Talented Tuesday: George Lucas Roberts

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Lloyd Roberts Family Photo Collection
George Lucas Roberts , from the Lloyd Roberts Family Photo Album.
George Lucas Roberts , from the Lloyd Roberts Family Photo Album. (Click to enlarge.)

Roberts Family (Click for Family Tree)

Previous posts have detailed the recently “found” family line of William Roberts (1827-1891) and Sarah (Christie) Roberts (1829-1912). William Roberts was a son of John S. Roberts and Jane Saylor/Salyers, who were also the parents of “our” John S. Roberts (1832-1922). (He was the grandfather of Edith (Roberts) [McMurray] Luck.) So the children of those two brothers would be cousins, and then depending on generation, we would add # of times ‘removed’ to find current relationships. Let’s just make it easy, as folks of that day would have, and call them all “cousin.”

Our cousin George Lucas Roberts was the second of the three sons of William and Sarah Roberts. The boys all grew up on the family farm in Decatur County, Indiana. George was born on 19 November 1860, near Adams in Decatur County, Indiana, when his older brother John W. Roberts was almost 12 years old. George’s younger brother, Isaac Henry Roberts, was born about 2-1/2 years later, so George would have had someone nearer to his age to play with when they were not out doing farm chores.

William Roberts, while a farmer after George was born, had taught school in his early years, and education was thus probably very important to the family. George attended the common rural schools and private schools, and he became a teacher when just 18 years old- even before he had completed high school. He taught in a one-room rural schoolhouse in Decatur County, Indiana, then attended Indiana University’s College of Liberal Arts, receiving a bachelor of arts degree; he was 24 years old. George went back to Greensburg to teach, and moved up to principal of the Greensburg High School for ten years- George was very interested in the educational psychology of adolescents.  He then became Superintendent of the Greensburg city schools, on 1 January 1898. He was good at his job and moved up to become the Superintendent of Schools in the Indiana towns of Frankfort (1901-1903), and later Muncie.

George L. Roberts, Superintendent, Muncie High School, Education in Indiana: An Outline of the Growth of the Common School System, page 385
George L. Roberts, Superintendent 1903-1904, Muncie High School, Education in Indiana: An Outline of the Growth of the Common School System, page 385
George L. Roberts, Superintendent, Muncie High School, Education in Indiana: An Outline of the Growth of the Common School System, page 386.
Common Indiana high school courses and statistics. George L. Roberts, Superintendent, Muncie High School, Education in Indiana: An Outline of the Growth of the Common School System, page 386.

[Note: When looking at the number of graduates of high school, remember that a large proportion of the boys went into farming and were needed on the farm, so often did not attend school for as much time during the year as the girls. The girls would be needed on the farm as well at certain times of year, such as when planting or harvesting, as they had to help feed large crews of workers. So it was hard to make schooling a priority, and college was not needed by most at that time.]

In the meantime, while moving up the educational ladder, George had married Olive “Ollie” C. Lynch on 19 November 1884. They had two children: Paul Lynch Roberts, born in 1886, and Miriam Roberts, born 1891.

George was not an idle teacher during the summer months- instead he switched sides of the desk and became a student. Clark University and Columbia University programs on educational psychology occupied the time and his mind, and he taught botany as part of his practical work. His diligent work earned him a Master’s Degree in Education from Columbia’s Teacher College, and a Master’s of Art from Columbia in 1910. Despite being the Dean of Purdue University’s Department of Education, George L. Roberts never earned a Ph.D.

George’s work in the public schools of Indiana totaled 27 years.

At that time, over 20% of the teachers in Indiana did not hold a college degree, had no supervised training in the classroom, and students were not adequately prepared for college, which few even entered. In 1908, Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, opened their education department with a professorship of industrial education, which was described as “That area of education between manual training and college engineering.” George L. Roberts was the man for the job.

George was hired by Purdue as a professor of Industrial Education in 1908, and for six years, George was the department. Not until 1914 did Purdue add more teachers, in order to train even more teachers.

George was described as a “student of the science of education.” Not only was he an excellent organizer and administrator of the new department, but he taught five classes as well. (His classes included those dealing with hog cholera and contagious diseases that caused hogs to abort their offspring. Combining agriculture and science into practical education was one of his strengths.)

