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A life cut short

Paris is a special place, at least to The Legal Genealogist‘s family.

No, not that Paris.

Not Paris, France.

Paris, Lamar County, Texas.

A small charming town with a lovely town square, sidewalks that get rolled up at 5 p.m., and the courthouse with all those lovely family records in it.

Paul.Robertson2The first evidence of Robertson ancestors in Texas… a note signed by my second great grandfather Gustavus Boone Robertson pledging his entire 1868 cotton crop in return for a loan of $642.00 in cash.1

The first family marriage in Texas, of daughter Mattie “Robinson” to L. D. Crenshaw, in November 1871.2

And that terrible death, 71 years ago today.

His name was Paul Dwayne Robertson. If he were alive today, he would be my third cousin. We shared that Robertson set of second great grandparents — Gustavus and Isabella (Gentry) Robertson. Paul’s great grandfather was Bird Alexander Robertson, the third child and third son; mine was Jasper Carlton Robertson, the fifth son and the baby of that family of 11 children. His grandfather was Bird Albert Robertson; my grandmother was Opal Robertson.

My side of the family continued to produce prodigious numbers of offspring: my grandmother had 12 children, of whom 10 lived to adulthood; my mother raised seven children.

Paul’s father was one of five children; he himself was one of only three, bracketed on either side by a sister — one older, one younger.

The one boy. The one son. The one who might carry the family name down one more generation.

What was he like, I wonder today. Did he like school? Like to read? How did he get along with his sisters, one only about 18 months older and the other just five years younger?

Was he tall for his age or small? Thin and wiry? Still carrying a little bit of childhood chubbiness? Was he blond or dark? Blue-eyed or brown? Would his DNA have matched mine so closely that our shared heritage couldn’t be denied, or might he have been yet another of those third cousins with whom I just don’t share enough DNA to be detected as a match?

Would he have shared my deep fascination for and love of our family… or would his eyes too have rolled when the subject came up?

We will never know.

Because the one thing I do know for certain about my cousin Paul is that he took one risk too many.

On that June day, 71 years ago today, at the age of just 10 years, Paul Dwayne Robertson tried to cross a railroad bridge. He didn’t make it.

He fell, from that bridge, a distance of 12 feet to the ground. His head hit a rock. And he fractured his skull.

They managed to get Paul to Griffith Memorial Hospital in Paris. Got him under the care of the doctors there.

And it was too little, too late.

At about 1:15 p.m. on June 7, 1943, Paul Dwayne Robertson died.3 He was buried at the Restland Cemetery in Roxton, Lamar County, in a plot where, later, both his mother and his father were laid to rest.4

Would we have become friends, this cousin and I, had we met these many years later?

I wish I knew…

Rest in peace, cousin Paul.


Image: “Deaths: Robertson Funeral,” Paris (Texas) News, 8 June 1943, p.2, col.3;

  1. Lamar County, Texas, Record Book P: 507, G. B. Robertson note, 14 July 1868; County Clerk’s Office, Paris, Texas.
  2. Lamar County, Texas, marriage license and return no. 372, L D Crenshaw and Mattie Robinson, 2 Nov 1871; County Clerk’s Office, Paris.
  3. Texas Department of Health, death certificate no. 28358, Paul Robertson, 7 June 1943; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  4. Restland Cemetery (Roxton, Lamar County, Texas; West 3rd Street at Texas Road 38, Latitude 33°32’25″N, Longitude 95°43’53″W), triple marker, Paul, Birt Ray and Lennie (Hicklen) Robertson; photograph by J.G. Russell, 28 Apr 2003.
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