William Robertson biography

WILLIAM ROBERTSON, one of the early settlers of Montague county, is familiar with the history of this section of the state from pioneer times down to the present, living here when there were many unfavorable conditions because of the hostility of the Indians and their many depredations, together with all the hardships and trials which are to be borne in a sparsely settled region. As the years have gone by he has watched with interest the changes that have been wrought and has borne his full share in the work of improvement.

Mr. Robertson was born in Fulton county, Illinois, September 17, 1845. His father, Alexander T. Robertson, was a native of Virginia and a son of William Robertson, also born in the Old Dominion. Alexander Robertson, the great-grandfather of our subject, emigrated from Scotland to the new world and became a resident of Virginia, where he died after rearing his family. Alexander Robertson, the father of our subject, spent the days of his boyhood and youth in the state of his nativity and when a young man went to Illinois in 1843. There he engaged in teaching school. In 1844 he married Miss Elizabeth Hopkins, who was born in Ohio, a daughter of Jarrett B. Hopkins, who was a practicing physician of the Buckeye State and afterward removed to Illinois, where he continued in active practice of medicine and surgery for many years or until he put aside professional care in old age. He died in Astoria, Illinois, and in that community was highly respected. He belonged to the Masonic fraternity and in his religious faith was a Methodist. His children were: Lemuel,who emigrated to Texas at an early day, remaining there for one year, during which time he improved a small farm, but then sold the property and returned to Illinois, where his death occurred; Jane; Julia; and Elizabeth, the wife of Alexander Robertson. The young couple began their domestic life in Illinois and not long after this Mr. Robertson became county surveyor, which office he filled for ten years. He was also justice of the peace and discharged every duty that developed upon him in a competent and faithful manner. A fine mathematician and civil engineer, he was elected county surveyor of Collin county, Texas, after his removal to this state in 1854. He purchased land there and improved a farm and he also discharged the duties of county surveyor and did civil engineering in the county. In the early days of his residence in this state he likewise engaged in teaching school and during the period of the Civil war he served as county judge. During the reconstruction period he retired from that office, but later was elected justice of the peace. His attention was then given to surveying, which he followed for a number of years. After the death of his wife, his family becoming scattered and the home thus broken up, he went to Ardmore, Indian Territory, where three of his sons resided and with them found a good home, his death there occurring in 1891, when he had reached the ripe old age of seventy-six years. He was faithful to his professions as a member of the Methodist church and was also a valued representative of the Masonic fraternity and Independent Order of Odd Fellows. In his life record he displayed many excellent traits of character, combining with his reliability and activity in business a charitable disposition, kindly spirit and social nature that made him the friend of the poor and needy and gained him the warm regard of all with whom he came in contact. His wife was also a devoted member of the United Methodist church. Unto this worthy couple were born eight children: William; Margaret, the wife of R. Cutts; Samuel O., of Dallas, Texas; Hiram, who died in the Indian Territory; Mary E., the wife of James Renneau; Alexander T., a merchant of Collin county; Samuel H., a business man of Ardmore, Indian Territory; and Elizabeth, who became Mrs. Simmons, and after losing her first husband married F. Renneau.

William Robertson accompanied his parents on their removal to Texas and was reared to manhood in Collin county, remaining under the parental roof until 18 64, when he entered the Confederate service in the Twenty-ninth Texas Cavalry under command of Colonel DeMoss. With the Trans-Mississippi department he served in Arkansas, Indian Territory, Louisiana and Texas. He did much scouting in the territory and took part in a number of hotly contested skirmishes and battles in the vicinity of Fort Smith. He was at Hempstead, Texas, when General Lee surrendered and there the command disbanded and he returned home. Although always on active duty he was never wounded nor taken prisoner.

Following the close of his military experience Mr. Robertson resumed farming, in which he continued until the time of his marriage in 1869, the lady of his choice being Miss Elizabeth Little, who was born in Washington county, Arkansas, April 10, 1849, a daughter of John D. and Parmelia (Bounds) Little, both native of Missouri, the former born in 1822 and the latter in 1828. They were reared, however, in Arkansas, where their parents located at an early day, and in that state were married. Mrs. Little was a daughter of William Bounds, of Tennessee, who spent his youth in Missouri and afterward went to Arkansas, where he remained twenty-nine years, and then came to Texas in 1858. He was not long permitted to enjoy his new home, however, for he died here January 28, 1859. John D. Little was a blacksmith and followed that trade in connection with farming until 1850, when, attracted by the discovery of gold, he went to California. His health became impaired there, however, and he returned home, where he died in January, 1853. He left a widow and one child, now Mrs. Robertson. In 1854 Mrs. Little and her daughter came to Texas with her brother, residing with him in Collin county until 1855. In that year Mrs. Little gave her hand in marriage to W. E. Brown, of Virginia, a farmer by occupation. He was active and influential in community affairs, served as justice of the peace for a number of years with credit to himself and satisfaction to his constituents, and was a member of the Methodist church. In 1876 he removed to Montague county, where he followed farming until his death, November 7, 1885. He was captain of a company in the Confederate army and was wounded at the battle of Perryville, Arkansas. He also took part in the engagements at Elkhorn, Pea Ridge and other hotly contested battles. His widow yet survives him and now finds a good home with her daughter, Mrs. Robertson, in Montague county. By her second marriage she had but one child, Samuel K. Brown, who is now in Oklahoma.

Mr. and Mrs. Robertson began their domestic life upon a farm which he purchased, but later he sold that property and bought another tract of land near Pilot Point, while subsequently he engaged in the grocery business at the point, continuing successfully in the trade until 1876 when he closed out and came to Montague county, purchasing land in Willowally valley. It was a timbered country and he erected a cabin and began the development of a farm. There were but few settlers in this part of the country and little farming was being done. Wild game of all kinds was plentiful and there were many wild beasts roaming through the forests and over the prairie. The difficulties and hardships of pioneer life were to be met and with resolute courage Mr. and Mrs. Robertson faced these conditions in order to make a home. He first purchased an improved farm, while still later he bought where he now resides. He yet owns all three farms and has together two hundred and fifty acres of land under cultivation. This land he rents and it brings to him a good income.

In an early day for the transaction of legal business in this part of the county he was appointed notary public and served for a number of years. He was also elected justice of the peace, acting in that capacity for many years, and during his service he conducted seventy-six criminal cases, fearlessly rendering his decisions in accordance with the law and the evidence. In 1893 with a partner he engaged in the jewelry and stationery business at Gainesville, continuing for two years, and in connection with his brother he conducted a grocery, saddlery and harness business at Ardmore, Indian Territory, for three years. He now give his supervision to his invested interests and business affairs. In early days he was a fine penman and taught writing school at many places throughout this country. Among his pupils are numbered many bankers, merchants and professional men now prominent in public life. In those early days a goose quill was used and Mr. Robertson became an expert pen maker, whereby he became known by the sobriquet of “goose quill” Robertson.

In his political views Mr. Robertson has always been a stanch Democrat, using his influence for the party, and has done much for its success in his home locality. For many years he has been correspondent to papers and magazines and is a well-known writer. He belongs to the Methodist church, in which he has served for many years as trustee, and is still filling the position. He is also a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which he has held all of the offices, and is a member of the Good Templars, Farmers’ Alliance and Farmers’ Union. He is deeply interested in all that pertains to the agricultural progress and development of the state and through many years has been an interested witness of the changes that have occurred as the work of improvement has been carried forward in the section of Texas.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 686-688.