Biography of Hon. Melbin P. Roberts
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





HON. MELVIN PARKER ROBERTS. - One of the early day pioneers of California, having made the journey westward in 1860 by way of the Isthmus of Panama, is Melvin Parker Roberts, veteran miner and lumber man, and at present engaged in dairy farming adjoining Arcata, and one of the large land owners in Humboldt county. He was for a short time engaged in mining in the gold camps in California and Nevada, and later was a promient figure in the lumbering industry of this county. He has within later years returned to the calling of his fathers, and his farm is one of the best improved and most prosperous in the community.

Mr. Roberts is a native of Maine, having been born in St. Albans, Somerset county, April 21, 1841, the son of Joseph and Atlant (Ireland) Roberts, both natives of Somerset county, Me. The grandfather, Joseph Roberts, also a native of Maine, was a blacksmith of ability, while Grandfather Joseph Ireland, a native of New Hampshire, was a farmer and drover in Maine. On the Roberts side the family is of Welsh origin, while the Irelands came of Scotch antecedents. Joseph Roberts, Jr., was a member of the Baptist denomination, and as was the custom in those early days he preached gratis and farmed for a livelihood. The early life of Melvin P. Roberts was spent on the farm, he attending at first the public schools and later St. Albans Academy, in the meantime during his spare moments assisting his father with the labors of the farm. When he was seventeen years of age he completed his education and commenced to work for farmers in the vicinity and to accumulate a fund of his own, with a view to coming to California as soon as he was financially able. It was in 1860, when he was nineteen years of age, that he finally determined to make the venture, and the same year he landed in San Francisco. The voyage from New York to Aspinwall was made on the Northern Light, and from Panama to San Francisco on the Uncle Sam. Immediately Mr. Roberts went into the mining district on the south Yuba but did not like the conditions existing there, so returned to the Sacramento valley, where he secured employment for the summer on a farm. In the fall of the same year he returned to San Francisco, and from there went into the lumber country, making the journey in November on the old steamer Columbia, a side wheel passenger steamer, and arriving in Eureka after an extremely rough passage. He soon found employment, at first with the Dolbeer & McLain Company in their sawmill, remaining with this company for three years. The last two years he had charge of a crew of men as overseer. In 1863 Mr. Roberts went to Santa Clara and entered a business college, remaining about six months, when the Reese river gold excitement in Nevada was at its height, and he gave up school to join a party of goldseekers. Later he went to Virginia City and again worked in the mines, but he did not like the close confinement of underground work, so gave up this line of occupation and removed to the Washoe valley, where he soon found work with Folsom, Bragg & Co., working in the woods. In the fall of 1864 Mr. Roberts returned to Humboldt county and purchased a claim consisting of six hundred acres of large redwood timber, and the following spring he commenced logging on this claim, continuing thus until in 1868, and meeting with much success. At that time he sold his claim to William Carson, and made a trip to his old home in Maine, spending about eight months there. Upon returning to California he purchased an interest in the Russ, Wood & Co. lumber interests, and the following spring he contracted hauling spruce on Salmon creek. In the fall of the same year he became actively associated with the company in which he was interested, but three years later he sold his interest.

It was in 1880 that Mr. Roberts became actively interested in farm lands, purchasing an interest in a stock range and farming land on Mad river, upon which he followed farming and the raising of cattle and sheep. In 1882 he purchased a ranch west of Arcata, consisting of eighty two acres of bottom land, and on this established a dairy business, being the first to engage in dairying in Arcata as a business. This place he afterwards sold and purchased a ranch adjoining Arcata on the east, the farm at present containing two hundred and twenty five acres, all under a high state of cultivation, and devoted principally to dairying. Mr. Roberts also owns a ranch of thirteen hundred acres of range land at Southfork, near Garberville, devoted to stock raising. Mr. Roberts was one of the leading men in the Arcata Improvement Company, an organization which has succeeded in reclaiming about one thousand acres of marsh land, and he was president of the company until the holding was sold.

Politically Mr. Roberts is a Republican, and has always taken an active interest in the affairs of his party. He was elected assemblyman from the second district in 1900, serving the session of 1901. He is at present a member of the board of trustees of Arcata. He is progressive and wide awake to all that makes for the best interest of the community and state. He is also well known in fraternal circles, having been made a Mason in Arcata Lodge No. 106, F. & A. M., of which he is past master; is a member of Eureka Chapter No. 52, R. A. M., Eureka Commandery No. 35, K. T., and Islam Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., San Francisco. He is also a charter member of the Arcata Club.

The marriage of Mr. Roberts took place in Arcata with Miss May Louise Nelson, who was born near Arcata, the daughter of Christian and Fredericka A. Nelson, pioneers of Arcata, where Mrs. Roberts was reared and educated. She is the mother of three children: Fredericka Atlant, now Mrs. Dolson, of San Francisco; Melvin P., Jr., attending the O. A. C. at Corvallis, Ore., and Hazel May, a senior in Arcata high school.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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