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Sherod E. Roberts

By Spessard Stone

Sherod E. Roberts, a pioneer settler of Fort Meade and Torrey, was a Confederate soldier, merchant, and state legislator.

Reubin Roberts, son of John and Phoebe Roberts and father of Sherod, was born April 17, 1807 in Camden County, South Carolina and was reared in Wayne and Lowndes counties of Georgia. He served from 1827-29 as 1st lieutenant of the militia in the 663rd District of Lowndes County, and, during the Second Seminole War, in 1838, as 4th sergeant in Capt. Levi J. Knight's Militia Company. Reubin, a farmer, died ca. 1875 in Berrien County, Georgia and was buried in an unmarked grave at Union Church. Reubin was twice married. In Lowndes County in 1835, he married Elizabeth A. Clements, born October 26, 1805 in Wayne County, Georgia, daughter of William Clements. Elizabeth died ca. 1860. She was the mother of Reubin's five children: Sherod E., James S. (1838), Ezekiel W. (1839), Amanda A. (1843, Mrs. John W. Hagan) and Thomas J. (1844). On December 13, 1865 in Brooks County, Georgia, Reubin married (2) Anne K. Rizer; they were without issue.

Sherod E. Roberts was born March 26, 1837 in Lowndes County, Georgia. In Clinch County, Georgia on September 3, 1856, Sherod married Keziah Knight, born November 29, 1841 in Lowndes County, Georgia, faughter of Jonathan Knight. Sherod was a farmer until in 1860 the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad transsected his land and the town of Dupont. He then opened a general store in Dupont.

During the Civil War, on or about September 1, 1861, Sherod enlisted as a private in Capt. Francis M. Jackson's Co. (Allapaha Guards), 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment. In November 1861, he participated in the battle at Fort Royal and later that month was discharged due to sickness. Previously on November 8 from Camp Lawton, Savannah, he had written his wife, Keziah,

"Camp Lawton
Savannah, Ga.
Nov 8th 1861
Dear Kiziah I take the opportunity riting you a few lines to let you know that I am well tho very much weared and hope that this may find you enjoying good health. I was at the battle of fort royl. We started wednesday morning to Hilton head and reach that point at 9 that evening and march about 6 miles by land and about sundown we arrived at fort royl their we stayd until yesterday morning about 9 oclock when they commenced fiting and they kep it up until about 9 thirty eavning and our ammunition give out and we had to reteat we were not in the fort in the fight but made an attemp to go but the wankes bombarded us so we cold not get there & 2 cannon Balls throad dirt in my face & but none of our company got hurt. Ther was one of the rigment got kild they say and 2 or 3 wonded. We then started to try to get off of the Iland for there was so many of the wankes we could not fight them. They had the fort and we knew they cold surround us and take us. We marched about 5 miles to a landing and their we got on boats and flats and got off before they overtaken us. Louis and math has not come in yet and two or three more but they all got on boats and we think they will come in a day or two. We got aboard of a steamer about 8 oclock and we got to savannah this morning about 8. I lost my overcoat and one of my blankets and napsack and haversack. Our hole rigment left everything they carrid but there gons and amunition and every ons that was there for they were atrying to get away from there. There was about 17 or 15 killed I think and about the same wounded on our side and on their side we do not know what the damige is. They had between forty and fifty war vessils their and they allow that there was 30 or 40 thousand men on them and we only had between 15 and 20 thousand and we gist left the best way we cod. I neve eat but one meale in two days and nights. I got back here but the Savannah foalk give us plenty of cooked pervisions to day and I felt very well this after noon. You will see ? of the fight in the papers to morrow an that will tell you all the perticulars. I told Zeak to rite you I was gone but have return with out getting to shoot the first time, but I think we will get the chance be fore long for they will try Georgia soon I think. So rite to me as soon as you can for I waunt to here from all at home. So I must close: by tel betty and marget to rite to me and let your papa read this to for tell him that the wankes got that blanket that he give me. So farewell. S.E.R.

In the engagement and retreat he estimated fifteen to seventeen of their men killed with a like number wounded with the regiment losing everything they carried but their guns and ammunition. Thereafter, his brother, Thomas J. Roberts, entered the Confederate Army as a substitute for Sherod. Thomas and another brother, Ezekiel W. Roberts, were killed while serving in the Confederate Army; Thomas at Chickamauga in September 1863. In September 1863, Sherod enlisted in Capt. John Nichols, 4th Regiment Cavalry, State of Georgia, and was honorably discharged May 15, 1865 in Thomas County, Georgia.

