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Michelle Stone’s online genealogy

DR. DAVID ROBERTS
1827 - 1863

 

 



Quick Facts
References, Sources, and Notes


Hills near Mallwyd, Wales
Sheep on the hills near Mallwyd, North Wales, as viewed in 2007. (See more photos.)
The Story:

Dr. David Roberts was the older brother of my great-great- grandfather, Lewis Humphrey Roberts, and they had a close relationship. David was the first (and Lewis was the second) of the five children, and he seemed destined to show the most promise and attain the most distinction. He was born in or near the small town of Mallwyd in the county of Merioneth in northwest Wales, which is today part of beautiful Snowdonia National Park.

The exact date of his birth is obscure. Unattributed sources at the time of his death claimed he was born in November 1826. What we do know is that as an infant he was baptized on Wednesday, 31 October 1827, by William Pughe, rector of the parish church in Mallwyd, the home town of his mother’s people.

His mother was Catherine Humphreys, who was around 20 years old when David was born. She and his father, David Roberts, had been married in the same Mallwyd church parish by Edward Evans, the curate, on 18 May 1827. So we learn from these two parish records that Catherine was either pregnant with David at the time of the wedding, or that David had been born before his parents were married, and was baptized several months later.

David was named after his father and both of his grandfathers. Grandfather David Roberts was at one time an innkeeper in the county seat and market town of Dolgelley (today, Dolgellau, about eight miles away from Mallwyd), and grandfather David Humphreys was a “clerk” (a scribe or bookkeeper of some sort, perhaps for the church) who might also have worked as a “joiner” (carpenter/cabinetmaker) in little agricultural Mallwyd. At the time of the baby’s baptism in 1827 his parents lived in Mallwyd, where his father, aged 21 years, worked as a skinner. There were plenty of sheep in the fields and on the steep green hills around Mallwyd to skin for processing and marketing in Dolgelley, where the woolen and tanning industries provided major employment.

But by the time second son Lewis was born, circa 1830 or 1831, the family had moved to Boston, Massachusetts (according solely to testimony from Lewis, who claimed to have been born there). It is not known why they moved (if indeed they did, and Lewis’ claim of American birth was true). Boston city records show that several other Roberts and Humphrey/s families were already living there at the time, including the wealthy and successful old merchant, Benjamin Humphrey (1781-1857), and the commercial flour dealers, William Humphrey/s (born c. 1799) and David Humphrey (born c. 1808). All three of these men had been born in Massachusetts (and genealogy research shows that Benjamin and David, at least, were decended from Jonas Humphrey, 1620-1698/99, an emigrant from Wendover, Buckinghamshire, England). But if not they, then some other Boston residents may have been close enough and helpful enough friends or relatives to have provided an incentive to encourage the migration of David and Catherine Roberts to Boston.

The 1834 Boston city directory listed a David M. Roberts, truckman, living at 7 Nassau. This is the first listing of a David Roberts in Boston since before 1831. It might well have been our David Roberts, father of little David and Lewis, with the occupation of “truckman” indicating either a man who carries or hauls things in a wagon for hire (this type of worker was more often called a “teamster”), or more probably, one who deals in or sells produce (fruits and vegetables).


Growing up in North Wales

But at some point the family moved back from Boston to Wales. Was it defeat and homesickness, or success and ambition that drove them—or the Panic of 1837 (the first major financial depression in the U.S.)? Whatever their reasons for crossing the Atlantic again, once back in Wales the family gradually expanded to seven, with three more children born to David and Catherine after Lewis: Margaret (the only daughter, born circa 1836 and named after Catherine’s mother), John (born circa 1837), and Robert (born in Wales in the summer of 1845). (Unfortunately, despite searching available records for Boston, Mallwyd, and Dolgellau, Wales, and the North Wales BMD database, I have not yet found documentation of any of these births.)

Between 1841 and 1846 documents seem to show that the family was living in a small flat at the end of narrow, one-block long Waterloo Street near the center of Dolgelley, where David Roberts the father was listed as a tea dealer, grocer, and “dealer in sundries.” In other words, we may assume that David the father returned to his native hometown, making the most of all of his connections in Wales and in Boston to earn a living from importing and selling various foodstuffs and other goods.

Waterloo Street, Dolgellau
One-block long Waterloo Street in Dolgellau, as viewed in 2007 (see more photos). In 1841 the population of Dolgelley was 3,695 souls.
The family would remain in Wales for about ten years—ten remembered and formative years for oldest sons David and Lewis, who would be made sharply and indelibly aware of their distinct North Welsh heritage by living there in the midst of their people, speaking the Welsh language beneath the brow of Cadair Idris and near the Mawddach estuary flowing to Barmouth and the Bae Ceredigion. And then—they left it all behind for it to become for them as a once-vivid dream.

Something happened to make David and Catherine decide to undertake another ocean crossing and emigrate to Boston again. Perhaps they hoped to find better educational and career opportunities for their children in the U.S. Perhaps they could no longer make a living. We do know that both the economic health and the population of Dolgelley were declining during those years (the city lost 400 people between 1831 and 1841 alone). In the early spring of 1846 they sold things off and packed things up. They most probably caught the regularly scheduled stagecoach that left from in front of the Golden Lion Inn, just around the corner from Waterloo Street, and with their children, trunks, and a 24-year-old servant named Catherine Smith, they traveled north to the Welsh port of Caernarvon. There, on 8 April, they boarded the 300-some-ton, tall-masted wooden sailing ship (a “barque”) named the “Hindoo,” captained by Welshman Richard Hughes, which had sailed down the Menai Strait from Beaumaris the day before.

After a crossing that lasted five weeks, they all disembarked safely in Boston, Massachusetts on 15 May 1846. David Jr. was 18 and Lewis was 16. Their parents were around 40 years old. Their three much-younger siblings were getting their first conscious look at America, but there’s a chance Lewis and David held a few faint memories of their earlier years spent in Boston. There’s no doubt that all the Roberts felt great anticipation and that each of them had his own hopes, ambitions, anxieties, and plans.

Boston had grown since they’d left it. In 1835 it had been the seventh largest city in the U.S., with a population of 35,000 people. By 1840 it was the fifth largest U.S. city, with 93,383 residents. By 1850 Boston would swell to 136,881 inhabitants to become the third-largest city in the nation and a major international trading port. When the Roberts family returned to Boston harbor in 1846 after their years spent in relatively rural North Wales, they found a metropolitan area teeming and bustling with people, commerce, international shipping, and intellectual and cultural activity. Boston (together with its surrounding communities such as Cambridge, South Boston, Lynn, and Concord) was the literary and publishing capital of the U.S., and a hotbed of utopian and reform movements, abolitionist feelings, and radical religious and spiritual philosophies including Transcendentalism and Unitarianism. Local celebrities and famous or soon-to-be famous writers and lecturers abounded, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Parker, Charles Russell Lowell, Sr. and his son, James Russell Lowell, Bronson Alcott and his daughter, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Julia Ward Howe, Wendell Phillips, Elizabeth Peabody, Caroline Healey Dall, Edward Everett Hale, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Meanwhile, the Irish potato famine the year before had just started what would soon be an avalanche of destitute Irish-Catholic immigrants pouring into the city; they would change its character (and America’s) rapidly and indelibly.

