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This file contains material about the Roberts family in Laurens, SC. They also
married into the Fuller line. Bob (Fuller) Knudsen

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William Roberts Family
By Donald G. Brown

William Roberts, the son of James Roberts of St. Peter's Parish in New Ke=
nt County, Virginia, east of Richmond, was possibly born about 1715-1720.=
In 1720 George I was King of England, and the American colonies, with th=
e colonies having an estimated population of 474,000; and this certainly =
did not include the Indians. New Orleans, which would belong to France fo=
r another 83 years, had been founded two years earlier; and in 1719 Danie=
l De Foe had published ROBINSON CRUSOE. Roberts is a surname meaning son=
of Roberts, and it can be Welsh, Scottish or English in origin. If Willi=
am Roberts was not born in New Kent County, he surely lived there. His bi=
rth was not registered in St.
Peter's Parish, but Frances, daughter of James Roberts, born on October
5, 1723, was listed as well as the births of two negroes belonging to
James Roberts: Nanny, born in 1725, and Betty, born in 1727 (THE PARISH
published by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the=
State of Virginia, 1904). Perhaps the Roberts family moved to the parish=
after William was born, or perhaps his birth failed to be registered. On=
May 31, 1734, the year after Oglethorpe founded Georgia, James Roberts o=
f St. Peter's Parish, New Kent County, purchased 400 acres of land on Dee=
p Creek in Goochland County, Virginia, some miles west of Richmond (Will =
and Deed Book I, p. 500), but it appears that James continued living in N=
ew Kent County. However, his son, William, lived in Goochland County duri=
ng the 1740's. The first record found of William there was when he purcha=
sed 200 acres from Thomas Bassett on March 17, 1740, recorded on June 16,=
1741 (W & DB III, p. 420). This land was south of the James River and bo=
unded by Deep Creek and the land of George Stovall, who surely was then o=
r surely would soon become William's father-in-law (or it could have been=
the brother-in-law, there being George Stovall, Sr., and George Stovall,=
Jr.). On November 18, 1740, William Roberts witnessed a land transaction=
south of Deep Creek between Luke Wiles and Joseph Sanders (W & DB III, p=
. 362). On August 22, 1741, William purchased more land in Goochland Coun=
ty, in St. James Parish: 200 acres south of the James River, on or near D=
eep Creek, from Alexander Kilpatrick (W & DB III, p. 456). Then on March =
16, 1741, William Roberts witnessed a land transaction between John Stova=
ll and Francis Steger, with the two other witnesses being George Stovall,=
Sr., and George Stovall, Jr. (W & DB III, p. 518).
On May 18, 1742, there was a very significant deed when George Stovall fo=
r love and good will gave William Roberts a slaved named Bess (W & DB III=
, P. 547). The deed stated that George Stovall had previously purchased t=
he slave from James Roberts, so apparently Bess was returning to the Robe=
rts family, now given, not sold ... absolutely without any ... condition.=
It is felt that George Stovall was William's father-in-law, although the=
name of George's daughter and William's wife was not given.
It is known that William's wife was named Sarah, and she surely was the d=
aughter of George and Elizabeth Stovall of Goochland County, with William=
and Sarah probably being married about 1742 when George gave the slave, =
Bess, a slave name that was to appear 27 years later in a document of Wil=
liam Roberts in Halifax County, Virginia.
Sarah, possibly born about 1722, would have been the granddaughter of Bar=
tholomew Stovall, who was born in Surrey, England, in 1665, the son of Ge=
orge and Joan (Tickner) Stovall, who were Quakers. Bartholomew came to He=
nrico County, Virginia, in 1683 by indenturing himself to John Bright, me=
rchant of London, for four years after his arrival in Virginia. He was ma=
rried to Ann Burton of Henrico County in 1693 and died there about 1721.
The land transactions continued in Goochland County. On September 19, 174=
2, James Roberts, still of New Kent County, for love and affection to my =
son William Roberts, gave a 400-acre plantation on the south side of the =
James Rivers on the branches of Deep Creek and joining a corner of the la=
nd of George Stovall (W & DB IV, p. 71). The next month, on October 18, 1=
742, William Roberts of Goochland County, sold to James Roberts of New Ke=
nt County 400 acres of land: the 200 acres he had purchased from Thomas B=
assett and the 200 acres he had purchased from Alexander Kilpatrick (W & =
DB IV, p. 69). James paid 70 pounds current money of Virginia for the 400=
acres, a puzzling transaction in view of the preceding one, with the Oct=
ober deed recorded before the September deed. These transactions were mad=
e about a year and one-half before Thomas Jefferson was born in April of =
1743 in what in 1744 was to become Albemarle County, Virginia, created fr=
om Goochland and Louisa Counties.
A little over five years later, on January 10, 1748, James sold the 400 a=
cres of land that had belonged to son William, the Bassett and the Kilpat=
rick land, to Frances Steger of Cumberland County, Virginia, with William=
Roberts one of the two witnesses (Cumberland County DB I, p. 25). This =
land was registered in Cumberland County as part of Goochland County had =
become Cumberland County in 1748. Much division of counties took place in=
Virginia in the 1700's. As an example, Goochland County, which was forme=
d in 1727-1728 from Henrico County, became the parent or partial parent c=
ounty of at least Cumberland, Albemarle, Bedford and Campbell Counties fr=
om 1748 to 1782. Today the Roberts land probably remains in Cumberland Co=
unty or possibly in Powhatan County, which was created from Cumberland Co=
unty in 1777.
