By Spessard Stone
Robert Roberts, a pioneer settler of the New Zion community, was a Confederate soldier, cattleman and church lay leader.
Robert Roberts was born June 19, 1842 in Irwin County, Georgia. In 1860, he moved with his parents, Joel and Sarah (Youngblood) Roberts, to Marion County and was listed with them at Fort McCoy in the 1860 census of Marion County.
Early in the spring of 1861, ten companies of volunteers were organized as the 4th Florida Regiment of Infantry and were mustered into service July 1, 1861. Soldiers of Florida lists R. Roberts as serving from June 1861 to April 26, 1865 in Co. G. National Archives company muster rolls show, however, that he enlisted at St. Vincents Island on September 25, 1861 for 12 months. He later stated that he joined the Ocala Rifle Guards (Co. G) at Fernandina in the fall of 1861. A private, he served at Fernandina, Sanderson, Camp Hunt, Jacksonville and Three Mill Branch.
In May 1862, the regiment was reorganized and sent to join the Army of Tennessee, which was then commanded by General Braxton Bragg. Company muster rolls later show R. Roberts as a private in Co. I, 4th Regt., Florida Infantry Private Roberts saw action in numerous battles, including Murfreesboro, Jackson, Chickamagua, Resaca, Jonesboro, and Nashville. After the crushing defeat at Nashville on December 15-16, 1864, Private Roberts, who after Jonesboro was for a time acting sergeant, was granted a sixty-day furlough for being only one of six men to have clean clothes, all his equipment, and in every battle across the Tennessee River.
Home again in Marion County, he was attached to Capt. Dickison's company of irregular cavalry, and in the spring of 1865, he took part in a raid across the St. Johns River. He was discharged at the war's end. During the war, he was twice sick with fever and wounded three times in the flesh.
In Marion County on September 3, 1865, Robert married Mary Elizabeth Carlton Grantham, born June 17, 1845, daughter of William and Harriet (Hendry) Carlton. She had married (1) September 1, 1859 in Marion County, Florida, John Grantham, born ca. 1837. John died while serving in the Confederate Army.
Daniel Grantham has also been given as Mary E.'s first husband. Lloyd Farabee in a letter, dated August 26, 1994, however stated, "Mary Elizabeth Carlton married John Grantham, not Daniel Grantham. I have seen Daniel in several sources, but I am sure that it was John. Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, pp 154-155, by Huxford shows that Daniel Grantham (1772-1852) and his wife, Mary, had at least seven children, including Daniel, Jr., born 1811. Daniel, Jr. married Martha Marie Roberts, daughter of Sarah (Lott) and Greystock Roberts. The 1850 Federal Census of Irwin Co., Georgia shows them with ten children, including John, age 13, and Daniel, age 4. Mary Elizabeth Carlton was married Sept. 1, 1859. Granted that she was only 14 at the time, it is not likely the groom was only 13. My mother (Minnie Bateman) found some old handwritten notes among Grandma (Florence Fay Roberts) Farabee’s pictures after Grandma died which says that 'Miss Mary E. Carlton was married to John Grantham Sept. 1.st 1859.'... John Grantham died in the Confederate Army."
In the winter of 1867, the Roberts moved to the region, later known as the New Zion community, near present-day Ona. Robert was so poor that he could bring all his family and their belongings in a common ox-cart, drawn by a single yoke of oxen. He built a log house, cleared the land, farmed and began a cattle herd. By prudent management and hard work, the poverty of the post-war years was overcome, and the value of Robert’s property increased to many thousands of dollars. After the 1896 freeze, the family removed to a place one mile west of Wauchula where Robert planted an orange grove. Following reverses due to freeze and a drought, the family returned to their New Zion place in 1898 where they had a grove on Horse Creek and continued with their cattle.
The Roberts in the autumn of 1869 had joined the Maple Branch Baptist Church at Fort Green. When it was moved in 1873 to New Zion by its pastor, the Rev. John Wright Hendry, they, too, moved their membership to the New Zion Baptist Church. Though uneducated, Robert had a wealth of good sound horse sense and an unimpeachable integrity of heart. He was often entrusted with some of the most important work of the church. He was ever ready to render service, no matter how great the sacrifice. As the church was small, it fell to his lot to travel many miles in attending the regular annual sessions and union meetings of the association. He contributed liberally to the church and was senior deacon at the time of his death.
A Mason, Robert was one of fourteen charter members of Wauchula Lodge No. 17, F&AM, which was reorganized in 1899.
Robert Roberts and Mary E. Roberts were listed in household 983/989 in Coker Precinct 3, 31st day of July-1 August, in the 1900 DeSoto County Census. He, born June 1842, owned a farm of 481 acres. She, born June 1845, had given birth to 12 children, of whom 8 were living. Living with them were as follows: Alderman, born May 1876, son, farm laborer; William [has William but should be Marion], son, born Nov. 1881, at school; Robert, son, born Feb. 1884, at school.
