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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The ranks of the pioneers have fast thinned out in recent years. The number of men having a clear remembrance of the features which distinguished the coast country in the early '50s is lessening faster and faster with each passing twelvemonth. Capt. John H. Eoberts, who died at his residence, No. 717 N street, Sacramento, February 15, 1909, was among the brave and resolute travelers who made the journey with a company of emigrants which was outfitted for the overland trip at Chicago, Ill., which was then only a village comparatively. His labors in the mines not bringing him the results for which he had hoped, he turned his attention to flat boating on the river, a business which grew with passing years till in 1866 it was organized as the Sacramento Transportation Company, with a capital stock of $40,000 and with officers as follows: Capt. John H. Roberts, president; W. E. George, secretary; P. J. Harney, general manager, and H. K. Johnson, agent.

In Michigan, in the city of Detroit, Captain Roberts was born February 22, 1832, a son of John T. and Margaret (Williams) Roberts; In the midst of a venturesome youth, at the time when the California gold fever was at its height, it is not surprising that he became one of its victims. Going to Chicago, he there joined the outfit referred to, which set out in due time with ox and horse teams. The journey was long and tiresome, filled with thrilling experiences, but it does not appear that any one of the party failed to reach his destination by reason of sickness, death or accident. After his indifferent venture as a miner and some valuable experience in flat-boating. Captain Roberts engaged in cutting and hauling lumber and logs to a mill, and for several years disposed of his entire product to the firm of Bacon & Lawler. To that humble beginning he traced the rise of his later considerable fortune, as at that time, owing to the unprecedented growth of his river transportation enterprise, he was led to organize a company to handle all kinds of freight. Since its formation in 1866 until the present time, the Sacramento Transportation Com- pany has been an important factor in the upbuilding of Sacramento, and it has likewise benefited towns all along the river, its boats running as far north as Red Bluff. Aside from his interest in this con- cern, Captain Roberts owned some of the best gold mines in the state down to the day of his death. Fraternally, he was a Mason of the Knight Templar degree, and Mrs. Roberts is a member of Colum- bus Chapter, 0. E. S., of Sacramento, also a charter member and past president of Fair Oaks, W. R. C.

In San Francisco, in 1869, Captain Roberts married Miss Minerva Haskell Walrath, who was born in New York, a daughter of James and Esther (Oliphant) Walrath, also natives of New York. Mrs. Roberts came to California with her uncle, Austin H. Walrath. Soon after their marriage, Captain and Mrs. Roberts established their residence at No. 717 N street, where the family home has been maintained to the present time.

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011