JOHN TROY ROBERTS. The Roberts Business College, of Bowie, and its branches in the Territory, constitutes one of the coming commercial schools of the Red river country, and its founding marks an event in the life of its president and owner, the subject of this review. For more than twenty years engaged almost continuously in educational work in the Lone Star state, from country school to high school, college, and finally the founder of a series of commercial schools, Professor Roberts has been and is a leading factor in the practical education of the Texas youth.
Soon after his birth, August 9, 1861, Professor Roberts’ parents migrated from Claybourn parish, Louisiana, to Jasper county, Texas, where his father, Captain W. T. Roberts, became a merchant and planter in and near the town of Jasper. The father came step by step across the south from his birthplace in North Carolina, and lived in Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana, in Minden, of which latter state he carried on mercantile pursuits for some years. He was born in 1817, which service he declined a pension to his death—and in the Civil war commanded a company in Walker’s Division in the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederate government. He was successful in business, spent many years in active mercantile and agricultural pursuits subsequent to the war, and retired to private life at Holman. He was an unswerving Democrat and was a Royal Arch Mason.
In the state of North Carolina Captain Roberts married Miss Sarah Griffith, who died at Hempstead, Texas, at the age of forty-eight years. The issues of their union were: Walter T., of Wymar, Texas; Mrs. R. F. Sellers, of Gonzales; Mrs. G. W. Lewis, of Uvalde, and John T., of this sketch.
Pecan Creek Academy, a private institution in Fayette county, Texas, furnished Professor Roberts his intermediate education and the A. and M. College equipped him with higher learning. As a climax to his student career he took a civil law course in an institution at Floyd, Mississippi, especially fitting him for the special work of education which he was destined to take up. He began his work as a teacher in the rural schools of Montague county, and in 1888 became superintendent of the Bowie public schools. He had charge of this important work for five years and went to Decatur as president of the Baptist college there for one year. From Decatur he went to St. Jo, Texas, where he took charge of the public schools and conducted them most efficiently for four years. Relinquishing his work there he returned to Bowie and established a literary school for high-grade work in January, 1901, the curriculum of which was modified in the direction of commercial school work, and after the first year the whole course was shifted and swallowed up in a business college course and the Roberts Business College was born.
The institution of which Professor Robert is president and with which his future life is destined to be associated was chartered in 1904 as the Roberts Business College Company, capitalized at $20,000, and under it Texas charter he hold the office of chief executive and his daughter, Minnie L. Roberts, is the secretary. All the stock of the company is held in the family and the future outlook for the institution gives promise of a most healthy condition for the company. March 4, 1904, the Chickasaw branch of the institution was established, which now enrolls eighty pupils, and February 6, 1905, the Shawnee branch was founded, with the phenomenal enrollment, in less than six weeks, of forty-three students. The schools are established and maintained for both sexes, and its graduates are taking their places among the world’s clerical force out of every class. The parents school at Bowie has an enrollment of one hundred and forty students, and the process continually going on of making business men and women for the future is a busy and interesting one.
March 17, 1886, Professor Roberts married, in Bowie, Miss M. C. McDonald, a daughter of Cash McDonald, who brought his family to Texas from Missouri in 1859. This union has been productive of the following children, viz: Cash, a student in the institution for the blind at Austin; Minnie L., secretary of the college and teacher of shorthand; Edna, Grover, Lucile, Lulu and Nellie, completing the family.
Professor Roberts has taken much interest in the work of the leading fraternities, being past high priest of St. Jo Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, a member of Godfrey Commandery of Knight Templars, a Shriner of Hella Temple, past chancellor Raleigh Lodge, Knights of Pythias, and is past grand of Bowie Lodge of I. O. O. F. He has represented the Pythian Knights in the State Grand Lodge and is a leading member of the Missionary Baptist congregation in Bowie.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 32-33.