Jonathan William Roberts

usgw-m2.gif (4264 bytes)Morris Co. Up


Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County New Jersey. Illustrated. Vol. I., Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1899.

Among the earnest men whose depth of character and strict adherence to principle excite the admiration of his contemporaries, Mr. ROBERTS is prominent. He is a man of distinguished ability, and his character is one which is above a shadow of reproach. Many responsible trusts have been placed in his hands and the utmost fidelity has marked their full and complete discharge. Widely known and respected by all who have any knowledge of his honorable and useful career, the history of Morris county would be incomplete without extended mention of Jonathan W. ROBERTS, who has for more than thirty years resided at his ideal country home, known as Glenbrook, at Morris Plains, New Jersey.

Mr. ROBERTS was born in Hartford county, Connecticut, on the 1st of September, 1821, a son of William Martin and Maria (McMILLAN) ROBERTS. The family name of his father was originally MacROBERTS, both parents being of Scotch-Irish descent. Their ancestors came to America in colonial days, and in the war of the Revolution both families were represented by valiant soldiers who were numbered among the brave "Green Mountain Boys."

The subject of this review spent his childhood and early manhood in the state of his nativity. In 1842, when about twenty-one years of age, he went to New York city, where he secured a clerkship in the wholesale dry-goods store of Amos R. ENO. Later he became a member of the firm organized under the name of ENO, MAHONEY & Company, and five years later the firm name was changed to ENO, ROBERTS & Company. Mr. ROBERTS continued in business until 1866, when failing health caused his retirement. In the meantime, notwithstanding the heavy losses sustained in consequence of the Civil war, he had by well directed effort, keen sagacity, close application, remarkable executive ability and unfaltering determination, acquired a competence, which has since enabled him to live retired, unharassed by the cares of an arduous business.

He became connected with the South Street Presbyterian church of Morristown, in 1867; soon after he was made an elder, and later superintendent of the Sunday-school, president of the board of trustees and chairman of the building committee for the erection of the beautiful new church, completed and finished largely through his efforts, without leaving a dollar of debt. He was one of the founders of the Young Men's Christian Association in Morristown, was at three different times its president, and as chairman of its building committee erected the handsome new building on South street principally from his own designs and without creating a debt, as Mr. ROBERTS has made it the rule of his life to discourage and disapprove of any improvements, public or private, which cannot be paid for when completed.

For some years Mr. ROBERTS was president of the Morristown Institution for Savings. He accepted the office at a critical period of its history, and saved it from great loss, if not failure, by his energy and business methods. In 1884, he was elected a trustee and made chairman of the executive committee of the Washington Association of New Jersey, and in 1887 was elected its president, which office he still (1898) holds, and by his untiring efforts has increased the membership four-fold; has more than doubled its domain; paid off its large debt, and personally secured a large part of its valuable collection of relics, always keeping the association free from the humiliation of indebtedness. He has also been vice-president, chairman of the executive committee and, under the new organization, is now one of the most valuable members of the board of trustees of the New Jersey Historical Society, and has freely given time, effort and means in its aid.

Mr. ROBERTS is an earnest Republican, has been a member of the Republican state committee and often a delegate to conventions, but he has steadily refused all inducements to nominations for political office. Whatever public service Mr. ROBERTS has undertaken has always been a success, and when he has done his work he gladly retires from office and gives place to others.

Since his retirement from business, Mr. ROBERTS has taken a very active part in public interests and has been especially zealous in the support of all matters pertaining to the general good. He is a man of broad humanitarian principles, of generous impulses and noble deeds, and his upright and well-spent life commend him to the regard of all with whom he has been brought in contact.

Mr. ROBERTS was married at the age of twenty-eight to Miss Mary KING, who was eighteen, a daughter of Hezekiah KING, a retired gentleman, residing on the banks of the Delaware river, at Bristol, Pennsylvania. Mrs. ROBERTS was very lovely in form and features, winsome and graceful in manner, of bright intelligence and charming in disposition and Christian character. She was a delightful companion in her home and on the extensive journeys made with her husband in this country and in Europe, during their forty-four years of happy married life, which was terminated by her death in 1894.

Mrs. ROBERTS was one of the three honorary members of the Washington Association, and was the donor of the large number of autograph letters at the Washington Headquarters, Morristown, known as the "ROBERTS Collection."

This biography was transcribed by Ruth Roberts Coker, great-grand niece of Jonathan William Roberts (racoker@earthlink.net).