Tag Archives: Cornelius 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.


The Riddle of the Riddle Family

Sometimes I wonder why it has been relatively easy for me to have my ancestors jump the pond back to their European origins, but it has been so difficult to do with most of my husband’s lines. I can barely find their origins on the East Coast, never mind across the ocean. Then I stop and think for a moment and remember that most of his lines go back to Virginia and the Carolinas.

So it goes with his Riddle family. I wrote about Mary Riddle who married Henry Nations yesterday. However, Mary was only a stepmother to Dave’s great great grandfather, Joseph Michael Nation/s. Joseph Michael, also called Mike, married Christianna (aka Annie) Riddle, who was the younger sister of his stepmother, Mary Riddle. (Hmmm, Mary was the stepmother of her own sister. Interesting!)

Mary and Annie Riddle were the first and sixth born children of ten born to Isaac Riddle and his wife, Catherine Johnson. Isaac married Catherine on 26 August 1824 in Wayne County, Kentucky. They have hundreds of descendants and a lot is known about the family from their time forward.

I shared this photo in the Nations post, but only identified Mary Riddle Nations. Here are all the surviving siblings probably in the 1890’s:

Front: Betty, Mary, Joseph
Back: Catherine (Happy), Annie, Rhoda, Philip

There are a several hindrances to documenting the Riddles further back than Isaac’s parents, Joseph Riddle and Rhode Monk. First is the fact that there were so many darn Riddles, it is hard to separate them all out, especially when it is one of those families that repeated the same names in every family of each generation. Second, they never let any grass grow under their feet. All branches of the family kept on the move. Lastly, family lore kept descendants from finding out the real story for many years! The story has been retold many times about the heroic Captain William Riddle, a soldier of the Revolutionary War.

Because vital records are sorely missing in this time period, it’s necessary to look at both Joseph Riddle and his wife, Rhoda Monk, to even begin to sort out the truth about this family. Land deeds and court records allow the story to be pieced together.

First is the family of Joseph Riddle. Joseph was born about 1777 probably in Virginia, but possibly in North Carolina, as the family lived near the border between the two states. There is actually a death certificate filed for him in Cumberland County, Kentucky.

Joseph’s parents, William Riddle and Happy Rogers, are likely correct. Part of the family lore was that Hopy was an Indian, claimed I guess because of the name “Hopy.” However, her given name was likely Catherine as descendants named that were often called “Happy” in many records. “Hopy” may just be a misspelling of “Happy.”

Happy may or may not have been the daughter of Doswell Rogers.

Joseph’s death record correlates with a birth year of 1779. The 1850 census gives his age as 73, thus born about 1777 and he gives his place of birth as North Carolina. Family lore (no proof yet found) says that Joseph was a twin brother to Isaac Riddle, whose gravestone in Morris County, Texas gives a birth date of 4 April 1777 and death date of 30 November 1861. Isaac reported in the 1850 and 1860 census that he was born in Virginia.

William and Happy Rogers Riddle had six alleged children:

1. John, born about 1775
2. James, probably born about 1777
3. Joseph, likely born 1777-1779, given ages in 1850 & at death
4. Isaac, born 4 April 1777, per gravestone
5. Happy, born about 1782
6. William, born 1780-1783

Now, to continue the story, we need to switch to Joseph’s wife, Rhoda Monk. Rhoda was born about 1784 in Virginia, possibly in Russell County. Her parents were Shadrach Monk and Mary Roberts, daughter of Cornelius (Neal) and Mary Roberts. She was alive for the 1850 census, but her death record hasn’t been found and she hasn’t been located in the 1860 census. Cumberland County, Kentucky has extant death records for 1852-1859 and she isn’t in the 1860 mortality schedule. Joseph Riddle was listed as “single” in the death record, but everyone on that page was listed as single even though there are adults included on the page. If he was truly single, then Rhoda either died about 1851 or else her death wasn’t recorded for whatever reason.