Apparently by 1750, the year before James Madison was born in King George=
County, Virginia, William Roberts and family left Goochland County and w=
ent west, perhaps moving to Lunenburg County, Virginia. A William Roberts=
and a James Roberts were listed on the Lunenburg Tithe List for 1750, al=
ong with a John Stovall and a Bartholomew Stovall. It is the Stovall list=
ings that seem to indicate that the William Roberts on the Lunenburg Tith=
e List was the William Roberts of Goochland County. But the question is,=
where in Lunenburg was he? For in 1750 Lunenburg County was much larger =
than it is today, comprising what today are the counties of Mecklenburg, =
Halifax, Pittsylvania, Henry, Patrick, Charlotte and parts of Bedford and=
Campbell. There were Roberts names in records of what is now the extreme=
southwestern part of Halifax County and southeastern Pittsylvania County=
, including the ubiquitous names of William Roberts and James Roberts. In=
1734 a William Roberts entered land in Brunswick County, on Pidgeon Roos=
t Creek (Patent Book 15, p. 347 ), apparently in the aforementioned area,=
for Lunenburg County had been created from Brunswick County in 1746. But=
that date is too early for the William Roberts of Goochland County unles=
s he was older than thought and was very mobile.
Sometime between 1753 and 1755 in Halifax County, which was created in 17=
52 solely from Lunenburg County, there was a court case of Charles Cupple=
s vs. William Roberts (Plea Book 1, 1752-1755, pp. 443-444). The nature o=
f this suit is not known, but William Roberts did not appear and the plai=
ntiff was granted judgment of two pounds, three pence and four shillings =
plus costs. The case was to be discharged by payment of one pound, one sh=
illing, and eight pence with interest from Novmber 21, 1753. At the same =
court session, or thereabouts, Charles Cupples was also the plaintiff in =
two other cases in which he was granted judgment by the failure of the de=
fendants to appear. It seems that Charles Cupples might have lived in the=
extreme southwestern corner of the present Halifax County near the line =
of present Pittsylvania County. Was the William Roberts, once of Goochlan=
d County, also living in this part of Halifax County before moving slight=
ly northeast in Halifax County?
The year that Halifax County was created, 1752, was the year when Benjami=
n Franklin, flying a kite in a storm in Pennsylvania, discovered electric=
ity; and the first hospital in America opened in Philadelphia. This was =
also the year in which the Gregorian Calendar replaced the Julian Calenda=
r in Britain and the British colonies, most of Europe already using the m=
ore accurate Gregorian calendar. The transition decreed that the day foll=
owing September 2, 1752, must be September 14, 1752. Many people were fur=
ious, feeling that they had been cheated out of 11 days. The Gregorian Ca=
lendar also changed the beginning of the new year from March 25 to Januar=
y 1. All of the aforementioned dates prior to September 14, 1752, are the=
dates as found in the original records, Old Style, according to the Juli=
an Calendar. Eleven days should be added to get the date according to the=
present Gregorian calendar. Wherever William Roberts of Goochland County=
was in the 1750's and the early 1760's, it was surely he who definitely =
appeared in the records of Halifax County, Virginia, in 1763, the year in=
which the nine-year French and Indian War, which involved Virginia, ende=
d. In 1763 he purchased a total of 224 acres of land on three different d=
eeds. He purchased 170 acres from Ann Walton Sherwood, or Ann and Walton =
Sherwood (DB 4, pp. 355-356; paid 10 pounds in Virginia currency to David=
Evans for 50 acres on the north side of the Dan River (DB 4, p. 355); an=
d paid five pounds to William Byrd of Charles City County for four acres =
in the Dan River (DB 4, 374). There was also a deed for 170 acres north o=
f the Dan River from Sherwood Walton of Lunenburg County on July 12, 1764=
(DB 5, p. 140), but this appears to be a duplication of the 170 acres in=
William's land was in the southwestern, but not the extreme
southwestern, part of Halifax County, a Southside Virginia county in the
Piedmont Plateau of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west, in the middle
of the state, bordering North Carolina. His land was north of the Dan
River near Tobys Creek, where the land of his son-in-law, Haman Miller,
was. Today it would seem that this land is in something of a triangle
formed by secondary state Highways #691 and #659, possibly nine Halifax
County, a Southside Virginia county in the Piedmont Plateau of the Blue
Ridge Mountains to the west, in the middle of the state, bordering North
Carolina. His land was north of the Dan River near Tobys Creek, where
the land of his son-in-law, Haman Miller, was. Today it would seem that
this land is in something of a triangle formed by secondary state
Highways #691 and #659, possibly nine or so miles southwest of the
county sea
Although at present there is no direct identification of William Roberts
of Goochland County, Virginia, with William Roberts, north of Dan River
and near Tobys Creek in Halifax County, Virginia, it seems rather sure
that they were the same person. Further verification is desired for what
seems a certainty. The Goochland County and Stovall connection was
discovered through THE FAMILY OF BARTHOLOMEW STOVALL, Volume I, by Neil
D. Thompson (published by the Stovall Family Associations, Inc., 1993,
chapter 3, pp. 19-39). The information on the Roberts deeds in Goochland
County was expanded from WILLS AND DEEDS GOOCHLAND VA 1728-1736, Volume
1; and 1736-1742, Volume 2, both by Benjamin B. Weisinger III, 1984). Th=
e names of 10 children of William and Sarah Roberts are definitely known:=
Samuel, George, Peter, James, William, Jr., Frances, Mary Ann (born in 1=
748), Sarah, Martha Stovall and Elizabeth. It is to be noted that Stovall=
was the middle name of Martha, and that George and E lizabeth Stovall ha=
d a daughter, Martha Stovall, who would be the sister of Mrs. Sarah Rober=
ts. There apparently were two other children who died early, being murder=
ed by a demented slave about 1755, according to a somewhat cryptic story,=
along with their maternal grandmother and another woman (Neil book, pp. =
In Halifax County on December 7, 1767, the year that John Quincy Adams wa=
s born in Massachusetts and Andrew Jackson was born in South Carolina, Wi=
lliam Roberts sold a small island of 230 acres on the north side of the D=
an where Wm. Roberts lives, to John Baird & Co. (DB 7, p. 240). In 1771 a=
William Roberts sold 515 acres of land to John Lewis, Jr., land lying an=
d being in Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties on Wood (or Wool?) Hill Cree=
k (DB 8, p. 275). Apparently this was actually Wolf Hill Creek, which tod=
ay is Wolf Creek, in the area previously mentioned for the 1750's. If thi=
s was the land of the William Roberts north of the Dan River, then he had=
held onto it for a while after his 1763 purchases east of it. In the Ent=
ry Record Book 1 there is mention of a Roberts Mill and of James Roberts'=
land on Wolf Hill Creek. The Roberts name is definitely associated with =
this area where Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties join at the south. Ther=
e possibly were Roberts families in other parts of Halifax County either =
related or unrelated to William Roberts north of the Dan. Roberts was, an=
d is, a comon name.