The Roberts family settled at 9 Carroll Place (in what is today known as Boston’s Italian North End). There is some indication that David Jr. soon found employment as a clerk, perhaps at the new Boston Custom House built in 1847 (perhaps he mined some family connection to merchant relatives or friends or acquaintances, Welsh or American, who were importer-exporters). By 1848 David Sr., formerly a grocer, had started up a business with his somewhat younger next-door neighbor, Griffith Edmunds (probably also a Welshman). They began manufacturing trunks in a building (their “trunk manufactory”) at the corner of Court and Howard Streets. It would prove to be a viable business in an expanding major port city of a growing nation filled with restless travelers. The international “gold rush” fever inspired by the discovery of nuggets at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California in January 1848 could only have helped the trunk business, and perhaps was what prompted David Roberts to give it a try.

The 1850 census depicts (as of June 1st) David Sr., Catherine, and the three youngest Roberts children at home as expected, but the two older sons were not living with them. Lewis cannot be found anywhere in Massachusetts; perhaps he was revisiting Wales on his own, touring the docks at Liverpool, England, or trying his own luck at panning for riches in California. David, Jr. was living in the old colonial town of Watertown, Massachusetts, a little north of Boston and the Charles River, and just west of Cambridge. He was a boarder in the home of Samuel Noyes, a wealthy 45-year-old merchant from New Hampshire, his wife Amanda, and their five young children.

First Baptist Church of Lynn, Massachusetts
The First Baptist Church of Lynn, Massachusetts, where the Rev. William C. Richards was pastor from 1849 to 1864. Perhaps David Roberts and Ellen Dodd were married at this church or in its parsonage. The building was dedicated in 1833 and had seating for 480 people.
Soon after, on Thursday, 15 August 1850, 23-year-old David Roberts married 22-year-old Ellen Susannah Dodd in Lynn (Essex County), Massachusetts. Perhaps they were married there because it was then or had once been the home location of her parents, George and Elizabeth Dodd. Or perhaps they were married there because it had some nice aspects as a seaside resort and beach town on the northern shore of Massachusetts Bay, only 10 miles northeast of Boston. The marriage was performed by Rev. William C. Richards, pastor of the First Baptist Church located on North Common Street in Lynn. Ellen was an English girl who had been born on 1 August 1828 in the pleasantly rustic resort village of Tottenham (today, part of northern London in Middlesex County). Both young people at the time of their wedding were listed as being residents of Watertown, Massachusetts, where they no doubt had met. David’s occupation was listed on the marriage license as “Medical Student.”


Husband and father

The following year was an eventful one for the entire Roberts family. The Roberts and Edmunds trunk manufactory was moved to a new (larger?) location on Haverhill Street near the Causeway in the heart of Boston. David and Ellen moved to 68 Fifth Street in South Boston and on 6 September Ellen gave birth there to their first child, Charles Henry Roberts. David continued on in his job as a clerk and also persevered in his medical studies.

Brother Lewis’s name reappeared in Boston documents when he was married to Margaret E. Davies on 9 December 1851 by the Reverend Loranus Crowell, the newly appointed pastor of the Church Street Methodist Episcopal Church of Boston. The newlyweds both gave their ages as being 21 years. This young lady and her family, parents John and Margaret (Edwards) Davies and brothers Richard and William G., were also from Wales, and were said to have immigrated to the U.S. around 1844. It is not known where or how Margaret and Lewis met, or if they or their families had known each other in Wales.

David and Ellen had a second son on 31 July 1853: George David Roberts (named after his grandfathers), born at their home at yet another location in South Boston: 66 Gold Street.

Young David Roberts completed his studies and was awarded a medical degree from the Medical College of Maine in 1854 (the same year Henry Thoreau published Walden). This College, established in 1820, was associated with Bowdoin College of Brunswick, Maine (among whose illustrious alumni were included U.S. President Franklin Pierce, class of 1824; poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, class of 1825; and Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, class of 1852). Though he probably had performed most of his medical studies under the supervision of a physician or physicians in Boston, David was present in Brunswick, Maine in the spring of 1854 to deliver his thesis on “Pertussis” (whooping cough) and earn his medical diploma. David Roberts was finally, in the 1854 Boston city directory, qualified to be listed as a “physician.” His place of business was located at the corner of Fourth and Dorchester Avenue in South Boston, a nice, newly developing part of the Boston area. Not long after son George was born the growing family moved their residence to Fourth Street as well.

Signature of David Roberts, 1854
Signature of David Roberts as appeared on his thesis written for his medical degree, Spring, 1854. Bowdoin College Archives, Brunswick, Maine.
For the last handful of years, Lewis and David had lived within walking distance of each other and of the rest of their family in Boston. Now, both of the brothers had families of their own, and their lives were diverging. Lewis had worked in Boston as a machinist and for the Reverend Charles Lowell as an “organ blower” at the West Church at Cambridge & Lynde Streets, but now he decided to relocate to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife and her mother and brothers. With so many new immigrants pouring into Boston, and with three hungry men lined up for every job opening, moving westward to the frontier seemed like a good idea to many. In fact, they arrived in Milwaukee around November of 1855. Both Lewis and his brother-in-law, W.G. Davies, settled in the city’s Third Ward and both landed machinist positions “in the same shop” at the Decker & Seville foundry, the largest manufacturing establishment in that city.

Dr. David Roberts and his wife, Ellen, had a third son born to them on 12 September 1856, whom they named David Lewis Roberts. Tragically, the little boy would die at home at the tender age of 2 years on 16 December 1858 due to “inflammation of the kidneys.” They buried him at “2 Union Ground,” a small community cemetery nearby on East Fifth Street. It would have been a very sorrowful Christmas that year for Ellen and David.


Losing a wife and gaining another

The next year brought even more sorrow, when Ellen herself died at home at the age of 31 on 23 August 1859. The cause of death listed on the death certificate was “gangrene.” It is painful to try to imagine Ellen meeting her fate, and terrible to think how such a death must have affected her husband who was also her doctor. It is painful, too, to imagine her leaving her two little sons bereft of a mother’s love and care. Ellen’s body was laid in the same nearby cemetery as little David’s. The family must have been in shock and deep mourning (with all the Victorian-era trappings of black tokens and muffled expression) in response to the unexpected double blow.

Oddly, it was the date of 25 August 1859, two days after Ellen’s death, and probably the day of her funeral, that was named eleven years later by Lewis Roberts’ wife, Margaret, as the day Lewis abandoned her for good. Lewis and Margaret had been having problems in their marriage for years, but in the divorce papers filed in Milwaukee by Margaret in 1870, in addition to accusing Lewis of dissipation, drunkenness, adultery, and desertion, she would claim to precisely recall the specific date she saw the last of him. She would claim he returned to Boston and then his whereabouts were thereafter unknown to her. Was it a coincidence of events or could Lewis have received a telegraph message from Boston bringing news of Ellen’s death? Could such news have persuaded him once and for all to leave his unhappy marriage and his in-laws in Wisconsin and return to Boston and his grieving brother?

A tantalizing item that appeared in the Boston Advertiser the following January leaves us wondering further:

ACCIDENTS. -- … At about half-past six o’clock yesterday afternoon, Lewis Roberts, an engineer in the employ of F. Gleason, was knocked down and run over by a hack [a horse-drawn taxi], at the corner of State and Washington streets. He was quite severely injured, and was taken to the old Hancock House by the driver of the hack.

F. Gleason was Frederick Gleason, a German immigrant who built up a Boston publishing empire based on innovative printing technology and steam presses. He produced popular illustrated magazines aimed at the common taste, including Gleason’s Pictorial and Gleason’s Literary Companion, and published sensational fiction and poetry by authors that included Edgar Allen Poe and Louisa M. Alcott. His cheaply produced, paper-covered story books were America’s first “dime novels.” Gleason had several Boston business locations, including Gleason’s Publishing Hall downtown, and had homes at 56 Chester Square and in Dorchester near South Boston (1865 city directory). He could well have been an acquaintance of Dr. David Roberts, who may have put in a good word for his brother Lewis’ skill in operating steam-driven machines.