There is no one document that explains the story of William Riddle and Happy Rogers, but keep in mind the FAN (Family and Neighbors) Club (all the highlighted names in this post) as you read the following excerpts from court records:

Montgomery County, Virginia

1779 Order Book 3, page 64. “First taken into consideration the unhappy situation of many individuals in this County of the New River, betwixt the River and the Flower Gap and also on the Reed Islands and Grassy Creek and Wallens? Creek, who from their remote and scattered situation have not had the opportunity of full and ample information, respecting the present Independence of America and having been deluded into acts inimical to their country by members of artful villains and emisarys sent from our enemies for that purpose and where as this court are informed from different Quarters , that those deluded people are sorry for their past crimes and desirous of being restored to the arms and friendship of the good citizens of this state. Therefore this Court ever desirous to extend mercy and to avoid prosecution as far as the safety of the State will admit, do hereby unanimously invite all persons in the above mentioned part of the county, Except as hereafter exempted.. to attend at the next court to be held in October and there throw themselves on the mercy of the Court, who hereby pledges their honor that every possible and reasonable lenity will be extended toward all such as accept hereof and give security for their future good behavior. The persons who we believe are not entitled to this invitation are Wm. Riddle & Nathaniel Britin”

Order Book 2, page 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.

Order Book 2,  Page 309,  March 5, 1782 “Ordered that John Roberts who has been inimical to the American cause be recieved as a citizen of this state and under the protection of the same on his taking the Oath of Alligiance and giving security for his good behavior for twelve months and one day where upon the said John Roberts acknoledges himself indebted to this commonwealth in the sum of twenty pounds
in security and Dozawell Rogers and John Rice in the sum of ten pounds each to be levied of their respective lands & Chattels and to the Commonwealth be rendered, yet upon condition that the said John Roberts shall be of good behavior for twelve months and one day from this time ordered.”

Montgomery County Court records: April 3, 1782 “Ordered Captain Wm Love return Hoppe Riddle a cow he took from her in the year 1780 or the sum of five pounds in specie.”

Then there is the story about Tory Oak in Wilkes County, North Carolina, found in Wikipedia:

At the beginning of the American Revolution, (Benjamin) Cleveland was commissioned a colonel in the North Carolina militia. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1778 and to the North Carolina Senate in 1779. Until Lord Cornwallis invaded in 1780, the fighting in North Carolina consisted of guerilla warfare between patriots and Tories. Cleveland became known as the “Terror of the Tories” for his treatment of Loyalists. In 1779, two Tories looted the home of George Wilfong, a patriot and friend of Cleveland. The Tories used Wilfong’s clothes line to chase away his horses. The marauders were captured by Cleveland’s men, who had them hanged using the clothes line they had stolen. In revenge, a group of Tories led by Captain William Riddle kidnapped Cleveland. Cleveland’s men rescued him and he captured Riddle and two others. All three were hanged from the same tree, which became known as the “Tory Oak” and was an historic landmark behind the old Wilkes County courthouse (now the Wilkes Historical Museum).

Next, again in the Montgomery County Court Records:

Order book 2, Page 335, April 8th, 1782 John Riddle, an orphan of William Riddle of 7 yrs old to age of 21 (bound) to James Newell and James Riddle orphan of WM. Riddle , (bound) to James McCorkle and both were ordered by the court to “teach them reading, writing & Sypher and pay them the sum of 20 lbs. when they are 21.”

The final entry found in Montgomery County Court Records:

May 27, 1784 Order Bk. B- Page 63
An inventory and appraisement of the estate of Wm Riddle deceased, taken
April 24th 1784
4 ewes & three lambs——————————————–2–?
1 old mare —————————————————————–2
one small Improvement & Entry of land ————————15
1 ox4/two horses
1 grindstone 10/small feather bed ———————————–4-x0
1 old side saddle 20/one pair of sheep shears 2/6- –1–2.6 25–11–6

The above inventory was returned to Court and ordered to be recorded.
James McCorkle

Putting all these pieces together paints only one picture.  William Riddle definitely was a soldier of the Revolutionary War, but he wasn’t a patriot, he was a Loyalist and appears to be the Captain William Riddle who was hung by Benjamin Cleveland and his men in Wilkes County, North Carolina before 8 April 1782, when his two sons, John and James, were bound out.

William Riddle’s parents haven’t yet been proven, but Isaac is a name that runs through his descendants and there is an Isaac Riddle mentioned in Fincastle County, Virginia in the 1770’s. Perhaps future research will take this line back to where it will jump the pond!