James, Cornelius, and William Roberts

Cornelius Roberts, Part 2


Yesterday, I shared a land deed proving the children of Cornelius Roberts and his wife, Mary, said to be Mary Benton. Today, I will add a few facts about his life and comment on a couple of speculations about him.

Vital records were not kept regularly in Virginia during this time periods, nor were births or deaths recorded, unless they happened to appear in land or court records. Being on the frontier meant that few church records survived, assuming that they had ever existed to begin with, and pre-Revolutionary War gravestones are pretty much non-existent in western Virginia at this time.

I couldn’t find a free use map of early Virginia, but this county map will do:

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Rockingham County, Virginia is along the northern border of the state, about in the middle of this image. If you drew a line from the northern border of Rockingham County straight down to the North Carolina border and then threw in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, you would have most of what was the Virginia frontier at the time of the American Revolution.

The Riddle, Roberts and Monk families were living in this area by the 1770’s.

Here are some facts about Cornelius (Neal) Roberts gleaned from the early records of this western Virginia area:

1767 – Pittsylvania County, VA tithables: Dauzewell Rogers, James Roberts and Neil Roberts, each one tithe. (Doswell Rogers was affiliated with the Riddle family.)
1770 – Botetourt County, VA was formed from Augusta County, VA. Tithables included Neall Roberts and William Roberts. This part of Botetourt County later became Fincastle County and then Montgomery County, VA. The southern tip of Botetourt County was formed from a piece of Pittsylvania County, so Cornelius Roberts may not have actually moved.
1773 – Delinquent tax list in Fincastle County included Neal Roberts
1774 – Served 29 days under Lt. Joh Cox, Daniel Boone (yes, that Daniel Boone) and Capt. David Looney in Lord Dunmore’s War.
1780, 8 November: The Montgomery County court ordered that William Roberts, Neal Roberts, Moses Johnson and others be restored their land. James Roberts was also mentioned and all were suspected Tories.

Order Book 2, pg 302 Nov 8 th 1780 “ordered that Wm Roberts, Neal Roberts, Moses Johnson, Richard Green, Richard Wright, Clem Lee and George Herd be restored their property again. It being lately taken from them by the militia of Montgomery and Washington Counties, as nothing appears against them with
regard of their being enemies of the State.

1783, 14 January: Cornelius was granted 352 acres in Washington County, VA.
1785: William Roberts and Neil Roberts appear on the Botetourt County, VA tax list.
3 June 1788-June 1789 – Cornelius Roberts died during this time period. He received a land patent on 3 June 1788, which was recorded on 19 May 1789. In June 1789, a lawsuit in which he was involved was abated due to his death.

At the very least, there are two James Roberts in the area at the time of the American Revolution. One was Captain James Roberts, a notorious Tory. There is also a William Roberts mentioned in the records. It is likely that William Roberts is a brother of Cornelius, as they appeared together in the same 1780 Montgomery County court record. Whether or not they are related to either of the other James Roberts is not known, although Cornelius named a son, apparently the first born son, James.

From this one court mention, we can conclude that Cornelius definitely did not have Patriot tendencies. At the least, he was trying to keep neutral and, at worst, he was a Tory sympathizer who might or might not have covertly fought for the King’s cause.

It appears that Cornelius Roberts died at the hand of Indians about 1788 or 1789, but those details are also somewhat hazy. In any case, he had died by June 1789.

More recent research by others has apparently shown a DNA relationship between Cornelius Roberts, John Roberts of Surry County, North Carolina, William Roberts of Grayson and Lee Counties, Virginia, John Roberts of Buncombe County, North Caroline and Jesse Roberts of Lee County, Virginia and then Clay County, Kentucky. Male descendants of these men belong to the R1bla2-Set 3 group.

It is apparent that the familial relationships of Cornelius Roberts need a lot more research.


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2 Responses to “James, Cornelius, and William Roberts”

  1. Stephen W. Musgrove, Ed.D. (ret.) says:

    For nearly twenty years I have been trying to pin down the identity/background of a man who was at the battle of King’s Mountain, and who shared in appropriating the personal effects of British Major Patrick Ferguson — and I hope that you can help. My mystery man is Samuel Talbot, who recovered a pocket pistol belonging to Ferguson when Talbot moved Ferguson’s body. This anecdote is offered up in the section of your MS detainling the history of Washington County, Virginia. Your version is slightly different than the one that Draper offers in his seminal work on the battle of King’s Mountain in that it reads, “…Samuel Talbot, of this county…” Do you mean Samuel Talbot of Washington County, Virginia, and if so what source(s) led you to that conclusion? Positively identifying Samuel Talbot is of particular importance, and I am attempting to place him in a proper historical context, because twenty years or so ago a brace of boxlock flintlock pocket pistols surfaced which are purportedly the ones that were recovered from Ferguson’s body. They are correct for the period, and on the walnut grips they each bear silver wire inlays of the letters “P” and “F”. An ancient letter which accompanied the pistols references Ferguson, King’s Mountain, and appears to have been written to a member of a Campbell family. On loan from the owner, the pistols were exhibited at the National Park Service’s King’s Mountain Battlefield Visitors’ Center for thirteen years, and then recovered by the owner because the Samuel Talbot connection is unsupported by any list of soldiers present. The logic seems to be that if Talbot was a real, historical figure then the story about the pistols has merit. If you have militia lists, muster lists, diary entries or other documentation identifying Talbot, his home county and other details it would be of some importance and greatly helpful. The story of Samuel Talbot expropriating the pistol(s) must have come from some reliable, primary historical source, but where?

  2. Troy says:

    Comment1782 Montgomery Co., VA

    1782, 5 March

    Order book, 2 Page 321

    Ordered that John Roberts who has been inimical to the American cause be received as a citizen of this state and under the protection of the same on his taking the oath of allegiance and giving security for his good behavior for twelve months and one day. Whereupon the said John Roberts acknowledged himself indebted to this commonwealth in the sum of twenty pounds in species and Doswell Rogers and John Rice in the sum of ten pounds each to be levied of their respective lands and chattels that the said John Roberts shall be of the good behavior for twelve months and one day from this time.

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