Could this Lewis Roberts, run over by a horse or carriage, have been our Lewis Roberts, returned to Boston? (Usually, year after year, the only other Lewis Roberts listed in the Boston city directories, besides our own, was Lewis A. Roberts of Roberts Brothers book publishers, no known relation to our family of Robertses.) If so, how badly was he hurt, and did he recover from his ‘severe injuries?’

The 1860 Federal census clarifies little of that. Our Lewis Roberts is not found listed anywhere in Massachusetts. It shows, as of June 1st, that in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Third Ward, his wife, Margaret Davies Roberts, was running a boarding house to support herself; her brothers Richard and W.G. were living there with her, and our Lewis Roberts’ name is listed there as well (though this contradicts Margaret’s later testimony that he had left her for good by then). Perhaps he had returned, or perhaps she told the census-taker her husband was living there in order to cover the shame of his having left her, or perhaps she didn’t know he had gone for good and she still expected him to return. A few years later, following the Civil War, Margaret would begin describing herself (as she was listed in the Milwaukee city directories) as a widow—until she eventually filed for divorce. (So we see that none of Margaret’s divorce testimony should be relied upon as the truth, without additional confirmation.)

In Boston’s 12th Ward, the 1860 census described Dr. David Roberts’ South Boston household and apothecary shop at 44 Fourth Street near Dorchester Avenue. The widowed Dr. Roberts, age 33, physician, was well-to-do, claiming a personal estate of $3,000. His son, Charles, age 8, was heartbreakingly described as “Idiotic and Blind.” We find George, age 6, had attended school within the year (unlike his older brother). Also living in the household were Mary A. Burchard, age 26, from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (evidently a housekeeper/nanny), George Brooks, age 24, a druggist (probably an employee in the apothecary shop) and another 18-year-old girl named Mary with an illegible surname, a servant, also from Cape Breton.

Across town, David Sr., trunkmaker, and wife “Kate” Roberts, both listed in the 1860 census as being 50 years old, were still living in Boston’s Third Ward, with children John (16), Robert J. (14) and Margaret (21).

Ellen Roberts’ tombstone
Ellen’s tombstone at Mt. Hope Cemetery reads:

“Sacred to the memory of
ELLEN SUSANNAH ROBERTS
beloved wife of
David Roberts, M.D.
of South Boston
born at Tottenham, England
August 1st 1828
died at South Boston
August 23rd, 1859
Aged 31 years and 22 days.”
In May of 1860 Dr. David Roberts had had the bodies of his wife and infant son, David, moved from the Union Ground cemetery to the new and larger Mt. Hope Cemetery to the west of their neighborhood (today it lies in the part of greater Boston known as Mattapan). It was probably around this time that David arranged for the gravemarker that today sits atop Ellen’s gravesite there. Oddly, the name of little David Lewis Roberts, whose body is interred with that of his mother’s, is not included on the gravemarker.

On Tuesday, 11 September 1860, Dr. David Roberts married Mary A. Burchard, the housekkeeper. It was the second marriage for both of them, so evidently Mary was a widow or a divorcee (her parents were listed on the marriage certificate as George and Susan Pitts, with her birthplace as Halifax, Nova Scotia, and her age as 25; later documents claimed her maiden name was LeBrun). The wedding was performed by the Reverend Daniel Clarke Eddy, pastor of Boston’s Harvard Street Baptist Church, and a figure of some renown. He had been elected Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1855 and served as Chaplain of the Massachusetts Senate in 1856. At the time he married David and Mary, he was already the author of several nationally popular books offering spiritual guidance and counsel, including The Young Man’s Friend and The Young Woman’s Friend.

Ten months after the wedding, the union of David and Mary was blessed when a son was born to them at their home at 44 Fourth Street on 10 July 1861. They named the boy Albert Cleveland Roberts. Dr. David Roberts was listed in that year’s Boston city directory as a physician and a member of the Suffolk District Medical Society and the Massachusetts Medical Society. Life would seem to be good for the family but for the overshadowing fact that shots fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina on 12 April had finally plunged a long-tense nation into a full-fledged Civil War. The consequences in the coming years would be severe.


The tragedies multiply

On 11 November 1861, far from Boston, Lewis Roberts stepped forward and enlisted with the Seventh Battery, Wisconsin Volunteers, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was mustered in at Camp Utley near Racine, Wisconsin on 14 November 1861. He spent the subsequent winter drilling with his artillery unit at Camp Utley and then in the spring was sent south to fight. In April 1862 Lewis and the Seventh Battery participated in the “Battle of Island No. 10” along the Mississippi in Tennessee, which proved to be an ultimate victory for the Union troops.

Then in July while still serving in Tennessee, Lewis Roberts began experiencing severe head pains, according to a report made by his captain, Richard R. Griffith. On 28 October Lewis had a “partial shock of palsy...which impaired the use of the muscles on the right side of the body for four days,” according to the surgeon of the Seventh Battery, Wisconsin Volunteers, who claimed that Lewis had had “symptoms of approaching apoplexy” for the previous two months.

Because of these medical events and blindness in his right eye which may or may not have been the result of a gunshot wound, Lewis was “discharged for disability” from the Army near Humboldt, Tennessee on 18 November 1862. Instead of returning to Wisconsin or his wife, he elected to go live with his brother, David, who, as he described it, “ran a drug store” at the corner of Fourth Street and Dorchester Avenue in Boston. Certainly Lewis must have hoped that his brother’s medical expertise might offer him some treatment or perhaps even a cure for his remaining paralysis and disabilities. But the diagnosis was discouraging: David was glad to offer Lewis a place in his home, but he told him there was no treatment that could help him. Notwithstanding, he may have prescribed treatments (leeches, plasters, baths), patent medicines or elixirs, or the pharmaceuticals commonly used in those days for relieving pain: laudanum or paregoric (morphine/opium).

Lewis would have been welcomed in Boston as a respected Union veteran—a wounded hero. Boston citizens were passionately involved in and affected by the ongoing war. Its women worked and volunteered tirelessly to “stitch, stitch, stitch” uniforms and to produce bandages and lint for Union soldiers. One Boston diarist, Caroline Healey Dall, wrote these words describing how Boston citizens responded to the sobering news of the Union defeat (with 15,000 casualties) at the Second Battle of Bull Run in Virginia that summer:
No one who was in Boston today [Sunday, 31 August 1862]—will ever forget it. The car which I took from Dover St. to Court—was crowded to a crush with women & bundles. Most of them were weeping. “Give way,” said rough men to each other, “those bundles [of lint and bandages headed for the front] are sacred.” When we got to Tremont House—a dense crowd had pressed between it & the Hall. All were eagerly gaping for rumors. About the Tremont Temple a semi-circular rope was stretched enclosing several hundreds of cubic feet. At Three Tables—placed in the center & at each end, men took down subscriptions for the freight fund. Within, on the side walk immense boxes were being packed. In the building 1800 women sewed all day. Through each of the three passages stretched lines of men standing 6 feet apart—When we drew near, women with bundles were crowding all the avenues and the streets as far as one could see. Delicate women in Sunday attire, followed by one two or three servants carrying bundles as large as themselves pressed among the ruder sort. The bundles were passed over the barrier, tossed from hand to hand along the lines, till they reached the inner work-room....


