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.
George Washington Henry Robertson was born in Maryland on 22 November 1822. His father was Samuel Andrew Robertson, Sr., who was 52 years old at the time of his eighth child’s birth. George’s mother was Emily Nellie Larramore, who was 42 at the time of his birth. Samuel and “Nellie” were married in 1803.
George W. H. Robertson was 20 years old when he married who we think might have been his first wife, Charlotte. A marriage between a George W. Robertson and Charlotte J. White of Somerset County, MD is recorded in the Maryland Compiled Marriages 1655-1850, and dated 3 January 1843. We are assuming Charlotte died rather quickly after the 1843 marriage. They had no children that we know of.
George marries Leah Wainwright on 20 February 1844. George is now 21; Leah is 19. Leah was born in 1825, in Somerset County, and is the daughter of Joshua Wainwright and Mary Street. (See Our Elusive Great-Great-Grandmother.)
George and Leah had 6 children, including our great grandfather, James Washington Thomas Robertson (born 29 November 1849). George and Leah’s children are
George Henry (1845-1896)
William Edward (1848-1860)
James Washington Thomas (1849-1932)
Laura F. (1852-1912)
Charlotte Ellen (1854-1943)
Martha Jane (1860-1920)
Ten years after the birth of George and Leah’s last child, Martha Jane in 1860, Leah must have died. She is listed in the 1870 census, 10 June, but must have died shortly after that. We have not been able to find a record of her death or a gravestone.
George marries a third wife, Ellen Larmore, and their first child, Elmer Harry, is born 29 November 1872, according to Elmer’s 1918 draft registration. George and Ellen’s three children are
Elmer Harry (1872 —)
Nora Ellen (1874-1898)
Vernon Whidley (1879 —)
On 13 March 1895, George wrote a last will and testament, leaving various parcels of land to his younger children and his wife, Ellen. His oldest sons, George Henry and James W. T., received nothing in this will, as George had made “ample provision” for them before this time.
We are thinking that George was an upstanding citizen and a man of his times.
He registered for the Federal draft on August 31, 1863. Maryland was a border state in the Civil War, and we assume George, who was 41 in 1863. would have fought for the Union? As far as we know, he saw no action.
He was active in the leadership of the Prohibition Party of Maryland. The July 4, 1891 issue of the Salisbury Advertiser has him nominated as Clerk of the Circuit Court for that Party.
His name appears on the Tax Rolls for the State of Maryland in 1863 – as a Retail Dealer.
We have several deeds that mention GWH Robertson as buyer and/or seller. We’ll be sharing that information later.
On 13 April 1876, James W. T.’s first wife, Esther A. Robertson, died at the age of 26. It was then that George and James set aside some land on their property for a Robertson Family Cemetery. Esther was the first interee.
George Henry, George’s first son, died on 21 March 1896, and he was also buried in the newly established cemetery. George himself died on 9 Jan 1897, and he is buried beside his oldest son. George Washington Henry was 74 years old at the time of his death.
So, our trip to Maryland to research and visit cemeteries was a success. We’ve written about most of our cemetery visits (see posts, below), the Nabb Center for Delmarva research, and the online archives of land deeds that we’ve been exploring.
The focus of the trip was the Robertson Cemetery in Clara and we picked a perfect day for it.
We visited with the gentleman who maintains the grounds, and chatted about what might become of the cemetery when we all can’t do it anymore. None of us had an answer to that. In the meantime, we just plan to continue doing what we can. I see it as a tribute to my father, and to the other people whom I never did meet.
The list of interees is here and is complete as far as I know. Along with my grandparents, great-grandfather, and Great-Aunt Esther (Robertson) Mezick, there are half-aunts and -uncles, half-cousins n-times removed, and spouses of all these.
My father wrote down a history of the cemetery in 1997. He wrote this about the “residents”
The cemetery was a very special place for the Robertson and Evans families. There are 24 descendants of George Washington Henry Robertson, including spouses, buried there, plus five of the William Evans family, plus a few unmarked graves.
I’m not sure who the Evanses are that he refers to. It might be the family of the wife of Washington Hughes Robertson, Priscilla Ann Matilda June Evans, who was the mother of Esther and Mary Priscilla, both of whom married James Washington Thomas Robertson (at different times), and both of whom are buried here. Or there is a Cooper Evans down Clara Road a little way, according to a 1877 map of Tyaskin.
