California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
J. W. ROBERTS, of San Bernardino, was one of the prominent men of the city who had won success in the east before coming to California and from the first he occupied a prominent place in the community he chose for a home. Perhaps in no way was Mr. Roberts more closely identified with the city than through his banking interests, for he was a financier second to none. It made him an outstanding figure in the financial world and he was often the court of last appeal on many matters relating to the mercantile, commercial and general business life of San Bernardino. No technicalities seemed too perplexing for him to solve when they related to banking interests and he always dominated the situation, and always he was a power to be reckoned with.
Yet with all his financial ability he was built on a large plan, broad in his views, wide in his charities, a kind neighbor and a loyal friend. With his passing San Bernardino lost one of its most useful citizens.
Mr. Roberts was born in North Wales, July 22, 1835, and came to America with his parents in 1841, the family settling on a farm in Lewis County, New York. He received the usual education available for boys on the farms at that time and in 1854 started out to make his own way in life, going west and settling in Columbia County, Wisconsin. He began in the general merchandising business and acted as express agent. It was not long before he made his office a general exchange and banking institution for the entire country around him although he was a very young man. Later he decided to go into the flour milling business and he sold out all his interests in Columbia County and purchased an interest in the Danville Flour Mills. He went to Philadelphia and was associated with the firm of H. H. Mears & Co. They handled flour and grain and Mr. Roberts built up a very large lucrative business, shipping products to all important American points and to many European points.
In 1873 Mr. Roberts disposed of his interests to some extent and went into partnership with J. A. Steele and for eighteen years they carried on a large wholesale flour business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Being now an independently wealthy man Mr. Roberts decided to locate in California, and sold out most of his eastern business.
In 1892 he assumed the presidency of the First National Bank of Colton and took over the reins of government of the San Bernardino National Bank, buying a large interest and becoming its president. In this position he not only built-up the bank but made its standing and business impregnable. It was, when he passed away, one of the solid and representative institutions of the South as it is today.
Mr. Roberts was married to Eliza Williams of Cambria, Wisconsin, a native of Wales, in 1860. They were the parents of two children, Mrs. J. W. Davis of Colton, California, and Edward David Roberts, who so successfully carried on his father's interests in the banking world. His wife died in 1867 and Mr. Roberts married again, Winnifred Evans, a native of New York. They had two children also, Walter and Richard. Mr. Roberts died on January 19, 1903.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011