Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Family Home - 910 Goverment Street & Children

In 1854, after his father’s death, Joel Abbott Roberts began renovating the family home at 910 Government Street for his wife and nine children.[i] The original house that sat on two double lots, built by Dr. Willis in 1837, had been badly damaged by fire. The side hall plan of Joel's Greek Revival townhouse is fairly common in Mobile architecture. The structure usually has two perpendicular wings projecting from either side, additions built at different times as families needed the room or as finances allowed. Owing to the long narrow lots, as in New Orleans, the houses invariably had long narrow service wings or dining wings projecting from the rear, often in the Creole style, as was Willis Roberts' original structure. From looking at Joel Robert’s expense ledger, it appears that he had a more hands-on approach than his father. Some of the features of the rebuilt home included an enclosed back porch off the main house downstairs; the center portion of the upstairs porch left open, flanked by a small room on the east end and a closet on the west end, with doors connecting these to the upstairs porch and the north wing bedrooms behind the main house. Mobile did have a sewer system after the 1840’s, but the rear porch closet most likely was an “earthen closet” (toilet), as it is unlikely that the house originally had indoor plumbing. [ii] At the north end of the north wing galleries, both upstairs and down, were two more closets later enlarged into regular bathrooms in 1940. [iii] .

Children of Joel Abbott Roberts and Mary Taylor Bolles [vi]

1. Laura D.
2. Willis
3. Eber Bolles [vii]
4. Walsingham M.
5. Mary C. “Mollie” (twin)
6. Lamar (twin)
7. Virginia H. “Jennie”
8. Alexander
9. Bessie
[i] Joel Abbott Roberts was related to Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur, wife of President Chester A. Arthur. Mrs. Arthur and her brother were fourth cousins to Joel Abbott Roberts. Thomas Hord Herndon owned a mansion at 907 Government Street, was a third cousin of Joel A. Roberts, and a lawyer under whom Harry Pillans studied law. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[ii] The house immediately to the west of 910 Government Street burned to the ground and a new one was built c. 1891. There is much evidence of fire damage to the first floor of 910, but no damage is seen on the second floor. The west wing and old dining room behind it have wooden walls, but chunks of burned plaster are found inside the walls. Also the dining room has two layers of door trim showing evidence of fire underneath. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[iii] Timothy Brent Selby, Archeological Study. Atlanta, Georgia. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[iv] The Roberts and Pillans families were surrounded by related families such as the Herndons, Gaineses, and Toulmins. These families intermarried or these relationships were cemented by further intermarriage over several generations. General Edmund Pendleton Gaines was a great-great-great uncle of Captain J. L. Abbott who married Helen Buck Taylor and lived at 910 Government Street. Helen was the daughter of R. V. and Helen Buck Taylor, the second family to own the Roberts house. A portrait of R. V. Taylor hangs at 910 Government Street. General Gaines’ brother Col. George Strother Gaines lived at Gaineswood in Demopolis. Mr. Gaines’s grandson George Stark Gaines married Mary Isbell Pillans of 908 Government Street, granddaughter of Laura Roberts Pillans. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[v] Harry Pillans, lawyer, member constitution convention 1901, mayor of Mobile was born June 27, 1847 at Bonham, Tex, son of J. Palmer and Laura Roberts Pillans and was educated in the public schools of Mobile. He was prepared under P. A. Towne to enter the junior class at college, when he enlisted in the C. S. Army in 1864. Palmer practiced actively in the courts of Mobile, Alabama in the Mississippi Supreme Court., Coast Court and Mississippi Supreme Court and occasionally the Federal Supreme Court and Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[vi] 1. Laura D. Roberts (b. 1841 - not listed in Magnolia Cemetery married Joseph T. Hunter 6/ 13/1866. 2. Willis Roberts (b. 1843) not listed in Magnolia Cemetery married Moffitt E. Taylor 2/9/1870. 3. Eber Bolles Roberts (b. 1846, died 6/17/1860. age
14. 4. Walsingham M. Roberts (11/18/1847, died 12/31/1916). Divorced Evelyn Gaines Russell Roberts 5. Mary C. “Mollie” Roberts (11/22/1849-11/15/1933) twin married Walter P. Taylor 26/3/1873. 6 .Lamar Roberts (b.1/7/1849 twin d. 3/15/1851, not on 1860 census). 7. Virginia H . “Jennie” Roberts (1/7/1852-4/1/1928) married George Eberlein.
“The Descendants of Dr. Willis Roberts & Asenath Alexander.”[vii] Eber Bolles Roberts was named for his maternal grandfather, Eber Moore Bolles, father of Mary Taylor (Bolles) Roberts (Mrs. Joel Abbott Roberts). Eber Bolles died young, as did his brothers Lamar and Alexander. The paternal grandfather Beer was born in Ct. and graduated from Brown University 1813, moved south and became a lawyer after passing the bar in Dallas County, AL. in 1820. Beer married in Franklin Co., Ga. May 23, 1816, Elizabeth B. Taylor (born in Pendleton Co., SC.) and died in Cahaba or Selma, Dallas Co., Al. His widow and three children moved to Mobile, where she later alternated living with her daughters Mary Taylor Bolles Roberts (Joel Ninde’s grandmother) and Elizabeth Bolles Douglass. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.

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