That Christmas the original Roberts family members found themselves all reunited again in Boston. But it would be for the last time.

The following summer, on Saturday, 15 August 1863, Dr. David Roberts, only about 36 years old, died suddenly of “congestion of the brain.” This was a term of the period used to describe many conditions including stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, and even sunstroke. The condition was said to consist of an accumulation of blood in the cerebral vessels; symptoms included a flushed face, eyes sensitive to light, irritability, a “singing in the ears, vertigo, momentary loss of speech, and sometimes delirium.” Serious cases resulted in apoplexy, coma, and even sudden death. We do not know the details of David’s illness, or whether his death was due to shock or injury, or whether it was due to a genetic condition akin to Lewis’ previous episode of “apoplexy.” We only know from the death certificate that his illness and demise were swift, occuring in the course of one day.

He was buried two days later in Mt. Hope Cemetery. His passing was noted briefly in the Boston Daily Advertiser and The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. The slightly longer notice that appeared at the bottom of Page 1 of the Boston Herald on the day of his funeral included these words, revealing a glimpse of his life and something of his character:

“He leaves a wife and three children to mourn the loss of a kind husband and father. He was a physician of quite an extensive practice and his death will be deeply felt by his patients and large circle of friends.”


The pride of the Roberts family, its firstborn son, its highest-achieving native Welsh member, its most upwardly mobile and publicly esteemed representative, affectionately and respectfully regarded by sometimes-stuffy, caste-conscious Boston society, was abruptly gone. Besides mourning the loss of their loved one, his wife and children faced the frightening loss of a breadwinner in war time.

David had died without a will. On 7 September his wife Mary was appointed “Administratrix” by the Suffolk County Probate Court to oversee the disposition of his estate. The funeral undertaker and another Boston physician, William E. Rice, pledged the necessary $2,000 bond. George Brooks, the “druggist” living with the family in 1860, signed as a witness on this document, and would soon provide the court with the official inventory/appraisal of the property in Dr. David Roberts’ “drug store.” The entire estate, as outlined in documents filed with the court on 21 September, amounted to:

Stock of drugs, medicines & fancy goods in Apothecary Shop corner of Dorchester Avenue and Fourth Street, South Boston appraised at . . . . . . $313.26

Household Furniture &c on Dorchester Avenue, as per schedule on file . . . . $545.

[Total] $858.26

That total amounted to approximately $16,700 in today’s terms.

Soon after his brother’s death, Lewis Roberts decided to leave the household. On 18 September he re-enlisted for three more years as a private in the Union Army—this time joining the newly-formed military division known as the Invalid Corps, which was recruiting partially disabled veterans for guard duty and other light, non-combat work positions. He was sent off to a camp in Wenham, Massachusetts, and no doubt felt relief that, despite his disabilities, he at least had secured a minimal living to sustain himself. Perhaps he was gallant enough to have sent portions of his paychecks (if and when they materialized) to David’s widow and children, or to his own parents (if not to his wife in Wisconsin).

But tragedy struck ruthlessly again, and again suddenly, when two-year-old little Albert, David and Mary’s only son, died after a single day’s illness with meningitis, on 23 September. Two days later he was buried near his father in Mt. Hope Cemetery. If Mary was even able to make it to the cemetery, just 39 days after burying her husband there, she must’ve had to struggle to keep hold of her sanity.

On 12 October, Mary was granted legal guardianship of David’s two surviving boys by the Suffolk County Court. Charles, the one previously described by the census-taker as “Idiotic” and blind, was 12, and George was ten years old. Two “apothecaries,” James L. Williams and Dennis Ferguson—no doubt former friends of her husband—put up the required $2,000 bond for the proceedings. A Joseph C. Noyes (a relative of the family David had boarded with in 1850?) signed as one of the witnesses to the documentation. It clearly seems that Mary was being supported, advised, and assisted by David’s former “large circle” of friends and caring colleagues. It would have been hard for David’s peers not to give whatever Christian charity and help they could to the remnants of a family so cruelly devastated by Fortune’s hard reversal.

Around 8 November, Lewis Roberts’ Invalid Corps unit (Company C, 13th Regiment) was transferred from Wenham to the Beach Street Barracks in downtown Boston. Thus he chanced to be nearby when his father, David Roberts, succumbed to chronic heart disease on the 28th of that month. The death notice in the 2 December 1863 Boston Daily Advertiser read:

“Died…. ROBERTS—In this city, 28th ult, [Boston, 28 November 1863] Mr. David Roberts, father of the late David Roberts, M.D., of South Boston, 57 yrs 5 mos. a native of Dolgelly, North Wales.”

Tombstone of the Roberts men
Tombstone at Mt. Hope Cemetery commemorating three generations of Roberts males: Dr. David Roberts, his father, David Roberts, and his son, Albert Roberts. The stone reads:

In memory of
DAVID ROBERTS
Died 28 Nov. 1863 Aged 57 Years
Born at Dolgelly in North Wales
Also his son
DAVID ROBERTS M. D.
Died 13 August 1864 [sic; 1863] Aged 36 [sic] Years
Born at Mallwyd, North Wales
Also his son
ALBERT C. ROBERTS
Died 23 Sept. 1863 Aged 2 years and 2 mos.

Photo courtesy Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, August 2007.
The old Welsh grocer and trunkmaker, known best in his final years as the father of Dr. David Roberts, was buried on 1 December in the Mt. Hope Cemetery family plot. At an unknown later date someone (Mary? in consultation with her mother-in-law Catherine? ) would erect a large monument there to memorialize three generations of males in a family that started in North Wales and ended too soon in Boston.

In the annals of the Roberts family, 1863 was an annis horribilis.


The end

1864 brought some of the darkest days of the war, and most of the hardships and privations. On the Company C muster roll reports for January and February of 1864, Lewis Roberts was reported as being absent from his Invalid Corps barracks and instead was reported to be in Mason General Hospital, an Army hospital, in Boston. It is not known whether he was a patient at the hospital or was posted there as part of a work detachment. He returned to his barracks in March, but then went AWOL in mid-June. He was apprehended in Boston after being absent without leave for over a month. In September he was charged with desertion before a general court-martial and was found guilty of being absent without leave and was fined, imprisoned, and sentenced to four months’ hard labor. He was fortunate not to have been shot for desertion during wartime.

While he was serving his sentence, he might have received the news that his nephew, Charles, the oldest orphaned (and blind and disabled) son of David and Ellen, had died of tuberculosis at the age of 13, on 24 October, at 198 Harrison Avenue in Boston (a hospital, sanitarium, or a new address for Mary and the boys?). Charles too was buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery two days after his death, but no tombstone was ever erected there for him. That left only George, age 11, the sole remaining child of David and Ellen, in the care of his stepmother, Mary. A week after Charles died, Mary returned to court and filed the final paperwork necessary to tie up her administration of David’s estate, a task she had (not surprisingly) neglected to finish during the previous year.

The war finally ended on 9 April 1865, followed a few days later by the devastating news of President Lincoln’s assassination on Friday evening, 14 April. The following Saturday morning in Boston bells tolled everywhere and there was a mass meeting of merchants gathered at the Tremont Temple. Ladies put mourning black on their bonnets, and hung black streamers on their front door bells.

