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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 796~


Lucius C. Roberts


As a farmer, stock-raiser and citizen, Lucius C. Roberts has ranked for a number of years among the leading men of Fayette county and occupies a place in the public eye second to that of none of his contemporaries. Few residents of his community have been so actively identified with its development and progress and no other has so indelibly impressed his personality upon the township in which he lives or exercised a stronger influence in directing and controlling the interests of the same. Mr. Roberts is the scion of an old and distinguished family which figured in the history of the colonial period, and in the struggle for independence more than one of its representatives bore arms for the American cause and gained honorable mention for gallant and meritorious service.


Ephraim M. Roberts, the subject’s father, was the eldest son of Lucius Q. C. Roberts, of near Charleston, South Carolina. His great-great-grandfather, Col. Owen Roberts, who served in the war of the Revolution as colonel of the Fourth South Carolina Artillery, was killed at the battle of Stone River, South Carolina, in defending the harbor from eight ships. Richard Brooks Roberts, son of Owen and father of Lucius Brooks Roberts, was an officer in the Revolutionary war and bore a gallant part in a number of campaigns and battles.


Three of Ephraim’s brothers became distinguished professional men, viz: Dr. W. B.; Col. E. A. L. and Dr. Charles H. Roberts, late of Lloyd, Ulster county, New York. All achieved prominence in the practice of dentistry and the annals of that profession abound with frequent references to the advancement made in the practice by the ability of these men. Many instruments and appliances were invented by them, among which may be noted the dental furnace and vulcanizer, now in universal use. E. A. L. Roberts entered the Union army at the beginning of the late Civil war as lieutenant-colonel of the Twenty-ninth New York Infantry, and later was made captain of a company in the Eighty-fourth New York, in both of which capacities he rendered efficient service and gained high repute as a brave and fearless officer. He was the inventor of a Maine torpedo, much used by the government, and also invented a torpedo to be exploded in oil wells. In 1865 he went to Titusville, Pennsylvania, with the latter, to test it in a well that had almost ceased flowing, but it was a long time before the owner would permit the test to be made. When he finally gave his consent the results were such as to cause a great demand for the torpedo and but a few months had elapsed until it was in general use as a necessary adjunct to oil production. With this, as with many other inventions, various parties contested Mr. Roberts’s claim for his patents, thus leading to long and expensive litigation, but in every instance the decisions of the courts were in his favor. Both he and Dr. W. B. Roberts became interested in the Titusville oil field and in due time amassed a fortune at the business.


Charles H. Roberts from 1856 to 1858 invested very largely in Fayette county (Iowa) lands, using land warrants given to his grandfather for services during the war of the Revolution. In this way he secured about thirty-six thousand acres, principally in the townships of Bethel, Banks, Westfield and Center, paying fifty cents per acre for land which in the early seventies brought from ten to fourteen dollars per acres, but which could not now be purchased for many times the latter sum. With money thus derived, he purchased stock in the North Carolina railroad, of which he afterwards became president, and thenceforth he devoted his attention mainly to railroad development and management. He invested largely in railroad securities and in due time amassed great wealth, his fortune at the time of his death being conservatively estimated at many millions of dollars. This enterprising and eminently successful business man died at his home in Lloyd, New York, in his eighty-ninth year. For twenty years he spent considerable of his time in Fayette county and while here became widely and favorably known throughout the state, such men as Joseph Hobson and Governor Larrabee being among his close personal friends.


