Buena Vista County, IA
IAGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 588-94.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Thomas Roberts

Situated a few miles north of Marathon, in Poland township, stands a commodious home nestled amid the trees that were planted there many years ago by the present owner, Thomas Roberts.  It is the seat of a family where love is not imagined to be a selfish thing of the flesh, nor a childish demand to be served but where it is a fountain of unwearied ministries to its beloved.  The family who occupy this home are numbered among the most valued, prominent and honored residents of the county and Mr. and .Mrs. Roberts are people who, by their blameless lives and purity of their motives, by genial disposition and kindly nature, are leaving their impress for good upon the community.


Mr. Roberts. a native of Oswego county, New York, was born December 27, 1841, and is of Welsh lineage.  His parents, Tudr and Elizabeth (Jones) Roberts, were natives of Wales and in the year 1830 came to the United States.  They resided for some time in New York and finally removed westward to Black Hawk county, Iowa, where their remaining days were passed, the father departing this life in 1866 when he was sixty-four years of age, while the mother died in 1892.  This worthy couple were the parents of seven children, namely:  Mary Jane, who died in childhood; Humphrey Tudr, who married Sarah Ellen Bird and lives in Arkansas City, Kansas; Elizabeth, who died in December. 1870; Thomas, of this review; Susan, who married Nathan Parish and is residing in Sac City, Iowa; Mary J., who in 1870 became the wife of Clark Ravlin and died December 8, 1876; and Olive, the wife of Thomas Humphrey, a resident of Marshalltown, Iowa.


Reared under the parental roof, Thomas Roberts was early trained to habits of industry, perseverance and integrity and in the course of time these have borne rich fruit in his life of usefulness and honor.  He acquired his education in the public schools and gave to his father the benefit of his services on the home farm until twenty-one years of age, when, in answer to his country's call, he offered his services to the government, enlisting as a member of Company C, One Hundred and Tenth Regiment of New York Volunteers, under the command of Colonel D. C. Littlejohn.  The regiment was assigned to duty with the Army of the Gulf and after a short stay at Baltimore was-sent to New Orleans, where they arrived on the twenty-first anniversary of Mr. Roberts' birth.  He was all through the active service of the war from the time of his enlistment in 1862 until his honorable discharge, embracing a period of three years and one month.


Soon after Mr. Roberts returned from the war the family decided to try their fortunes in the middle west and in the latter part of February, 1866, arrived in Black Hawk county, Iowa, where they settled on a farm.  Sixteen years were passed on that place, at the end of which time a removal was made to Buena Vista county.  In 1881 Mr. Roberts purchased land in this county, but it was not until the following .year that the family arrived and took possession of the farm.  The locality in which they settled was still a frontier district in which the evidences of modern civilization were few.  Their goods were shipped to Newell, Iowa, which at that time was the nearest railroad point, and from there were hauled by team to the farm.  Mr. Roberts paid only six and a half dollars per acre for the land which is today a valuable and productive tract, owing to the care and labor which he has spent upon it and the unusual rise in value following the rapid settlement of the county.  As his financial resources have increased he has extended the boundaries of the place until he owns three hundred acres of as fine land as can be found in the country.  He owns also three hundred and twenty acres in Clay county, Iowa, and a tract of valuable land in North Dakota and his property interests are the visible evidence of well directed thrift and energy.