William Roberts operated a ferry on the Dan River. In 1776, the year of
the Declaration of Independence and the year that Washington crossed the
Delaware, William Roberts entered 100 acres in the Dan River adjoining
the land he lived on, beginning at his ferry landing and then down and
including two small islands and taking the main river from bank to bank
transcribed by Marian Dodson Chiarito, 1984, p. 371 of record book per p.=
299 of Chiarito book). Land entries were simply a statement of intention=
to settle and improve the given tract, not proof of ownership. There ar=
e a number of entries for individuals named William Roberts, and for othe=
r Robertses, in this book with exact county not stated. However, it seems=
certain that the preceding is for Halifax County. There is also a 1766 e=
ntry for a William Roberts entering an island in the Dan River just above=
the mouth of the Hyco River (same pages), but since this location is in =
the southeastern part of Halifax County, it was probably a different Will=
iam Roberts.
In 1771 Roger Shackelford was licensed to keep ferry on Dan River (Plea B=
ook 7, pp. 98 and 207, per HISTORY OF HALIFAX, vol. one, by Pocahontas Wr=
ight Edmunds, p. 98). It is understood that he was to keep ferry on the D=
an River opposite to William Roberts' ferry on the Dan, this latter being=
also a part of the aforementioned record or from another source. Roger =
Shackelford was the father of Richard Shackelford, who was the son-in-law=
of William, either then or later. He and Mary Ann Roberts probably were =
married in the late 1760's.
There is mention of the Roberts ferry, in Halifax County plea books descr=
ibing land. In 1761 there was mention of the Roberts Ferry to the courtho=
use (PB 3, p. 339); in 1770, Mirey Creek to Roberts' Ferry Road ( PB 6, p=
p. 4 and 6); and also in 1770, the Roberts Ferry to Birch Creek ( PB 6, p=
. 486). (These items appear in HISTORY OF HALIFAX, Vol. two, p. 86, by E=
The preceding 1761 mention of the Roberts Ferry was two years before Will=
iam purchased the land north of the Dan River. Various speculations could=
be made about this, and it should be pointed out that in 1763-1764 that =
William Roberts purchased land from Ann and Sherwood Walton. The Edmunds =
book (Vol. one, p. 98) also mentions a Sherwood Walton Ferry on the Dan R=
iver in 1755 (PB 2, p. 55) and in 1757 (PB 2, p. 197). When William purch=
ased the Walton land, perhaps the ferry was included in the purchase, wit=
h him operating it beforehand, and living on the Walton land.
Mrs. Edmunds wrote that there were many ferries on the north side of the =
Dan River along the River Road (now Highway #659). Miller's Ferry was men=
tioned in various records for Halifax County, at least as early as 1770. =
There is also mention of a Miller's Ferry by a Caleb Dodson of Halifax Co=
unty when he applied for a Revolutionary War pension in 1832. He stated =
that he served several days as a guard on the Dan River in 1781 at Miller=
's Ferry. It is not known what Miller operated this ferry, but it is felt=
that it was someone of the family of John Frederick Miller and his son, =
William Roberts lived at a time and in a place that considered slavery ac=
ceptable, and he, like his wealthier fellow Virginians to the north, Geor=
ge Washington and Thomas Jefferson, was a slaveowner. He seems to have be=
en pressed for money at times, and he mortgaged his slaves. On December 1=
5, 1766, he mortgaged slaves and a horse for a loan of one hundred pounds=
, current money of Virginia, to John Winbish, with the horse delivered to=
Winbish as security (DB 6, p. 260). Nothing more is known of this mortga=
ge. Considerable more is known about a mortgage of May 7, 1769, and recor=
ded on August 17, 1769, when he mortgaged 10 slaves and other items to Ha=
man Miller, his son-in-law, and Samuel Roberts, his son (DB 7, p. 436). T=
his was secruity for several different sums of money. The slaves were nam=
ed Cuffy, Peter, Bess (is this the slave given by George Stovall in 1742?=
), Jenny, Hanna Dick Frank, Phiffip, Lucy and Nan This mortgage was to ha=
ve long repercussions after William's death.