A Mason, Sherod was a charter member of Cassia Lodge, No. 224 at Old Magnolia, Clinch County. In 1859, he was lodge tyler and junior warden in 1860. He resigned and in 1867 became affiliated with Butler Lodge, No. 211, at Old Miltown (Lakeland, Ga.) and was lodge junior steward 1868-69. He was demitted December 18, 1869 and moved his membership to South Florida.

In 1869 Sherod and his former sergeant, Cornelius B. Lightsey, moved to Fort Meade, Florida. The Roberts family was enumerated in household # 310 in the 1870 census of Polk County, with immediate neighbors being Benjamin Moody and Cornelius Lightsey. Sherod had property valued at $6,000.

Canter Brown, Jr. in Fort Meade: in the South Florida Frontier in the Nineteenth Century wrote of his great-great-grandfather, Sherod:

"The flow of Cuban gold into South Florida [from cattle shipments to Cuba], or as in 1869 even the potential of it, lured to Fort Meade a number of men intent upon earning a share of that gold for themselves through trade. The first such merchants known to have located at Fort Meade following the Civil War were two old friends from Dupont, Georgia, Sherod E. Roberts and Cornelius B. Lightsey.
"Opening their store in late 1869 on the south side of Wire Street [Broadway] just to the west of what is now the intersection of East Broadway and Washington Avenue, the partners offered heavy and light dry goods, boots and shoes, hats and clothing, saddlery, crockery-ware, tin-ware, woodware, and hardware, and at all times the best of family flour, corn, tobacco, coffee, and all other groceries.
"Following completion of Varn's Survey in January 1874, the [J. C.] Rockners confirmed sales already made and disposed of additional lots. The demand of lots was great enough to prompt a second attempt at subdivision.
"Merchant Sherod E. Roberts had staked a claim to the 80 acres immediately to the east of Rockners' land and in October filed a subdivision plat prepared by S. J. Stallings. 'Roberts Addition,' as it was called, covered all the portion of Fort Meade, bounded by Hendry Avenue, East Broadway, and the line of Wanamaker Avenue and extended as far to the north as the midway point between Fourth and Fifth Streets Northeast.
"Just as in the case of Rockners' subdivision, Roberts' land extended 118 feet south of Wire Street from present-day Hendry Avenue to Washington Avenue where the line of Wire Street curved to the south on its way to Peace River bridge.
"He dedicated Lot No. 1 of Block No. 7 as a 'Grave Yard' and deeded the property to the 'Town of Fort Meade' with the qualification that 'title of the said described premises [is] to rest in the Mayor and common Council Men of the said Town, as soon as the said shall be incorporated.' Roberts donation formed the basis of Fort Meade's Evergreen Cemetery."

Keziah Roberts died September 1, 1874 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Sherod took an active interests in politics. On November 5, 1874, he received a plurality of 147 votes of 327 cast to win election for a two-year term as Polk County's Representative to the Assembly (House). His opponents, J. W. Bryant, R. N. Pylant, and T. B. Ellis, received, respectively, 94, 56, and 30 votes. On November 8, 1878, J. Wesley Bryant received 188 votes to defeat Sherod (103 votes) and Rev. R. N. Pylant (68 votes) as Polk's Representative. A Conservative (Democrat), his constituency was basically the cattle-oriented interests of the Peace River area of Polk County while Mr. Bryant's northern Polk residents were farming-oriented. Following his defeat, Sherod took a brief trip to Havana, Cuba and returned via the steamer Lizzie Henderson before November ended.

In Polk County on March 28, 1875, Sherod married (2) Eliza O'Kane, born February 23, 1848, Clinch County, Georgia, daughter of James and Sarah (Rice) O'Kane. Eliza had become a resident of Florida on February 27, 1874.

Sherod E. Roberts & Eliza O'Kane Roberts, from Canter Brown, Jr.'s Florida's Peace River Frontier, 1991, p. 234

In early 1875, the Lightsey & Roberts partnership was dissolved to permit Sherod to have more time for politics. Also, both wanted to pursue their individual cattle interests. In December 1877, under the superintendence of Sherod, construction commenced on a telegraph line to connect Tampa and Fort Meade. By January 5, 1878, only a mile of line to Tampa remained. The nondelivery of a battery and weather damage delayed the completion to May 15, 1878. Thereafter, the business life between the two towns received a new vigor. Sherod was involved with Dr. Charles L. Mitchell on at least one occasion in Mitchell's real estate agency's dealings in behalf of Hamilton Disston, the Philadelphia capitalist. The Tampa Sunland Tribune of March 2, 1882 reported a meeting in Tampa of the trio.

