James Washington Thomas Robertson had three wives. This is the story of his first wife, Esther. She was the daughter of JWT’s uncle, so they were first cousins and her maiden name was Robertson. Her father, Washington Hughes was brother to George Washington Henry (qv). Her mother was Priscilla Evans.
Esther was their first offspring to survive past childhood. She first appears in the 1850 census as Hester, age 3/12. She was born in 22 April and the date of this enumeration is August so that puts her age at about 3 months. Washington and Priscilla are the only other family members listed.
In the 1860 census Esther is 9. Her younger brothers are listed — Washington 7, Oscar 5, Sydney 3, and a baby sister Lily or Sally. Sydney and Lily will both die in Sept. 1866. Esther and JWT Robertson were married in 1869, so she doesn’t appear with her parents after this.
As with so many of our female ancestors, Esther is largely hidden, and even more so because she died so young. James and Esther were married 12 May 1869. She had just turned 19 and he was 20. As of the 1870 census, she is again listed as “Hester.” At 20 years old she is “keeping house” for the head of house, JWT who is a “sailor.” No children yet.
Within 7 years, Esther gave birth to 3 daughters. First was Carrie Roberta in 1870 followed by Eva Blanch in 1872 and Alice Talmage in 1874. Esther died 13 April 1876, one week short of 26. Her three babies were 6, 4 and 2. Esther’s death led to founding the Robertson Cemetery.
Lots of time on our hands these days, so I’ve been going through more old photos. This came from a box from Cousin Jill.
It shows the Hughes family — Charles Venables and Mary Amelia Rider Fletcher, our great-grandparents, and 5 of their 6 children, about 1896 or 1897. Looks like it was published in a newspaper and someone cut it out and mounted it on cardboard. Someone, bless them, has labeled it on the back.
Mattie, our father’s mother, would have been about 14 here. She is on the far right holding the cat. She was the oldest of the family. Aunt Elsie was the youngest and was born in 1898. She is not in the picture which helps us to date it. Uncle Charlie was born in 1895 and he looks to be about 1-ish here.
This picture is colorized using the My Heritage colorization function. The process doesn’t affect the original, which is heavily sepia-toned.
The Hughese, left to right: Claude Venables, Charles Venables, Verner Vane, Lillian Gale, Charles Fletcher, Mary Amelia Fletcher, Mattie White
Carlton Edward Robertson (1878-1945) ~ Mattie White Hughes (1883-1934)
We never knew either of our paternal grandparents. Our grandmother, Mattie White Hughes, died in 1934 at age 51. Our grandfather, Carlton came from a long line of farmers and folks who worked with their hands. And even though they are just two generations back, aside from official documents we have been able to locate (census, marriage license, draft registration, etc.) we know very little of a personal nature about either of them.
Carlton Through Census Documents
Carlton E. is first mentioned in the 1880 census as the next-to-the-youngest member of the James W. T. Robertson household (see James Washington Thomas Robertson). The 1880 census also lists Caroline Robertson as 1/12 years old, which I take to mean 1 month. The child’s name was actually Esther Caroline, but our southern family had a habit of calling people by their second name, so maybe that was the case here. We knew her as Aunt Esther. These were the only two children that James W. T. Robertson and Caroline Lawson Catlin would have together.
In 1880 James W. T. was still married to Caroline (listed as Caroline L.) but she would die that same year, 3 months after the birth of Esther Caroline.
Most of the records for the 1890 U.S. Census were destroyed by fire.
The 1900 census has James W. and the whole family listed as Robinson. (This spelling alteration continues to be the bane of our existence.)
Carlton is here, age 21, and his sister is listed as Esther C., age 20. At this point, James is married to his third wife, Mary Priscilla (Robertson) his first cousin. At the time of the 1900 census, James is 50 years old; Mary is 35.
Marriage and Children
Carlton and Mattie married on the day after Christmas, December 26, 1906. Carlton was 28 years old; Mattie was 23. Below is their official Marriage License. It may have been signed by Ernest Toadvine, which was a relatively common name in the area. At any rate – that’s what it looks like.
We also have the Trinity Church Marriage Register (official church record) that lists Carlton E. Robertson of White Haven, MD and Mattie W. Hughes of Rockawalking, MD, married on December 26, 1906 in the home of the bride’s parents in Rockawalking, with a “few friends” as witnesses.
