Who was James Roberts?

I’ve seen some stories implying that our James Roberts was the notorious Tory Colonel James Roberts who led militia raids through North Carolina. This James Roberts was reportedly caught and hanged. I’ve found a page by Mark and Peggy’s blog at https://ridge-dweller.net/2013/09/08/mama-jesse-roberts/ that details James and Cornelius Roberts’ travels. James was my 7th great-great-grandfather, father of William Roberts I. According to this page, James died before the American Revolution and couldn’t possibly be the Tory Colonel.

The Roberts family origins are English. James Roberts is baptized 25 Oct 1724, in Deal, England.The English family of the Roberts can be readily traced back to his Grandfather who was born in Deal around 1660.Deal is a coastal town in Kent near the channel. Its location across the channel from France made it a key location to fortify against potential invaders. Henry VIII authorized the construction of the Deal Castle and it was quickly completed. The round structure was intended to deflect cannonballs better than a Medieval square wall. The Roberts family resided in Deal for several generations.

Elizabeth Mumbray marries James Archibald Roberts shortly after Christmas in 1748. They must have decided to emigrate to Virginia before their marriage as their son Cornelius Mumbray Neal Roberts is born in Pittsylvania, Virginia on the 29th of January, 1749. They must have jumped on a fast boat to cross the ocean in 4 weeks and give birth to the first American born Roberts. Their motivations for leaving England can only be speculative but James’ father, who died in 1747 is buried in the church graveyard near the royal observatory in Greenwich. This was a place reserved for better families. The immigrants take up residence in the Piedmont region of Virginia near the  North Carolina border. Both James and wife Elizabeth will die near Black Mountain in Russell County. He was 31 and she 37.Their son Cornelius marries Mary Ellen Benton in 1767 at age 18. One of Mary’s brother is the future Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton. Her father was a wealthy lawyer and landowner in present day Hillsborough, North Carolina. Evidently, the Roberts family must have had some standing in Russell County. It is reported that Cornelius had become a physician. This occupation will lead to his demise.

Cornelius had served with the Virginia Militia during the Revolutionary War and somehow ended with the title of “Colonel”. It is important to remember that in the South, the title of Colonel was frequently added to the name of prominent members of the community. In June 1788 he and several other men were attacked by Cherokees and killed and scalped on Black Mountain near the New Garden settlements. His young son, possibly Daniel Tipton who is the youngest of the four brothers, hid under a fallen tree trunk. He was not discovered by the Cherokees and survived. Joseph Kizer will buy the estate of Cornelius consisting of some 260 acres north of the Clinch River for $1100 dollars. Daniel will marry Joseph’s daughter Elizabeth in 1798.


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