Sherod later moved to Torrey, north of Bowling Green. In applying for a Confederate pension on November 29, 1902, "Sherard" E. Roberts gave his post office address as Torrey, DeSoto County, Florida. Thomas J. Lawton, Adjutant of the Camp of United Confederate Veterans in DeSoto County, averred on December 1, 1902 that "Sherrard E. Roberts" was a member in good standing and "a reputable citizen and worthy of belief." His claim was approved December 11, 1902, with pay from December 10 at the rate of $96 per annum.

Sherod E. Roberts died May 28, 1906 at Fort Ogden, Florida at the home of his daughter Pink O'Connor. Burial was in Payne's Creek Cemetery, west of Bowling Green.

Bartow Courier-Informant, May 31, 1906, p. 1, col. 5

On October 24, 1906, Eliza Roberts applied for a Confederate pension as the widow of "Sherard" E. Roberts. She gave her post office address as Bowling Green, DeSoto County. On February 8, 1907, her claim was approved at $120 per year. Reapplying under the Act of 1909 on July 31, 1909, Eliza listed her property to consist of real estate located near Bowling Green, valued at $2,500. W. H. Rawls and A. L. Durrance attested to her application. Her pension was continued with pay from July 1, 1909, at the rate of $120 per annum. Eliza Roberts died April 9, 1912. Burial was beside Sherod in Payne's Creek Cemetery.

By his first wife, Keziah, Sherod had eight children and by his second wife, Eliza, Sherod also had eight children as follows:

1. William A. Roberts, born May 2, 1857; married Eugenia Allen.
2. Fernandina D. Roberts, born November 28, 1858; died September 10, 1923; married in Polk County on June 11, 1874 John Evans Robeson, son of Samuel Henry and Sarah Ann (Evans) Robeson.
3. Elizabeth Roberts, born September 21, 1861; married on March 29, 1877 in Polk County, Lewis William Hooker, son of John Irving and Cuthbert Wayne C. (Lanier) Hooker.
4. Thomas J. Roberts, born March 11, 1864; married Dolly Gonzales.
5. Walter E. Roberts, born January 25, 1867; married Ava Childs.
6. Frances Margaret Roberts, born September 1, 1870; died May 12, 1931; married in Polk County on January 21, 1888 A. B. Canter.
7. Robert Roberts, born October 5, 1873; never married.
8. Pink Annie Roberts, born October 5, 1873; died May 1, 1938 at Fort Ogden; married (1) M. J. O'Connor, June 1, 1892; (2) W. A. Johnson.
9. Sarah Roberts, born March 17, 1876; died March 20, 1876.
10. Reubin Roberts, born and died October 9, 1877.
11. Mollie Etolia Roberts, born December 5, 1878; married Jesse Knight.
12. Rosalia Roberts, born February 9, 1881; married Matthew Walker.
13. James H. Roberts, born March 8, 1884; died unmarried.
14. Bernard C. Roberts, born March 18, 1886; married (1) Belle Bailey; (2) Ruth Parker.
15. Lena Muriel Roberts, born September 25, 1888; died young.
16. Gladys O. Roberts, born October 11, 1894; died February 15, 1993, Lakeland, Fla.; married William M. Hayes.

Acknowledgments: Canter Brown, Jr. and Margaret Durrance (R & M Our Family) provided the research data, except the Confederate pension applications, used in this profile. These sources included: Board of County Commissioners Minute Book B, County Commission Office, Bartow, pp. 33, 39; Sunland Tribune, November 9, 1878, p. 4, col. 1 & November 30, 1878, p. 3, col. 1; Bartow Courier-Informant,, May 31, 1906; Folks Huxford, "Roberts, Sherod E. 1837-1906," Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Volume V, pp. 363-365.

This profile is adapted from my articles in The Herald-Advocate (Wauchula, Fla.) of October 12, 1989 and the Polk County Historical Quarterly of December 1990.

February 12, 2001, October 17, 2001, May 21, 2004 (photo), May 31, 2004 (obituary)