August 11, 1854. It is not definitely known when Martin Entler settled in Jefferson county, Virginia. His forefathers were natives of Holland and came to America during the period of English dominion over American affairs. That there were patriots among them and that they were found wearing the uniform and following the banner of independence is a matter of tradition and history. The old Entler home, built of stone, still stands in Shepherdstown, down near the clear waters of the sparkling Potomac, spurs of the Blue Ridge surrounding the old town and making a setting of picturesque beauty. This is a region of rare, historic interest, _Harper's Ferry, Charlestown, Winchester, Antietam, and other notable places being in the near vicinity.
The children of Martin and Susan Entler were: George W., born April 26, 1809, married to Ann R. Staley February 22, 1831, and died at Perryville, Missouri, December 16, 1880; his wife was born at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, June 16, 1813, and died at Perryville April 6, 1896. Eliza, born February 11, 1811, married William McKay August 8, 1832, and died at Shepherdstown, Virginia, June 9, 1842; her husband died at Chester, August 19, 1857. Prudence, born November 13, 1812, married John Yontz October 31, 1828, and died in Chester, March 31,
1885; her husband died on his farm near Chester January 1, 1860. Julia A., born December 18, 1816, married Charles Wright August 11, 1836, and died at Chester November 11, 1878, her husband died at Chester June 2, 1889. Amelia, born August 2, 1819, died at Chester October 10, 1895, unmarried. John L., born August 2, 1822, died at Shepherdstown November 26, 1822. Susan C., the youngest child and the last to pass away, was born December 2, 1823, married William Roberts June 13, 1850, and died at Chester, July 11, 1908; her husband died at Chester on October 4, 1896, as previously mentioned.
During the first half of the nineteenth century many immigrants were attracted from the Atlantic states to Illinois, among them some of the people of Shepherdstown, Virginia, Captain Jacob Feaman, of Kaskaskia, being instrumental in creating interest in this new country by the Father of Waters among the friends of his childhood. He was born at Shepherdstown and when a young man he came out to the old French settlement and entered the government service in its land department. In this capacity he made occasional trips to Washington, visiting his old home on the journey. In April, 1837, he induced George W. Staley and George W. Entler to accompany him on a homeseeking tour in the west. The steamboat which landed them at Kaskaskia embarked the Kaskaskia tribe of Indians to be located on a reservation farther west, a move effected by the Government to give the white man supremacy over this section of Illinois. In May, 1838, the family of George W. Entler followed him hither under escort of Captain Feaman. The family comprised his wife and their children, Laura, William, Pink and Lawrence, and Louisa Staley, his wife's sister. They resided in Kaskaskia until early in the year 1844, when they removed to Perryville, Missouri; where they resided during the remainder of their lives.
In 1840 John Yontz, his wife and child, Luther, came west, leaving the Ohio river at Shawneetown and following the old Indian trail to Kaskaskia. He subsequently resided at various towns in the county, following the occupation of a miller. The remaining members of the Entler family, comprising the widowed mother, Susan, and her single daughters, Amelia and Susan C., together with Charles Wright, his wife and children, John M., Susan E., Alfred W., and Amelia T., and William McKay and his children, Ann T., Susan E., Sophia B. and Eliza E., all came out in June, 1844, the memorable high water year. They departed from Shepherdstown with a two-horse wagon and followed the National Turnpike to its terminus at Wheeling, their household effects having been previously forwarded to that point. This was before the days of quick railroad transportation, when stages and steamboats did the traffic of the country. At Wheeling the westbound travelers embarked on a new sternwheel steamer, "The Iron City," bound down the Ohio river, among the passengers being Governor Duncan and his son of Ohio, then returning from Washington. At Cincinnati the captain of the "Iron City," learning of the great inundation, decided, for the safety of his boat, cargo and passengers, not to attempt to navigate the Mississippi with his small craft at that historic stage of water, and accordingly had everything transferred to the large sidewheeler "Frolic," lying at the wharf heavy laden with passengers and ready to cast off and steam down the river. The journey down the Ohio and up the Mississippi was completed without untoward incident, the passage up the great river at its highest swell being an impressive and memorable event. Ascertaining that the lower part of the town of Chester was flooded and that a landing there after dark was impossible without great risk to life and property, the captain decided to land his Chester bound passengers at the mouth of Mary's river, and there at dead of
night those future citizens of Illinois and their effects were unloaded. The following morning they broke camp and made their way over the hills to the town, stopping at Jacob Bair's tavern, a log house where the Muegge brick house stood, and now the site of Welge's furniture store. The following day the journey was continued to Georgetown, now Steelville, to the home of John Yontz, where it ended.
The widow Entler and her daughters lived in Georgetown until 1846, when they accompanied Charles Wright and his family to St. Louis, making their home at Eleventh and Locust streets. Two years later they returned to Chester and established their home in the building afterwards known as the Wassell residence, and where Susan C. Entler married William Roberts, as before stated.
Four children were born to William and Susan C. Roberts, _Harry W., Eugenia E., Kate E. and a daughter who died in infancy. Harry W. is a native of Chester and he was educated in her public schools, afterwards finishing his education by a few years experience in newspaper offices learning the newspaper business and printer's craft. His main occupation, however, has been in and around the county offices, having had more or less experience in all of them, and today is acknowledged to be the best posted man in Randolph county in matters pertaining to the county records. His first work at the court house was in 1871, under John R. Shannon, county clerk, afterwards gravitating to the circuit clerk's office, acting as deputy under circuit clerks Savinien St. Vrain and George H. Tate from March, 1872, to March, 1878. He then had charge of R. J. Harmer's abstract of title office for three years, going to St. Louis in the spring of 1881 and being employed in the buying office of the Simmons Hardware Company. Returning to Chester in 1884, Mr. Roberts took an active interest in politics, in furtherance of the principles of the Democratic party, and in June, 1887, was appointed postmaster by President Cleveland, serving four and a half years, until January, 1892, the major portion of the time under President Harrison. During his incumbency the post office, which was located where H. C. Homer's office now stands, was burned, and the postmaster suffered the loss of fixtures and furniture. He was assistant cashier of the First National (now First State) Bank of Chester from June, 1892, to February, 1894, afterwards being occupied more or less in the county offices, and on the death of Mr. R. J. Harmer in February, 1897, he again took up the business of abstracter of titles, following that profession until August, 1909.
Mr. Roberts is a Royal Arch Mason, a member of the Mississippi Valley and Illinois Historical societies, and the National Geographic Society, and is secretary of the Chester Business Club.