Workday Wednesday: John W. Roberts, Farmer

The John W. Roberts Family: from left, John W, Tressa, Clyde, wife Sarah Ansbach Roberts, and Candace Roberts. Taken about 1891, from the William Roberts Family Album.
The John W. Roberts Family: from left, John W, Tressa, Clyde, wife Sarah (Anspach) Roberts, and daughter Candace Roberts. Taken before 10 Sept 1900, when John died. Sarah may have been expecting their son Leon in this image, from the Lloyd Roberts Family Album.

Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

The state of Indiana has great, rich, bountiful soil, and our Roberts ancestors farmed it for generations. Hard work, long days, and weather that could not be controlled was, and still is, the daily life of a farmer. A whole year’s work- and income- could be lost in a minute with one big storm. That’s the workday world of a farmer, and his family.

John W. Roberts tilled the land as did his father, William Roberts (1827-1891). As a boy William would have also learned, at his father’s side, the intricacies of working with Mother Nature, as did his own father, John S. Roberts (1805-1875). And John’s father, our (currently believed) immigrant ancestor Edward Roberts (abt 1775-1830), worked in agriculture too, per the 1820 US Federal Census for Ripley County, Indiana- the household had 3 persons engaged in agriculture. So at least four generations of Roberts men tilled the land, and likely many more.

John W. Roberts was the oldest of the surviving children of Sarah Christie (1829-1912) and her husband William Roberts. John was born on the 1st day of the new year of 1849, in Ripley County, Indiana. His young life would have been filled with the busy outdoor life of an Indiana farm boy during the third quarter of the 1800s. The family had moved to Adams, Decatur County, Indiana, about 1860. His brother, George Lucas Roberts, was born there in November of 1860; John was 11 years old at that time. His second brother, Isaac Henry Roberts was born three years later, in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War.

Although Indiana was a strong supporter of the Union during the Civil War, there were pockets of southern sympathizers. We can only surmise the political leanings of the Roberts family, since William’s father, John S. Roberts, had been born in Kentucky, a slave state. However, the 1810 and 1820 US Federal Censuses for the Edward Roberts family (John S. was a son) did not include slaves. The family had moved to Indiana by about 1825, so may have changed sympathies if they had indeed been pro-slave. Or maybe the move to Indiana was to escape the politics and economics of living in a slave state.

John W.’s father had been required to register for the 1863 Civil War draft, but was listed as Class II due to his age and marital state, thus most likely would not be drafted. John was only 14, so exempt. The family must have let out a collective sigh of relief, although the young brothers may have been itching to go off to war, as young boys are wont to do.

It was in Adams, Indiana, that John W. married Sarah J. Anspach (1854-1931) on 6 February 1879. They had five children together:

Tressvylian “Tressa” Roberts born in December of 1879; never married, d. 10 Sept 1945 in Butlerville, Warren, Ohio.

Candace Roberts, born 14 Mar 1883, in Boone Co., Indiana per some sources. She married Winfield S. Shepherd and died 31 Dec 1950 in Decatur Co., Indiana.

Clyde C. Roberts, born 14 Nov 1885 in Indiana but died at age 18, on 15 Aug 1903.

Leon Roberts was born in April of 1891 in Indiana. He married Lucile G. Bristol on 16 Sept 1917 in Lansing, Michigan, though he was then living in Detroit. Leon died in December of 1976 in Lansing, Michigan.

Glennie or Glenna Roberts, born July 1893 in Indiana per some sources, but others, including Find A Grave, state that John W. Roberts died on 10 September 1900. Adding Glenna’s birth and John’s death date to the “more research needed” list.

John W. and Sarah lived in Greensburg, Decatur, Indiana in their later years. He worked in the insurance business.

John died 10 September 1900, possibly in Greensburg; their son Leon was born the following April.

Sarah continued living in Greensburg, and was enumerated in the 1910 US Federal Census as widowed, head of household with son 18 y/o son Leon, who was a driver for a delivery wagon, and daughter Glennie Roberts, 16, a typesetter in a printing office living in the home. Sarah worked on her own account as an agent in the dry goods business.

Sarah was living with her daughter Glenna who had married Ernest Maple, plus their two children in Liberty, Shelby County, Indiana, at the 1930 US Federal Census.

Some Ancestry trees list the death of Sarah J. Ansbach Roberts as 28 February 1937 in Greensburg, Indiana; others claim 25 December 1931 in Fremont, Ohio. We have not been able to verify either, but Sarah had remained a widow for 37 years. They are both buried in South Park Cemetery in Greensburg.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Lloyd Roberts Family Photo Collection.
  2. for US Federal Censuses, City Directories, marriage records.


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