And I certainly don’t know anything about unmarked graves in the plot.
Over time, I hope to fill in some of these gaps —- find out about Aunt Dula and Aunt Ruby, for example. We heard a lot about these women growing up. They must have taken some responsibility for the children after Dad’s mother died.
Here is the aerial shot from Google and the plat map of the cemetery, dated 2000.
We have been tracing the deeds to the land the cemetery is on through the Maryland Land Records site (see Don’t Fence Me In), from 1962 back to 1895, so far. We’d at least like to get it to 1876, the date of the first burial.
Our helpful librarian gave us a tutorial on how to use the site [see Day Two: The Nabb Center] — it can be confusing and we wouldn’t have figured it out without him. By eliminating the present-day real estate concerns, we can concentrate on the Active Indices, 1665-1995. I already had an account at the site (no charge) so we were ready to go.
Mattie and I are such nerds that we’ve been delighted to plunge into this arcane site for the actual deed document images. And having fun 1) transcribing the handwritten deeds and 2) translating the legalese. We learned how to download the whole deed as a PDF. Then I can enhance the scan in Acrobat, and we attempt to read it all, misspellings and lack of punctuation included.
They are full of colloquial-seeming land descriptions, like this
“Also two lots or parcels of swamp land known as the Old Hopkins and John Q. Robertson’s land, beginning at a sassafras post in center of ditch and at a corner of the west side of Samuel C. Evans swampland.”
Consequently, we are looking for a sassafras post that was in a ditch in 1864.
But we were told that it was common to name these parcels of land, so we’re trying to find Belvedere (or Belvideer) and other parcels bordering on Shiles Creek, a tributary from the Wicomico River.
We have found one mention of our great-grandmother, Leah (Wainwright) Robertson (as George W.’s wife), in a Trustee Deed from 1847, a rare sighting of a mostly invisible woman.
And we’ve traced the history of the cemetery, backwards in steps from 1962 to 1895. It gets more problematic before that but we persevere. We know the cemetery was founded in 1876, but haven’t yet discovered that deed.
Having had a pleasant and productive visit at the St. Mary’s Methodist Church in Tyaskin, we decided to try our luck finding 2 other family cemeteries — neither one associated with an established church.
Off we went in search of
Joshua Wainwright Cemetery
But with little success this time. The area in which we were searching contained swamplands, dense forests, rivers and creeks and farmfields getting ready to be planted (with soy beans or corn, no doubt). We found no cemeteries, no headstones, no reserved plots of any kind. And not being enamored of the idea of wading in the water, so to speak, to search in more depth, we accepted our fate and moved on to the Robertson Cemetery on Clara Road, “our” cemetery.
Part Three: The Robertson Cemetery
We met Robert Randall Buller, caretaker extraordinaire, at the foot of a rather muddy access road, and he took us over to the cemetery in his truck.
This small plot of ground — home to 32 interees — is still a peaceful oasis of natural beauty, surrounded by 53 (or so) acres of soggy farmland.
Shiles Creek abuts the land and much of the area is very moist with poor drainage. The cemetery itself sits atop a small rise that gives one a bit of a view and protects the graves, at least for now, from becoming part of the wet land that surrounds it.
Here lies our grandfather and grandmother – Carlton and Mattie (Hughes) Robertson and many other relatives – great grandfather, great aunts and uncles, cousins once-removed, etc.
Robert Buller’s father is also buried here – they owned the surrounding farmlands from 1962 until around 1977, shortly after Robert Buller Sr. died. Several Mezick’s (neighbors) are also here.
On the western edge of the cemetery are a series of graves marked Evans. They are separate from the rest of the folk in the graveyard, and we have no idea who they are or why they are buried there. Neighbors? Friends? Distant relations? It is a mystery.
After a lovely walk around the cemetery we asked Robert to join us for lunch at the Pemberton Coffeehouse back in Salisbury. Over lunch, Robert gave us some information on his family’s connection with the cemetery and the surrounding farmlands, and told us why he had decided to become caretaker, One Father’s Day he had gone to visit the grave of his father and found the whole cemetery in terrible shape, with vines so thick they even covered some of the tombstones. He decided then and there he would fix it all up — and we are so glad he did.