Lewis (along with most other Union soldiers at war’s end) soon received a promotion from his commander, in his case a boost from the rank of private to corporal recorded 1 May 1865. Not long afterwards, at the end of June, Lewis went AWOL in Boston once again. It is not known what he was doing while absent, or who he went to see, or where he stayed. He was caught in under a week and was charged, fined, and reduced in rank back to private by a regimental court martial in July. The war may have been over for most soldiers, but Lewis had enlisted for a three-year term with the Invalid Corps back in 1863, and he was not allowed to muster out.

At the end of August, 1865 Mary applied for and was granted by the probate court a Widow’s Allowance from the Estate of David Roberts in the sum of $545. She had gone for two years after her husband’s death without drawing on the estate, but now she needed the money to support herself and George.

There is much that remains unknown about the Roberts family of Boston following the string of tragic deaths that hit them before and during the Civil War. Catherine Roberts, Lewis and David’s mother, was said to have been living in California around 1870 (according to Lewis’ wife Margaret’s divorce filings; in fact, she claimed both of Lewis’ parents were in California then, evidently not having heard of the death of David Roberts, Sr. in 1863! Her testimony must be viewed skeptically). I have not been able to confirm that Catherine Roberts lived in California, nor have I been able to determine whatever became of her or her three youngest children, Margaret, John, and Robert, after David Roberts Sr. died.

Lewis Roberts not only stayed in, but re-enlisted with, the Army and was eventually posted to Madison Barracks in upstate New York, where the next phase of his unexpectedly long life would unfold. It seems that without the presence of his brother David to hold him, he would have little or no further contact with his past life in Boston. Nor would he ever contact his first wife in Milwaukee, who would file for and be granted a divorce from him in October 1870, on the grounds of desertion.

On 25 January 1872, David and Ellen Roberts’ last surviving child, George David Roberts (then going by the name George William Roberts) married Emma Tibnam, an English girl, daughter of John A. Tibnam (deceased) and the widow Elizabeth Tibnam, a seamstress, who lived at 12 Melrose in Boston. They were married in Boston by the Rev. Edward Edmunds, longtime pastor of the nondenominational First Christian Church of Boston, located at the corner of Tyler and Kneeland Streets. On the marriage certificate the bride gave her age as 19 years, and George claimed to be 21, but he was only 18. He gave his occupation as “Clerk,” and his parents’ names as David and “Marian” Roberts.

Just a few days later, on 6 February 1872, Mary A. Pitts (LeBrun?) Burchard Roberts, George’s stepmother, tragically died at the age of 38 years by her own hand, at 21 Margaret Street in Boston. It was the same home address listed for her stepson George in the 1872 Boston city directory. She had been suffering from “melancholia,” according to her death certificate (which listed her name as “Marion,” probably information given by George). She was buried two days later in the Roberts family plot at Mt. Hope Cemetery, where it was probably George who gave her name to the record-keeper as Mary C. Roberts. There is no memorial on her grave.

A final tragedy closes the story. George lived to be only 20 years old, although when he died his age was given as 21. He died on 29 November 1873 at the City Hospital in Boston of “Diarrhoea” and an “Injury of the spine.” No further details of what happened to him are yet known. His death certificate listed his occupation as “Apothecary” (following in the footsteps of his father, perhaps with the guidance and support of his father’s former friends). He was also described, on the death certificate, as being a married man at the time of his death.

Twenty days before George died, his wife’s 18-year-old sister, Anna R. Tibnam, had been married in Boston to William H. Middleton, a 23-year-old “freight conductor,” by the same Rev. Edward Edmunds who had married Emma and George the previous year. Perhaps George and Emma had attended the wedding. But after George’s death, nothing more can be found on Emma. Perhaps she soon married again, or moved away. Perhaps a child or children of theirs was born, and survived to carry on the Welsh-American heritage and the legacy of talent, hard work, and professional achievement once exemplified by Dr. David Roberts in Boston. But nothing listed in the Massachusetts Vital Records Indexes indicates that this happened.

George was buried two days after his death at the Mt. Hope Cemetery family plot. There is no marker there to memorialize his name, nor are Emma or any children of theirs buried there. Today the Roberts family plot is in an old section of Mt. Hope Cemetery where visitors seldom venture and vandals make sport of toppling the fading gravestones.



Quick Facts:


DAVID ROBERTS, M.D.
Physician / Apothecary
Son of
DAVID ROBERTS (1806-1863) and CATHERINE HUMPHREYS (1806-?)
(Born November 1826?)
Baptized 31 October 1827 in Mallwyd, Merioneth, North Wales
Immigrated from Caernarvon, Wales to Boston, Massachusetts on the “Hindoo,” arriving 15 May 1846
Received medical degree from the Medical College of Maine, Spring, 1854
Died 15 August 1863 in South Boston, Massachusetts, age 36(?), of “congestion of the brain.”

First married to ELLEN SUSANNAH DODD (born, acc. to tombstone, 1 August 1828 in Tottenham, England; daughter of GEORGE DODD and ELIZABETH --?; died 23 August 1859 in South Boston, age 31, of gangrene)

They had 3 children:
CHARLES HENRY ROBERTS (born 6 September 1851 in Boston; “Idiotic and blind” (1860 census); died 24 October 1864 in Boston, age 13, of tuberculosis)

GEORGE DAVID ROBERTS (aka George William Roberts, born 31 July 1853 in Boston; died 29 November 1873 at City Hospital, Boston, age 20, of injury of the spine); married 25 January 1872 in Boston to EMMA TIBNAM (b. c. 1852 in England, daughter of John A. TIBNAM and Elizabeth DADD [DODD?])

DAVID LEWIS ROBERTS (born 12 September 1856 in South Boston; died 16 December 1858 in South Boston, age 2, of inflammation of the kidneys)

Dr. DAVID ROBERTS married secondly MARY A. BURCHARD (aka Marion C. Lebrun, born c. 1834 in Cape Breton, New Brunswick or Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, daughter of ? LeBRUN or GEORGE PITTS and SUSAN ---?; died 6 February 1872 in Boston, age 38, of melancholia/suicide)

They had one son:
ALBERT CLEVELAND ROBERTS (born 10 July 1861 in South Boston; died 23 September 1863 in South Boston, age 2, of meningitis)



References, Sources, and Notes:

1. Baptism record of David Roberts, son of David and Catherine Roberts, 31 October 1827, page 30, no. 240 in “Church of Wales, Parish of Mallwyd, Counties of Merioneth & Montgomery, Register of Mallwyd Baptisms, 1813-1894” (microfilm), Gwynedd Archives, Dolgellau, Wales.

2. Roberts-Humphreys marriage, no. 117, 18 May 1827, in “Register of Mallwyd Marriages (Counties of Merioneth and Montgomery) 1813-1837” (Church of Wales), microfilm A417, Gwynedd Archives, Dolgellau, Wales.

3. Email message (“Re: Born in Dolgellau 1806-07?”) from Gwynedd Archives at Dolgellau (ArchifdyDolgellau), Wales to M. Stone, regarding possible 18 June 1806 baptism record of David Roberts in Dolgelley, Wales, 17 May 2007.

4. Baptism record of Catherine Humphreys, daughter of David Humphreys, Clerk, and Margaret his wife, 16 November 1806, original Mallwyd parish record book (Church of Wales, Counties of Merioneth and Montgomery), National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales.

5. General Pension Records, Lewis Roberts, Claimant (Application No. 613.475 filed June 16, 1887; Certificate No. 407.358), and Ellen A. Roberts, Widow (Application No. 1057.975 filed Dec. 29, 1915; Certificate No. 814.368), National Archives. For a detailed discussion of Lewis Roberts’ military experience and life, see
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~mstone/lewishroberts1.htm.

6. Boston, Massachusetts city directories, 1831-1863, viewed at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, as follows:
Boston City Directory, years 1831, 1832, 1833

Stimpson’s Boston City Directory, years 1834-1846

The Boston [Massachusetts] Directory 1846-1847; Adam’s New Directory of the City of Boston containing a general directory of the citizens, and a special directory of the trades, professions, &c with a variety of miscellaneous matter...

ibid., 1848-1849

The Boston [Massachusetts] Directory, George Adams publisher; years 1849-1858

The Boston [Massachusetts] Directory, Adams Sampson & Co.; years 1859-1863

Also used: “Boston [Massachusetts] City Directories,” as found transcribed on website: Damrell’s Fire: Boston City Directories, http://www.damrellsfire.com/cgi-bin/directory_search.pl, years 1865, 1870, 1872, and 1875, viewed October, 2007.

Also used: “Boston City Directory Search Service” at “Boston Streets: Mapping Directory Data,” Tufts Digital Library website, http://bcd.lib.tufts.edu/, viewed 30 November 2007 (1855, 1860 city directories) and 17 December 2007 (1870, 1872, 1875, 1885).

7. Rootsweb’s World Connect website of user-contributed genealogy databases indicate that the Massachusetts-born Boston merchants Benjamin Humphrey (1781-1857) and David Humphrey (1806-1885) were both descendants of Deacon Jonas Humphrey (1620-1698/99), who emigrated from Wendover, Buckinghamshire, England, to Dorchester, Massaschusetts in 1637. Jonas subsequently moved to Weymount, Massachusetts in the 1650’s and several generations of desendants remained there. Thus, this was an English Humphrey clan, not our Welsh one. http://wc.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=myron_humphrey&id=I1592, viewed 14 March 2008. For more info on the Welsh/English Humphrey(s) see http://humphreygenealogy.com

8. David Roberts household, 1841 Welsh census, Merionethshire, population schedule, Parish and part of the township of Dolgelley (in the Hundred of Talybont and Mowddwy), Enumeration District 2, Folio 33, Page 22 (lines 8 through 12, and neighbor Catherine Roberts, line 7), last dwelling on Waterloo Street, British Public Record Office publication HO 107/1432/4, as part of the U.K Census Collection, online database, Ancestry.com, Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., http://www.ancestry.com.

9. “The North Wales Directories 1818-1936,” Clwyd Family History Society, CD-ROM, Wrexham, Wales, 2004. (Dolgelley business directory, 1844, page 24; ibid., 1850, page 28, with accompanying descriptions of Dolgelley).

10. Photos of Dolgellau and Mallwyd, Wales taken by M. Stone 15-16 April 2007.

11. Dolgellau website: http://www.dolgellau.net/, including Dolgellau chronology: http://www.dolgellau.net/chronology.html, viewed October 2007.

12. David Roberts and family, “List of Passengers taken on board the Barque Hindoo of Carnarvon,” arriving in Boston 15 May 1846, reproduced from NARA microfilm M277, Roll 20, at Ancestry.com “Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1943,” Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2006, http://www.ancestry.com.

13. The Boston Daily Atlas, Wednesday, May 6, 1846; port of Boston shipping news:
Marine Journal
Tuesday, May 5 [1846]

Sld from Caernarvon, 8th, Hindoo, Hughes, Boston

[Sailed from Caernarvon, North Wales on April 8th, the Hindoo, Capt. Hughes, to Boston]

[The Hindoo next arrived in New York on May 18, according to May 20, 1846 issue. The April 30, 1846 issue said the Hindoo had sailed from Beaumaris on the 7th of April, headed for Boston, piloted by Capt. Hughes. So the barque sailed 12 miles down the Menai Strait in one day (April 7); was in Caernafon on the 8 of April, then sailed for Boston, arriving there May 15th; then sailed for New York arriving May 18th.]

14. Website, http://freespace.virgin.net/r.cadwalader/maritime/emigrate.htm, viewed August 2007, gives general information about the “Hindoo” and other Welsh ships and Welsh emigration, including these excerpts:
During the last century many people from Gwynedd emigrated to North America; some to escape poverty, others to improve on their existing conditions. Ships large enough to cross the Atlantic were being built on the Mawddach and the Dwyryd from the middle of the 18th century. The main export was [sic] wool and slate. A full deadweight cargo of slate would not fill the hold of a cargo ship and rather [than] waste the remaining space, passengers would be carried. A “floor” or platform of wood would be constructed over the slates then cubicles constructed. Each family would have its own space with perhaps a curtain drawn across for privacy. They ate the same food as the crew - salt beef or pork and biscuits, but some would surely have brought provisions of their own. Although these ships were small it was perhaps preferable to the bigger vessels out of Liverpool where conditions were terrible with filth, degradation and sickness. The Welsh people preferred their own ships where the reputations of the vessels and Masters were known. (L.Lloyd)

A trade that soon became established was slate and emigrants to North America then timber back from Quebec for the developing shipbuilding industry in places such as Pwllheli. Sometimes, ships built in Quebec and other parts of North America would be purchased for the trade. (LL)...

Mr. R. G. Pritchard of Llwyn Onn, Portmadoc, told me that his grandfather, Capt. Richard Pritchard, in the early twenties of the nineteenth century used to carry passengers from Beaumaris to New York in his Brig Gomer, a vessel of 90 tons. In such admiration and esteem was Capt. Pritchard held as a navigator and sailor by the people of Wales that there was a rush for the Gomer’s “bookings.” I cannot imagine that she would be able to accommodate more than six dozen passengers, her length would be in the region of 80 ft. Her outward crossings would take anything from 35 to 55 days....

By the 1840’s the movement of emigrants had become a flood. The “hungry forties” caused great hardship and famine in Ireland. The Irish mostly sailed from Liverpool but, as mentioned above, many of the Welsh sailed from Caernarfon and Beaumaris. ...

In “Letters from America”, a booklet edited by Aled Eames, Lewis Lloyd and Bryn Parry, the story is told of Capt David Evans of Portmadoc’s life in America. Before he emigrated he was master on several local ships including the GWEN EVANS, a barque built at Pwllheli in 1842. This ship only had a short life being wrecked in 1845, but she sailed three trans Atlantic trips to Boston with emigrants; each time carrying 40 - 50 persons. ...The letters in this little booklet reveal much about the conditions on board these little wooden ships.”

15. Website, U.S. Census Bureau, “Population of the 100 Largest Cities and other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990,” by Campbell Gibson, http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0027.html, viewed November 2007.

16. Dall, Caroline Healey. Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of a Nineteenth-century Woman by Helen R. Deese, editor, Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 2005.

17. David Roberts (Sr.) household, 1850 U.S. census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, City of Boston (1st Ward), page 93 (lines 1 through 5), dwelling no. 1073, family no. 1583, National Archives micropublication M432, roll 334.

18. Samuel Noyes household, 1850 U.S. census, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, population schedule, City of Watertown, page 339 (lines 1 through 9), dwelling no. 53, family no. 60, National Archives micropublication M432, roll 326.

19. Roberts-Dodd marriage: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Vol. 45, Page 149, No. 71 (1850), Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

20. Email message (“Lynn Public Library”) from the Lynn (Massachusetts) Public Library Reference Librarian, Lisa Kulyk-Bourque, to M. Stone, dated 16 November 2007, relating that she checked but did not find a wedding notice for David and Ellen’s marriage in the (weekly) Lynn News, and was unable to find Ellen or her parents listed in the Lynn city directories for years 1851-1865.