He remained loyal to the ideals of the "Lost Cause" and often attended reunions of Confederate veterans and organizations of old soldiers. He was a member in good standing of DeSoto Camp No. 1403, United Confederate Veterans.
On June 19, 1908, Robert Roberts applied for a Confederate pension based on his service. He gave his post office address as Tura. Elam B. Carlton and E. M. Cason acted as his witnesses. L. M. Graham of Connor and C. M. White of Plant City on July 15 gave a joint affidavit that they had served with him in the 4th Florida. The claim of Robert Roberts of then Wauchula post office was approved Dec. 14, 1908, with pay from Nov. 11, 1908 at the rate of $100 per annum.
The 1910 census of DeSoto County, 3rd and 4th days of May 1910, Castalia Precinct, Lily and Castalia Road, enumerated in household 199/204: Robert Sr. and Mary E. Roberts. Robert, a farmer, owned 138 acres. Neighbors included: Frank and Annie Chancey 190/195, Charles H. and Mary Roberts 191/196, Zachary T. and Sarah J. Duncan 192/197, 193/198: James M. and Martha F. Hendry, Naamon S. and Hattie J. McLeod 194/199, Daniel W. and Miriam D. Messer 195/200, Robert, Jr. and Sarah J. Roberts 196/201, Lewis and Nettie Albritton 197/202, Aaron R. and Elizabeth Albritton 198/203, Marion and Jessie S. Roberts 200/205, William G. and Frances Coker 201/206, James G. and Josephine Kersey 202/207.
Robert Roberts died on February 21, 1912 at New Zion. A committee of New Zion Church eulogized, "Bro. Roberts was faithful in all the affairs of life, both as a soldier, a Christian, a Mason and a private citizen.”
Mary E. Roberts, a widow, was recorded living alone in household 292/296 in the 1920 DeSoto County Census. She owned an orange grove and a total of 104 acres. Immediate neighbors were the families of Marion and Jessie Roberts in household 291/295 and Mattie Roberts in household 293/297. Mary Elizabeth Carlton Roberts died on May 7, 1925 at New Zion. Robert and Mary Elizabeth are buried in New Zion Cemetery.
Issue of Mary Elizabeth (Carlton) and John Grantham:
1. Mary Jane Grantham, born Jan. 8, 1861; died Jan. 15, 1894; married on Aug. 12, 1877 Daniel B. Lott.
Issue of Robert Roberts and Mary Elizabeth (Carlton) Roberts:
1. Florence Fay Roberts, born May 18, 1866; died Sept. 10, 1959; married on Aug. 9, 1885
Delaney Jackson Farabee.
2. Charles Henry Roberts, born Sept. 20, 1867; died May 27, 1955; married Mary Ada Gillis.
3. William Albert Roberts, born March 19, 1870; died May 14, 1962; married (1) Florrie A. Revell, Aug. 2, 1894; (2) Nannie Harrison.
4. Dorenna Roberts, born Feb. 20, 1872; died March 29, 1949; married on July 26, 1887 Joseph Brown Simmons.
5. Robert Allen Roberts, born Nov. 25, 1874; died Nov. 20, 1920; married (1) Frances A. Albritton, June 24, 1895; (2) Bertha Maude Boggess, July 6, 1909.
6. Alderman Roberts, born May 10, 1876; died Oct. 14, 1918; married Mattie Durrance.
7. Daniel Roberts, born April 8, 1878; died April 25, 1897.
8. Cordelia Roberts, born June 9, 1880; died Jan. 31, 1885.
9. Marion G. Roberts, born Nov. 22, 1881; died April 30, 1965; married on April 26, 1903 Jessie Salonia Durrance
10. Robert Roberts, Jr., born Feb. 9, 1884; died May 22, 1963; married on Dec. 29, 1901 Sarah Jane Hendry Cordell.
References: W. D. Payne, A Short Sketch of Robert Roberts, 1912; Soldiers of Florida, 1903; CSA record of Robert Roberts, National Archives; pension application of Robert Roberts.
Confederate pension application
Confederate pension application
Robert Roberts Jr, Robert Roberts Sr., Mary Elizabeth Carlton Roberts, 1888
Robert and Mary Elizabeth Roberts
Tombstone of Roberts, New Zion Cemetery
Photographs are mostly from At The End of the Oxcart Trail The Robert Roberts Family Saga by Maria Stone, 2001; book, courtesy of Jane Sherrod Wood, received May 3, 2011.
This profile is adapted from my articles in South Florida Pioneers 31/32 (Jan./Apr. 1982), The Herald-Advocate of September 4, 1986 & October 18, 2007 and Lineage of John Carlton.
Jan. 26, 2001, Feb. 20, 2002, April 17, 2007, Oct. 22, 2007, Dec. 1, 2008, July 4, 2011
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids