Bookmark and Share
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

ROBERTS, HARRIET FENLEY

ROBERTS, HARRIET FENLEY (1796–1874). Harriet Fenley Roberts, early settler of Nacogdoches, daughter of Benjamin Norris Fenley, was born on April 7, 1796, possibly in Greene County, Georgia. On June 9, 1815, she married Robert Collier (or Callier) in Clarke County, Alabama, where her husband was a prominent slaveowner, militia officer, and public official. Collier had two children from a previous marriage and two with Harriet. The family moved to his ranch in present-day Sabine County, Texas, near the Milam community, in 1824. There Collier became involved in the contraband slave trade. In the summer of 1826 he was killed by two contraband slavers as he slept beside Harriet. One of the murderers was his brother, and the other was a suitor Collier had prevented from marrying his daughter. After her husband's murder Harriet was left with two children, a large tract of land, numerous slaves, and other wealth to manage. On December 26, 1826, she married John S. Roberts, a deputy sheriff from Louisiana. They made their home for a short time on the Collier property but soon moved to San Augustine and in 1827 to Nacogdoches. Roberts entered the mercantile business and in 1833 erected an elegant frame home at the corner of South Fredonia and Pilar streets on the town square. Before his death in 1871 Harriet entertained some of the most prominent men in early Texas history there-Sam Houston, Thomas J. Rusk, J. Pinckney Henderson, and others. Despite her inability to read and write, Harriet Roberts displayed sound business acumen. She inherited a considerable amount of property from the estate of her first husband, acquired town lots in Nacogdoches by Spanish grants, and acquired ownership of the Old Stone Fort, the earliest stone structure in Nacogdoches. The Stone Fort remained in Harriet's possession until August 11, 1873, when she deeded it to her daughter-in-law. The property remained in the Roberts family until June 15, 1901, when it was purchased as the site for a drugstore. The building was razed and in 1936 rebuilt from known specifications on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College. Harriet Roberts died on April 5, 1874, at Nacogdoches and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery there.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Alexander Horton, A True But Bloody History of the Past, in History of San Augustine: Reminiscences of an Old Time Resident (MS, Samuel Asbury Papers, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University). Archie P. McDonald, The Old Stone Fort (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1981).

Joe E. Ericson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Joe E. Ericson, "ROBERTS, HARRIET FENLEY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/frobc), accessed July 28, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.