Chasing William

The oldest son

Until this week, we didn’t know a whole lot about William M. Robertson, oldest son of my 2nd great grandparents, Gustavus and Isabella Robertson.

divorceWe knew he’d been born around 1847 in Mississippi.1 He was already in his 20s when his youngest brother, my great grandfather Jasper Carlton Robertson, was born; he was married with a child and living near his parents in Delta County, Texas, by 1880. 2

In 1889, he executed his last deed ever in Delta County and, in it, he and his wife Louisa Victoria said they were of Wilbarger County.3 And there the trail went cold.

We had notes from Mildred Pittman Hendrix, wife of William’s nephew Amos Dewey Hendrix, that William had had four children, three girls and a boy.4 But we couldn’t confirm it — the only one we knew of for certain was Lula Bell, the girl shown in the 1880 census. And we didn’t know what had happened to her.

Then a great grandson of William’s — a grandson of Lula Belle — took the AncestryDNA test. We’ve been in touch with him since the results came in, but he didn’t know of any siblings for Lula and had only heard stories that William died and Louisa Victoria remarried a man named Miller. He didn’t know her maiden name.

Then in June, another Robertson cousin, George Lowe, came to visit and offered up a packet of notes from our cousin Dorothy, whose grandmother was Fannie Boone Robertson Stroud Harrison, a sister to William, to George’s great grandfather George Galloway Robertson and to our Jasper Carlton Robertson.5

Those notes placed William in Hall County in the early 1890s, and we were off on the hunt again.

We found that, in the summer of 1889, he reportedly lived with his family in “a dugout in the side of a bluff near Parker Creek.” His home in Memphis, Hall County, was supposed to have been built in the winter of 1889-1890.6

His wife, Louisa Victoria Robertson, was allegedly in on a plot in 1890 to stop a train in Memphis to try to convince railroad officials to locate a depot there.7 And William was the postmaster at Memphis from 12 September 1890 to 7 November 1893.8

And then, it seemed, he disappeared again from the face of the earth. That’s when Louisa Victoria reportedly married a John Miller, who ran a saloon at Memphis.9

Time to get off the Internet. But no time for a road trip to Texas.10

Thank heavens for good solid researchers.

Lynn Parent got the Texas General Land Office records of William’s (and Gustavus’ and Jasper’s) land grants in Hall County for us. We hadn’t had a clue that Gustavus and Jasper had also been in Hall County in the early 1890s.

And just this week Kelvin Meyers hit the jackpot for us with boots on the ground in Hall County.

William didn’t die in Hall County. He and Louisa Victoria divorced there, in 1891. The original divorce file — gone. But oh are we ever grateful to the meticulous clerk who noted in the court minutes of 17 November 1891 that the divorce had been granted, at William’s request.

Because it also, so meticulously, noted that he had been granted custody of — count ‘em — four children. “Lula Bell, age 13 years, Louisa Isabella, age 11 years, Fannie May, age 7 years, Girl, and Willie Gustavus, boy age 9 years.”11

We’ve found Willie (William Gustavus Robertson, died in New Mexico in 193812) and Fannie (Fannie May Robertson Bryan, died in Oklahoma in 195913 … but we’re still looking for Louisa Isabella…

… and for William himself, who remarried again and was living in Waco in 189514 and the new wife Tommie who shows up as Mrs. Tommie Robertson but unmarried (“a feme sole”) living in Crockett, Houston County, Texas, by 189815 and…