Students loved him- they called him, “Daddy” Roberts.

George Lucas Roberts, staff photo in The Educator-Journal, Vol. 10, No. 10, no page no., June 1910 issue.
George Lucas Roberts, staff photo in “The Educator-Journal,” Vol. 10, No. 10, no page no., June 1910 issue.

A history of Purdue University gives us a glimpse into the personality of George L. Roberts:

“… he carried off his academic role with aplomb and confidence. More than six feet tall, he parted his thick, silvery hair in the middle, wore pince-nez glasses, and was always impeccably dressed.”

George was a bit formal, sometimes reserved and soft-spoken, but he could be stern and deliberate when needed. He was considered a pleasant and kind man by all who knew him. The history goes on to say that George was so active in outside professional activities that his presence gave Purdue an excellent reputation in educational psychology and training of teachers from the beginning of the department in 1908.

Although he was the Dean of the College of Education at Purdue University, George did not publish many papers- this seems appropriate since he was more of a ‘hands-on’ teacher with industrial arts. As early as 26 April 1898 he presented a paper at the first meeting of the newly-formed Indiana Audubon Society on “Bird Study in the Schools.” He was a charter member of the society- #32.

Occasional articles to the Indiana Educational Journal and Purdue catalog material constituted most of his writing for publication. At Purdue, he taught five subjects, supervised student teaching, and rendered assistance to the new Department of Agricultural Extension. This cooperation with Agricultural Extension was the means he used to meet the demand for vocational instruction in agriculture and home economics. Through this effort, Purdue’s School of Agriculture began, in 1914, to train teachers in vocational agriculture and vocational home economics for the public schools.

Here are a number of items to add to the timeline of George Lucas Roberts:

1911, George L. Roberts, A.M., Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana

On 27 September 1913, George L. Roberts participated in the Northwest Indiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church concerning the church’s work at  Purdue University. He was a prominent member in his local church, and was a member of the board of stewards. He also acted as Superintendent of the Sabbath School.

1914-15, George L. Roberts, A.M., Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana. Also listed as a Summer School Director in La Fayette, Indiana (home of Purdue University) for “Summer School for Teachers of Agriculture, Home Economics, and Manual Training to be held June 12 to July 24. George was involved with these institutes for at least 5 years. During these sessions, teachers were trained in “work and methods of teaching,” in hope of improving the quality of teachers throughout the state. George’s specialty was the science work.

1915, George L. Roberts, A.M., Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana; also listed under American Educational Associations:

1915- Educational Associations- George L. Roberts.
1915- Educational Associations- George L. Roberts.
 George wrote a section for “The Educator-Journal” on teaching methods, and in November of 1915 became the editor.
"The Educator-Journal," George L. Roberts, Editor, November 1915.
“The Educator-Journal,” George L. Roberts, Editor, November 1915.

In 1917, George L. Roberts became the President of the Indiana State Teachers Association. He had been very active in the Association for many years, including a member of the Executive Committee, and at one point he was President of the Mathematical Section.

September, 1917 was when one of the few published articles by George appeared in print. It was a review in “The School Review,” and he was quite qualified to review the book:

Review of "The Rural School from Within." In "The School Review, Vol. 25, No. 7, Page 529.
Review of “The Rural School from Within.” In “The School Review, Vol. 25, No. 7, Page 529.

1919- Dean of Purdue University, Department of Education, Lafayette [Indiana]

Sarah (Christie) Roberts, George’s mother, was living with the family in 1900. She passed away in 1912, and then sadly, George and Ollie’s son Paul died on 2 October 1918. He had been in college in 1910, and had also registered for the World War I draft, stating he was married and his occupation was working on an electric vehicle. He was living in Philadelphia but apparently died in New York at the age of 31. We have not been able to determine exactly what happened, but might he perhaps been a victim of the 1917-1918 influenza outbreak? (Ordering the death certificate from New York would give the answer.)

George and his wife Ollie had 11 more years together, until she passed away on 2 April 1929; they had been married 45 years. Their daughter Miriam Roberts Smiley and her two children came to live with him while he was still working at Purdue University, and they were enumerated there in the 1930 US Federal Census. George still lived in the Lafayette, Indiana area in 1935, but by the 1940 US Federal Census he was living in  Mission, Johnson, Kansas, with his daughter Miriam, her husband and two children. George had retired.

Both Miriam and her husband had completed four years of college- he was superintendent of a manufacturing company, so fit well into the family with his experience in industrial arts. George’s granddaughter had already completed her third year of college by 1940, and his grandson was in high school. Definitely a well educated family, carrying on the traditions through four generations, starting with George’s father, William Roberts, who taught school.

George passed away one year later, on 26 February 1941, in Kansas City, Clay County, Missouri, where the family had moved. The Rev. Williams of Lafayette, Indiana (home of Purdue) conducted the memorial service, and said George was:

“an overflowing soul that fed, encouraged, inspired and built character in the lives of his students. So it was to his friends and collaborators in society, school and church. He was a life crowned with great achievements.”

George, his wife Olive C. (Lynch) Roberts, his two children Paul L. Roberts and Miriam (Roberts) Smiley, and George’s mother, Sarah (Christie) Roberts, are all buried in South Park Cemetery in Greensburg, Decatur, Indiana.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Special thanks to Jon Roberts for the information he shared and his excellent biography of George L. Roberts on Find A Grave- we have used one paragraph directly.
  2. The Roberts family valued education in other lines as well- George Anthony Roberts sent his daughter, Edith (Roberts) [McMurray] Luck to the University of Iowa. (Her brother was not interested in college and preferred to work on the farm, so his father bought him a herd of cattle instead.) Edith graduated with a degree in biology in 1923- fairly unusual for a woman back then.
  3. A genealogical and biographical record of Decatur County, Indiana; compendium of national biographyby Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1900. “George L. Roberts” entry, pages 253-254.
  4. Education in Indiana: An Outline of the Growth of the Common School System, Together with Statements Relating to the Condition of Secondary and Higher Education in the State and a Brief History of the Educational Exhibit. Prepared for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Held at Saint Louis, May 1 to Nov. 30, 1904, by Indiana Dept. of Public Instruction, Fassett Allen Cotton, 1904, pages 298, 385.

  5. Education Report, 1911- Professors of Pedagogy and Heads of Departments of Pedagogy in Universities and Colleges, in

    Report of the Commissioner of Education [with Accompanying Papers]., Volume 1, United States. Bureau of Education, page 654. US Government Printing Office, 1912.

  6. Professors of Pedagogy and Heads of Departments of Pedagogy in Universities and Colleges, in Education for the Home: Introductory survey ; Equipment for household arts, Benjamin Richard Andrews, US Government Printing Office, 1915, page 84, 118.

  7. Problems of Vocational Education in GermanyWith Special Application to Conditions in the United States, Issues 33-43, pages 81, 177, George Edmund Myers, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1915.
  8. Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), “Past Presidents of the Indiana State Teachers Association 1854-Present.”, accessed 04/09/2016.
  9. Patterson’s American Educational Directory, Volume 16, American Educational Company, 1919, page 627.

  10. The Educator-Journal, Vol. 10, No. 10, no page (Google p329), June 1910, Educator-Journal Company, 1910.

  11. The Educator-Journal, Vol. 15, page 504, Educator-Journal Company, 1914.
  12. Engineering Technology Teacher Training-
  13. Roberts, George L. (1914-) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections-
  14. A Century and BeyondThe History of Purdue University, by Robert W. Topping, Purdue University Press, 1988. pp. 172-3.

  15. History of agricultural education of less than college grade in the United Statesa cooperative project of workers in vocational education in agricultural and in related fields, Federal Security Agency, 1942, p.132.

  16. Minutes of the Northwest Indiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, GoogleBooks, p155-156.
  17. The Grand Old Man of Purdue University and Indiana AgricultureA Biography of William Carroll Latta, Purdue University Press, 2005, page 242.

  18. Annual report of the Office of Experiment Stations for the year ended June 30, 1908, U.S. Government Printing Office, via GoogleBooks.
  19. “History of the Indiana Audubon Society 1898-1998” by Charles E. Keller, Indiana Audubon Society, 1997, np.
  20. “Review of “The Rural School from Within” by George L. Roberts in “The School Review, Vol. 25, No. 7, Page 529.
  21. Some excerpts above are included on the Find A Grave memorial for George, written by Jon Roberts. Find A Grave Memorial# 134894771.




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