Thursday, November 18, 2010

Colonel R. Biddle Roberts - A Important Man Lost in History. Fighter, Veteran, Lawyer, A Man of Integrity

There is much we don’t know about this man who was president of the Illinois St. Andrews Society in 1882. We don’t know his Scottish heritage except that he had one. There are no Society records available for 1882 but the newspaper does record two events. An “annual charity ball and banquet” was held March 10, 1882, at the Sherman House hotel. Two hundred people attended. There was a reception, followed by dancing, led by Pound’s orchestra. At 11 p.m. they ate an “excellent supper. After supper, the dance was resumed and kept up until a late hour.” Obviously, ladies attended this event, but apparently not the next event.

“The thirty-seventh annual banquet of the Illinois St. Andrew’s Society was held at the Sherman House” November 29, 1882. Three hundred people attended an opening reception and at 8:30 were invited into the dining room of the hotel. The room was decorated with banners, flags and portraits of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. After dinner there were seven speeches and toasts. (Wonder what happened to the portraits?)

We know that Colonel R. Biddle Roberts was born, August 25, 1825 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He died on January 10, 1886 at the Sherman House hotel in Chicago. He had suffered from kidney trouble for many years.

His grandfather, Judge Roberts, was a noted man in Western Pennsylvania and is said to have been the first person to cross the Alleghenies in a carriage. His father, Edward J. Roberts was also a lawyer and for many years clerk of the United States Court in Pittsburgh.

R. Biddle Roberts was also trained as a lawyer and in 1857, President Buchanan appointed him U.S. District Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. When the Civil War began, he volunteered and became part of the Thirty-Second Volunteers of Pennsylvania.

He fought in the Peninsular Campaign under George McClellan and was in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. He was commended for gallant conduct at the Charles City Cross-Roads. He commanded a brigade where all the senior officers were killed, wounded, or captured. It is unclear exactly when he came to Chicago, but by 1880, he had formed a partnership with Frank J. Loesch. He represented a number of railroads including the Pennsylvania Railroad company.

He served as President of the Bar Association and was described “as an eloquent speaker and a great favorite with judges and lawyers. He was noted for his integrity.” His wife, who survived him, was a Miss Mary Anderson, a relative of Robert Emmet.

There was no funeral services in Chicago since his body was taken to Pittsburgh for burial. No records of what happened to his wife, nor do we even know his full name.

I post this in the hope that some family member will respond and give us more information.

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