>From 1770 to 1778 William deeded a female slave to each of four daughters=
and their husbands: Frank to Frances and Haman Miller in November of 177=
0 (DB 8, p. 116); Lucy to Mary Ann and Richard Shackelford in April of 17=
75 (DB 9, p. 408); Betty (Bess) to Sarah and John Stanfield on February 1=
8, 1777 (DB 10, pp. 154-155); and Nancy to Martha Stovall and Jacob Mille=
r on May 20, 17 78 (DB 1 1, p. 404). Included in the deeds, or at least =
some of them, was mention of household furniture, stock and cattle, and o=
ther things that he had given to them. William Roberts apparently was gen=
erous to his family.
During the eight years of these deed there was the Boston Tea Party, the
beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Articles of Confederation
beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Articles of Confederation,
Washington spending the winter at Valley Forge, and the English
explorer, Ja
In September of 1777 William Roberts also deeded as a gift two acres of l=
and north of the Dan River to Haman Miller (DB 10, p. 361). This land joi=
ned the land of William Roberts and the land of Haman Miller on Switzer's=
On May 20, 1778, William sold 228 acres of land north of the Dan River to=
Richard Edwards of Bedford County (DB 11, p. 403) prior to moving to Ran=
dolph County, North Carolina. But he apparently was still in Halifax Coun=
ty in November of 1778 when Sarah, wife of William Roberts Senr came into=
court and being first privately examined according to law did freely and=
voluntarily relinquish all right of dower in and to 228 acres of land co=
nveyed by the said husband to Richard Edwards (Court Order Book 9 1774-17=
79, p. 370).
The Halifax Court Order Book for 1774-1779 reveals legal difficulty for W=
illiam Roberts during his last years in Halifax County. For the January c=
ourt of 1778 there is a cryptic item about the sheriff settling with Will=
iam Roberts, Senr, for his share of a crop involving John McFarlin, a sol=
dier in the Continental service (pp. 272-273). For the August court of 17=
78 there appeared the case of Nathaniel Manson against William Roberts an=
d Richard Shackelford. The two defendants did not appear and were ordered=
to pay two pounds, 11 shillings and six pence, current money, plus costs=
. Apparently this debt went back to November 20, 1773, with legal interes=
t from that date (p. 339).
Then there was the matter of the lawsuit of Luke Williams against William=
Roberts. In the July court of 1777 there had been an injunction granted =
to stay the effects taken by the sheriff in execution of a judgment obtai=
ned at common law by the said Luke Williams against William Roberts (p. 2=
26). In the August court of 1777 William Roberts and Richard Shackelford =
posted bond for the injunction (p. 237). In the November court of 1778 th=
e injunction of William Roberts against Luke Williams was dissolved (p. 3=
Then in the February court of 1779 Luke Williams was plaintiff with Willi=
am Roberts defendant (p. 393). Three hogshead of tobacco was levied again=
st William Roberts (one hogshead was a large cask or barrel which contain=
ed from 63 to 140 gallons, it also being a measurement for non-liquids). =
And does this indicate that William Roberts was a tobacco grower, especia=
lly since Halifax County was a tobacco producing area? A man named James =
Le Grand apparently was in court as proxy for William Roberts, stating th=
at he had sufficient in his hands to satisfy the complaint and the costs.=

Also, the court ruled that Luke Williams was to recover a former judgment=
against William Roberts for 24 pounds, 18 shillings, 11 pence and three =
farthings plus costs in the hands of James Le Grand. It would appear that=
in this February court of 1779 that there was a new lawsuit of Williams =
against Roberts and that the former judgment referred to the former injun=
ction which had been dissolved in November of 1778. It would also appear =
that by the time of this February court of 1779 that William Roberts had =
moved to Randolph County, North Carolina, and that James Le Grand was rep=
resenting him in court with assets which William had left to pay for the =
judgments; or perhaps Le Grand had agreed beforehand to pay any judgment =
and be reimbursed by William Roberts. Knowledge of these lawsuits is sket=
chy. It is interesting to note that a James Le Grand also operated a ferr=
y on the Dan River, at least in 1762 (Edmunds book, Vol. one, p. 52). The=
n there was the case of William Roberts, Jr. In March of 1778 William Ro=
berts, Sr., with William Roberts, Jr., Samuel Roberts and John Stanfield =
went to court and acknowledged themselves indebted to his Excellency Patr=
ick Henry Esqr. Governor of the Common Wealth of Virginia (who just three=
years previously in St. John's Church in Richmond had proclaimed, (I kno=
w not what course otfwrs may take but as for me, give me liberty or give =
me death) for the sum of 500 pounds. This amount was to be levied agains=
t their goods and chattels lands, et cetera, on the condition that Willia=
m Roberts, Jr., appear before the General Court at the capitol in William=
sburg on trail for felony (Court Order Book, p. 291). This was the outcom=
e of a complaint of James Mitchell against William Roberts, Jr., in the J=
anuary court of 1777 for a break of the Peace (Court Order Book, p. 185).=
The sheriff at that time was to summon the wife of James Le Grand, and R=
uth Wilson and James Roberts to give testimony. Nothing more was found on=
this matter until the aforesaid entry in the Court Order Book of March o=
f 1778, and nothing else was found anywhere about the outcome.
