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.

Day Three: Memories Are Made of This

  • Wicomico River
  • Tyaskin
  • The old Nanticoke Road
  • Rockawalkin Church

Surrounded by all these names and places from my father’s childhood, and mine, can’t help but bring back memories.

  • Breakfasts down “on the farm” with so much food served, lunch was never a thought
  • Marathon card games (My aunts and uncles played a game called 500 – kind of a cross between Bridge and Canasta)
  • Song fests around the upright piano
  • Cutthroat games of croquet on the edge of a 10-foot-high corn field.

Our pilgrimage this morning brought us first to the old Rockawalkin Church (founded in 1839). My dad’s church (we think) and the site of Uncle Verner (we know) 80th birthday party.

The Rockawalkin Church Cookbook is one of our prized possessions, containing recipes (Mary Humphrey’s sweet potato pie and Aunt Mary’s crab cakes) contributed by several great-aunts and cousins.

Our second stop this day was at the graveyard surrounding St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Tyaskin.

This modest churchyard is home to several members of the Hughes Family.

Caleb and Charlotte Hughes, our great great great grandparents. Caleb died in 1869 and Charlotte (Venables), his wife, died one year before he did, at Christmastime. How sad.

Also buried in the St. Mary’s Churchyard are Capt Jesse and Sarah Hughes, our great great great great grandparents. Sarah died in 1810, at 36. Capt Jesse died in 1838 at the incredible (for that era) age of 71.

The St. Mary’s Churchyard is small and surrounds the church on three sides. It is a lovely place and well cared for.

Note: There is a discrepancy in Capt Jesse’s birth dates. His gravestone records his birthday as January 29, 1767. The Maryland Births and Deaths Index lists his birthday as February 28, 1768.

Day Two: The Nabb Center

The Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University is a major resource library for the history and genealogy of the Eastern Shore. It is a beautifully appointed, state-of-the-art research center as well. Susan and I arrrived around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, ready to learn things.nabb-all-3.jpg

Note: They take security seriously. No bags of any sort (even pocket books) allowed. There are lockers with combination locks available for all banned items. Also – no pens allowed. But there are nice red Nabb Center pencils available for free. You must sign in and out, and if you want internet access you need to supply a photo ID.

All this sounds rather formidable, but totally understandable given the wealth of information and knowledge you have free access to once inside. The staff is very friendly and eager to help — and incredibly expert at finding things.

We thought we had a clear idea of what to look at, but soon learned that we had been far too ambitious. And it is so easy to become overwhelmed. Hint: When the staff says “this particuliar resource is handwritten, dense, and hard to read,” you should listen.

We did have several successes:

  • Tracing the ownership of the farmland surrounding the Robertson Cemetery back to the early 1800s. We found deeds back to 1895 and now have a plan for looking even further back.

Note: A very big thank you to the research assistant there whose willingness to help and broad expertise was key to these successes.

  • We found a book on the Hughes Family – which will help us with verifying and identifying folks on our grandmother, Mattie White Hughes’, side.

We are thinking of going back but tomorrow has been designated “cemetery grand tour” day.

Excess Baggage

Preparing for the Genealogy Road Trip

To Eastern shore of Maryland, the ancestral homeland

So it was 4 years ago that we three — Mattie, Harry, and I — traveled to Maryland, the land of Dad’s forebears. (See Day Three — Take a Left Where the Old Spring Hill Church Used to Be.) This time we plan to devote a few more days to researching and exploring.

Archive research

We shall visit the Nabb Center for Delmarva history, part of the Salisbury delmarvaUniversity library system. [Delmarva is the term for the peninsula that juts into the lower Chesapeake Bay, and includes Delaware and parts of Maryland and Virginia.]

Ahead of time we are searching the Nabb Center holdings — books, family histories, vertical files. I had learned about vertical files [an alphabetized file for pamphlets and other small publications that do not merit a call number in a library system] at a genealogy workshop held by the LDS church in Lynnfield back in Sept. 2018. The lady from the Boston Public Library introduced us to “finding aids” which is essentially the index to a vertical file.

