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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

James Roach

James Roach (1834-1913)

     Farmer, soldier, sheriff, four times a husband and the father of ten children, merchant and auctioneer. The life of James Roach is the story of an able man of many dimensions whose lifelong connections with my Row ancestors are as varied as they are important. In the only image of him I have been able to locate James is seen in the Confederate uniform he wore during his service in Company I of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry. The "OR" on his cap stands for "Orange Rangers", the name given to the troopers of Company I, which was the outfit of my great grandfather, George Washington Estes Row.
     James Roach's story began in Orange County on June 12, 1834 when he was born to Robert Roach and the former Mildred Jones. The 1850 census shows that young James was a farmer still living with his parents and two sisters. Ten years later he was still living at home but by now he was, together with John S. Row, a deputy sheriff of Orange County, serving under Sheriff James L. Robinson about whom more can be read here and here.
     On December 8, 1859 James married Adelaide Row, the youngest daughter of Elhanon Row, who had himself been the first elected sheriff of Orange County in 1852 (Elhanon's son John was the second sheriff and James L. Robinson third, having assumed office in 1859). The union of James and Adelaide would be a short one, as she died on June 27, 1860. She was just twenty three years old.
     Soon after Virginia voted to secede from the Union in 1861 James Roach joined the Confederate army, enlisting in Company I of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry on May 4. James served with my great grandfather as well his two former brothers in law, John S. Row and Dr. Elhanon Winchester Row. Likely because of their experience as deputy sheriffs, James Roach and John Row received quick promotions. John became captain and commanded Company I and James rose to second lieutenant.
Certification of James Roach as Sheriff, May 1862
     On May 22, 1862 James Roach stood for election in the contest for the office of sheriff of Orange County, replacing James L. Robinson. James then had a little over six months to prepare for the beginning of his term, which began January 1, 1863. James tendered his resignation on October 4, 1862, which was approved to take effect on December 1. At the request of Sheriff Robinson, Captain John Row also resigned on September 12, 1862 in order to resume his duties as deputy.
Resignation of James Roach

Resignation of James Roach (reverse)

     During his first year as sheriff James took a second wife, marrying Henrietta Henderson in August 1863. Unfortunately, as was the case with Adelaide Row, this marriage also proved to be short lived as Henrietta died in 1864.
     James Roach married a third time while still sheriff of Orange, taking as his bride Jane Gordon Willis on February 19, 1867. During their fifteen years together they had six children.
     James' career as a lawman ended in 1869 and the federal census of 1870 indicates that he was farming in Orange County. But his abilities and ambitions exceeded those of a farmer's life and within several years his life had taken yet another turn.
     By the late 1870s James and his family were living in Fredericksburg. Editions of the Virginia Star published in late 1878 show that James Roach was now established as a merchant and auctioneer in Fredericksburg. These new roles would define his life for the next thirty years.

The Free Lance 22 October 1889

     As an auctioneer, James conducted estate sales and real estate auctions. He also a partner in a retail enterprise known as Moore & Roach, which sold groceries and general merchandise. This store also bought produce from local farmers like my great grandfather George W.E. Row, as seen in this invoice dated March 1882.

Invoice of Moore & Roach to GWE Row, March 1882
     This check written by George W.E. Row drawn on his account with the banking house of Conway, Gordon and Garnett shows that he did  business with James Roach as auctioneer:

Check of GWE Row to James Roach, April 1881

     In February 1881 George and Lizzie Row had their third child, Robert Alexander. Sadly, his time would be short and he departed this life on October 7, 1881. My great grandfather bought a four dollar coffin for Robert from his old friend James Roach (a lock of Robert's blond hair survives among the family's effects).
James Roach receipt to GWE Row, October 1881

     James's third wife Jane died May 6, 1882. A year later on June 14, 1883 James married for the fourth and final time. Mary Jeanette Ellis was originally from New Scotland, New York. She would bear four children and she had the additional distinction of being the wife who outlived James Roach, surviving him by fifteen years.
     George Washington Estes Row died on April 18, 1883. My great grandmother needed a capable auctioneer to handle the estate sale and James Roach was the logical choice. James conducted the sale at the site of George W.E. Row's saw mill, located on Joseph Talley's farm near Finchville in Spotsylvania, on September 25, 1883. A great many items were sold that day, but it would be some time before Lizzie Row found a buyer for the steam engine and boiler purchased from Benjamin Bowering. The page below is one of several related to the estate sale and is kept at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

From the estate sale of GWE Row

     By the end of the following year Lizzie Row, acting as administratrix of her late husband's estate, had managed to pay off most of her creditors, including Moore & Roach.

James Roach receipt to Lizzie Row, June 1884

     In addition to his successes as a merchant in Fredericksburg, James Roach was also an active participant in the civic life there. Like my great grandfather, James was a member of the Masonic Lodge No. 4, A.F and A.M. In 1885 James served as Registrar of the city.
     At some point James and his family moved from Fredericksburg and by 1900 were living in Stafford. He was still advertising his business in The Free Lance in the early 1900s. However, two incidents reported in the paper in 1909 show that his active life was drawing to a close.

The Free Lance 19 January 1909

The Free Lance 25 December 1909

     James Roach died on April 6, 1913. He is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Fredericksburg.

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