William Roberts, Jr., was at least 21 years old in 1764 because in that
year he was old enough to vote, being listed on the 1764 Poll list for
LISTS, abstracted by Mary Bondurant Warren, 1991). This means that he was=
born about 1743 or earlier. A Samuel Roberts, probably his brother, was =
on the 1765 poll list. Also on that list were two men named James Roberts=
, one of them probably another brother, William, Jr., was also on the 176=
8 and the 1769 lists. William, Sr., was was on the 1764, the 1768 and the=
1769 lists. The 1765 list merely named William Roberts with no Sr. or Jr=
. The 1769 list named Sr. and Jr. along with another William Roberts and =
a Will Roberts. It is interesting that Bartholomew Stovall and Thomas Sto=
vall appeared on some or all of these lists, surely relatives of Mrs. Sar=
ah Roberts; and this was possibly the same Bartholomew Stovall who was na=
med on the 1750 Lunenburg tithe list. Only the 1764, the 1765, the 1768 a=
nd the 1769 poll lists of Halifax County for this general period have bee=
n found.
In September of 1778 a William Roberts sold land to Daniel Jackson ( Cour=
t Order Book, 1774-1779, p. 350), with William's wife, Elizabeth, appeari=
ng in court voluntarily to relinquish her right of dower. Although there=
were other Robertses in Halifax County, either related or unrelated to W=
illiam Roberts, Sr., it is felt that the foregoing transaction was surely=
by William Roberts, Jr., son of William and Sarah, selling his land prio=
r to moving with his parents to Randolph County, North Carolina.
William and Sarah Roberts and their family moved to the newly created Ran=
dolph County in the Piedmont Plateau of North Carolina, still east of the=
Blue Ridge Mountains but in a low mountainous terrain. This was in the c=
entral part of the state, probably about 100 miles southwest from the Rob=
erts land in Virginia. It would appear that the family left in the fall o=
f 1778 or early 1779, during the middle of the Revolutionary War. Perhaps=
the family left in November of 1778 after Sarah appeared in court to rel=
inquish her dower in the land. Perhaps they traveled in a Conestoga wagon=
, for this covered wagon was in use by the middle 1750's.

It is wondered if the family traveled to North Carolina with Haman and Fr=
ances (Roberts) Miller, but Haman had sold his Halifax County land in Feb=
ruary of 1778. It seems that John and Sarah (Roberts) Stanfield were in t=
he party. William Roberts, Haman Miller and John Stanfield were in Randol=
ph County in time for the 1779 tax list, the first for the county, which =
was created that year from Guilford County. The only other Robertses on t=
his list were William's two sons: William Roberts, Jr., and James Roberts=
. Beginning in 1784 Samuel Roberts appeared in the Randolph County deed i=
ndex; and in 1786 Richard Shackelford appeared. Jacob Miller, husband of=
Martha Stovall Roberts and younger brother of Haman, appeared on the 178=
5 tax list. All of the married daughters of William and Sarah with their =
husbands transplanted to Randolph County.
The Roberts family surely lived in the same part of the county as Haman M=
iller, who lived in the western part on Jackson Creek and Toms Creek near=
the Uwharrie River, perhaps nine miles southwest of the present county s=
eat of Asheboro, which is in the center of the county. Randolph County wa=
s another tobacco growing region, with other crops surely grown, and toda=
y it is still agricultural along with small factories and potteries.
The first record found for William Roberts in Randolph County is one of S=
eptember 8, 1783, when he deeded two female slaves, Chloe and Milly and f=
urniture and livestock, to his daughter, Elizabeth, wife of Isham Fuller =
(WB 1, p. 15). Isham, the son of Jones Fuller of Granville and Franklin C=
ounties, North Carolina, in 1793 renewed his bond as constable in Randolp=
h County with Haman Miller (this could have been senior or junior) and Br=
ittain Fuller, his father's first cousin, giving security (Court of Pleas=
and Quarter Sessions, March 1793). On January 17, 1785, a Wm Roberts, wi=
tnessed the will of a William Robertson (WB 1, p. 69) along with Haman Mi=
ller. There is no Senr. or Jr. after the name of either William or Haman.=
William, Sr., appeared on the 1785 tax list for Randolph County, that ta=
x list crediting him with 300 acres of land, one white poll and three bla=
ck polls (females and children, both white and black, were not listed as =
polls). The only other Robertses on this 1785 list were William, Jr., Jam=
es, Samuel and Peter-all sons of William, Sr. On a bill dated July 11, 17=
85, and proven December of 1785, William, Jr., sold personal property to =
Brittain Fuller (WB 1, p. 22). Seventeen Eighty-Five was the year that Th=
omas Jefferson of Albemarle County, Virginia, appointed minister to Franc=
e, succeeding Benjamin Franklin; and the year before America's present co=
inage system, proposed by Jefferson, was adopted by Congress.
The records for William Roberts in Randolph County are few, for he lived
for only about five more years. He probably died in April or May of
1788, for on May 5, 1788, administration of his estate was granted to
James Roberts, his son, and Sarah Roberts, his widow, since William died
without a will. Haman Miller and Zachariah Yarborough acted as security
in the amount of one thousand pounds (Rowan County Minutes Court of
Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Book 5, p. 136, from ROWAN COUNTY, NORTH
CAROLINA TAX LISTS 1757-1800 by Jo White Linn, p. 298). It isn't known
why this estate was settled outside of Randolph County, where all of the
parties were living. In 1788 Rowan County joined Randolph County on
Randolph County's western line near where the Roberts and Miller
families were living, with that portion of Rowan County becoming David
outside of Randolph County, where all of the parties were living. In
1788 Rowan County joined Randolph County on Randolph County's western
line near where the Roberts and Miller families were living, with that
portion of Rowan County becoming Davidson County in 1822. In 1788 the
U.S. Constitution came into effect, shortly before Virginia ratified the
Constitution and became a state on June
Over a year later the Roberts estate still was not settled. On August 9, =
1788, an inventory was presented in court. On November 4, 1788, it was re=
corded that the administrators of William Roberts were to sell Negroes be=
longing to the estate; and also on that date an amount of sales of the es=
tate was recorded as 105 pounds, six shillings and eight pence. On May 5,=
1789, an account of sales of the estate was filed (amount not given). O=
n May 6, 1789, Sarah, the widow, was paid 30 pounds from the estate.