The hunt goes on…


  1. See 1850 U.S. census, Winston County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 373(A) (stamped), dwelling 809, family 816, William “Robinson”; digital image, ( : accessed 30 Aug 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 382.
  2. 1880 U.S. census, Delta County, Texas, Precinct 3, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 20, p. 501(B) (stamped), dwelling 108, family 109, person; digital image, ( : accessed 30 Aug 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1300; imaged from FHL microfilm 1255300.
  3. Delta County, Texas, Deed Book N: 139, Robertson to Hargrove, 12 Jan 1889; County Clerk’s Office, Cooper.
  4. Notes of Mildred Pittman Hendrix, in the possession of Mary Ann Hendrix Thurmond.
  5. See 1870 U.S. census, Lamar County, TX, population schedule, Paris Post Office, p. 253(B) (stamped), dwelling 307, family 307, William, George G. and Fanney B. Robertson in “Gustavis” B. Robertson household; digital image, ( : accessed 9 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 1594. See also 1880 U.S. census, Delta Co., Tex., Pct. 3, ED 20, p. 502(D) (stamped), dwell. 117, fam. 118, Fannie B. and Jasper “Robetson” in Gustavus “Robetson” household.
  6. Inez Baker, Yesterday in Hall County, Texas (Memphis, Tex. : p.p., 1940), 46; digital images, ( : accessed 30 Aug 2013).
  7. Ibid., 47.
  8. “U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971,” entry for Wm. M. Robertson, Memphis, Texas, vol. 71A: 369; database and images, ( : accessed 30 Aug 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication M841, roll 123.
  9. Baker, Yesterday in Hall County, Texas, 187.
  10. And, truth be told, patience is not my strong suit, and I just couldn’t wait until I might have time for that road trip!
  11. Hall County, Texas, District Court Minute Book 1: 50-51, Robertson v. Robertson, case. no. 20, 17 Nov 1891; County Clerk’s Office, Memphis.
  12. Mountain View Cemetery, Hidalgo County, New Mexico, memorial for William Gustavus Robertson; database, Find A Grave ( : accessed 30 Aug 2013).
  13. “75-Year-Old’s Rutes Monday,” obituary, The Daily Oklahoman, 12 Jul 1959; uploaded to 12 Mar 2010 by user chrisdjohnson ( : accessed 30 Aug 2013).
  14. See Hall County Deed Record Book 7: 305, Release pf Wm M and Tommie Robertson, 2 May 1895; County Recorder’s Office, Memphis.
  15. Hall County Deed Record Book 8: 544, Release of Mrs. Tommie Robertson, 3 May 1898.
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8 Responses to Chasing William

  1. Jeanette Hopkins says:

    Isn’t it “funny” how an answer created two new questions?

  2. My aunt, Nelle Weldon Sandel Booth, told me the story of trying to stop the train at Memphis, Tx. by greasing the track,and said the Post Office there used to have a mural in it depicting the episode. I went there in the 70′s but found nothing about it in the library. Lula Belle was my grandmother and I lived a short time with her in El Paso, TX. about 1943 when she was married to her 2nd husband, Fred Gilman, who had emigrated here from England. I thank Judy Russell for making me aware of other children of William and Louisa as I thought my grandmother was the only child. I recently went to Lordsburg,NM and found the unmarked grave of William G. Robertson,Lula Belle’s younger brother.

  3. Michael Robertson says:

    I was more than a little curious when you opened this thread with, “William M. Robertson, oldest son of my 2nd great grandparents, Gustavus and Isabella Robertson”. Considering that Gustavus’ father was also William M. Robertson.

    From what I read in the history above, these seemed to be very poor folks that were living hand to mouth. It’s no wonder we don’t have more information about William Sr. Someday perhaps.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I’m sure this William was named for his paternal grandfather, Michael. It’s a typical Scots-Irish naming pattern, especially when you consider that the second son was at least in part named after his maternal grandfather. But I’m not so sure these were poor folks. William M. the elder owned a hat shop and at least one slave in Lowndes County, bought land in Winston County, etc. We’d be a lot further along chasing this dude if (a) his parents had given him a first name like Zephaniah :) and (b) so many of the area courthouses hadn’t burned.

  4. Rondina says:

    I’d be interested to know if there were any divorce files that old in Hall County at all. Generally, only the court proceeding were noted. I’ve found supporting evidence in deeds that show property division between man and wife. Older county court records that I have viewed in Texas were cryptic. One major murder trial contained jury lists and sheriffs returns which supported what the daily newspaper accounts stated. Out of 75 pages, only the last three had an appeal judgement written by the appellate court judge included. Not even the original judgement was included.

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