By Muriel Bristol | March 27, 2022
Seventy-nine Milton inhabitants petitioned NH Governor Samuel Bell (1770-1850) and his Executive Council, April 3, 1820, seeking appointment of a Milton justice-of-the-peace. (Bell was a Democratic-Republican, i.e., a Democrat, as opposed to a Federalist-Republican).
The petitioners recommended James Roberts (1783-1839) of the village of Milton, i.e., Milton Three Ponds, for an appointment as their justice-of-the-peace. They described the businesses operating then at Three Ponds as being taverns, stores, and mechanic shops (all plural). And he was a trader, i.e., a storekeeper. (See Milton in 1817 and Milton in 1823).
Film tropes typically portray justices-of-the-peace as being awakened in the night to sleepily perform civil marriages for eloping couples. While they might be awakened for this purpose occasionally, a NH justice of this period might be compared more accurately to a modern district court judge (Bell, 1843).
Milton had no police force, not even temporary or auxiliary officers, nor would it have any for another seventy years. (See Milton Policemen – c1891-1914). Local justices-of-the-peace settled most issues. They were empowered to issue search, arrest and other types of warrants, which would be served, executed or enforced by a Strafford County sheriff’s deputy. (Elected county sheriffs appointed local deputy sheriffs for most of the towns within their jurisdictions). A local justice might adjudicate civil disputes and even lesser criminal offenses, but, for more serious matters, the matter or the suspects at hand would be “bound over” to a higher court.
The Three Ponds nominee, James Roberts, was born in Somersworth, NH, December 24, 1783, son of Timothy and Elizabeth (Hayes) Roberts. (Timothy Roberts (1759-1835) had been a 2nd Lieutenant in Col. Waldron’s Regiment during the Revolutionary War).
Timothy Roberts headed a Rochester, NH, household at the time of the Second (1800) Federal Census. His household included one male aged 26-44 years [himself], one female aged 26-44 years [Elizabeth (Hayes) Roberts], one male aged 16-25 years [James Roberts], two male aged 10-15 years [John Roberts and Wentworth Roberts], one male aged under ten years [Hezekiah Roberts], and one female aged under-10 years [Mary M. Roberts]. (See Northeast Parish in the Second (1800) Federal Census).
Father Timothy Roberts signed Rochester’s Northeast Parish division petition of May 28, 1802.
James Roberts married in Rochester, NH, July 2, 1804, Mercy Wentworth, both of Milton. Rev. Haven performed the ceremony (McDuffie, 1892). She was born in Milton, circa 1784, daughter of John and Rebecca (Horn) Wentworth.
Daughter Rebecca Horn Roberts was born in Milton, December 12, 1804. She was a namesake for her maternal grandmother, Rebecca (Horn) Wentworth.
James Roberts signed the August 1805 petition requesting appointment of Lt. Jotham Nute as a Milton justice-of-the-peace.
Daughter Susanna Roberts was born in Milton, December 4, 1806.
Twin sons John Watson Roberts and James Cutts Roberts were born in Milton, March 27, 1810.
James Roberts headed a Milton household at the time of the Third (1810) Federal Census. His household included one male aged 26-44 years [himself], one female aged 16-25 years [Mercy (Wentworth) Roberts] two females aged under-10 years [Rebecca H. Roberts and Susanna Roberts], and two males aged under-10 years [John W. Roberts and James C. Roberts]. Their household appeared in the enumeration between those of James Twombly and Jonathan Dore.
Son Owen Swain Roberts was born in Milton, April 4, 1813.
On 10 Mar. 1814 David [Farnham] sold lot #8, Middleton, NH, consisting of 100 acres, to William Palmer of Milton, NH, for $5 and five annual mortgage payments of $255; in which David Farnham (likely his father) and Daniel Palmer were witnesses. On 20 Jan. 1817 David repurchased this land for $200 from Caleb Wingate and Dodavah Palmer, of Milton, administrators [of] the estate of William Palmer, late of Milton, Esq. Witnesses were James Roberts and Levi Jones (Farnham, 1999).
Son Bard P. Roberts was born in Milton, June 26, 1815.
James Roberts was one of three Milton selectman in the years 1815-18. Selectmen Joseph Walker and James Roberts signed the Milton Road Weight petition of 1816. (For whatever reason, the third selectman, Josiah Witham, did not so sign).
