Born: 1815 in Suffolk, England

Died: 1883 in Cathlamet, Washington

The death of young George Barber Roberts' father triggered a series of events that would lead him from England to the Monticello Convention a quarter of a century later.

On August 30, 1827, at age 11, George entered the Greenwich Royal Naval School in England, which was a school for children of men who died in service of their country. His father had been an English naval officer.

Three years later, George was given a seven-year apprenticeship to the Hudson's Bay Company in Astoria, Oregon Territory. He was one of 12 young men selected. George departed England on the ship "Ganymede" and arrived in Astoria on August 1,1831.

In February 1832, he was sent to Fort Vancouver to assist James Douglas as clerk. In 1834, he spent a year teaching school to about 50 Indian children, and a year later he resumed employment as a clerk, serving until 1843, when he returned to England.

There he met and married Martha Cable. In December 1843 they left for Fort Vancouver, arriving in May 1844. It is said that Martha was the only white woman to live at the fort. George was appointed manager of the Hudson's Bay Company's Cowlitz Farm near present-day Toledo. They had three children, a son and two daughters, but in 1850 Martha and the girls died of typhoid fever.

In 1851, George and his son, George II, left Cowlitz Farm and settled near the Newaukum River, south of what is now Chehalis. He attended the Monticello Convention a year later.

On May 8, 1855, he married Rose Birnie, sister of a Wahkiakum County pioneer James Birnie. He returned to Cowlitz Farm in 1858 to maintain it until the British treaty claims were settled and the Hudson's Bay Company was compensated for losing its property. The United States had taken full possession of Oregon and Washington Territory in 1846.

In 1871, George and Rose left Cowlitz Farm for Cathlamet to be closer to her family. While living in Cathlamet, he operated a mercantile store, served as probate judge, treasurer and auditor. Rose became the first known school teacher in the community.

The author, Diane Harris, is a great-great granddaughter of George B. Roberts. She resides in Chehalis, Washington.

Contributed by Junel Davidsen on 13 Apr 2004.

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