On the 30th of December, 1869, occurred the most important event in the life of Mr. Roberts—his marriage to Miss Mary L. Landis, a daughter of Alexander and Delia (Bowman) Landis, both of whom were natives of Pennsylvania.  He was born in Landisburg, April 4, 1818, and his wife in Summit, November 12, 1826.  They were married March 2, 1847, and the mother died in Pennsylvania, June 18, 1857, and after residing there until 1864.  The father came to the west and now makes his home with Mr. Roberts at the advanced age of ninety-one years.  In the maternal line the ancestry of the Landis family is traced back to a very early period.  Hans Peter Summay was a Palatine Mennonite exile from Canton Aurgan, Switzerland.  The name in Europe is written [sic] Summe, which would indicate a French origin from the river or county Somme, in northern France, but judging from their religion and other characteristics of these people it is more likely that they were of the western exiles of Italy in the earlier history of the church and assumed the name of the place whereunto they escaped from their Italian expatriation. Like many of the other Palatine Mennonites they became settlers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  From our accounts the members of the family, to escape the relentless persecution, fled from Augan to Offenberg, in middle Baden, and on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, by Louis XIV of France in 1665, they removed to Alsace for the same cause, and again on the cession of France upon the treaty of Ryswic [sic] in 1607, they removed to Holland for protection, becoming refugees under the rule of William of Orange or his successor, the people there enjoying religious freedom.


Leaving Rotterdam the exiled ancestor of the Summay family made his way to Plymouth, England, and thence sailed on the brigatine [sic] Richmond and Elizabeth, arriving in Philadelphia in 1733.  Hans Peter Summay was accompanied by his wife and sons, Hans Jacob, Hans Peter, Otto Fritz, Johannas and Hans Michial.  If there were any daughter in the family the name was not given on the colonial records, nor is the name of the wife recorded, but in a will executed by Hans Jacob Summay in 1761 he made provision for the maintenance of his wife and aged mother, which is proof that she came with him to America.  On his arrival Hans Peter Summay joined the Mennonites in Lancaster county.  They were the first settlers in the valleys of Pequea and Conestoga, leaving the fatherland at the beginning of the eighteenth century to find in the American wilderness a refuge from relentless persecution such as no other people have suffered and to gain peace and spiritual freedom among the red men that the bigotry and intolerance of civilized Europe would not allow them.


How or why the change of the spelling of the name occurred is not known, but it is no unusual thing for a surname to take a different form upon the change from one language to another.  Some of the family went south, locating on the Columbus river in North Carolina, where their descendants are still found, including Dr. Albert F. Summay, of Asheville, North Carolina.  To the same family belongs the Rev. George Summay, of Covington, Kentucky, while the Summays of Tennessee are also descendants of the same ancestry.


Johannes Summay long resided in Pennsylvania.  His children were Abraham, John and Michial and the last named reared a family in southern Pennsylvania.  The Rev. Abraham Summay, of Regenew, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, is a descendant and the Summays of Jo Daviess county, Illinois, sprang from the same branch.  Hans Jacob Summay, like most of the Palatine Mennonites with double names, was known in this country as Jacob.  With his parents he settled in Graffdale [sic], Erie county, Pennsylvania, purchased land and engaged in farming like his fellow exiles who, with strong arm and clear heads, began converting the wilderness into a rich agricultural district.  Hans Jacob Summay married Barbara Roeland Bear, the widow of John Bear, and their children were John, Henry, Jacob, Susanna, Peter and Margaret.  Jacob Summay and his wife both died at an old age and were laid to rest in the churchyard of the Graffdale Mennonite meetinghouse.  Henry Summay, their second son, died in 1783, leaving no children.  Jacob, the third, married Margaret Maekly and to them were born three daughters and one son.  Peter, the fourth son, wedded Mary Deitrick, and their children were John, Barbara, Peter, Jacob, Samuel, Daniel, Christian and Henry.  The three eldest were mutes and lived upon a part of the old homestead and were buried with their parents and grandparents near the Graffdale meetinghouse.  Jacob died in York county, Pennsylvania, at the age of ninety-four years, leaving a son and daughter who live in Indiana.  Samuel died in Maryland, leaving no descendants, and of Daniel there is no record.  Christian Summay died in Virginia at the venerable age of ninety-seven years.  The Rev. Christian Summay, of the reform church, is a son of Christian Summay, Jr., and their descendants live in Iowa.


While the ancestry of the Landis family cannot be traced back to so remote a period as the Summay family, it is definitely known that they have been represented in America from colonial days, for Henry Landis, the great-grandfather of Mrs. Roberts, was a soldier of the Revolutionary war.