The context of the April 1820 petition recommending James Roberts suggests that the petitioners hoped he would be a suitable successor to justice John Fish (c1760-1819[?]). Fish had been one of Milton’s original selectmen, then town clerk, and had received his appointment as a justice-of-the-peace, June 24, 1814. Both men were residents of Milton village, i.e., Milton Three Ponds, and Fish had recently been “removed by death.”
To His Excellency the Governor and the Honorable the Council in the State of New Hampshire.
Respectfully represent the undersigned inhabitants of the Town of Milton in the County of Strafford and State aforesaid ~
that John Fish, bg [being] late of said Milton, and one of the Justices of the peace in and for said County of Strafford, did while in full life reside in the village in said Milton where the principal part of the business – such as the business of Taverns, stores, mechanics shops has been and is usually done in said Town ~ that the said John Fish has recently been removed by death ~ that in consequence thereof there are now in Commission as Justices of the peace in said Town, no more than three persons, that those three persons reside in remote parts of the Town, so there is now no Justice of the peace in this State within four to five miles of the aforesaid village ~ that it would be conducive to the moral good of the Community and of great public utility in other points of view that some suitable person within said village, or in the immediate vicinity of same, should be appointed to conserve the public peace ~
That Mr James Roberts, who now resides and is a Trader in said village is an intelligent and moral man ~ that his fellow citizens in said Town have for many years past manifested their confidence in his Talents and integrity by frequently appointing him to some of the most arduous offices within their gift ~
We the undersigned, therefore, unhesitatingly beg leave to recommend the said James Roberts to your notice as a person, all things considered, the best qualified of any person of this village or vicinity, for the appointment to the important office of a Justice of the peace ~ and we further pray that the said James Roberts may be appointed to that office and as in duly bound &c ~ Milton, April 3, 1820.
Thos Leighton, William Sargent, Ichabod Bodge, Joseph Walker, Stephen Henderson, John Palmer, Ebenr Ricker, Benja V. Jenkins, Matthias Nutter, Stephen Jenkins, Jr, William Hatch, Richard Walker, James Varney, John Wentworth, Junr, Samuel Bragdon, Charles Ricker, Timothy Ricker, William W. Lord, David Wentworth, James H. Horn, Elijah Horn, Timothy Emery, David M. Corson, David Corson, John Lovel, Daniel Wentworth, Dodavah Dore, Phinias Wentworth, Daniel G. Dore,
[Column 2:] Wm Palmer, Aaron Twombly, John Wentworth, John Downs, James Bragdon, Thomas Ricker, John Ricker, Richard Horn, Joshua Jones, William Huntress, Ivory Bragdon, Timo Roberts, Nathl Pinkham, William Foss, John Foss, Jerediah Ricker, Isaac Wentworth, Robert Knight, John Fifield, Jonathan Dore
The petition bears the additional notation, in another hand, of “appointed 1821.” Court Rosters indicate that James Roberts, of Milton, received his appointment as a Milton justice-of-the-peace on June 23, 1821.
James Roberts was one of eighty-eight men that signed a Milton militia division petition of November 10, 1820.
In the interval between the April 1820 petition recommending Roberts and his June 1821 appointment, the Milton Selectman petitioned November 29, 1820, to have Gilman Jewett (1777-1856) appointed as the justice of the peace. Whether they were impatient or simply preferred another candidate is not clear. (None of them had signed the petition proffering Roberts). Jewett had been Milton’s first town clerk (1802-06) and a member of the townhouse building committee. He was a son of Milton’s original justice-of-the-peace, Paul Jewett (1744-1835).
To His Excellency the Governor and Honourable Council of the State of New Hampshire.
We the undersigned, your petitioners, beg leave respectfully to state that the inhabitants of the village at the three Ponds (so called) in Milton and its vicinity, complain of being very much aggrieved, since the death of John Fish Esquire, in consequence of not having a Justice of the Peace in the place ~ and it is very obvious that it is necessary to the convenience and interest of the inhabitants and would be conducive to the well-being of society to have one in that place ~
We would further state that we have for a long time been well acquainted with M. Gilman Jewett, and that he has ever conducted himself as a man of integrity & promoter of good order in society ~ his qualifications are such that should he have a Commission of the Peace, we have no reason to think we should ever blush for this recommendation, or our state be ashamed of the appointment.
Nov. 29, 1820. H. Hayes, Hopley Meserve, John Remick, Jr } Selectmen of Milton
Hanson Hayes (1792-1851) signified his assent with a flourish, while the signatures of Hopley Meserve (1789-1875) and John Remick, Jr. (1777-1840), were a bit more plainspoken. (Remick was himself already a justice-of-the-peace, having been first appointed June 18, 1813).
James Roberts was again one of three Milton selectman in the years 1821-22, and 1826.
The NH Register and Farmer’s Almanac of 1822 identified Milton’s Justice of the Peace and Quorum, which was the higher office, as being Levi Jones, and its Justices of the Peace as being Jotham Nute, D. Hayes, John Remick, Jr., and James Roberts.
Daughter Mary Ann Adams Roberts was born in Milton, March 4, 1822.
The NH Political Manual and Annual Register of 1824 identified Milton’s Justice of the Peace and Quorum as being Levi Jones, and its Justices of the Peace as being Jotham Nute, D. Hayes, John Remick, Jr., and J. Roberts. Jotham Nute was also identified as being Milton’s coroner (Farmer, 1824).
James Roberts was Milton town moderator for eight years from about 1824. He had been preceded in that office by John Nutter, and would be succeeded by Hanson Hayes (1792-1851) (Scales, 1914).
Daughter Rebecca H. Roberts died November 30, 1825.
The NH Annual Register and US Calendar of 1826 identified Milton’s Justice of the Peace and Quorum as being Levi Jones, and its Justices of the Peace as being Jotham Nute, D. Hayes, John Remick, Jr., and J. Roberts, Hanson Hayes, and Stephen M. Mathes (Farmer & Lyon, 1826).
Court Rosters indicate that James Roberts, of Milton, received a renewal of his appointment as a Milton justice-of-the-peace on November 28, 1827.
Jas Roberts headed a Milton household at the time of the Fifth (1830) Federal Census. His household included one male aged 40-49 years [himself], one female aged 40-49 years [Mercy (Wentworth) Roberts, one male aged 10-14 years [Beard P. Roberts], one female aged 10-14 years [Betsy H. Roberts], one female aged 5-9 years [Mary A.A. Roberts], and one male aged under-5 years [Hezekiah W. Roberts]. Their household appeared in the enumeration between those of Wm W. Lord and Timo Roberts. (Ten years earlier, both of those neighbors had signed the 1820 petition asking for his appointment as justice).
Daughter Susanna Roberts died January 30, 1832.
Court Rosters indicate that James Roberts, of Milton, received a renewal of his appointment as a Milton justice-of-the-peace on November 30, 1832.
Son John W. Roberts married in Milton, November 12, 1833, Margaret Nutter. She was born in Milton, April 7, 1816, daughter of Matthias and Sarah (Wentworth) Nutter.
Son James C. Roberts married, circa 1834, Lydia J. Scates. She was born in Milton, April 22, 1807, daughter of John and Mary Scates.
Justices of the Peace. Milton – Levi Jones, Daniel Hayes, John Remich, James Roberts, Hanson Hayes, Stephen M. Mathes, John Nutter, Theodore C. Lyman, Samuel S. Mason, Stephen Drew, Israel Nute, John L. Swinerton, Thomas Chapman (Hayward, 1834).
Father Timothy Roberts died in Milton, N.H., August 3, 1835, aged seventy-six years (Columbian Centinel, October 27, 1835).
Son Owen S. Roberts married, in 1838, Harriet L. Foss. She was born in Milton in 1814, daughter of William and Mary (Downs) Foss.
Court Rosters indicate that James Roberts, of Milton, received a renewal of his appointment as a Milton justice-of-the-peace on August 8, 1838. On this occasion he was “advanced” also to be a justice “in quorum.”
James Roberts drowned in Milton, July 6, 1839, aged fifty-five years.
Mercy Roberts headed a Milton household at the time of the Sixth (1840) Federal Census. Her household included one female [herself] aged 50-59 years, one female aged 20-29 years [Betsy H. Roberts], one female aged 15-19 years [Mary A.A. Roberts], and one male aged 10-14 years [Hezekiah W. Roberts]. One member of their household was engaged in Agriculture. Her household appeared in the enumeration between those of William Jones and James C. Roberts on the one side, and John W. Roberts and Aaron Dore on the other side.
Daughter Mary A.A. Roberts married in Rochester, NH, November 28, 1841, Daniel W. Dame, both of Rochester. Rev. E. Mason performed the ceremony. Dame was born in Sandwich, NH, February 8, 1820, son of Richard and Abigail (Page) Roberts.
Daughter Betsy H. Roberts married in Rochester, NH, May 22, 1842, Daniel Wentworth, both of Rochester. Rev. E. Scott performed the ceremony.
Mercy (Wentworth) Roberts died in Milton, September 10, 1845.
Daughter Mary A.A. (Roberts) Dame died in Lanark, IL, September 4, 1847, aged twenty-five years.
Mother Elizabeth “Betsy” (Hayes) Roberts died in Milton in 1849.
Son Owen S. Roberts died in Somersworth, NH, January 6, 1853, aged thirty-nine years.
Son Bard P. Roberts married (2nd) in South Newmarket, NH, April 5, 1860, Mary E. (Leavitt) Furnald, he of South Newmarket, NH, and she of Exeter, NH. He was a widowed [railroad] station agent, aged forty-four years, and she was a widow [of John C. Fernald (1823-1852)], aged thirty-three years. Rev. Winthrop Fifield performed the ceremony. She was born in Limington, ME, January 10, 1826, daughter of Benjamin and Mary (McKenney) Leavitt. (Bard P. Roberts and Mary E. (Leavitt) Fernald would seem to have parted company, as she married (3rd) in Newburyport, MA, 1871, Stephen Wiggin, both of Hampton, NH).
Son Bard P. Roberts married (3rd) in Candia, NH, April 19, 1862, Sarah J. Emerson, he of South Newmarket, NH, and she of Candia. He was aged forty-six years and she was aged thirty-six years. Rev. E.W. Hidden performed the ceremony. She was born in Candia, NH, circa 1825, daughter of John and Clarissa (Fitts) Emerson.
Son James C. Roberts died of consumption in Milton, March 3, 1865, aged fifty-four years, eleven months. Daughter-in-law Lydia J. (Scates) Roberts died May 3, 1866.
Son Baird P. Roberts received an appointment as a Milton justice-of-the-peace, July 12, 1871. He married (4th) in Portland, ME, July 21, 1871, Nettie M. Mark, he of Milton, and she of Portland. Rev. A.H. Wright performed the ceremony.
Son Bard P. Roberts died of chronic cystitis in Milton, November 26, 1890, aged seventy-five years, five months, and two days. He was a traveling agent. Charles D. Jones, M.D., signed the death certificate.
DIED. In Milton, Nov. 26, Bard P. Roberts, age 75 years, 5 months, 2 days. New Hampshire and Vermont papers please copy (Farmington News, December 5, 1890).
Daughter-in-law Harriet L. (Foss) Roberts died of natural causes in Malden, MA, August 20, 1895, aged eighty-one years, four months, and fifteen days.
Son-in-law Daniel W. Dame died in Lanark, IL, December 10, 1895, aged seventy-five years.
Bell, Samuel D. (1843). Justice and Sheriff: Practical Forms for the Use of Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, Coroners and Constables; Containing Forms of Proceedings, and the Revised Statutes of New-Hampshire, Relating to the Duties of Those Officers. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=52JKAAAAYAAJ
Claremont Manufacturing Co. (1822), NH Register & Farmer’s Almanac. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=KgIXAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA36
Classic Actress. (1936). Robert Taylor Marries Janet Gaynor in Small Town Girl. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoSemS_HtfY
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Farmer, John & Lyon, G. Parker. (1826). NH Register & US Calendar. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=L8EwAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA44
Farnham, Russell C. (1999). New England Descendants of the Immigrant Ralph Farnum of Rochester, Kent County, England, and Ipswich, Massachusetts. Portsmouth, NH: Peter Randall Publishing
Find a Grave. (2005, July 6). Mary Ann Adams Dame. Retrieved from www.findagrave.com/memorial/11300686/mary_ann-adams-dame
Hayward, John. (1834). The New-England and New-York Law-Register, for the Year 1835. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=RXc8AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA86
McDuffie, Franklin. (1892). History of the Town of Rochester, New Hampshire, from 1722 to 1890. Retrieved from books.google.com/books?id=RY0-AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA615
NH Department of State. (n.d.). New Hampshire, Government Petitions, 1700-1826: Box 47: 1819-1820
Wikipedia. (2021, December 19). Samuel Bell (New Hampshire Politician). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Bell_(New_Hampshire_politician)