Robert also gave us a tremendous hint about the Hearn Catlin Cemetery we had failed to find that morning. It seems a friend of his (Hearn by name!) had discovered a small cemetery across from his house (which house had been in his family for many years). It was in the general area that we had been looking for the Hearn-Catlin Cemetery, and we think it must be the one we failed to find. Unfortunately we ran out of time (and energy) to try to visit again but Robert gave us Mr. Hearn’s telephone number and we may try to contact him later. What serendipity.
Maybe it’s Swedish Death Cleaning or we might just be clearing out a lot of the dross.
Sister Mattie took another box of pictures from the attic, and one of the surprises we came upon was this picture. We think it might be our grandfather, Carlton Edward Robertson. This deduction is because it was with another picture, formatted exactly the same — with a green mat and a simple oval border and a type ornament top and bottom — of a woman we recognize as our grandmother.
So we’re thinking this is some kind of wedding photo. Of course, neither is labelled.
I have never seen a picture of Carlton, dad’s father. I have no idea what he looked like. So this is an exciting discovery, if it really is him.
On our visit to the cemetery, lo those many years ago, we had wanted to get a new sign for it. I looked it up online and thought about a nice metal one with the name and something that would last a while.
But when we saw the location — the simple, natural beauty of the place — we realized that we needed something in keeping with that. Our caretaker got this new sign from a craft fair that visits once or twice a year. And it’s perfect.
Nellie Oscarena was the daughter of James Washington Thomas Robertson and his third wife, Mary Priscilla Robertson. She was the fourth of their 5 children. She would have been my grandfather Carlton’s half-sister.
A note in the printed family history that my cousin gave me says that Nellie nursed our grandmother, Mattie (Hughes) Robertson in her illness, although it appears that Mattie outlived Nellie by a few months.
Most of the information I have about her comes from other Ancestry family trees, from distant cousins of ours.
According to her obituary in the Salisbury Times, she was a well-known nurse in the area.
Conjecture: Her odd middle name might have been after her Uncle Oscar, Mary Priscilla’s brother, Oscar Crisfield (Bud Os).
Nellie’s gravestone at the Robertson Cemetery
This is a transcript of her obituary. I think it’s rather touching.
Transcript of obituary
Death Claims Well Known Local Nurse
Miss Nellie O. Robertson, R.N., Succumbed At Hospital Tuesday, Following Operation HAD BEEN ILL ONLY TWO DAYS Deceased, 43, Was Recognized As A Leader In Her Profession On Lower Peninsula – Funeral Services This (Thursday) Afternoon With Interment At Clara After an illness of only two days, Miss Nellie O. Robertson, R.N., died at the Peninsula General Hospital about 5 A.M. Tuesday. Miss Robertson, who was one of the best-known nurses in this section, was taken ill on Sunday morning and was operated on about 8.30 P.M. Although she had long suffered with a stomach ailment, the seriousness of her condition was not realized. A graduate of the Peninsula General Hospital Training School for Nurses, Class of 1916, Miss Robertson had, for the past nearly 20 years, done hospital and private nursing and was widely recognized as a leader in her profession. The deceased, who was 43 years of age, was a native of Clara, this county, a daughter of the late J. W. T. Robertson and Mary Priscilla Robertson, a leading family of that community. For a number of years she had made her home with Miss Annie Layfield, on Poplar Hill Avenue, this city. Miss Robertson was a member of Asbury M. E. Church. She is survived by three sisters and a brother: Mrs. Glenn G. Mezick, near Salisbury; Mrs. Ira Willing, this city; Mrs. Carter Denson, Baltimore; and Chester Robertson, Salisbury; also by several half-brothers and sisters: Carlton Robertson, and Mrs. Luther Mezick, Salisbury; Mrs. Allen Mezick [Aunt Esther], Tyaskin, and Mrs. Alice Kennerly, Philadelphia. Funeral services will be held this (Thursday) afternoon at 2.30 o’clock from the home of Mrs. Glenn Mezick, and interment will be in the family burying ground on the Clara homestead.