Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Roberts Family of White Co., TN

Geo. D., Wm. Bonnell and Wm. Smith Roberts
Ah, Tennessee...steep, tree covered mountains with hairpin turns causing us to pull over more times than I care to remember.  Places with names like "Big Bottom", Butt's Bridge, Caney Fork River. Doyle. Sparta. Guy Mountain.  I was little in the 1960's.  Too little and car sick to take notes or ask questions.  But I have my memories;  Being cautioned not to hug grandma's neck to tight for fear that I might break it.  Grandpa, missing two fingers on his left hand from a sawmill accident as a young man, now entertaining the grandchildren by using the remaining thumb and fingers to imitate a "little old man chewing tobacco."  The blue veins in Grandma's hands visible under her crinkly, paper thin skin.

Grandpa was also know as William Smith Roberts, born  30 Nov 1880 in River Hill, White County, Tennessee.  He married Grandma, Mary Alvira McCormack, on 1 Sep 1900 in the Dodson Community, White County, Tennessee.  To this union eight children were born, Anna Lee, Elwood, Maymie, Mary Helen, Charlene, William Bonnell (my father), Jean and James Roberts.

Mary Alvira McCormack was the daughter of Joseph McCormack and Nancy Alsada Dodson.  William Smith Roberts was the son of George David Roberts, Sr. and Susannah Elizabeth Sparkman, the widow of George W. Stipe.  William's siblings were John and Mary Stipe from Susannah's previous marriage and George David Roberts, Jr., Thomas B., Fannie Lee, and Emmett G. Roberts.  George and Susannah's marriage suffered a slight detour in 1871.  While shooting an intruder, Thomas Dodson, who was making advances on his wife, George shot the intruder's nose off, thus maiming him.  If the intruder had been killed, it would have been self defense, but since he was merely maimed, George David Roberts, Sr. was charged with malicious shooting and severed two years in Nashville at the Tennessee State Prison.

A funny thing happened three months after Grandma and Grandpa were married...Grandpa's father married Grandma's mother! On 30 Dec 1900, widower George David Roberts, Sr. married Nancy Alsada Dodson,  who had previously been abandoned by her husband, Joseph McCormack.

George David Roberts, Sr.'s birth is a mystery to Roberts researchers.  He is thought to be born on 04 Mar 1850 or 1851 to William Roberts and Harriet Owens of McMinn County, Tennessee. He had fiery red hair and bright blue eyes.  He is believed to have siblings named Dock D. Roberts, Bart Roberts, Sarah Elizabeth "Sallie" Roberts, and possibly James and Samuel Roberts who lived in White County and Van Buren County in Tennessee. There is no record of them on the 1860 census in any county in Tennessee, but they are all listed on the 1870 census.

In Roberts family stories told by George David Roberts, Sr. to son William Smith Roberts and written down by my cousin, Marilyn Denman Eaton, George related how his father served in the Civil War and that his mother died during that time, so his father had to take leave to go home and bury his wife and find someone to take care of his children.  He married a woman who was greatly dislike by the children and was referred to as "The Old Heifer".  She forced George to "swim the Tennessee River to get her a plug of chewing tobacco while he was suffering from measles or chickenpox."  George said would lie in bed at night and he could hear the cannons being fired at the Battle of Stones River, knowing that his father was fighting there.