Lewis Roberson was born a slave in Virginia about 1797. Nothing is known of his early life, but by 1837, he was living in Bedford County, Tennessee. There, on September 4, 1837, he was freed by his owner, Abel Landers. In accordance with Tennessee law, which forbade residence by free Blacks, Roberson was required to leave the state as a condition of manumission.
At the time he gained his freedom, Roberson had a wife and two children, also slaves owned by Landers. Apparently, his legal emancipation was timed to coincide with a planned move to Missouri by Landers. At any rate, Landers, Roberson and their respective families shortly showed up there.
According to Goodspeed's 1888 History of Barry County (reprint), page 48, "[i]n January, 1838, a free negro boy named Louis was granted license for citizenship [by the county court], the bond being placed at $500." Since Roberson bought his wife Tempy from Landers in Barry County only a year later, it seems likely that this was the same Lewis. Tempy Bill of Sale.
Over the next several years, Landers bought substantial tracts of land in Sections 9, 10 and 15 of Township 25 North, Range 29 West, which became part of Newton County when it was split off from Barry County in early 1839. This land lay in the fertile bottoms along Shoal and Capps Creeks three to four miles east of Newtonia and a mile to two miles west of the future site of Jollification. In October, 1840, Landers sold 40 acres in Section 9 to Roberson, who shortly thereafter bought another 40 acres in the same section directly from the government. Roberson Land Patent. (This image is from the General Land Office website, GLO Land Patents. Details and images for all of the land patents mentioned below may be found at this site.)
On January 9, 1844, Roberson sold this 80 acres of land to William Shipman, Abel Landers' brother-in-law, for $200. The same day, he bought his son Gilbert from Landers for $230 in cash and a $100 promissory note. Two years earlier, Roberson had bought his daughter Sarah from Landers. With the puchase of Gilbert, therefore, he and his family were finally free. In 1847, Lewis formally emancipated his children in the circuit court of Newton County, but no record has been found where he emancipated his wife Tempy.
Overall, in the years 1839 to 1844, Lewis Roberson paid Landers $1030 to free his family. According to an inflation calculator, this is roughly the equivalent of $17,000 today. Since the local economy at the time was very primitive and hardly a cash economy, it seems likely some or all of the price was paid in labor.
In 1840, the Robersons bought two small town lots in Neosho, but whether they lived there or in the Capps Creek area is unknown. By the 1850 census, they were living in McDonald County, where they purchased several tracts of land from the government beginning about 1847. By the 1860 census, they had apparently moved again and have not yet been located elsewhere.
Here is a summary of local records relating to the Robersons. The slave documents have been transcribed here: Slave Documents, Lewis Roberson Family.
Manumission of Lewis Roberson. 4 September 1837. Abel Landers emancipates a colored man named Lewis, age about 40 and crippled in his hip. Emancipation granted by the Bedford County, TN court on condition that Lewis move from the state. Recorded in Newton County, MO 5/10/1841. Newton County MO Deed Records A93.
Sale of Tempy Roberson. 14 January 1839. Abel Landers sells Negro woman named Tempy to Lewis Roberson. Bill of Sale quotes price of $450 and recites that she is Roberson's wife. Executed in Barry County MO, acknowledged and filed for record in Newton County on 6/21/1841. Newton County Deeds A97.
1840 Newton County Census. The household of Lewis Robertson (sic) is listed on page 244 of the 1840 Newton County census immediately following the household of Abel Landers. It does not show any free colored persons, but shows 2 free white males age 30-40, a male slave age 36-55, a female slave age 24-36 and a female slave under age 10. The Landers household shows a male slave under age 10 and a female slave under age 10.
Commissioner's Deed. March 23-25, 1840. At a sale of town lots in Neosho, Lewis Roberson bought Lot 8, Block 4 and Lot 3, Block 5. The Commissioner's Deed for these lots was finally issued 5/14/1847 and recorded 8/23/1847. Newton County Deeds A563.
Warranty Deed. 26 October 1840. Abel Landers to Lewis Roberson for $50.00. SESW (40 acres by metes & bounds) Section 9-T25N-R29W. Landers bought this land directly from the government for the same price. Recorded 5/10/1841. Newton County Deeds A92.
Land Patent. About 1841. Patent issued 5/1/1845 in the name Lewis Robertson. SESE, Section 9-T25N-R29W, Newton County MO. Purchase price would have been $50.00 ($1.25/acre). There was frequently a lag of three to four years between the time land was purchased from the government and the time a patent was issued. In the preceding entry for example, Landers had bought the land and sold it to Roberson by October, 1840, but the patent itself wasn't issued until 9/10/1844.
Sale of Sarah Roberson. 28 February 1842. Abel Landers sells a 5 1/2 year old Negro girl named Sarah to Lewis Roberson for $250.00 in promissory notes, $150 due December 25, 1842 and $100 due April 1, 1843. Bill of Sale recorded 6/14/1856. Newton County Deeds D124.
Warranty Deed. 9 January 1844. Lewis & Tempy Roberson of Newton County MO to William Shipman for $200.00. SESW & SESE, section 9-T25N-R29W. Recorded 8/20/1849. Newton County Deeds B300.
Sale of Gilbert Roberson. 9 January 1844. Abel Landers sells an 11 year old Negro boy named Gilbert to Lewis Roberson. The sale bill is ambiguous, but I read it to say that the purchase prices was $330, paid $230 in cash and $100 by promissory note. It could also be read to say that the purchase price was $430, paid $330 in cash and $100 by promissory note. Bill of sale recorded 6/14/1856. Newton County Deeds D124.
Land Patent. About 1846/7. Patent issued 1/1/1850. E/2 Lot1NE (40 acres), Section 3-T22N-R34W, McDonald County MO. Purchase price would have been $50.00.
Land Patent. About 1846/7. Patent issued 12/16/1850 in the name Louis Roberson. W/2 Lot1NW (40 acres), Section 2-T22N-R34W, McDonald County MO. Purchase price would have been $50.00.
Manumission of Sarah & Gilbert. 5/5/1847. Lewis Roberson emancipates Sarah & Gilbert before the Circuit Court of Newton County. Recorded 6/14/1856. Newton County Deeds D125.
Land Patent. About 1848/9. Patent issued 7/1/1852. W/2 Lot1NE (40 acres), Section 3-T22N-R34W, McDonald County MO. Purchase price would have been $50.00.
1850 McDonald County Census. Sometime before 1850, the Roberson family moved to McDonald County. Under the name Robertson, they are listed as Dwelling 265, Family 265, on Page 111B, in District #53, enumerated 10/23/1850:
Robertson's real estate is valued at $400.00.
Warranty Deed. 7/7/1852. Lewis & Tempy Robison (sic) of McDonald County MO to Stephen D. Sutton for $14.50. Recorded 1/22/1853. Lot 8, Block 4 Neosho. Newton County Deeds C141.
Warranty Deed. 1/22/1853. Lewis & Tempy Robison (sic) of McDonald County MO to Stephen D. Sutton for $10.00. Recorded 1/22/1853. Lot 3, Block 5 Neosho. Newton County Deeds C145.
Land Patent. About 1853/4. Patent issued 5/15/1857 in the name Lewis Robertson. NENW (40 acres), Section 10-T22N-R34W, McDonald County MO. Purchase price would have been $50.00.
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