So I’ve made a list of books, publications, and other ephemera that we want to peruse. We also emailed the library to find out if there was anything else we need to know — parking, hours, and the like.


Of course, we’ll be stopping at the Robertson Cemetery. We’ll get to see the new sign and meet with Mr. Buller again.

I’ve also combed through Find a Grave, comparing cemeteries and memorials against the Wicomico Cemeteries Project files. I have a list of 6 cemeteries around Salisbury that we hope to visit and photograph the graves, mostly of direct ancestors. Some go back to GGGG-Grandparents, so we’ll see how many of these we can actually accomplish.

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.


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.




Our Elusive Great-great-Grandmother

Leah Wainwright Robertson (1825-187?)

She’s always been just off the charts, this mother of my grandfather’s father. She isn’t buried in our Robertson cemetery, and we’ve wondered why. The Robertson Cemetery came into being in 1876 on the death of Esther Robertson, James Washington R’s first wife. We assume Leah had passed away before that and was buried in another family’s plot.

It looks like she died sometime after 1870. She is listed in the 1870 census, 45 years old, keeping house — transcribed as Robinson, a scourge of all our lives, that surname mix-up.

There are a few anomalies in the records but we are trying to explain them. The 1880 census for Tyaskin district lists a Leah in the household of her husband, George Henry Robertson, but Leah, my GG-Gmother has to have been dead by then. Her spouse George Henry Robertson married a second time and somehow this second wife, Ellen Larmore, is listed in that census as Leah. I believe this because the children of this second marriage — Elmer, Norah, and Vernon — are listed in the 1880 census, and they were specified in GHR’s will as the children of his (second) wife Ellen Larmore.

So we are trying to find when Leah died and where she is buried. I look at the people around her — what’s the phrase . . . . ?

A History of the Wainwright and Cannon Families

This document turned up on Ancestry. The source is listed as the Newberry Library in Chicago. I’ve searched the Newberry Library website but can’t find any mention of it. Not surprising that is isn’t digitized and/or indexed, because it must be a pretty obscure publication. It does show up in WorldCat and LC and a few others.

It’s dated 1935, updated 1942, by someone named Emerson Roberts who might have been a distant relative. Mr. Roberts’s stated purpose in compiling the information was to trace the lineage of one Mary Wainwright Roberts who, if my calculations are correct, is a sister of Leah.


Source Information Wainwright and related families [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Operations Inc, 2005.

Original data: Roberts, Emerson B.. Wainwright and related families. Wilkinsburg, Pa.: unknown, 1942.


It was online as a collection of JPG files, each page a separate image. I downloaded them all — 64 or so pages, and output them as a PDF using Adobe Bridge. I don’t assume this document is reliable. There are a few sources listed throughout and the ones I can find online check out, so far. The author recounts the family history and characterises the moral tenor of the people involved.

The Wainwrights have been marked for their seriousness of purpose and demeanor, their depth of conviction and sense of personal responsibility.

(Not sure if this means they’re all party poopers.) But he says things like “the aforesaid” and “she made it her duty and her Christian pleasure . . .” So it’s totally charming.

According to Mr. Roberts, GG-Grandmother Leah (b. 1825) is the daughter of Joshua W~ and Mary (Polly) Street. This agrees with some of the information I had. I’m looking for confirmation of this parent-child relationship. Census records from before 1840 don’t list all the household members, so it’s unclear who the offspring are. I’m at a bit of an impasse on this point.

Other people are presenting some feasibility problems. So that’s what I’m working on now.




Nellie Oscarena Robertson

Nellie Oscarena Robertson

Nellie Oscarena Robertson (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’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.
Obituary: Death Claims Well Known Local Nurse
Source Information
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.


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.