Friday, December 21, 2018

One Last Possibility

While we've been exploring the details regarding three different Iowa men named Albert Roberts to determine which one might have been the man in the antique photo I found, this last Albert is actually the only one who actually lived in the city in which that photograph was taken. Our third Albert Roberts was the one we found whose few newspaper mentions gave us an address right in Council Bluffs, itself.

The only thing is, out of all the gossipy news tidbits we've found for all three Alberts, those newspaper entries for this third Albert also gave us one of the more curious of the accounts. Looking closer at that May 8, 1919, notice in the Evening Nonpariel, shows me that this one will also take some reading between the lines to ferret out the real story.

For one thing, this was not just another sweet story of the now-grown kids coming home to visit family for the holidays. It was an article placed among the legal notices. A notice of referee's sale, it began with the official sounding "In the District Court of Iowa, in and for Pottawattamie County."

The plaintiff was none other than our third Albert Roberts. Part of the public announcement read,
Notice is hereby given that by virtue of a decree of the district court of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, entered on the twelfth day of April, 1919, in the above entitled cause, the property hereinafter described was partitioned and the undersigned was appointed sole referee and authorized and directed to sell the following described real estate at public sale....

The undersigned referee was a man by the name of William Arnd. The property was described by lot numbers in the city of Council Bluffs. The sale was to be held on the seventh day of June "at the front door of the court house" in the county seat, Council Bluffs.

It was the defendants who gave me pause to consider this routine legal notice more closely. The list of names included was long and curious. For one thing, the surname Roberts figured prominently. In addition to a couple, named individually as Fannie Binns and "I. M. Binns, husband of Fannie Binns," there were Dwight Roberts, Emmet Roberts, and Frances Roberts, all specifically designated as minors. One last defendant was listed as "Mrs. Nellie W. Roberts, guardian."

To see the rest of the story, we need to research the family tree of our third Albert Roberts, plaintiff in this case filed in 1919. This Albert, married sometime before he completed his draft registration in June of 1917, declared himself a divorced man to the 1920 census enumerator, and yet was father to his firstborn son, who arrived November 28, 1921—and, unfortunately, died only ten days later. The child's mother—and Albert's second wife—Josephine Anshutz Roberts, was herself, at the time of the child's birth, only sixteen years of age.

Albert—the only one of the three candidates for the Albert Roberts in our photo for whom we had a middle initial—himself was born in Nebraska in 1896, son of English immigrants Henry and Sarah Jane Fletcher ("Jennie") Roberts. Albert Lee Roberts was the youngest of six siblings, three of whom were still living at the time of the 1900 census. His two older siblings still remaining were William Edwin and Fannie Louise, each of them born in the 1870s, long before Albert's arrival in 1896 (or 1894, as both his 1925 Iowa state census entry and his Social Security Application indicate).

Of those two siblings, William Edwin was not long for this world, either. Also born in Omaha, William married Nellie McGill, another resident from that city, returning to her hometown in Des Moines, Iowa, for the December, 1893, nuptials. Over the years, William worked for the railroad, but in 1915, he was the victim of a brutal attack by a drunken man. Though he survived the attack, it left him "subject to spells of absentmindedness, when he wandered about in a dazed condition." From that point on, William was unable to work.

At some point in mid-November of that same year, William did not come home as expected. His Council Bluffs family, concerned for his well-being, put two and two together when they heard reports that a man had been killed by a train in nearby Omaha. His oldest son Dwight, heading to Omaha, confirmed that the reports were indeed of the missing man.

This was not the only unfortunate story in Albert's brother William's brief life. While William's oldest son had indeed remained in Council Bluffs, William's wife had already left him, taking the other children—Emmet, Henry, and Frances—sometime after the 1910 census, returning to her family's home in Des Moines before the state census in 1915, when she declared herself to be divorced.

Not long after William and Nellie had tied their ill-fated knot in 1893, William's sister Fannie Louise had also gotten married. Hers was an event in her home state of Nebraska in September of 1896, when she said "I do" to an Iowa man named Isaac M. Binns. Though they remained for a while in the Omaha area, by 1904, they had returned to Isaac's former residence in Montgomery County, Iowa, where they remained at least through 1910.

Such was the family history of Albert Lee Roberts' siblings. To add to all this woe, by 1917, Albert's mother, Sarah Jane Fletcher Roberts, died intestate. She apparently held property in her own name, for her husband was still alive, not following her until May of 1918. In March of 1918, Isaac Binns filed as principal, along with his brother-in-law, Albert Roberts, and William Arnd, for an administrator's bond to settle Sarah's estate. 

In the midst of all these misfortunes, sometime just before the 1920 census, a question came up about several lots in the city of Council Bluffs which somehow involved these siblings—or their remaining family members. Perhaps precipitated by their father's death in 1918 and the settling of the elder Roberts' estate, the legal notice was posted and the referee's sale scheduled.

No more mention was made in the local newspapers—at least that I can find—of that family difficulty. After that point, there was a brief comment, upon the 1926 arrival of another tiny child of Albert and Josephine Roberts, of how small the baby's birth weight was—followed by the not-surprising sad announcement of the funeral service for "Wauneta Louise" Roberts barely four months later.

It was a photograph placed online by an Ancestry subscriber, combined with the World War I draft registration description of Albert's appearance—medium height, medium build, with blue eyes and dark brown hair—that tended to dissuade me of any possibility that Albert Lee Roberts was the Albert Roberts in my photograph.

But I believe the clincher really is the dates involved in this Roberts family saga. While his siblings—all born in the 1870s—might have played the part in a wedding with the clothing styles of the photograph I found, Albert Lee's likely marriage in 1920, combined with the appearance of his second wife in the photograph, convince me that, even though he was a Council Bluffs resident, this Albert's arrival on the scene was too late to make him a candidate for the true identity of the man in the photograph I found.

While that conclusion eliminates Albert Lee Roberts from the running, as far as photograph identity goes, it still doesn't answer the question of just who that couple was in the photograph I found. There are a few other options remaining in this search, but since we are so close to Christmas now, I'll set aside that chase for another time after the holidays.


  1. I sure hope you'll be able to figure out which Albert it is.
    Spent some time on FamilySearch to see if anything interesting turned up.
    So far we have looked at these 3:
    #1: Albert Gilbert Roberts, Husband of Alice Jane Dolley/Eachus. Born Dec 1869 or -70

    #2: Albert Marion Roberts (according to his WWI draft card), Husband of Hattie Elizabeth Eshelman. Born Nov 1878 or -79

    #3: Albert Lee Roberts, Husband of Alice P Poole and Josephine Aushutz, seemingly born 1896 in Omaha, Nebraska
    Not to be confused with the ALR born 1894 in New Cambria, Missouri whose WWI and WWII draft cards were from Iowa County
    This other man was married to Naomi Elizabeth Hakes.

    1. I'm hoping to figure this one out soon as well, Per. Thanks for the recap, and for noticing Albert #2's middle name; I've seen some online trees giving his middle name as "Manon," which I believe is an error in transcription.

      I did run into some interesting trees online, and am awaiting responses to my inquiries to see if any family members might have additional photographs that we can use to guide this decision.

      In the meantime...being that we are in the midst of a holiday season, we may have to continue waiting for another week or so...

  2. Good progress in finding out who it is not:)

    1. Now, at least we are down to having a 50/50 chance!


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