Select Roberts Miscellany

Here are some Roberts stories and accounts over the years:

Gabriel Roberts of Beaumaris

The trading town of Beaumaris on the isle of Anglesey was a Welsh town inhabited by English traders.  Gabriel Roberts represented Welsh infiltration into this English outpost. 

By the 1530’s the English monopoly had disappeared and Gabriel had emerged as one of the chief merchants. Unlike the English, he took no part in overseas trading but confined himself to purchasing wares at Chester and distributing them in Anglesey.  He amassed great wealth and then took the next step, so common among prosperous merchants of his day, of becoming a landed man

The Roberts Methodists from Anglesey

The origins of this Roberts family were in Llanddeusant parish near Holyhead in Anglesey.  By the 1830’s David Roberts had become the Methodist elder of Anglesey, representing the rather stern and dour Methodism of that island.  He and his wife Sarah had ten children, including eight sons who rose to maturity. 

Three of these sons had quite remarkable lives.  John Roberts prospered in Manchester as a merchant and was its Mayor in 1896.  He was a zealous promoter of higher education in Wales and was instrumental in the founding of University College in Aberystwyth.  Frederick Roberts was a medical missionary who went out to China where he died in 1894.  The youngest son William became a famous doctor and was much honored by the medical profession. 

Another son Robert wrote History of a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Family, privately published in 1905, which was part autobiography, part family history, and an interesting perspective of Anglesey Methodism and Welsh life in Manchester at that time.

Roberts in England and Wales

The Roberts name
is to be found in both England and Wales, plus a few in Scotland..  The table below shows the numbers in 1891.

1891 UK Census   
Numbers (000's)

John Roberts of Waterford

John Roberts, born in 1712, was the son of a local builder and the grandson of a Welsh businessman who had settled in the town.  When he was working as an apprentice architect in London he eloped with Mary Susanna Sautell when he was only seventeen years old.  Her father, a Huguenot, disinherited her because he disapproved of the match.  The couple returned to Waterford and went on to have 24 children, among them being the landscape painters Thomas Roberts and Thomas Sautelle Roberts. 

After some years in Waterford, John obtained a commission to complete the building of a new residence for the Bishop of Waterford.  The resulting building, the Bishop's Palace on the Mall, made his name as an architect. 

He continued to be active in Waterford until his death in 1796 while working on the construction of the Catholic cathedral in Waterford.

“In the early part of 1796, getting up one morning at three o'clock instead of six - having mistaken the hour - to inspect the workmen, he sat down in the unfinished building, fell asleep, and awakened so thoroughly chilled that death shortly after ensued.”

Hie is remembered to this day.  John Roberts Square is a pedestrianized area that is one of the main focal points of Waterford's modern day commercial center.  The first John Roberts festival was held in 2000 to celebrate the buildings of Waterford's celebrated Georgian architect.

The Roberts at Pencoyd in Merion Township

John Roberts came to the area of Pennsylvania called Merion in November 1683.   Two months later he married Gaynor Roberts, a fellow passenger on the sailing ship on which he had crossed the Atlantic.  Their marriage was the first such ceremony performed at Merion Quaker Meeting House.  Of the three men named John Roberts who had come to America on the same voyage, this John Roberts was called "The Maltster" for the crop he raised, barley for malt.

Family tradition has it that John Roberts commenced the construction of his stone house in Merion township, Pennsylvania in the spring of 1684.  But the consensus of architects and historians is that it is unlikely that such a structure could have been initiated so soon after Roberts’ arrival.  The more likely start date was 1690.  John Roberts named the house Pencoyd after his family home back in Wales.  It sat on the top of a rise of land overlooking the Schuylkill river. 

The house stood until 1964 when it sold for demolition by land developers.  The family ownership over that period has been (showing the years of ownership):

  • John Roberts, 1683-1724
  • Robert Roberts, 1724-1768
  • John Roberts II, 1768-1776
  • Algernon Roberts, 1776-1815
  • Isaac Warner Roberts, 1815-1859
  • George Brooke Roberts, 1859-1897
  • and T. Williams Roberts, 1897-1962.  
George Brooke Roberts became President of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1880; and two earlier related Roberts – Algernon and Percival – started the Pencoyd Iron Works along the Schuylkill river in the 1850’s.  It has continued, albeit with different owners, until today.

Edward Bebb and Margaret Roberts

In 1795 a young man in Montgomeryshire named Edward Bebb decided to emigrate to America.  With that in view he asked Miss Roberts, the sister of the Rev. John Roberts, to go with him.  But she refused. 

“It was a very serious thing at that time. They took about two months to get across with their own packed up food and many ships were wrecked on the way and the passengers never heard of again. So Miss Roberts refused to go and he went by himself."

Following Edward Bebb's departure for America, Margaret Roberts was urged by her family to marry the Rev. Owens.  She did marry him and in 1801 the young couple decided to do what had seemed too frightening to young Margaret just six years earlier - emigrate to America. They were accompanied by Margaret's older sister, Grace, and Grace's husband and two children. They had a difficult passage and the husbands of the two women and Grace's two children all died on the voyage over. One story has the officers of the ship poisoning the men and children because they wanted the women for themselves. 

The women left the ship in Philadelphia by sliding down a rope at the bow and fled to the house of their brother George Roberts.  Two days later – could it be believed - Edward Bebb came from Ohio to the Roberts home in his quest for a bride.  Edward Bebb and Margaret Roberts Owens were married there on February 2, 1802.

The wedding was witnessed by her two brothers, John and George.  Edward and Margaret returned together to Ohio and their son William was born later that year.  He was the first white child born in Butler county west of the Great Miami river.

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