And on August 8, 1789, James Roberts reported a balance of 205 pounds,
18 shillings and five pence, this being the last record found so far
pertaining to the estate. Apparently the recently adopted U. S. coinage
system was not yet in wide use. (Foregoing information from Minutes of
the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Rowan County, Book 5, pp. 175,
179,182, 215, 220 and 252 per ABSTRACTS OF THE MINUTES OF THE COURT OF
III, by Jo White Linn, 1982, pp. 183, 184, 191, 192 and 197). It is not k=
nown where William was buried.
As the Roberts estate was settled, trouble began brewing that was to stre=
tch over at least 41 years. By correlating unclear and sometimes scanty i=
nformation as revealed in a variety of lawsuits a tangled story emerged. =
As previously mentioned, in 1769 in Halifax County, Virginia, William Rob=
erts executed a deed a trust, a mortgage, with Haman Miller and Samuel Ro=
berts for several different sums of money. One of the sums, apparently th=
e main one, was for a loan, for which the two men took security, from Wil=
liam McDaniel to William Roberts. The two men at some point ended up payi=
ng the loan. The entire amount of the mortgage seems to have been up to 5=
00 pounds plus costs. William mortgaged to them the ten slaves and their =
increase and a considerable stock of horses, cattle, hogs, household good=
s and other estate (DB 7, p. 436).
Then about 1772 Haman and Samuel executed a bond for what seems 300 pound=
s for William's benefit to Major William Cunningham and Company, merchant=
s of Glasgow Scotland, apparently with the same collateral. In the Halifa=
x County Order Book for July of 1774, p. 71, there is mention of a deed o=
f trust between Samuel Roberts and Mssr. William Cunningham and Company, =
but it isn't known if this pertains to William Roberts, and Haman Miller =
doesn't seem to be mentioned in this transaction. Apparently the 1769 mo=
rtgage, or part of it, was still outstanding at this time. The Revolution=
ary War began in 1775, and when the American colonies declared independen=
ce on July 4, 1776, the three men thought that debts to Britain were decl=
ared null and void.
It isn't known what the merchandise from Cunningham was. Juanita Jackson =
Kesler, librarian in North Carolina, in 1996 wrote to Donald Brown that W=
illiam and Nehemiah Cunningham, brothers, sailed back and forth from Scot=
land bringing goods to the American shore. They later operated a general =
store in Frederick County, Virginia, called New Market, which grew into a=
chain of stores called the Cunningham Stores. Mrs. Kesler's ancestor, Na=
thaniel Cunningham, of the Revolutionary War era, was connected to this e=
nterprise, at some point operating N. Cunningham and Company in Halifax, =
Virginia, moving to Randolph County, North Carolina about 1798.
While William's estate was being settled, Haman Miller sued for money tha=
t had been owed to him by his father-in-law. On October 27, 1788, back in=
Halifax County, Virginia, where the original transactions took place, Ha=
man received a judgment as plaintiff against James Roberts, administrator=
, and Sarah Roberts, administratrix, of the William Roberts estate, altho=
ugh all of the parties were now living in Randolph County, North Carolina=
. The defendants had received legal notice and did not appear in court. T=
he plaintiff s demand for the sum of 70 pounds, 12 shillings, eight pence=
and half a penny was considered just, and the plaintiff was to recover t=
his amount from the defendants, together with costs, from the estate of W=
illiam Roberts. If this amount was not in the estate, then the costs were=
to be levied against the property of the defendants. Haman paid costs of=
82 pounds of tobacco and 21 farthings as security for the said William R=
oberts decd. (This document does not have a book and page identification.=
It apparently is in the Virginia State Library and Archives, Richmond, w=
ith the notation This document was found in a file, Archives call No. 081=
James and Sarah, living in Randolph County, North Carolina, apparently ig=
nored the judgment of the Virginia court. Haman then took action in North=
Carolina, possibly needing the Virginia court judgment in order to file =
in North Carolina. On December 15, 1789, Haman won a higher judgment from=
the Randolph County Court (WB 11, p. 75), a judgment of 95 pounds, 15 sh=
illings and five pence. A slave girl named Jude from the Roberts estate w=
as ordered sold, and Haman himself was the highest bidder at 91 pounds. P=
erhaps all concerned now thought that the McDaniel mortgage, and the enti=
re mortgage situation was settled. Although the two preceding lawsuits di=
d not mention the McDaniel mortgage, they certainly pertained to it; and =
Haman at this time thought that the Cunningham debt was obliterated. Mrs.=
Sarah Roberts was enumerated as head of a household in the 1790 census f=
or Randolph County in a household of two females and no slaves. James Rob=
erts was enumerated in this first census with a household of eight people=
and eight slaves. Sometime during the 1790's both Sarah and James moved=
to Laurens County, South Carolina, where other Roberts children had move=
d. James died there in 1801 and Sarah allegedly in 1809. It isn't known w=
here they were buried. By the time of the 1799 tax list for Randolph Coun=
ty, North Carolina, there seemed to be only one Roberts listed: Riland, w=
hose exact identity is unknown, but he seems to have been a grandson of W=
illiam and Sarah, or perhaps his wife was. It is known that Haman Miller =
with no Senr. or Jr. after his name was bondsman on January 8, 1789, for =
the marriage bond of Ryland Roberts to Susannah Roberts (Typed Marriage B=
onds, NC Archives, Raleigh, p. 232).
