biography from Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
JAMES L. ROBERTS, of Oskaloosa, is one of the pioneers of Adams Township. He was born in Surry County, N. C., Dec. 7, 1815, and is a son of John and Nancy (Lyon) Roberts, natives of that county and State. In the fall of 1833 tbey left North Carolina with the intention of locating in Missouri, but winter overtaking them on the journey, they stopped in Ripley County, Ind., purchased land, and opened up a farm in the heavy timbered lands of that State, residing them until the death of Mr. Roberts. They were the parents of seven children, three of whom are living: James L., the subject of this sketch; Susan, wife of John Mateer, of Oskaloosa, and John, now a resident of Cowley County, Kan. Mr. Roberts died about 1844, and his wife about 1842. Politically Mr. Roberts was an old-fashioned Jackson Democrat, and held the office of Justice of the Peace in Indiana for a number of years. His wife was an ardent member of the Baptist Church. He was not connected by membership with any church, though a believer in the doctrines taught by the Methodist society. The subject of this sketch removed with his parents in 1888, to Indiana, where he worked upon the farm, cutting and clearing the heavy timber, and preparing the soil for the growing of crops until he was twenty-three years of age. May 14, 1838, he was married to Miss Rebecca Colson, born Aug. 3, 1818, and a daughter of John Colson, a native of Kentucky, who moved to Indiana about the year 1822. In the fall of 1847 he left Indiana, moving his worldly possessions by teams, and located in Adams Township, this county. He purchased a squatter's claim on section 22 in that township, of 320 acres, which he improved, and where he made his home, and spent the years of his life untiI 1870, when he moved to Oskaloosa. He had in the meantime bought additional and adjoining lands until the home farm amounted to 480 acres. After a residence of nearly five years in Oskaloosa he bought a farm of 200 acres in Spring Creek Township, near Oskaloosa. He now owns 343 acres and six dwellings, including his residence. He returned to Oskaloosa after residing on the farm nearly six years, and has a nice, comfortable residence in the north part of the city. The first improvements made on the place were of the primitive sort. The house was a clean shanty, 14x14 in size, made of linn logs, and built high enough to admit of cutting a doorway. The floor was laid with puncheons, and the fireplace was a rude structure of mud and sticks, and over all a clapboard roof. That roof, unlike those of the present time, permitted the freest circulation of air, and in the winter season Mr. Roberts was compelled to suspend a wagon cover over the bedstead, to keep the snow out of their faces while they slept. The bedstead was of home manufacture, made of poles selected for that purpose in the timber; these poles inserted in holes bored in the wall of the building and supported at the loose end by forked sticks carefully chosen for that purpose. Mr. Roberts came to this county comparatively a poor man, bringing with him at the time $120, receiving an additional $200, making a total of $320 with which to begin life in this then new country. But he endured the hardships incident to the life of a pioneer, was economical in his habits, and by his thrift, accumulated a competency, and is to-day one of the well-to-do farmers of this county. He is still living in Oskaloosa, having retired from the active duties of life, and only busies himself now in the care of his ample property. He is a stockholder in the Mahaska County Bank. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts were the parents of eleven children, ten of whom lived to be adults: Jonathan lives at Santa Rosa, Cal.; Mary A. was the wife of Robert Bass, and died July 25, 1863; William J. is living at Leavenworth, Kan.; Joseph C. resides in Vernon County, Mo.; Charles A. is in Cowley County, Kan.; Ephraim died April 6, 1873; Amanda J. is the wife of Thomas Johnson, of Southern California; John C. resides in Ft. Dodge; Kan.; Nannie E.; Eliza A. is the wife of T. A. White, of Oskaloosa; one child died in infancy. In early life Mr. Roberts was an old-line Whig, but of late years has affiliated with the Democracy. He held the office of Justice of the Peace in Adams Township for many years, and in the year 1862 was the nominee of his party for member of the Legislature from this county. He is a man of large general information, a great reader, and keeps himself posted upon all the current topics of the day. Religiously Mr. and Mrs. Roberts are adherents of the principles of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Roberts now contemplates with complacency the ease and enjoyment of his present life, as contrasted with the hardships he endured, and the sacrifices that were made to attain his present easy financial condition. He enjoys the friendship and esteem of a large circle of friends and acquaintances, and is a citizen of whom any community may well be proud.
Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy