George Washington Henry Robertson

gwh robertson 3(1822-1897)

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.

The information about GWH Robertson’s parentage is above is incorrect. See post Everything You Know Is Wrong.

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.

Ashes to Ashes

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.

aerial

plat-map

(Click for PDF.)

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.

 

Rockawalkin United Methodist Church

(corner of Rockawalkin Road and Crooked Oak Lane)

On the way out the next day we drove by and had to stop at the Rockawalkin United Methodist Church, our dad’s childhood and young adult place of worship.

This was mostly a memory trip. The church’s function hall, above center, is where Uncle Verner Hughes had his 80th birthday party that we all attended in 1970, I think.

Don’t Fence Me In

One of the most exciting developments to come out of our trip to the Eastern Shore was the Maryland Land Record website.

landrec

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.

deed-sample

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.

creek

Shiles Creek map, from the Wicomico River Stewardship Initiative website

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.

Day Three: Continued

Part Two: Moving on Down the Road

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

  • Hearn-Catlin Cemetery
  • 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.

Culling Through Old Photos

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.

mattie-and-carlton-cropped

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.

The New Sign

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.

cemetery-sign

cemetery-sign-2

 

Nellie Oscarena Robertson

Nellie Oscarena Robertson

Nellie Oscarena Robertson (1890-1934)

(1890-1934)

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-robertson

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.
Detail
Obituary: Death Claims Well Known Local Nurse
Source Information
Title
Salisbury [MD] Daily Times Newspaper
Publisher Location
Salisbury, Maryland

James Washington Thomas Robertson

We want to share some stories about the people who are buried in the Robertson family graveyard. It makes sense to start with James Washington Thomas Robertson, my great-grandfather. The death of his first wife was the impetus for founding the cemetery.

I try to imagine life on the eastern shore of Maryland in the mid-1800s. You worked on the farm you grew up on and when the time came you got married. You went to church, most likely Methodist. And you socialized with the people around you.

jwt-robertson-300

James Washington Thomas Robertson (1849-1932)

My great-grandfather, James Washington Thomas Robertson, was born in 1849 and died in 1932. JWT married Esther Adeline Robertson, in 1869. He was 20, she was 19. They had 3 chlldren, Carrie Roberta (1870-1946), Eva Blanch (1872-1932), and Alice Talmage (1874-1941). Esther died at 25 after the birth of Alice. My father had written that she died in childbirth, but the dates I’ve collected show that she died 2 years later.

A widower who has to keep the farm operational — plant the crops, milk the cows, feed the chickens and the pigs every day — with 3 children aged 6, 4, and 2, has to find a helpmate and quick.

JWT’s second wife was my great grandmother, Caroline Lawson Catlin. She bore 2 children — Carlton Edward, my grandfather, and my great-aunt Esther. Caroline died in 1880 at the age of 29, 2 months after Esther’s birth.

Once again faced with the reality of life on the farm with now 5 children, JWT married another first cousin, the sister of his first wife, Mary Priscilla Robertson. She and JWT had 5 children, Dula Gardner (1884-1955), Ruby Pauline (1885-1950), Chester Harmon (1888-1940), Nellie Oscarena (1890-1934), and Rachel Randall (1893-1968). Mary Priscilla died in 1901 at age 36. Life on the farm must have been hard on women.

So in all JWT had 10 children. We heard about the aunts growing up — Aunt Dula, Aunt Rachel, Aunt Eva. Aunt Ruby was a famous cook. I imagine that they all pitched in when their sister-in-law, my father’s mother, Mattie Hughes, died at age 51. My aunt Pauline was 25 then, but my dad and Aunt Carolyn were 16 and 11.

I remember meeting Aunt Esther. I know she lived on the farm where the Robertson family graveyard is located and we visited some time before she died and, I think, once after. The uncles were all dead long before I was born.

It was the death of JWT’s first wife Esther that led to the creation of the family graveyard. According to my father, Esther died in 1876 and JWT needed to find a place to bury her. She was buried on 13 April 1876 in an area on the family farm in Tyaskin.

JWT and his first and third wives are buried here, as are several of their issue.

We don’t have a lot of stories to tell about my great-grandfather, at least right now. I hope some will appear when we publish this. Someone might see this who has more stories to share. Others in the family tree have done a lot of research, and I benefit from that.

03-jwtTracking through the US Census records, we see that in 1860 at age 10, JWT lived with his parents and siblings in Tyaskin, Maryland. In 1880, the census records him living with his second wife, Caroline. In 1930, when he was 81, he was living with one of his daughters, Ruby, and her husband, Glenn Mezick.

We do have 2 different mentions of JWT’s having drilled a well in Salisbury. One is in the Salisbury newspaper from 1897 and the other, also from a local paper, has him drilling a well at age 81.

Mr. JWT Robertson of White Haven has driven an artesian well on the Court House Square. A flow of good water is now an attractive feature of the county green. The commissioners are likely to erect a canopy over the well and fit it with seats for the comfort of the public.

Salisbury Advertiser, 9 Oct 1897

I might remember seeing a plaque to JWT Robertson in Salisbury but it’s kind of vague.

Day Three — Take a Left Where the Old Spring Hill Church Used to Be

We called the charming gentleman who maintains the Robertson Cemetery for us and told him we would meet him there. We could hear the doubt in his voice as he told us that he would have his cell phone with him – in case we got lost.

Well, we didn’t get lost – but the way there dipped and wove past more fields of young corn (no soybeans that we could see) and crossing the Wicomico River on a historic cable ferry.

Whitehaven Ferry

The Whitehaven Ferry across the Wicomico River

These Maryland country roads – isolated and rural as they are – are amazingly well-marked. Much better than most streets in New England. And we followed Dad’s directions – down Capitola to Clara Road.

It was then that we realized the cemetery would not be marked. But as we drove down Clara, Mattie – riding in the back seat – said “That looks like a cemetery.” And lo and behold, off in the fields was a small, shaded oasis of trees and what looked like gravestones. We turned down the unmarked dirt driveway and there was our guide in his red pickup truck waiting to drive us down the soggy lane that led to the Robertson cemetery. And we were there.

titlestone