Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Holding history in her hands

Juanita (Nita) Evans Caldwell stood a little overcome, holding history in her hands Saturday, March 1, at the old county courthouse building in Shelby, N. C. In the box lined with acid-free paper was the 200-year-old, hand-stitched vest once worn by Martin Roberts….

The Martin Roberts born in Virginia who had enlisted in the Revolutionary War in 1776, fought at Trenton, Brandywine, Guilford Court House, and other historic battlefields. Who had nearly frozen to death at Valley Forge with 11,000 other Continental soldiers. Who had served General George Washington at his headquarters as forage master…

The same Martin Roberts who after the war established mercantile businesses in Philadelphia and Delaware before relocating with his family in the 1790s to rolling land in North Carolina acquired through land grants, in No. 6 Township of Cleveland County (part of Rutherford County at the time). He lived here nearly 40 years and, with cannon fire and meager rations far behind, had begun serving as a justice of the peace in 1813.

He was Nita’s great-great-great-great-grandfather. A Shelby native now living in Lincolnton, she had come home to help out on a workday for volunteers cataloguing historic artifacts stored in the old courthouse. She was aware the vest had been donated to the former museum by Elizabeth Roberts, another of his descendants.

And then there it was. A dignified-looking vest, such as a justice of the peace might wear. Extraordinary even hand-stitching firmly holding together after two centuries the welt pockets, the lining. Hand-covered buttons down the front.

What pictures it conjured up. And what mysteries. “Did my great-great-great-great-grandmother make it, you think? Did she take care of it, and wash and press it?”

Nita went home that evening and set out to get the details of Martin’s story down on paper. Click below to read it.

Contributor: Pat Poston

Martin Roberts: Soldier, Merchant, Farmer, Justice of the Peace

By Juanita (Nita) Evans Caldwell

Martin Roberts was born May 25, 1758, to Morris and Unity Martin Roberts in Chesterfield County, Va.

Martin fought in the Revolutionary War, first enlisting Feb. 5, 1776, at the Chesterfield County Court House in Virginia with Captain Ralph Falkner's Company, in the Fifth Virginia Regiment commanded by Col. Mulenburgh and Lieut. Col. Josiah Parker, in the Virginia Continental Line.

He participated in the battles of Trenton and Princeton, N. J., Brandywine, Del., and Germantown, Pa. He was also at Valley Forge where he nearly froze to death along with 11,000 other Continental soldiers. He was discharged Feb. 20, 1778, at or near Valley Forge, Pa.

On Aug.5, 1780, he reenlisted and was appointed forage master for Gen. George Washington at the general's headquarters. As forage master he participated in the Battle of Hagerstown, Md., and at the Battle of Guilford Court House in 1781. He received his final discharge Aug. 1, 1782.

His military service put him in touch with the outside world, so to speak. So he went to Philadelphia, where he had participated in a battle, and “set in as a clerk in the mercantile business and remained there two years." About 1785, he moved to Delaware, another place he had fought during the war, where he and a friend, Enoch Wells, opened a store in Fast Landing (now Leipsic), a small town near Dover, Del. Here he met and married Elizabeth Durborow and they had three children: John, Martin Jr. and Lyndia, before selling out and moving to Rutherford (now Cleveland) County, N. C., where they were blessed with three more children: Patsy, James and Noah.

On July 16, 1796, Martin made entry for Land Grant No. 1909 which contained 200 acres located on the head branch of Shoal Creek in Rutherford (now Cleveland) County. On Sept. 28, 1799, he paid five pounds to the Treasury Office of North Carolina for the Grant, which was issued Dec. 16, 1799.

Then on July 16, 1801, he made entry for 80 acres of land lying on a branch of Hickory Creek which joined his own land. This Grant was issued Dec. 3, 1803.
In January 1813 he took the oath of office as Justice of the Peace.

Martin Roberts died Oct. 30, 1834, in Rutherford (now Cleveland) County. He is buried in a marked grave in the well maintained old Morris Roberts Cemetery on the Sweezy Farm in No. 6 Township of Cleveland County.

A piece of Martin Robert's clothing, a vest, is one of the many items that has been cataloged for storage at the old Cleveland County courthouse building in Shelby, N. C. Thanks to one of his descendants, Ms. Elizabeth Roberts, who donated it many years ago, a piece of history will live on.

This writer, Nita Caldwell a gggg granddaughter, had the rare opportunity to hold this 200 year old hand made vest in her hands while at the museum cataloging other items to be placed temporarily in storage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting history and story of Martin Roberts. I have researched the Martin and Roberts families in VA and NC since I am descended from Abel Roberts b, 1795-6 who married Sarah McGinnis in Lincoln Co. NC in 1818.
Abel and Sarah Roberts named one of their 2 sons Martin Marion Roberts (my great-grandfather) so I still am searching in the area where the museum is--hoping to find a connection to this family who preserved Martin Roberts vest. fwestenhov@aol.com