In his will Charles H. Roberts made provision for the children of his brother Ephraim, railroad bonds exceeding the sum of fifty thousand dollars being converted to their use. In 1857 Ephraim Roberts removed to Iowa and, settling on a part of the above land in Bethel township, proceeded to develop and otherwise improve the large farm, to which he devoted most of his subsequent life. He married, in his native state of New York, Julia Seeley, a native of Vermont, after whose death he took a second wife and companion in the person of Polly Faulkner, who accompanied him to Iowa and departed this life in Fayette county some years ago. Mr. Roberts died in Waucoma in April, 1890, at the age of seventy-four. The following are the names of the children of Ephraim Roberts: Lucius C., of this review; Jennie, who married a Mr. Chamberlin and lives in New York; Charles H., of Hawkeye; Morris M., of Mason City, this state; Ephraim L., a farmer of Fayette county; Owen M., of Falkton, South Dakota; Catherine, wife of J. M. Wetherbee, of West Union; Louisa married William Speicher and died at the age of forty-six; Mary, wife of Jerry Flaherty, of Hawkeye; Clara, now Mrs. Emmerson Thompson, of Sioux City, and Amelia, who married Walter Haverstrete and lives at Lovell, Oklahoma.


Lucius C. Roberts, to a brief review of whom the remainder of this sketch is devoted, was born at the family home in St. Lawrence county, new York, on the first day of April , 1849. In 1857 he was brought to Iowa by his parents and from that time until his fifteenth year lived at home and assisted in the work of the farm, attending the public schools at intervals the meanwhile. Actuated by a desire to see something of the world and mingle in the affairs of men, he severed home ties when a lad of fifteen, joining, in 1864, a company of stockmen who were going to Wisconsin to buy oxen for the government. He assisted in driving one hundred and sixty head from that state to Idaho and on arriving at his destination met Col. W. F. Cody (“Buffalo Bill”), at that time a scout accompanying the United States troops, who, being pleased with the youth, invited him to join his squad of scouts. Accepting the invitation, young Roberts during the eighteen months ensuing was one of Cody’s most valuable and trusted men, and while thus engaged he passed through many thrilling experiences and met with not a few adventures, which if properly narrated would prove very interesting reading. The Indians at that time were not friendly to the government and sought by every means within the power to annoy the whites, especially the scouts, for whom they had great enmity, also a wholesome fear. On one occasion Mr. Roberts was one of thirty scouts who recaptured four hundred stolen horses from a camp of hostiles, as well as liberated three white women who had been held captive for some time and who had begun to despair of being released. For his services while a scout Mr. Roberts was paid thirty dollars per month and at the expiration of the period indicated he reluctantly severed his connection with the squad and its beloved leader and, returning home, engaged in farming and tock raising.


Receiving in 1882 a liberal legacy from his uncle, Dr. W. B. Roberts, Mr. Roberts purchased his present fine farm of two hundred and forty acres on Green creek, Eden township, and on this he has lived and prospered, making many substantial improvement, until his place is now one of the finest and most valuable stock and general purpose farms in the county. While raising abundant crops of all the grains, vegetables, etc., grown in this part of Iowa, he devotes the greater part of his attention to his live stock interests, making a specialty of Polled Angus cattle, being the first man to introduce this superior breed of animals to Eden township in the year 1887. For five years he served as commission stock dealer in Sioux City and other sections of western Iowa, and in this capacity he became widely known to stock men throughout the entire state. Mr. Roberts votes with the Republican party on state and national issues, but in local affairs is what may be termed an independent. He keeps well versed on the questions before the people and is abreast of the times on all matters of public interest, being a reader, a close observer and an independent thinker whose opinions carry weight and command respect.


In the year 1880 Mr. Roberts contracted a matrimonial alliance with Frances Holders, of Chickasaw county, Iowa, the ceremony being solemnized April 7th of that year. The following are the children born to the union: Almira, wife of William Royster, of Ft. Dodge; Walter, a druggist of Waucoma; George, who lives on the family homestead; Jennie, Emma and Elnora, the last three still with their parents. Thus only too briefly have been set forth the leading facts in the life of one of Fayette county’s enterprising and successful men. He has mingled much with the world and his career throughout has been above reproach. In his social relations, he is a genial companionable gentleman, his domestic habits being strong and his home the center of a generous hospitality. There, surrounded by his family and friends, he enjoys the repose which comes from a cordial exchange of kindly deeds with those near him, without which life would be divested of many of its charms. Actuated by a high sense of honor in his relations with his fellow citizens, he has tried to realize his ideal of manly living and, being still in the prime of his powers, the future awaits him with the promise of continued usefulness.


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