On the honor roll of Washington county appears the name of Jackson Roberts, who for many years was a leading lawyer
of the city of Washington and also one of the prominent and influential representatives of the republican party
in this portion of the state, his qualities as a man and citizen gaining him warm friendships and kindly regard,
and there were many who received with deep regret the news of his demise, feeling that fate should have rendered
him many more years.
Mr. Roberts was a native of Groton, Vermont, born May 9, 1836. He was a direct descendant of Governor Thomas Roberts,
the last colonial governor of New Hampshire, whose ancestors came to this country on the vessel Ann in 1623. He
was reared at the Vermont home in the association of a family of brothers and sisters, the surviving members of
which are Mrs. John Plummer, of Lenox, Iowa; Mrs. John Whitcher, of Passumpsic, Vermont; J. H. Roberts, of Hastings,
Nebraska; and Dr. T. G. Roberts, of Chicago. His home was amid the Vermont hills and one of his earliest teachers
was D. N. Richardson, afterward editor of the Davenport Democrat, who in writing of Mr. Roberts many years afterward
said: "I best remember him as a boy of fourteen when he came to my school forty seven years ago remember him
best at the blackboard, where he never seemed to lose his head or become confused but was always cool and self
possessed; never assuming to know anything unless he was quite sure that he knew it and could explain it in chalk.
He was not a boisterous, egotistical youth and I always liked him for methods and manners in school; have respected
him always and hoped that he would somehow arrive at the farthest allowable milestone post on the road to the far
He supplemented his early educational advantages by study in Peacham Academy and in Bath Academy, at Bath, New
Hampshire. Thus Jackson Roberts passed from youth to early manhood but long ere he had attained his majority he
had become an active factor in the world's work in his home locality. He was but sixteen years of age when he began
teaching and his wife's first two terms of school were under his instruction. He taught for six winters before
he was twenty one years of age, his work covering the range from the district school to the academies. In the fall
of 1855 he went to La Crosse, Wisconsin, where he engaged in teaching and saved a portion of his earnings. On his
return to New England he engaged in clerking in a store but in 1857 accompanied his brother Daniel to California.
They made the trip by way of the isthmus route, setting sail in September, and for eight years thereafter Jackson
Roberts was engaged in mining and other pursuits in California and Nevada. He became an influential factor in those
mining communities and was called to public office, serving as justice of the peace and as judge of the court of
sessions. In later years he filled the offices of mayor, alderman and coroner in Iowa, and at no time was the trust
reposed in him ever betrayed. He was always loyal in his citizenship and whether in office or out of it sought
the best interests of the community.
It was on New Year's day of 1867 that Mr. Roberts was united in marriage to Miss Margaret J. Gibson, who was born
in Ryegate, Vermont. Her paternal ancestors came to this country with a Scotch colony in 1774. Unto Mr. and Mrs.
Roberts were born three children: Ida C., Frank W., and Carl J. The last named wedded Maud A. Hoover, of Ypsilanti,
Michigan, and they have one child, Mary, who is with them in their pleasant home in Washington.
For thirty years Jackson Roberts was a resident of Washington. After coming to this city he engaged in the grocery
business for some time and during that time utilized his leisure hours in reading law until he was qualified for
and secured admission to the bar in 1876. He then entered upon the practice of the profession and for a long period
was recognized as an able and successful lawyer, preparing his cases with great thoroughness and care and presenting
them with clearness and precision. He also handled considerable real estate. While engaged in the grocery business
he began buying furs and the success which he won in both lines enabled him from time to time to invest in town
property. Later he began buying farms and eventually became the owner of twenty two hundred acres of land lying
in Washington, Louisa and Kossuth counties, of Iowa. He also had one hundred and sixty acres of land in Nebraska
and his holdings of this character returned to him a very substantial annual income and made his real estate a
At all times, from the organization of the party, Jackson Roberts was a stalwart advocate of republican principles,
believing firmly in the party platform. He was confident that it contained the best elements of good government
and he never failed to give it his stalwart support. He was intensely interested in the currency campaign of 1896
when Bryan promulgated his doctrine of bimetalism and the free coinage of silver at a ratio of sixteen to one.
In that campaign he made frequent addresses throughout the county and his logic was strong and convincing. He was
a genial companion, humorous, witty and entertaining, and could tell and appreciate a good story.
Out of business hours, when he gave himself up to frolic he was full of a hearty boy's love of fun and turned an
humorous eye on every incident. His continuous good nature made him a valued companion in all circles. He was also
a man of wide information, ever finding time for reading and study, and it has been said that he was the best read
man in Washington county. Although reared in the faith of the Universalist church he afterward expressed his belief
in the evangelical doctrines. Death came to him May 24, 1897, after an illness of about six months. From the beginning
of his sickness he seemed to feel that the end was near and faced the situation with the same spirit of courage
and determination that characterized him in every department of life. He had a strong personality and marked individuality
and a splendidly developed mind. The language of Shakespeare was as familiar to him as was the discourse of the
present day and the classic quotations of the master bard of Avon continually enriched his conversation. He was
a prominent representative of the Masonic fraternity, having been made a Master Mason at North San Juan, Nevada
county, California, in the early '60s, when he was initiated into Manzanita Lodge, No. 104. He advanced to the
Knight Templar degree in Bethlehem Commandery, No. 45, K. T., and was its prelate for about twelve years. He also
held a number of other offices in the order and was in hearty sympathy with the beneficent spirit of the craft.
The earthly pilgrimage of Jackson Roberts was ended when he had reached the age of sixty one years but his memory
will be cherished for long years to come, while his influence will remain as a factor in the lives of those with
whom he was brought in contact. Mrs. Roberts and her family make their home in Colorado Springs.
History of Washington County, Iowa
From the First White Settlement to 1908
BY: Howard A. Burrell
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Washington County, IA
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