21. Sketches of Lynn or the Changes of Fifty Years by David Newhall Johnson, Lynn, Massachusetts, 1880; pp. 410-411 and illustration of First Baptist Church of Lynn; viewed at http://books.google.com/ 17 November 2007.

22. Charles Henry Roberts birth certificate, Vol. 53, Page 57, No. 2520 (1851), Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

23. Roberts-Davies marriage: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Vol. 56, Page 154, No. 2602 (1851), Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

24. “Well-Known Veteran / Passing of Lewis H. Roberts in Watertown at the Age of 86,” datelined Watertown, [NY], Jan. 6 [1916]; unidentified obituary/newspaper clipping found in Kreischer family Bible owned by M. Stone, makes the claim: “For a number of years he [Lewis Roberts] was organ blower for Rev. Dr. Lowell, father of James Russell Lowell, in his church [West Church, Boston].”

25. Margaret Roberts v. Lewis Roberts, divorce case no. 1159, granted 7 October 1870, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Wisconsin, listed in the 1837-1875 volume of (Plaintiffs?) Index for Equity cases (Vol. 33, page 131), and found 30 July 2007 at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

26. Margaret Davis household, 1850 U.S. census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, City of Boston (Ward 11), page 44 (lines 1 through 6), dwelling no. 463, family no. 669, National Archives micropublication M432, roll 338.

27. Milwaukee, Wisconsin city directories, selected years between 1856 and 1873-74, viewed at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as follows:
1856-57 Milwaukee City Directory, and Business Advertiser, containing Local and General Statistics, with a new Map of the City, J.M. Van Slyck, Publisher, Daily Wisconsin Print, Phoenix Building; 1856

Erving, Burdick & Co.’s Milwaukee City Directory, for 1857 & 1858. Vol. I. New Series. Milwaukee: Steam Press of King, Jermain & Co., 205 and 207 East Water Street.

Milwaukee City Directory, being a complete general business directory of the entire city, compiled by Smith, Du Moulin & Co., Milwaukee: Jermain & Brightman, Printers & Publishers, 205 & 207 East Water St. 1858.

Milwaukee City Directory for 1859-60, compiled by Franklin E. Town. Milwaukee: Jermain & Brightman Printers & Publishers, 207 East Water Street.

Directory of the City of Milwaukee, being a complete general and business Directory, published annually. Milwaukee: Starr & Son, publishers, 212 & 214 Juneau Block, 1860.

Milwaukee City Directory, for 1862, compiled by A. Bailey. Milwaukee: Starr & Son, Publishers, 212 & 214 East Water Street.

Ibid., 1863.

Edwards’ Annual Director [sic] To the Inhabitants, Institutions, Incorporated Companies, Manufacturing Establishments, Business, Business Firms, etc, etc., in the City of Milwaukee for 1865. Richard Edwards, Editor and Publisher. Milwaukee. Starr & Son, 1865.

Milwaukee City Directory, for 1868-69. Compiled and published by John Thickens. Milwaukee: Hawks & Burdick, Practical printers, 255-59 South Water Street. 1868.

Milwaukee City Directory for 1870-1871, containing also a Complete Business Directory. Compiled and published by John Thickens. Milwaukee: Paul & Cadwallader, Book & Job Printers, 1870.

Milwaukee City Directory, for 1872-1873, containing also a Complete Business Directory. Compiled and published by John Thickens. Milwaukee: Milwaukee News Company, Book and Job Printers, 1872.

Milwaukee City Directory, for 1873-1874, containing also a Complete Business Directory. Compiled and published by John Thickens. Milwaukee: Milwaukee News Company, Book and Job Printers, 1873.

28. “Milwaukee Manufacturies No. 2: Decker & Seville - Reliance Works,” The Weekly Wisconsin, Wednesday, October 26, 1853, page 1, found online in August 2007 by M. Stone in the “19th Century U.S. Newspapers” database, http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com, accessed via the Godfrey Memorial Library online research service, http://www.godfrey.org/.

29. George David Roberts birth certificate, Vol. 74, Page 113, No. 5068 (1853), Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

30. Email message (“David Roberts (d. 1863)”) from Jack Eckert, Public Services Librarian, Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, 10 December 2007, confirming David Roberts received his medical degree from the Medical College of Maine in 1854 (General catalogue of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine; a biographical record of alumni and officers, 1794-1950, Bowdoin College, 1950, 5th edition).

31. Email message (“Re: FW: Research question/Dr. David Roberts”) from Daniel Hope, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College, 12 December 2007, confirming David Roberts’ medical degree listed in the General Catalog of Bowdoin College, and relaying the following information:
According to the Medical School catalog for 1854, among other things, “Candidates for the Degree of Doctor of Medicine. . . . must have devoted three years to their professional studies under the direction of a regular Practitioner of Medicine. They must have attended two full courses of Medical Lectures in some incorporated Medical Institution, and the last courses previous to examination must have been at this Medical School.” ....Roberts could have pursued some of his studies in Massachusetts, but at least a portion of his coursework would have to have been completed...at Bowdoin.

The 1854 catalog also notes that medical students “must also pass a satisfactory Examination in Anatomy, Physiology, Surgery, Chemistry, Materia Medica, Pharmacy, Obstetrics, and the Theory and Practice and Medicine. . . ” ...Finally, the catalog tells us “The Fees for admission to the several courses of Lectures, payable in advance, are $50. The Graduation fee, including an engraved Diploma on Parchment, is $18. Matriculation or Library fee, payable but once, $3.”

Roberts’ 19-page thesis on the subject of Pertussis (whooping cough), was dated April 1854 and was delivered by him at the College in that spring semester; it is still on file at Bowdoin College Archives, Brunswick, Maine.

32. David Roberts household, 1855 Massachusetts state census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, City of Boston (Ward 12), Volume 37, dwelling no. 720, family no. 1338 [microfilm viewed at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston on 28 April 2000].

33. David Lewis Roberts birth certificate, Vol. 98, Page 177, No. 5447 (1856), Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

34. David Lewis Roberts death certificate (died 16 December 1858), no. 3683, Office of the City Registrar, Boston, Massachusetts.

35. Email message (Subject: “08.24.07 GA Union Ground”) from a Reference Librarian, Social Sciences Department, Boston Public Library, to M. Stone, 24 August 2007, conveying historical information about Union Ground Cemetery.

36. Ellen S. Roberts death certificate (died 23 August 1859), Volume 131, page 52, no. 2287, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

37. Newspaper clip headed “ACCIDENTS” from the Boston [Massachusetts] Daily Advertiser, date obscured, but was from January 1860; found online in August 2007 by M. Stone in the “19th Century U.S. Newspapers” database, http://www.infotrac.galegroup.com, accessed via the Godfrey Memorial Library online research service, http://www.godfrey.org/.

38. Margret [sic] D. Roberts household, 1860 U.S. census, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, population schedule, City of Milwaukee (Ward 3), pages 43/173 (lines 29 and 30) and 44/174 (lines 1-10), dwelling no. 268, family no. 257, National Archives micropublication M653, roll 1422.

39. David Roberts [Jr.] household, 1860 U.S. census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, City of Boston (Ward 12), page 542 (lines 30 through 35), dwelling no. 2871, family no. 4437, National Archives micropublication M653, roll 525.

40. David Roberts [Sr.] household, 1860 U.S. census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, City of Boston (Ward 3), page 142 (lines 5 through 9), dwelling no. 531, family no. 1232, National Archives micropublication M653, roll 521.

41. Boston city directory, 1861, ibid., page 548. Mt. Hope Cemetery had been purchased by the city of Boston in 1857 for $35,000, and was “situated in West Roxbury and Dorchester.”