Carlton was a farmer, so we presume Mattie went to live on the farm and became a farmer’s wife. They had their first child, Helen Pauline, on 20 March 1909.
They had two more children together: James Edward (our Dad) on 18 July 1918 and Elsie Carolyn on 14 February 1923. In typical Southern manner, Helen Pauline went by her middle name, Pauline (although she was always Aunt “C” to us and wedon’t know why); Elsie Carolyn was called Carolyn; my dad was always Edward.
The Census Resumed
The rest of the census information we have for them both is fairly straightforward: 1910 – Carlton and Mattie are married, with daughter Helen P. Carlton’s trade is always listed as “farmer” and the nature of his business is “general farming.”
1920 – Carlton E. and Martha W. are listed, along with Helen P., 10-11 years old, and James E. at 1 1/2 or 2 – can’t quite read it.
1930 – Carlton and Maddie [sic] are listed. Edward is their 11 1/2 year old son; Carolyn is there now at 7 1/2 years old. Helen Pauline seems to have disappeared – which is curious, because she did not get married until 1938. She would have been 21 years old in 1930.
Mattie died on 8 May 1934. Dad was only 16 years old; Carolyn was 11. Carlton never remarried, so as we understand it, a whole host of aunts stepped in to help raise the children.
We think of grandfather Robertson as an upstanding southern Christian gentleman. We heard that there was never alcohol in the house, they being serious Methodists. According to our father’s memories, Carlton would till the fields singing In the Garden – a fine old Methodist hymn, swinging his scythe to the beat of
And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
And he tells me I am his own.”
Ta (everyone’s nickname for Carolyn) told a slightly different story – her memory included the same action but a different song – “O’ if I had the wings of an angel, Over these prison walls I would fly. Tra-dee-all, tra-dee-all, tra-dee-all…..” Either way, he sounds like a hard-working, farmer and devoted father.
We still have a bright red whatnot shelf Dad made in high school. He said he milled the wooden planks with his father (Carlton) because they were extra wide and had to be specially cut. The realization dawned that our Dad’s childhood really was right out of The Waltons.
Miscellaneous Life Events
Carlton registered for the draft prior to both world wars.
Details from World War I registration
12 Sept 1918 – he was 40 years old
Registration was with the Local Board for the County of Wicomico – State of Maryland
He is described as of medium height, slender build, grey eyes and brown hair. He is a self-employed farmer, and Mattie is listed as his nearest relative.
Details from World War II registration
27 April 1942 – Carlton was 62
Registration was with the Local Board No. 1, Baltimore County
He is described here are 5’8” tall, 151 pounds, brown eyes and grey hair. He is of light complexion. His place of residence is Route 2, Salisbury MD.
He was born in Clara, MD on 9 July 1879. (They got it wrong – he was born in 1878.)
The “person who will always know your address” is listed as Glen Messick, the husband of his half-sister, Dad’s Aunt Ruby. By this time, Mattie was deceased.
Carlton died on 16 April 1945, from a heart attack. His obituary says he died at home, “on the Quantico Road.”
[picture of newspaper obituary?]
I love that it says he was survived by “a son, Lieut (jg) Edward Robertson, somewhere in the Pacific.”
Funeral services, as with his marriage, were held in his home and officiated over by 2 (I am assuming, Methodist) clergy – Rev. Frank Brockley and Rev. James Cloyer. Our Mom and Dad had been married for just 16 months when Carlton passed away. The story is that Madeline – home while Dad was away serving his country in World War II – traveled to Salisbury all alone to meet Dad’s family (for the first time?) and attend funeral services.
Carlton Edward Robertson, our grandfather, was buried in the Robertson Family Cemetery next to his wife, Mattie.
Joshua’s will of 1850 is recorded at Princess Anne in Liber S.W.J. #2, folio 247. The administration by his son Jesse is dated September 16, 1850 (S.W.J. #2, folio 247, Princess Anne.)
I finally found a citing of Joshua Wainwright’s will administration. From the Maryland Register of Wills, Somerset County page on Family Search, the correct SWJ #2, page 247. And there it was — an acknowledgement that Joshua Wainwright was, in fact, Leah’s father. He leaves one eighth of his assets to each of his children, including
To his daughter Leah Robertson, wife of George W. Robertson, the one eighth
It doesn’t take much, but for this I did the happy dance!
So the next questions are
When did Leah die?
where was she buried?
And moving back, Is Joshua Wainwright the offspring of Cannon Wainwright (1745-1820)?