Category Archives: 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.

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.

Cornelius Roberts, 1789, Virginia

My husband’s Riddle forebears haven’t been easy to research. First, they lived on the Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina frontiers just before and after the American Revolution.  Second, they and their FAN club seem to have had definite Tory leanings during that war, but descendants have muddled that history with family lore of being Patriots. Last, but not least, two affiliated families have had members mixed up because of the similarity in the surnames of Roberts and Rogers.

Today, I’d like to share some of the story of Cornelius Roberts. If his name is googled, many hits come up with all kinds of stories about his arrival in the colonies and his death. Some of these of stories have provable pieces, while others are either conjecture or old family lore.

Cornelius Roberts was likely born some time around 1740-1745. He married Mary, whose maiden name is said to be Benton, although I’ve never seen a source for that statement. Neal, as he was often called, probably married Mary about 1766 or 1767, as their first child was born about 1768.

Their children have been identified through a land deed filed on 5 October 1829 in Russell County, Virginia. Neal’s heirs sold some of his land at that time.

Deed Book 8:234-235


 Children named in the land deed include:

1. Elizabeth, born about 1768; married Abraham Childers. She reportedly died in Perry County, KY on 17 February 1833, but I have not seen proof of her date of death.
2. Mary, born about 1770; married Shadrach Monk. She reportedly died about 1805.
3. James, born about 1772. He married Nancy (MNU). James may have died in Pike County, Kentucky.
4. Nathan, born about 1774. He married Abigail Bishop on 10 November 1799 in Knox County, Tennessee. He may have died in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.
5. Amelia (Milly), born about 1776. She married Edward Frost on 3 October 1791 in Washington County, Virginia. Milly died after 1850, possibly in Walker County, Alabama.
6. Jesse, born about 1778. He married Mary (MNU) and died after 1850, possibly in Taylor County, West Virginia.
7. Daniel, born about 1780; married Elizabeth Kiser, about 1798. He may have died in Pickens County, Alabama.
8. Sina, born about 1782; married Peter Anderson. she died after 1850, possibly in Marion County, Tennessee.
9. Archibald, born about 1784. He married Phebe Allenduff on 24 October 1839 in Fountain County, Indiana. Phebe may be a second wife.
10. Isaac, born about 1786. He reportedly married a woman whose maiden name was Enyart and died about 1839 in Gonzales County, Texas.
11. Susanna, born about 1787; married Lot Literal. She may have died in Illinois.
12. Mourning, born 14 August 1788; died 4 May 1866 in Jackson County, Alabama and married Jacob Talley (called “Isaac” in error in the land deed). She was reportedly given her name as her father had recently been killed.

Although many supposed facts about Cornelius Roberts are unproven, the names of his children are a certainty, thanks to the 1829 land deed. It also made life much easier for me in that it named the heirs of Mary (Polly) Roberts Monk as Shadrach and Mary Monk are my husband’s direct line.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at Cornelius’s life.