In 1796, the year in which President George Washington proclaimed the Joh=
n Jay Treaty, which settled some outstanding differences with Great Brita=
in to be in effect, an American court declared British debts payable. But=
the Scottish debt lay dormant until about 1801, and then in 1803, the ye=
ar of the Louisiana Purchase, Haman through court action was obliged to p=
ay William Roberts' entire debt of one thousand pounds plus costs of $39.=
94, with Samuel Roberts paying nothing, according later to Haman, Jr., an=
d James, executors of Haman's estate. Haman, Sr., and Samuel Roberts file=
d lawsuits in 1804 in North Carolina for partial recovery from the Robert=
s heirs for this Scottish debt, but nothing came of them.
No documents have surfaced for 1804, but there is one for 1808. In that y=
ear Haman Miller and Samuel Roberts were plaintiffs in a lawsuit with def=
endant James Damie (Daniel?); and it is not known exactly how this man fi=
ts into the picture unless he was the present owner of a former Roberts s=
lave or the increase. In the Asheboro Public Library there is a copy of a=
legal proceeding of November 4, 1808, the year before Abraham Lincoln an=
d Edgar Allan Poe were born, at the house of Josiah Lyndon in Randolph Co=
unty, apparently a circuit court proceeding. William Stanfield, grandson =
of William and Sarah Roberts, and the son of John and Sarah (Roberts) Sta=
nfield, gave sworn testimony by answering questions from the plaintiffs a=
nd the defendant. William, who according to the document, was born on Feb=
ruary 2, 1788, said that in the summer of 1807 he had lived in the home o=
f Jacob Miller in Laurens County, South Carolina, and had been in contact=
with his grandmother, Sarah. Sarah possibly was living in the Miller ho=
me with her son-in-law and daughter, Jacob and Martha Stovall (Roberts) M=
iller. It is not known what Sarah's view of the mortgage was, but the pla=
intiffs, who were her son and her son-in-law, were trying to establish th=
at she was so elderly that she was incapable of managing her business. Wi=
lliam, in reply to these questions, said, I suppose she is.
The Stanfields owned, or had owned, some of the slaves in question, Bet a=
nd Rachel who were the increase of Jenny, one of the mortgaged slaves. I=
t would appear that Mrs. Sarah Roberts had protested the claim of Haman a=
nd Samuel and that they were trying to discredit her on the basis of seni=
lity. It is not difficult to imagine what division and heartbreak the old=
mortgages and the subsequent lawsuits caused in the Roberts and Miller f=
amilies for at least a whole generation. And these were two families that=
had seemed to be close, from Virginia to North Carolina. The indication=
was that Sarah was still living at the time of William's testimony. The =
typed document does not mention any record book. William Stanfield signed=
his statment with C. Arnold and J. Lyndon as witnesses. This document i=
s probably only one of a larger group.
It isn't known at what point Haman dropped the matter, or if he dropped i=
t at all. But after his death his two executor sons, Haman, Jr., and Jame=
s, at some point began filing other lawsuits. On September 4, 1825, in Ra=
ndolph County there was the case of Haman Miller's Executors vs. Ryland =
Roberts and Others. The others were Jacob Miller, husband of Martha Stova=
ll (Roberts) Miller; Richard Shackelford, husband of Mary Ann (Roberts) S=
hackelford; George Roberts, William and Sarah's son; the executors of Jam=
es Roberts, now deceased; and Henry and Sarah Fuller, administrators of t=
he estate of Isham Fuller, who died in 1805 in Laurens County, South Caro=
lina, husband of Elizabeth (Roberts) Fuller, who was also now deceased. A=
pparently Haman, Jr., and James won judgment, but it is known that most, =
or all, of these individuals were living in Laurens County, South Carolin=
a, or elsewhere, not in Randolph County, so collecting would have been a =
problem. On March 4, 1827, in Randolph County, the Miller executors broug=
ht a suit against the executors of Richard Shackelford, now deceased (he =
died in 1824 in Madison County, Alabama). The court in a later review of =
this case, mentioned that the defendants were living in Alabama, indicati=
ng, or stating, a problem. (The 1825-1827 information from Equity Minute =
Dockets, 1825-1845, pp. 1, 7 and 11).
In 1829, 15 years after Haman's death and the year that Andrew Jackson be=
came President with a raucous inaugural celebration in the White House, t=
here was in the Superior Court of Randolph County, North Carolina, and th=
e Equity Court of Laurens County, South Carolina, a lawsuit of Haman Mill=
er and James Miller, Exrs. of Haman Miller Deceased vs. Sarah Fuller, Joh=
n Milam and wife Sarah, William Fuller, Jones Fuller, Patsy Miller, Peter=
Fuller, Jones Fuller and his wife Mary Ann, Archibald Fuller and Israel =
Fuller (Laurens County Equity Court, Box 14, package 14). It is from this=
long and labored document that the structure of the entire situation is =
revealed. The document was addressed To the Judge in Equity for the Supre=
me Court of Law for the County of Randolph, with Haman, Jr., and James cl=
aiming that the heirs of William Roberts were in possession of slaves whi=
ch were collateral for the old deed of trust-the mortgage-the bond for Wi=
lliam Cunningham and Company. The mortgaged slaves and some of their incr=
ease were named, some of which had been sold to individuals outside of th=
e family. Haman Miller, Jr., and James Miller were asking the present own=
ers to reimburse your orator what he has paid out.