Unto Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Landis, the parents of Mrs. Roberts, there were born the following named:  Mary, born December 29, 1847, in Summit, Pennsylvania; Elizabeth, who was born December 2, 1849, and is the wife of H. P. Stanley, a resident of Nuela, Colorado; Henry Nicholas, who was born February 17, 1852, and died October 20, 1854; Harriett, who was born August 29, 1854, and on the 4th of April, 1875, became the wife of J. M. Noyes of Wyoming, by whom she has one son and one daughter.  After the death of his first wife, Alexander Landis married Rose Ann Marteeny, November 3, 1857, and the children born to them were:  Charles H., who was born August 11, 1858, and died May 24, 1870; John F., who was born February 17, 1860, and died October 23, 1869; William A., who was born June 16. 1862, and was married to Ida Rock, who was born in 1857 and died in 1888; James S., who was born January 28, 1865, in Waterloo, Iowa, and married Lena Metcalf; Lester C, married Mabel McClelland; Ephraim R., who was born December 4, 1870, in Black Hawk county, and married Nellie Barrett, making their home in Melrose, Iowa; Lilly May, born May 23, 1872, and died June 21, 1881; and Sarah J., the wife of David Gibson, a resident of Waterloo, Iowa.  Mrs. Gibson died July 13, 1907, in a railroad accident.


As the years passed the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roberts was blessed with the following named sons, and daughters:  Tudr Landis, the eldest, born February 4, 1871, married Laura Stevens and is engaged in the real-estate business in Marathon, Iowa.  Hugh E., born December 29, 1872, married Laura Griffiths and they reside at Storm Lake, Iowa, with their four children:  Clarence Errol, Cedric, Guy and Tressa Fay.  Guy, the third son of Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, was horn December 2, 1874, and married Hazel Davis, now making his home in Poland township.  They have three children:  Clarence Kenneth, Ruby Hortense and Osman Boyd.  Humphrey born in Black Hawk county, December 8, 1876, was married July 7, 190, to Tura A. Hawk and resides in Marathon, Iowa, where he is engaged in merchandising.  Thomas G., born September 1, 1880, is attending medical college in Des Moines.  George A., born April 24, 1883, is a missionary.  He was sent out by the Methodist church and since November, 1907, has been located at Rhodesia, Africa.  James B., born May 20, 1884, is living at home.  Coral, born August 5, 1886, is now a student in Ames, Iowa.  Benjamin B., born November 13, 1888, is living at home.


In his fraternal relations Mr. Roberts is connected with Marathon Lodge, No. 417, I. O. O. F., and also belongs to James Miller Post, G. A. R., of Marathon, taking an active interest in the welfare of his old army comrades.  His political allegiance has always been given to the republican party since age conferred upon him the right of franchise.  The family hold [sic] membership in the Methodist Episcopal church.


For forty years Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Roberts have journeyed along the great highway of life together.  The path has not been one of continuous sunshine nor has it been all shadow.  They have witnessed the many changing scenes of life, have known its smiles and tears, its hopes and fears.  They have known the happiness and sweet content of dear companionship, of well appointed lives; the satisfaction of seeing their family of well trained children grow up around them and who have taken their place in the world's work.  Sometimes they have been summoned to part from some cherished one that they loved while grief sat supreme in the heart, yet they were ever sustained by an unfaltering trust in Him in whom they had believed.  One has but to look into their kindly faces to see the spirit of gentleness there and to realize that theirs is a friendship that would be ever true and which would last beyond the flight of years.  Friendship is the tie that binds the world.  While they have been blessed with much of the material wealth of earth, to their children and their children's children they will leave a more priceless heritage than all else besides—the benediction and blessing of a Christian home.  The son who has gone out from this home as a soldier of the Cross to do battle for others in far away Africa and away from friends and loved ones, bearing the message of redeeming love to the darkened minds of earth, is the product of such a home and there flows in his veins the blood that will prove the story of noble ancestry and the love and training of Christian parents.