PROFESSOR CHARLES ROBERTSON.
A prominent and influential citizen of Carlinville, whose energies have always been devoted to educational, scholarly and literary pursuits is Professor Charles Robertson. His birth occurred here on the 12th of June, 1858, his parents being William A. and Nancy, commonly called Nannette, (Holliday) Robertson, the father a native of Virginia and the mother of Cincinnati. William A. Robertson was born in Liberty, Bedford county, Virginia, on the 27th of October, 1803, the eldest son of Dr. William Robertson, who was a practicing physician in Virginia, whence he removed to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1803. From there he went to Lexington, Kentucky, but later settled in Harrodsburg, that state, where he engaged in the practice of his profession during the remainder of his life. He married a Miss Burton and to them were born the following children: William A., the father of our subject; Archie; Robert; Mary, the wife of Lawson Moore; and Harriet, who became Mrs. Messick.
The preliminary education of William A. Robertson was obtained in the New London Academy in Virginia. Later he studied medicine with his father, following which he took a course of lectures in a medical college at Lexington, Kentucky. Subsequent to his marriage he came to Illinois, settling in Edwardsville in 1830, and from there he went to Alton, where he engaged in the practice of medicine for a time, subsequently devoting his energies to farming. In 1835 he came to Carlinville and ten years later he embarked in the general mercantile business, which he carried on for some years. He had absolute confidence in the agricultural future of the state and invested his money in land, which he sold at a good advance. The proceeds realized from the transaction were used to purchase large tracts of cheap land, that he later disposed of at a good profit, thus keeping his money in constant circulation. This proved to be very lucrative and enabled him to acquire considerable wealth. Dr. Robertson was twice married, his first union being with Miss Ellen Clark, a native of Kentucky, whom he wedded in 1829. She passed away soon after they located in Carlinville, and on the 18th of October, 1844, Dr. Robertson was united in marriage to Miss Nancy H. Holliday. Mrs. Robertson was born in the vicinity of Scottsville, Allen county, Kentucky, on the 14th of November, 1821, a daughter of the Rev. Charles and Sarah (Watkins) Holliday. Her father was educated for a Presbyterian minister but later in life he united with the Methodist denomination. He was one of the pioneer ministers of Macoupin county and was for some time located at Chesterfield, Illinois, where he and his wife passed away. They were the parents of two children, the daughter Nannette, who became Mrs. Robertson; and a son, George. Mr. Holliday had been previously married, however, and by that union there were born several children, among them being Mrs. Jane Cowden, Mrs. Alexander and Mrs. Newland. George Holliday, the son of the Rev. Charles, was at one time prominently identified with the public life of Macoupin county, being a member of the board of commissioners at the time the present courthouse was erected.
Unto Dr. and Mrs. Robertson there were born eight children, three of whom died in infancy. Those who attained maturity are as follows: Elizabeth, who was the wife of A. W. Edwards and died on the 12th of June, 1911; Ellen, the deceased wife of John Mayo Palmer; William, also deceased; Annie, the wife of Senator F. W. Burton, of Carlinville; and Charles, our subject.
Dr. Robertson withdrew from active business life in 1851, living retired from that time until his demise, which occurred in 1878, at the age of seventy-five years. He was a man of scholarly instincts and tastes and a lover of good literature. His well stored mind, fine intellect and well trained habit of thought made him a most delightful companion, as he could intelligently converse on almost any subject. Although a firm believer in the Christian philosophy and its beneficial influence upon humanity, he was too liberal in his views to be conscientiously able to conform to the tenets of any church of his period. When first granted the right of franchise he supported the whig party, but in later life he cast his ballot for such men and measures as he deemed adapted to best subserve the interest of the majority. he was one of the progressive and enterprising pioneers of the county, whose ideas and influence did much to mould the early history of the community in which he resided for so many years.
The hardships and privations of pioneer life in this section were practically over before the advent of Charles Robertson, whose boyhood and youth were passed amid the pleasant environment of a comfortable home. He entered the public schools of Carlinville at the usual age, remaining a student therein until his graduation, following which he pursued a course in Blackburn University. In 1880 he was called to the faculty of that institution, where for six years he taught botany and Greek. In the summer preceding the beginning of his duties he pursued a special course in botany at Harvard University, thus more ably qualifying himself to impart his knowledge on the subject to others. In 1888 he took a course in hymenoptera at the University of Illinois. Two years previously his alma mater had honored him by conferring upon him the degree of Master of Science. In 1897 he took the chair of biology in Blackburn University, which he retained for twelve years.
Professor Robertson has been a frequent contributor to various scientific journals, among them being The Botanical Gazette, Canadian Entomologist, Entomological News, Science, American Naturalist, and Transactions of the St. Louis academy of Science. He holds membership in the Illinois Natural History Society, Cambridge Entomological Club, Entomological Society of France, Indiana Academy of Science, Academy of Science of St. Louis, Western Society of Naturalists, Naturalists of Central States, and Botanists of Central States. he has been a very close student and observer of both flowers and insects, devoting special attention to their relations, his discoveries and observations in the latter connection having been very fully treated in his contributions to various scientific periodicals.
On the 12th of November, 1879, Professor Robertson was united in marriage to Miss Alice McDonald Venable, a native of Indiana and a daughter of James and Mary (McDonald) Venable. Her father was born in Shelbyville, Kentucky, a son of James and Elizabeth (Carver) McDonald who were the parents of six children, as follows: Samuel, John, James, Sarah, Mary and Martha. The paternal grandfather, James Venable, was a native of Virginia, but removed to Kentucky during the pioneer days and there he passed away at the age of seventy-six. His wife was about the same age at the time of her demise. He was a veteran of the war of 1812. In the maternal line Mrs. Robertson is of Scotch extraction. Her grandfather, who was a lawyer, emigrated from Scotland to the United States in the early part of the century, locating in Indianapolis. He met with excellent success in his profession and became a judge of the supreme court. For his wife he chose a Miss Mary Miller and of their union there were born four daughters and two sons: David Hume, Curran, Mary, Eleanor, Flora and Lilla. The parents both passed away late in life. their daughter, Mrs. James Venable, was only thirty-six at the time of her death, which occurred in Indianapolis in 1868. James Venable subsequently came to Illinois, locating in Carlinville, where he continued to reside for several years, engaging in agricultural pursuits. He was living in Parsons, Kansas, at the time of his death, which occurred in 1868 at the venerable age of ninety-four years. To Mr. and Mrs. James Venable were born five children: Eleanor; Alice, now Mrs. Robertson; James; David and William.
Professor and Mrs. Robertson are the parents of two children, a son and a daughter, Mary and Charles. In matters of religion they affiliate with the Protestant churches, while politically Professor Robertson has always been independent. his ballot is cast in support of such men and measures as he deems best qualified to meet the exigencies of the situation, irrespective of party connection. Although he has never taken a prominent part in political affairs he is a public-spirited man and takes an active and helpful interest in the welfare of the community, assisting to forward every movement he feels would in any way prove beneficial to the citizens generally. Professor Robertson taught until 1909, since which time he has been devoting his attention to his private affairs and his literary pursuits. He and his family are among the highly esteemed citizens of Carlinville, where they have many friends.