No extended research has been done on these troubled lawsuits, and the on=
ly documents found are those which were uncovered in general Roberts and =
Miller research; and most of these are briefly stated. There probably are=
documents in other locales where Roberts heirs were living. It is under=
stood that the judges threw the 1829 case out of court since all of this =
happened decades earlier and few, if any, witnesses were still living. Wh=
at these lawsuits show, especially the 1829 lawsuit which outlines the si=
tuation the most fully, is the evil of slavery which existed in at least =
half of the United States of that time as an acceptable way of life to ma=
ny people. In 1829 the Emancipation Proclamation was 34 years away. There=
is genealogical value in these documents because they contain the names =
of William and Sarah's children and reveal a bit about William: That the =
said William was in his life an American citizen resident in Va. a long t=
ime but removed into North Carolina in the time of war and sometime after=
the end thereof died intestate and letters of administration of his esta=
te was duly granted to his widow Sarah Roberts and his son, James Roberts=
.... A typed copy of the 1829 document gave William's middle initial as R=
., but it is wondered if this is correct as the initial does not appear i=
n the body of the document. There is a drawback to detailing what is know=
n of these lawsuits because they, in the absence of other knowledge of th=
e life of William Roberts, can present a wrong impression of him. The res=
ponsibility of the genealogical researcher is to present all facts found =
of a life, but he is well aware that many important ones are not found. W=
hat usually emerges from genealogical research, at best, is a skeletal ou=
tline of a life, although an outline that the researcher is glad to find.=
From the 1829 document came the names of the following 10 children of Wi=
lliam and Sarah Roberts: Samuel, who moved to Stokes County, North Caroli=
na; George, who moved to Rockingham County, North Carolina; Peter, who mo=
ved to Laurens County, South Carolina; James, who moved to Laurens County=
, South Carolina; William Jr., who apparently moved from Randolph County,=
North Carolina or died early, or both;
Frances, wife of Haman Miller of Randolph County, North Carolina; Mary An=
n, wife of Richard Shackelford, who moved to Laurens County, South Caroli=
na, and then to Madison County, Alabama; Sarah, wife of John Stanfield, w=
ho moved to Laurens County, South Carolina; Martha Stovall, wife of Jacob=
Miller, who moved to Laurens County, South Carolina; and Elizabeth, wife=
of Isham Fuller, who moved to Laurens County, South Carolina.
According to the two nephews in their lawsuit of 1829. Samuel, George, Pe=
ter, Sarah, Martha and Mary Ann apparently were still living. Elizabeth,=
apparently the youngest daughter, had died on December 24, 1797 in Laure=
ns County (per Louise Pyles Castens, of Mississippi). James died in Laure=
ns County in January of 1801 (WB A, p. 272). Frances died in Randolph Cou=
nty on April 25, 1815 (RALEIGH REGISTER, May 12, 1815). Mary Ann, who wa=
s born on February 12, 1748, died on May 13, 1832 in Madison County (per =
Mrs. Castens). It is known that Martha Stovall was living as late as abou=
t 1828, about the time when husband, Jacob, died in Laurens County (Proba=
te Offitce, Box 52, package 11). There is no later knowledge of William, =
Jr. The following names were mentioned in the 1829 document as also being=
present or past owners of the slaves or their increase: George Lucas, Jo=
hn Latham, Whitlock Arnold, George McCulloh, James Daniel, Henry Fuller, =
Zebulon Mathas, Spruce Macay and Joseph Chambers, Frances Arnold, an elde=
rly woman, was named as one of the witnesses for the executors whose test=
imony should be heard. Some of these individuals were possibly members of=
the Roberts line.
William Roberts seems to have been a prosperous and enterprising man who =
got into debt. Full information on the lawsuits in Halifax County, Virgin=
ia, is lacking; and their real nature is not really known. Sometimes pre=
senting bare and incomplete facts, such as those of the lawsuits, as prev=
iously pointed out, covers or distorts actual truth; and it seems that li=
tigation such as that in the Halifax County courts was common in colonial=
and early America. William Roberts seems to have been a generous man, de=
eding gifts of land and personal property, other than the slaves, to his =
children and to his son-in-law, Haman Miller. Perhaps he moved to North =
Carolina, when no longer young, seeking a new start, a new prosperity, an=
d perhaps he found a measure of it in his short years there. Further vari=
ous records would certainly reveal a more complete picture of his life. W=
hatever he was or was not, he like his son-in-law, Haman Miller, must be =
evaluated by his time and place.
Most of the foregoing research was done by the writer of this article fro=
m the 1960's to the present. Recent valuable help has been given by Dudle=
y J. Ledwell, of Virginia, a Roberts descendant. The late Laura Madden Pu=
lley, of South Carolina, another Roberts descendant, gave important help =
in the 1960's. Donald E. Bishop, of Mississippi, gave recent welcome assi=
stance on the Stovall line. Clovis E. Miller, of Arkansas, was a recent h=
elpful contributor.
Donald George Brown - Grandson seven generations from William Roberts
January 1997

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