42. Letter from Mount Hope Cemetery (355 Walk Hill St., Mattapan, MA 02126) to M. Stone, 23 June 2000, conveying information and photocopies of burial cards on Roberts buried in the cemetery.

43. Photos of gravestones (and transcripts of them made by M. Stone) in Mount Hope Cemetery, Mattapan, Massachusetts, emailed to M. Stone on 26 August 2007 by a volunteer photographer with the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website, http://www.raogk.org/.

44. Roberts-Burchard marriage: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Vol. 137, Page 96, No. 1715 (1860), Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

45. Website, “Shaping the Values of Youth / Eddy, Daniel Clarke, http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/ssb/search.cfm?AuthorID=197, viewed November 2007.

46. Obituary record, the Rev. Daniel C. Eddy, New York Times, Wednesday, July 27, 1896.

47. Albert Cleveland Roberts birth certificate, Vol. 143, Page 95, No. 4261 (1861), Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

48. Dall, ibid., pp. 317-318.

49. David Roberts death certificate (died 15 August 1863), Volume 167, page 106, no. 2705, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

50. Newspaper death notice for Dr. David Roberts, Boston Herald, August 17, 1863, page 1.

51. Newspaper death notice for Dr. David Roberts, Boston Daily Advertiser, Tuesday, August 18, 1863.

52. Suffolk County (Massachusetts) Probate Court Docket Book Case No. 44843, Estate of David Roberts, viewed on microfilm at the Massachusetts Archives, Boston by M. Stone, 29 April 2000:
Petition for Administration by Mary A. Roberts, Decree, Bond, and Letter (7 September 1863), Volume 230, page 615;

Inventory/Appraisal (21 September 1863), Volume 300, page 266;

Notice of Appointment (31 October 1864), Volume 370, page 401; and

Widow’s Allowance (28 August 1865), Volume 435, page 75.

53. Albert C. Roberts death certificate (died 23 September 1863), Volume 166, page 132, no. 3339, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

54. Suffolk County (Massachusetts) Probate Court Docket Book Case No. 44925, Charles H. & George W. [sic] Roberts, Petition for Guardianship by Mary A. Roberts (12 October 1863), Volume 418, page 275, viewed on microfilm at the Massachusetts Archives, Boston by M. Stone, 29 April 2000.

55. David Roberts [Sr.] death certificate (died 28 November 1863), Volume 167, page 166, no. 4209, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

56. Newspaper death notice for David Roberts, Sr., Boston Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, December 2, 1863, as viewed online at the “19th Century U.S. Newspapers” database accessed via the Godfrey Memorial Library online research service, http://www.godfrey.org/, August 2007.

57. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, from Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903, by Francis B. Heitman, Vol. 2, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1903. Lists Mason General Hospital as an Army hospital in Boston (p. 523).

58. Charles W. Roberts death certificate (died 24 October 1864), Volume 176, page 166, no. 4251, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

59. Dall, ibid., pp. 346-347.

60. Roberts-Tibnam marriage: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Vol. 246, Page 9, No. 60 (1872), Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

61. Marion C. Roberts (M.N. Lebrun) [sic; aka Mary A. Pitts Burchard Roberts] death certificate (died 6 February 1872), Volume 249, Page 23, No. 644, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

62. George W. [sic] Roberts death certificate (died 29 November 1873), Volume 258, Page 250, No. 7229, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the Secretary of State, Archives Division, Boston, Massaschusetts.

63. Research note: A “genealogical angel” searched through the censuses and the Massachusetts BMD indexes for me in December 2007 and emailed me the results: there exists no evident proof there of children born to George and Emma circa 1871-1874, nor to Emma Tibnam while she was single. On the other hand, Emma’s mother, the widow and seamstress, Elizabeth Tibnam, was discovered to have had (according to her death certificate; she died 24 January 1891, age 64 years) the maiden name of “Elizabeth Dadd” [Dodd?], with her parents listed there as George H. and Eliza (Perry) “Dadd.” Could her parents have been the same parents, George and Elizabeth Dodd, that Ellen Susannah Dodd Roberts had? If so, the Widow Tibnam was George Roberts’ Aunt Elizabeth—a sister of his biological mother—and his young bride, Emma Tibnam, was his first cousin.



My heartfelt thanks go to all the kind and generous people and skilled researchers, librarians, and archivists who so graciously helped me recover and piece together this forgotten story.



For additional background reading:

Boston: A Century of Progress by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco, Images of America series, partially digitized by Google Books.

Boston: A Pictorial Celebration by Jonathan M. Beagle, partially digitized by Google Books.

Victorian America and the Civil War by Anne C. Rose; Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994. Scholarly and somewhat dry, but interesting.

Erickson, Paul Joseph, “Welcome to Sodom: The Cultural Work of City-Mysteries Fiction in Antebellum America,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, May 2005.

James Russell Lowell and His Friends by Edward Everett Hale; Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1899; viewed at Questiabooks, January 2008. Chapter V, "Boston in the Forties," offers a glimpse of where the Roberts were settling when they arrived from Wales:

Here was a little community, even quaint in some of its customs, sure of itself, and confident in its future. Generally speaking, the men and women who lived in it were of the old Puritan stock. This means that they lived to the glory of God, with the definite public spirit which belongs to such life. They had, therefore, absolute confidence that God's kingdom was to come, and they saw no reason why it should not come soon. ...practically, and in general, the people of Boston believed in the infinite capacity of human nature, and they knew "salvation's free," and "free for you and me."

As a direct result of this belief, and of the cosmopolitan habit which comes to people who send their ships all over the world, the leaders of this little community attempted everything on a generous scale. If they made a school for the blind, they made it for all the blind people in Massachusetts. They expected to succeed. They always had succeeded. Why should they not succeed? If, then, they opened a "House of Reformation," they really supposed that they should reform the boys and girls who were sent to it. Observe that here was a man who had bought skins in Nootka Sound and sold them in China, and brought home silks and teas where he carried away tin pans and jackknives. There was a man who had fastened his schooner to an iceberg off Labrador, and had sold the ice he cut in Calcutta or Havana. Now, that sort of men look at life in its possibilities with a different habit from that of the man who reads in the newspaper that stocks have fallen, who buys them promptly, and sells them the next week because the newspaper tells him that they have risen.

With this sense that all things are possible to him who believes, the little town became the head­ quarters for New England, and in a measure for the country, of every sort of enthusiasm, not to say of every sort of fanaticism....

The town was so small that practically everybody knew everybody. "A town," as a bright man used to say, "where you could go anywhere in ten minutes."...

In 1841, ... the Corner Bookstore was already the centre of a younger group of men who were earning for themselves an honorable place in American letters. I believe they were first brought together in the government of the Mercantile Library Association. This association started in a modest way to provide books and a reading-room for merchants and clerks. To a beginning so simple this group of young fellows, when hardly of age, gave dignity and importance. Under their lead the association established a large and valuable lending library, set on foot what were the most popular lectures in Boston, and kept up a well-arranged reading-room. It was virtually a large literary club, which occupied a building, the whole of which was devoted to books or to education. With the passage of two generations much of the work which the association thus took in hand has devolved upon the Public Library and its branches and upon the Lowell Institute. The Mercantile Library has been transferred to the city and is administered as its South End Branch.

In the ten years between 1840 and 1850 it was an important factor in Boston life. ...

See also the 1849 Dr. George Parkman murder case; see also the Wikipedia article on same.



Revised 14 March 2008

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